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Understand Your Homeowners Insurance BEFORE Disaster Strikes

Tuesday, August 27th, 2019

Experiencing a major disaster is a hard way to find out that your homeowner’s insurance won’t compensate you for your losses. Assumptions about insurance coverage on a home may prove to be incorrect or out of date just when you need it most. To protect yourself from unpleasant surprises, take these proactive steps:

  • Review your policy now to identify potential holes in coverage.
  • Stay up to date on any new exclusions or other changes that may have been made by the insurer.
  • Contact your agent for straight answers about issues that seem unclear or ambiguous.  
  • Look into available alternatives for specific coverage that isn’t included in standard homeowner’s policies.
  • Keep records of all maintenance and upkeep performed on the home.

Not all disasters are created equal in the eyes of homeowner’s insurance providers. Here’s how coverage breaks down in a typical policy.

  • Fire and lightning damage are usually covered, as well as smoke damage associated with such events.
  • Wind damage to a house including the roof and other structure caused by weather events like tornadoes and hurricanes is generally covered by homeowner’s insurance.
  • Flood damage such as storm surges during hurricanes, as well as widespread floods from overflowing rivers and other outdoor sources is not covered. Flood insurance is available from the National Flood Insurance Program administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
  • Earthquake coverage is not standard in most homeowner’s policies. However, it can be added as an endorsement or, alternatively, a separate policy specifically for earthquake damage may be purchased.
  • Indoor disasters like water damage from “sudden and accidental” non-weather-related events such as a ruptured plumbing pipe are usually covered by homeowner’s insurance. An exception is gradual damage resulting from lack of proper maintenance. For example, long-term water damage caused by a chronic leaky water pipe that was not repaired or an ongoing roof leak that was ignored may not be covered.
  • Coverage for sewage backups is not standard in most policies but can be affordably added.
  • Mold contamination that is a direct consequence of sudden indoor events like pipe ruptures is typically covered by homeowner’s insurance.

What is a Flood Map and Why Would I Need to Know?

Friday, January 25th, 2019

FEMANo locale in the country can be considered 100% safe from damaging outdoor flooding. But do you know the exact risk for your home as officially determined by the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)? There are good reasons why you should know and one very certain way to find out.

What’s Your Risk?

FEMA publishes flood maps, officially known as Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRM), for over 20,000 communities and counties in the U.S. Available online at the FEMA Flood Map Service Center (MSC), these maps depict information important to the homeowner including:

  • The relative annual flood risk at your address.
  • Boundaries of identified floodplains, location of ponds, streams and other contributing factors.
  • Changes in flood risk that may have occurred since publication of the last map.

Regularly revised as local conditions evolve, flood maps are color-coded to depict the level of risk ranging from areas that are determined to have very low risk—less that 0.2% chance of flooding in any year— up to the highest-risk zones calculated to have a 1% annual risk of flooding.

Why Does It Matter?

Homeowner’s insurance policies typically do not cover damage from outdoor flooding. Therefore, home flood insurance coverage in the United States is administered by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). If your house is located in a moderate- to high-risk zone as shown on the local FIRM map, federal flood insurance is required under the terms of a federally-backed mortgage. If your home is in one of the lower risk zones on the flood map, federal flood insurance is not required but is strongly recommended.

How Much Will It Cost?

  • Homes located in areas identified as low or moderate risk on flood maps are eligible for the NFIP Preferred Risk Policy (PRP) rates. Depending of the dollar amount of coverage, yearly rates vary from $150 up to about $450.
  • In homes located in high-risk zones, coverage depends upon the home’s size, construction and the policy deductible, but averages around $700 per year. Insurance for houses located in low elevation areas at special risk of flooding may cost more.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Water Damage?

Thursday, July 26th, 2018

homeowners insurance for floodingIf water damage strikes your home, one of the first calls you’ll likely make is to your homeowner’s insurance agent. For the premiums you’ve paid, you expect quick response to minimize losses and get recovery underway. Your first question may well be: Does my policy cover this? The answer, however, may not always be what you want to hear. Here’s where a typical homeowner’s insurance policy applies to water damage and where it doesn’t.

Got You Covered

Ruptured water pipes, washing machine or toilet overflows and other similar indoor plumbing-related incidents are typically covered by homeowner’s insurance. In most cases, two aspects of a standard policy provide compensation: Dwelling coverage pays for structural damage to the house while personal property coverage compensates for possessions damaged by water. Remember that a deductible specified in your policy will likely apply and coverage limits dictate maximum amounts.

