Monday, February 20, 2017

Flood Insurance - What You Need To Know

If you have been through a major flood, you know the kind of damage and property loss it can cause. If you haven’t experienced it, it is difficult to image what it is like.

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was created in 1968 as a means for property owners to protect themselves financially in the event of flood damage. Flood insurance is offered to homeowners, renters and businesses in communities that participate in the program. According to the NFIP flood is the number one natural disaster in the U.S. From 2011 to 2015, the average flood claim was over $46,000. From 2006 to 2015, flood damage insurance claims exceeded $1.9 billion per year. Major changes to the program will come into effect from 1st April this year as continuing with the program with the current subsidized rates is no longer viable, and it is important that homeowners know about them so they can plan for the future.

NFIP Changes

Flood insurance premiums will increase. On an average, this will be about 6.3%. This increase does not include the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act (HFIAA) surcharge or the Federal Policy Fee (FPF). If the HFIAA surcharge and FPF are taken into account, the total impact on the policy holder will be around 5.4%. There will be no changes to the:

  • Deductible Factors
  • Federal Policy Fee
  • Reserve Fund Assessment
  • HFIAA Surcharge
  • Probation Surcharge
  • Increased Cost of Compliance (ICC) Premiums
  • Tentative & Provisional Rates
  • Mortgage Portfolio Protection Program (MPPP)

The annual premium rate increase is normally limited to 15% but in some cases it may go up to 18%. Additionally, the premiums for following Pre-Flood Insurance Rate Map (Pre-FIRM) subsidized policies will be increased by 25% per year until the rate is at full risk levels:

  • Non-primary residential properties
  • Business properties
  • Severe Repetitive Loss (SRL) properties, which includes cumulatively damage
  • properties
  • Substantially improved properties

In the case of Pre-FIRM Subsidized Policies the following increases will be effective:

  • Primary residences – premiums will increase on average by 5%
  • Non-primary residences – premiums will increase on average by 24%
  • Policies subject to 25% annual increases – premiums will increase on average by 23%
  • All other Pre-FIRM subsidized risks not covered in the first three bullets (primarily

Condominium and multi-family policies) – premiums will increase on average by 8%

How Are You Affected?

The changes that will come into effect are complex and technical. Most home and business owners will have difficulty in understanding the effect these will have on them. Now is the time to contact your insurance broker to know how the changes will affect you and how much you will pay for flood insurance. If you do not have flood coverage, an insurance professional will be able to help you find the policy you need at the cost that is right for you.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Earthquake Insurance is Cheaper than You Think

In 2015 the United States Geological Survey released its Uniform Earthquake Rupture Forecast which says that there is a 93% chance that California will be hit by a 6.7 magnitude earthquake in the next 30 years. That is almost double the size of the Northridge quake. Quakes are a clear and present danger for everyone living in the state. Northridge caused about $40 billion is property damage and about half of that was for homes. Because of the huge payouts, not only did premiums rise, many insurance companies reduced the number of polices they wrote. In response to this, the state Legislature created a basic no-frills policy that insurers could offer, but the coverage left a lot to be desired. Earthquake insurance coverage stagnated.

Earthquake Insurance Coverage Is Low

Despite the danger we all face, only about 10% of California homes have earthquake insurance. There are 2 main reasons for this. The first is that the rates for this coverage were high and many homeowners thought that they couldn’t afford it, in spite of knowing the risks they ran. The other reason is that many presumed that if a quake hit them, federal and state aid would help them recover. That is a major misconception. The aid is meant only to help families survive in the aftermath of a quake, not to repair the damage and rebuild their homes. As for the cost of the coverage, it is less expensive than you think.

New Coverage Options

The California Earthquake Authority (CEA) is a publicly managed organization that provides earthquake insurance through a number of leading insurance companies. Today, the CEA provides around 75% of all earthquake policies sold in California. The Authority’s CEO says that a new research has allowed the risk to be recalibrated and that rates have come down by almost 50%. The large amount of options available enables homeowners to tailor their earthquake insurance options to match their needs and their budgets. For example, the deductible can now be set at anywhere from 5% to 25%, instead of the old range of 10% to 15%.  Coverage for property inside the home can now range from zero to $200,000 instead of the old limit of $5,000. And when a home is uninhabitable after a quake, the loss of use coverage can be between 0 to $100,000.

Today, a home with slab foundation and frame construction can get a basic CEA coverage for just $804 per year.

Get the Coverage that is Right for You

If you do not have earthquake insurance, now is the time to get the coverage you need. And if you do have a policy, this is when you can relook to see if it offers you the protection you need and if not, get additional coverage without emptying your bank account. Earthquake insurance is a complex subject and balancing coverage, deductibles and premiums requires expert knowledge. