It’s worth boning up on homeowner insurance
|By Jeff Gelles, The Philadelphia Inquirer|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
Trust me on that -- it's just the nature of the beast. After more than a dozen years of writing about everything from airfares to computer zombies, I've learned what stirs reader interest and what makes readers turn away.
One reason is that you're likely to misperceive insurance as something intangible -- a generic sense of protection against an awful but unlikely event. What you're really buying is a very specific contract whose value, thankfully, you may never recognize. The trouble is, if you ever do, it will be too late to make a different choice.
That's one reason to consider turning to an independent agent or broker -- someone who can help you find the best coverage at a price you can afford.
To help guide you toward potential distinctions among policies, I asked two legal experts to flag key language in my own policy from
Mold is a worry facing many homeowners nowadays, and my policy isn't alone in applying new limitations. It not only excludes primary coverage for mold itself. In a separate "policy endorsement" -- insurance-speak for a change in terms --
What other water-related claims might leave me marooned, beyond the catastrophes for which I know I need federal flood insurance?
Since I own an older home, Feinman suggests attention to another section of my policy, on repairs governed by building codes that have changed over the years. My policy says
Feinman also warned me of a potentially tricky limit
Say my roof was so damaged by a storm that it needs replacing, and my policy ostensibly covers the whole cost. The trick is that
"For a total loss of a house, this is too short," Feinman warns.
When consumers or businesses have problems with claims, many turn to a public adjuster such as Underkoffler. So I called him last week to get his take on today's most worrisome policy trends.
He says the biggest pitfall he's seen lately is the spread of percentage-based deductibles, often imposed for certain kinds of damage, such as windstorms.
"This is the new industry thing to eliminate small claims," Underkoffler says. "The trick is that the percentage is not of the loss, it's of the amount of the coverage on your policy."
Insurers don't see tricks in setting a percentage deductible. Nor do those who oversee them.
"There's no pitfall in that," Lersch says. "They're giving the consumer different choices."
That may be for fully informed consumers. But Underkoffler says some seem blindsided when they realize they've got a 5 percent wind deductible and damage to a roof, siding, walls, and floors.
"Now you've got
That's just what insurance is supposed to protect you from, of course -- which is why it's so important to pay close attention now. Even when you'd rather not.
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