Mold remediation required after water inundation is also usually covered as long as the water damage event itself is covered. For example, mold remediation after a pipe rupture would be covered but not mold resulting from chronic long-term issues like high indoor humidity.

Maybe. Maybe Not.

Coverage for some water damage is conditional, depending on the circumstances. If the water originates from a roof leak due to a sudden event like a falling tree striking the roof during a storm, for example, you’re covered. If the roof leak results from an ongoing issue like normal wear-and-tear you’ve neglected to have repaired, however, you’ll have to pay for the damage yourself. Ditto for ground water seepage into basements.

Sorry, No

Outdoor flooding that enters your house is not covered by homeowner’s insurance. Federal flood insurance is what’s required. Because no area is totally immune to flooding, you need a government-backed National Flood Insurance Policy (NFIP) sold by many private insurance agents.

Sewer backups into the house are also not within the scope of a basic homeowner’s insurance policy. However, in most cases you can purchase a rider to add sewer coverage to a standard policy. This typically increases annual cost of coverage by $40 to $150.

What Kind Of Flood Protection Do I Need For My House?

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

flood protectionWhether you live in a climate that sees heavy rains or you just want to avoid damage from a backed-up toilet or broken pipe, flood protection is worth the investment. Some of the most effective precautions are as simple as basic home maintenance.

Keep the Water Out

There’s a lot you can do to prevent floor water from entering your home. Grade the ground around your house at a slope of around 1 inch per foot for 6 feet to direct water away from the foundation. Keep your gutters clean and make sure your downspouts extend at least 3 feet away from your house.

Have a sump pump with a battery backup installed in the lowest point of your basement or crawlspace. The pump will automatically switch on when it fills with water and pump the water away from house. Also consider a backwater valve, which prevents sewage from backing up into your home during heavy rainfall.

Protect Your Interior

With a few extra precautions, you can protect your home from damage even if it does flood. Firmly secure your major appliances, such as your furnace, water heater, and washing machine to platforms at least a foot above your local base flood elevation as determined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Ideally, all your wiring and electrical components should be a foot above base flood level, but when this isn’t possible, check that wiring in parts of the house that might flood are rated for underground use and that your outlets are ground fault interrupters.

For extra flood protection, waterproofing coatings are also an option. These are applied to your walls to prevent water from penetrating.

Consider installing a water leak detection and alarm system. These system are based on water-sensors usually placed near water-using appliances, plumbing fixtures, and leak-prone areas such as the basement or attic. When the system senses water nearby, it alerts you with an alarm. Some even turn off your house’s water supply, preventing flooding when you’re away.

What Is A Flood Insurance Overhaul And Why Do I Need One?

Thursday, August 31st, 2017

flood insuranceSerious water damage to your house and belongings is an unpleasant way to find out that you may need a flood insurance overhaul. Generally, water damage from common interior sources such as a broken pipe or leaking water heater are covered under the typical homeowner’s insurance policy. Not all water damage is created equal, however. Therefore, it’s important to learn where distinctions exist and whether a flood insurance overhaul is needed to fill gaps in coverage.

Issues to consider

Here are some issues to consider about your home insurance:

  • Sewage backups are increasingly common as residential sewer pipes age. Unfortunately, the standard homeowner’s insurance policy typically doesn’t cover resultant damage. To add coverage for water damage originating in the household sewer or drains, consider requesting a Water Back-up or Overflow endorsement to your policy.
  • Suppose your sump pump fails and your basement floods. Damage from basement water seepage is generally not covered under a standard homeowner’s policy—it’s considered a maintenance issue, not a “sudden and accidental” event. Adding a sump pump failure endorsement to your existing insurance compensates you for water damage resulting from a defective sump pump.
  • If your roof leaks during heavy rain will homeowner’s insurance offer coverage? Yes and no. A basic HO-3 homeowners policy covers water damage recovery and mold remediation, including structural damage like ceilings and walls. However, water-damaged possessions such as furniture and electronics aren’t covered when a leaky roof is the cause, unless you request that specific endorsement on your policy and pay increased premiums. New, higher-priced HO-5 policies offer blanket coverage for indoor water damage to all possessions, no matter what the specific cause may be.
  • Natural outdoor flooding that inundates your home is not covered by homeowner’s insurance. If you live in a flood zone designated moderate or high risk by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, you definitely need separate federal flood insurance sold and administered by local private insurance agents. In many areas, in fact, it’s required if you have a mortgage.

 

Stop! Don’t Sign that AOB Until You Read This!

Thursday, November 24th, 2016

scam alertYou’ve experienced a water damage incident in your home and everything’s pretty crazy right now. The sooner you sign the papers with a water damage recovery company, the sooner you begin the process of getting back a normal life again.

