Florida Homeowners Insurance Guide

Florida Homeowners InsuranceBuying a new home is an exciting chapter in life, but with a new house comes upkeep and, of course, the need for homeowners insurance. Protecting your assets against unforeseen damage is one of the most important steps you can take toward securing your future. Whether you’re looking for renters insurance or homeowners insurance, Florida offers some unique challenges to potential customers. Here are some things to keep in mind as you navigate your search for home insurance in the Sunshine State.

Unique Conditions

With special challenges surrounding weather conditions, Florida homeowners insurance policies should have provisions to cover wind and other storm-related damages. Hurricanes are a huge concern for residents of the state, as tropical storms and hurricanes have caused $450 billion worth of damage in Florida since the beginning of the 20th century. You can read a detailed report from Florida State University here about the extent of hurricane damage both historically and in recent years. Spin-off storms and high winds cause a significant amount of destruction to Florida homes and businesses each season, meaning any homeowners insurance policy you choose should cover these risks, especially if you live in a coastal area.

Because many homes can sustain storm damage during hurricane season, it is especially important   to ensure that your home is constructed with the frequency of storms in mind, which usually results in better insurance rates. Features like storm windows and sturdy concrete construction not only protect your home from damage, they can also save you money on your homeowners insurance policy.

Preventing Damage

Eliminating the need to file an insurance claim will save you time and inconvenience, even if you have a very comprehensive house insurance policy. There are several proactive steps you can take to make sure your home remains as undamaged as possible in the event of a storm. Shutters or plywood should be used to protect windows, which are very vulnerable to high winds. Double entry doors should be secured with bolts, and garage doors can be reinforced with kits you can install before a hurricane makes landfall. Gabled roofs are often damaged in hurricane-force winds, so they should be securely nailed down and braced, and shingles should be inspected and adhered with proper roofing nails and quick-setting asphalt cement if they are loose. Ensure that gutters and water spouts are clear so that water flows freely away from your roof.

There are also home construction techniques that can lower your risk of damage, as well as your insurance payments. Reinforced concrete construction is more storm-resistant than other methods of home construction, and roofs that are secured with metal strapping are more likely to remain intact during storms. As of the year 2002, building codes require impact-resistant doors and windows in areas that regularly experience winds of 120 mph or more, but older homes might require modifications to ensure that they are up to code and capable of resisting storm damage. Read more about new building measures to prevent property damage at hurricanescience.org.

Finding an Agent

Purchasing your homeowners insurance through a licensed agent ensures professionalism and accountability. Avoid scams and disreputable insurance companies by doing business through an insurance agent who knows the house insurance industry and comes recommended by other clients. All insurance carriers sell policies through licensed agents, so purchasing through an agent ensures that you’ll have a worry-free experience. This person is also your main point of contact who will communicate the details of your policy to you, so it’s important to find someone you trust and feel comfortable dealing with. Visit the Florida Association of Insurance Agents, a professional organization many insurance professionals belong to, to find a trusted agent near you. Read more about the licensing process for Florida insurance agents here. Many insurance agents are recommended by word of mouth, so ask friends and family members about their experiences before selecting your insurance agent.

Types of Florida Homeowners Insurance

There are several varieties of house insurance to consider when making a decision about what level of coverage is right for your home. For example, HO 2 is a basic form of homeowners insurance, with coverage for property damage, liability, and a list of named perils such as fire and theft. HO 3 expands the coverage somewhat, and HO 5 is the most comprehensive form of coverage for homeowners, usually operating on an “all risk” basis. HO 4, or renters insurance, covers tenants against damage to personal property, and HO 6 is specifically for owners of condominiums. HO 8 is designed for older homes with high replacement costs due to antiquated plumbing and construction. Learn more about the specifics of each type of coverage at the Heritage Insurance website.

What is FLOIR?

FLOIR, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, is an agency that protects insurance policyholders in the state of Florida by making sure all insurance companies operate within set guidelines. The FLOIR website allows you to see which companies are licensed in Florida, compare insurance rates, and find the answers to common insurance-related questions. You can also request public records pertaining to homeowners insurance companies and compare databases of complaints against insurance companies across the state. This valuable resource also offers information about various types of insurance such as auto and medical coverage, and it allows users to find information about insurance agents.

Florida homeowners insurance buyers should take advantage of the information FLOIR provides, such as helpful advice for making sure your home is ready for hurricane season and step-by-step instructions for filing an insurance claim. The agency’s website also keeps homeowners up to date about current events that might affect Florida residents’ insurance coverage.

Citizens Insurance

Citizens Insurance is Florida’s not-for-profit, government-run insurance entity for residents who are unable to secure private insurance policies. It operates on the cost of its premiums, therefore it is designed to be an insurance policy of last resort for homeowners who cannot get private insurance because their homes have been deemed too high-risk for most insurers to underwrite due to location, the condition of the home, etc.

You may have heard about the recent depopulation of Citizens Insurance in Florida as recently reported by the Miami Herald. This means that Citizens is moving its policies to private companies in an effort to scale down its operation to 450,000 policies. This has several implications for people buying Florida homeowners insurance. It means you should consider private insurers before going to Citizens, even if you think they might be unwilling to sell you a policy. The state is attempting to reduce its dependence on state-run insurance, encouraging private companies to offer policies that might otherwise be provided by Citizens. It also means an approximate 3.2% increase in rates for Citizens customers over the next year, depending on where their homes are located. Customers living in high-risk areas could see rate hikes of 8% or more, which is something to keep in mind when comparing pricing.

Price Shopping

Finding the coverage you need at a price you can afford is a win-win. Search online for insurance quotes before purchasing home insurance so you can be sure you are getting competitive rates when you buy. Many insurance websites offer insurance comparisons for consumers who want to be sure they’re getting the best deal.

Of course, price is not the only thing to think about when choosing insurance coverage. Finding a balance between affordable premiums and adequate insurance is sometimes difficult, but in the end paying a bit more than the lowest price usually results in better  coverage for you and your family. For example, most basic forms of Florida homeowners insurance do not cover flood damage, an important concern in coastal areas. If you live in a high hazard flood area, you should purchase a flood insurance policy in addition to a homeowners policy.  Always make sure you read your policy carefully and discuss it with your insurance agent before making a decision.

What You Should Look for in a Carrier

Deciding on an insurance carrier is a major decision that can affect your life significantly in the future—after all, these are the people you turn to in the event of an accident or storm causing damage to your home and property. Above all, the carrier you choose should have a good reputation with its customers and its employees and officers should have significant experience in the industry and in the area where you live. This is especially important in states like Florida that are at a higher risk of being in the path of tropical storms. It also helps to find a company that is publicly traded, which indicates a certain level of stability and transparency.  Finding a carrier with an “A” (Exceptional) Financial Stability Rating provides peace of mind when it comes to the claims process.

A little preliminary research can ensure that you choose the best carrier to protect your investment in your future. Read customer reviews of potential insurers at a reputable site such as consumeraffairs.com, and talk to a licensed insurance agent about your options. Choosing the right insurance carrier will ensure your peace of mind, so don’t leave it up to chance. Use the resources listed above to help you make an informed decision.