Thursday, December 27, 2018

Update: Flood insurance may be available during federal government shutdown

Update: We are seeing reports that NFIP will sell flood policies during the federal government shutdown, a reversal of its earlier announcement. While the FEMA website still says otherwise (see below), we've seen reports that NFIP is selling through its Write Your Own (WYO) partners, which are available from licensed agents and brokers.

Here's our original blog post:

During the federal government shutdown that started Dec. 21, the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) will not sell new flood insurance policies. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) website:

“Policies that were in force before midnight on December 21, 2018 remain in force. The NFIP will process and pay claims under those policies as usual from the National Flood Insurance Fund and the National Flood Insurance Reserve Fund until depleting these funds, but will not have authority to borrow any additional funds from the U.S. Treasury. Existing flood insurance policies remain valid regardless of FEMA’s capacity to pay claims. FEMA and Congress have never failed to honor the NFIP’s contracts with policyholders.

The NFIP and its WYO partners (Write Your Own -- read more about what that means) may not issue new contracts for flood insurance during a lapse in authority unless Congress passes legislation reauthorizing the NFIP. During a lapse in authority, the NFIP will have limited ability to issue new policies, issue increased coverage on existing policies, or issue renewal policies.”

What does this mean for homeowners?
According to the Insurance Information Institute, Washington state had approximately 36,831 flood insurance policies through the NFIP as of 2017, the most recent data available.

Some mortgage lenders require homeowners to have flood insurance before they can close on the sale of a house. According to Reuters, it could affect up to 40,000 home sales each month.

While federal flood insurance policies are temporarily unavailable, there may be some flood policies available on the private flood insurance market. The best way to find out is to contact your insurance agent or company to ask if they can help you find private flood insurance.

Washington state Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler supports the development of a private flood insurance market, which would give homeowners and business owners more options and coverage choices for insuring their property. That could be one of the focus areas that would be included in a Washington state disaster resilience working group if Kreidler’s bill passes the state Legislature next year.

If you need help with an insurance problem or question, contact our consumer advocates.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Thinking about buying a condo? Here’s what you should know about insuring it

We talk to consumers a lot about homeowner and renter insurance, but condos are a type of housing that have unique insurance considerations.

The number of condos being built is on the rise in the Seattle area – more than 2,000 are slated to be built in Seattle and Bellevue through 2021. 

If the condo association owns the structure and common areas, it typically carries an insurance policy to cover damage to those areas and liability arising from those areas. The association policy may have a deductible that gets passed onto the unit owners, typically in the form of an assessment. It’s common that individual owners have little say with regard to how repairs are done, including the timeliness, quality and type – those decisions are typically made by the association.

Each unit owner should purchase their own policy that covers their contents and the space they own, sometimes defined in the policy as from “sheet rock in” or “paint in.” Unit owners can check with their agent or insurer to find out if there is coverage for the association’s deductible assessment under the unit policy.

The most common type of inquiry we receive from consumers involves claims where water damage to one condo unit affects another unit. Unless there is clear negligence on the part of the owner whose leak caused the damage, each individual condo unit policy pays for the damage to their own unit.

Questions? Contact your agent or insurance company. You can learn more about condo insurance. You can also contact consumer advocates online or by phone at 1-800-562-6900.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Avoid being the victim of package theft

December is the season for shopping for gifts, which means it’s also prime Grinch season for car break-ins and thefts.

Theft from a house

Packages left on porches by delivery services, and pre-wrapped presents under the tree, are vulnerable for theft, and proving the value and ownership might be a challenge. According to Property Casualty 360, 26 million Americans have had a holiday package stolen from a front porch or doorstep.

Talk to your agent about this type of theft and what you would need to prove you had your property stolen from your porch, driveway, mailbox, or house. Most insurers require a police report to accompany theft claims.

A couple of things to consider to try to avoid theft:
  • Have your package delivered to a friend or family member who is home during the day. 
  • Ask the vendor if they can deliver to a secure location. For example, Amazon can delivery packages to Amazon lockers. 
  • Consider installing security cameras. They are widely available and have become more affordable as the technology improves. Some insurers offer a discount on homeowner policies if you have a security system – talk to your agent or broker about that. 

Car break-ins

If you find yourself the victim of a car break-in when you have a car full of gifts, your homeowner or renter insurance will cover the contents, but there could be dollar limits on certain types of property. Talk to your agent about any policy limits that may apply to certain types of personal property.

If you decide to file a claim – for instance, if your car was damaged during the theft -- make sure you have receipts for what was stolen and a copy of the police report, if you filed one. However, you should consider whether your claim amount is more or less than your deductible. If it’s less, not only will you pay more than the value of the goods, but you may not want to run the risk of your insurance rates going up as a result of the claim.

It’s best not to store packages or valuables in your car. If you need to, stash them away out of plain sight before you park. 

More info