Wait. If one of those papers is an assignment of benefits (AOB) — or there’s AOB-related language in any of the others — don’t sign. The fact is, the AOB is a notoriously shady practice, more often than not the calling card of an unscrupulous firm that’s more interested in maximizing profit than providing competent service. The end result is usually grossly inflated charges and over-billing of your insurance company, often accompanied by a frivolous lawsuit to extract still more ill-gotten gains.

Scam Is Spelled A-O-B

Assignments of benefits is a form that turns over all the proceeds from your insurance policy directly to the scamsters offering so-called recovery services. The payout goes entirely to them and, along with it, the right to sue your insurance company if any of the questionable charges are in fact questioned. Other dubious subcontractors who get a kickback — plus an attorney — are usually also part of the scam.

What It Means to You

  • Claims filed under AOB are often inflated by more than 300%. The result is enormous losses to insurers, which in turn get passed on to consumers in the form of substantial rate hikes for homeowner’s insurance.
  • Any company that insists on an AOB probably isn’t in the business to establish a reputation for quality work. In fact, shoddy, substandard practices that don’t meet industry criteria are typically another trademark of companies that demand assignments of benefits. As the homeowner, the consequences will be third-rate and/or incomplete work that costs you more in the future to correct, as well as causing lingering long-term effects like mold contamination.

After suffering water damage, seek preliminary advice from your insurance company about hiring a reputable recovery contractor. Always let potential water damage service providers know up front that you won’t sign an AOB.

For reputable professional water damage recovery services without an AOB, contact Rytech, Inc.

What Every Homeowner Should Know about Flood Insurance and Coverage

Tuesday, November 8th, 2016

flood insuranceHow much flood insurance and coverage can you count on to ensure compensation after flood-related damages occur? If you’re thinking about your homeowner’s insurance policy, the answer is none. No class of flooding is covered under standard homeowner’s insurance. It doesn’t matter where you live nor what the source of flood water may be. “Flooding” can mean anything from an overflowing creek to a hurricane storm surge. Whatever the case, it’s not covered under homeowner’s insurance.

Flood insurance and coverage for water damage related to a flood must be purchased as an entirely separate policy offered by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Although these policies are provided by the federal government, they’re normally purchased through and administered by local private insurance agents that often offer other insurance including homeowner’s policies.

For individuals who live in federal flood zones designated as high risk and have a mortgage on their house, purchasing NFIP flood insurance isn’t merely an option — under the law, it’s mandatory. Even in areas rated moderate or low risk, private lenders may still require you to purchase flood insurance under the terms of the mortgage according to their standard practices.

Generally speaking, coverage provided by NFIP insurance for homeowners includes:

  • The home structure and foundation including all electrical and plumbing systems and HVAC equipment. Major appliances like refrigerators and dishwashers are also covered, as are permanent carpeting and paneling, cabinets and bookcases.
  • Personal possessions are covered per actual cash value. These include furniture, clothes and household electronics, and small appliances like window A/C units, microwaves and washers and dryers. Some specific valuables like original art objects, furs, and other items up to $2,500 may also be covered.

Two caveats: NFIP policies enforce a 30-day waiting period before coverage begins. So don’t wait until the weather forecast predicts flood conditions to purchase it. Also, don’t expect Federal Disaster Assistance to substitute for flood insurance. Disaster assistance is not insurance compensation; it’s a loan that must be repaid with interest.

The water damage experts at Rytech, Inc. are available to answer all your questions about federal flood insurance and coverage.

 

Insurance Agents: 3 Reasons to Choose Rytech for Your Water Damage Claims

Thursday, August 4th, 2016

Insurance agents know the story well: Water damage claims are increasing in raw numbers, and the amount of each claim is also climbing steadily, now averaging around $15,000 per incident. Claims can range from pumping out and drying an empty, flooded basement to catastrophic household damage from a ruptured water supply pipe. Insurers need to know that water damage recovery will be handled by experienced professionals and the finished job will comply with established industry standards.

insurance claimIn today’s competitive environment, satisfied policyholders are an asset no company can afford to risk. Firms offering water damage recovery aren’t hard to find — neither are consumer complaints about poor work practices and unsatisfactory results. Here are three reasons Rytech leads the industry as a standout example of professionalism in water damage and mold remediation:

