Read Your Homeowner's Insurance Policy.
It's amazing. We nearly go over the fiscal cliff, people are still without heat, hot water, or even a home, and lawmakers in New Jersey propose legislation to make insurance companies produce a single-page summary of a homeowners insurance policy.
This bill, A-3642, produced by the Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee, would require insurers writing homeowners insurance policies in New Jersey to provide each and every insured with a consumer-information brochure "written in a simple, clear, understandable, and easily readable way", explaining the hurricane deductible and the need for flood insurance.
What a bunch of garbage. Just read your homeowners insurance policy.
Now, I don't know about homeowners insurance policies in New Jersey, but here in New York, the second page of the homeowners policy covers Policy Deductibles, including the Hurricane Deductible, and tells the client their homeowners or dwelling policy does not provide coverage for losses caused by flood or mudslide.
It even gives you the short definition of what a flood is.
Don't believe me? Well, take a look at the renewal homeowners insurance policy of one of my long-time clients.This client and I speak every year, and every year I remind them of the need to purchase Flood Insurance. (Hmmm, looks like it's time to increase the Liability Insurance too.) As you can plainly see, page two of the policy clearly describes the Policy Deductibles, including the Hurricane Deductible, and even states there is no coverage for losses caused by flood or mudslide in the bottom half of the page. It even reminds you who your insurer and mortgagee are.
It's not that it isn't there. Policy owners just don't read it.
After 30 years in the insurance business, I know one hard truth: Ninety-five percent of all policy owners will never read their policy (ies) until, and only when, they suffer a loss. And they're told they're not covered for what caused the loss. Then, and only then will they actually take an interest in their policy coverages.
Oh, and this is when they tend to get really ticked off.
Look at what happened with Hurricane Sandy. How many people, either while evacuating, or remaining trapped in their homes, shared the mistaken belief their homeowners insurance policy covered them for losses caused by flood? Only to get the shock of their lives when they learned their homeowners insurance policy offered them zero (0) protection for their losses?
Too dang many.
Why did they think their flood losses were covered? I'm sure their insurance agent didn't tell them they were covered. Heck, I inform each and every one of my clients about the need for flood insurance, even if they live in the middle of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights, or Prospect Heights. The usual response? I usually get a "Oh, I don't need that. I'm not near the water.", or "Why are you trying to take more money out of my pocket? I can't deduct you on my income taxes!"
I remind them they're not covered for flood, which includes the water roaring into your basement after a heavy rainstorm, or when the 90 year-old water main running down the middle of your street finally decides to burst and send hundreds of thousands of gallons of water cascading into your basements and cellars.
What's really sad is it's not just insurance policies which consumers don't read. Recently, a client purchasing a condo came in for insurance. During the conversation, the client made statements leading me to believe they thought didn't have to pay for any necessary repairs done in their unit.
Luckily, the client had their Offering Plan with them which provided not only a schematic of the unit, but the condo association rules and regulations as well.
With minimum effort, I showed the client where repairs to their unit were their responsibility.
Lord, why did I do that?
"They didn't tell me anything about that!"
"Didn't you read this Offering Plan from cover to cover?" I asked.
"Man, I couldn't be bothered to read that whole book. You're looking at it. What does it say?"
And therein lies the problem.
Real Housewives of Atlanta or L. A.? We're all over it.
The Voice and American Idol? We're watching every stupid episode.
Watching virile athletes vie for athletic glory? Sure, while filling our kegs with booze from a keg.
Reading trashy romantic novels, getting all sweaty over the sex, while your sexually frustrated man (or woman) is lying next to you, waiting for you to read their pages?
Heading for divorce court.
But ask someone to read, question and understand their condominium association's Offering Plan? Or read the two (2) pages of their policy called the Declaration Pages?
Can't be so bothered.
Hated it. Two snaps down in the deepest, dankest, dungeon.
Now, this sad state of affairs does not apply to every client. It just applies to too darn many.
I am blessed with more than a few clients who meet with me every year for their annual homeowners insurance policy review. They want to make sure they own all the coverages they need to be fully indemnified in case of a loss. They may not enjoy being told it's going to cost them a little more, but most of them upgrade their coverage.
Most important, they know what is covered and what is not.
And, at the end of the day, isn't that what counts?
So, don't make insurers kill more trees. Tell policyowners it's their responsibility to read their policies. If they don't understand what they are reading, then they should call their agent and set up an appointment to review their insurance policy (ies). Heck, they should do that every year.
So, save the trees! Read your policy!