  • Fast response = happier policyholders. We dispatch experienced teams of IICRC-certified water damage specialists to the site within four hours and take control of the situation immediately. No water damage scenario is unfamiliar and the steps to a successful remediation are established and proven. Most jobs are completed — and your policyholder’s life returned to normal — within three days.
  • Minimal upheaval, maximum results. When water damage strikes, homeowners suffer inconvenience, loss of possessions and even temporary dislocation. Recovery work should be efficient and effective to reduce the aggravation and hassle. We utilize cutting-edge technology and treatment methods, many of which facilitate drying the premises with a minimum amount of disassembly or demolition. For example, high-powered water extractors can frequently dry carpeting in place without removal. Moisture detection technology uses non-invasive techniques to locate hidden moisture.
  • Standardized claim practices. We’re all on the same team with the same goal: providing premier water damage recovery services to policyholders. To keep the claims procedure consistent, Rytech provides insurers itemized estimates with no surprises included. We also offer Direct Billing services, a convenience for the insured as well as the insurer. Streamlining the recovery work and claims practices can reduce costs per claim for the insurer by up to $1,000.

Contact the professionals at Rytech Inc. for more information about water damage recovery services.

Don’t Be Intimidated By Your Mold Insurance Claim: We Can Help!

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

Insurance claims can be daunting even for the most simple cases of household damage. Filing a mold contamination claim is no exception and may even add additional complications to the claims process. Mold contamination may occur concurrently with water damage, or it may be a delayed after-effect that manifests down the road. Mold contamination may also occur without any known association to water damage, past or present.

flood insurance claimBecause mold is spread by airborne spores invisible to the naked eye, confirming the presence of active growing mold inside the house requires air sampling and professional expertise to track down the source. Once a reliable result is confirmed, an effective action plan will be formulated by one of our IICRC-certified mold remediation experts. Here are some guidelines to navigate the insurance claims process along the way:

  • Get the insurer involved from the outset. You should contact your insurance company as soon as you believe you may have a mold contamination issue and are ready to seek testing and, if required, professional remediation.
  • If you’re dealing with a concurrent water damage event, mold issues may be part of the overall water damage claim.
  • Have your policy number and other relevant info at hand and be ready to supply contact info so an adjuster can get in touch with you ASAP.
  • Once mold contamination has been confirmed and a written remediation action plan and estimate provided to you, your insurer will provide a Proof Of Loss form. Completing and submitting this form authenticates your claim and sets into motion the compensation process.
  • After your claim is verified, the insurance company will provide information about the approved payment, which should be issued within 60 days.
  • Rytech has claim experts on staff, experienced in filing insurance paperwork for mold contamination and ensuring that you receive the benefits you’re entitled to under your policy. If you desire, we can handle the process of filing the claim for you, and even arrange for direct billing to your insurance company in most cases.

For more information about filing a mold insurance claim, contact the specialists at Rytech, Inc.

What is an “Assignment of Benefits” and Why You Should Avoid it

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

Your home’s a mess. You’ve just suffered water damage from some common source like a ruptured plumbing pipe, outdoor flooding or a backed-up sewer line. A water damage contractor you might have chosen hastily is now insisting that you sign an Assignment of Benefits form before he’ll begin work. You’re in a hurry to get your home — and your life — back to normal, so you sign the paper. What’s wrong with this picture?

assignment of benefitsAs it turns out, a lot. The Assignment of Benefits form is a legally binding document that makes the contractor the direct recipient of all benefits that ensue from your insurance claim. The contractor gains all rights to your insurance payout while you, the homeowner, are totally out of control of any unreasonable or unjustified costs the contractor may stack up in the bill. However, if/when your insurance company declines to pay these inappropriate charges, according to the terms of the Assignment of Benefits, you’ll be required to pay them. If you decline to do so — or aren’t financially able — the contractor could then place a lien on your property. In a worst-case scenario, an unscrupulous contractor could wind up owning your house.

Assignment of Benefits is often slipped in among other necessary paperwork and casually referred to by some deliberately vague term like “standard AOB Form.” Of course, it’s mainly “standard” with less-than-competent outfits and even unethical scamsters. Here’s how to avoid falling victim to the Assignment of Benefits trap:

  • If water damage occurs, always talk to your insurance company first to get recommendations and cautionary advice before formally contracting for water damage recovery services.
  • If you are presented with an Assignment of Benefits, don’t sign it.
  • Before a prospective water damage contractor even inspects your home, always ask up-front if an Assignment of Benefits will be required. If so, consider that a definite red flag. Terminate the discussion and seek out a reputable professional water damage remediation contractor.

Rytech Inc. does not require an Assignment of Benefits contract and actively supports legislation to prohibit this unscrupulous practice. Contact us for more information today.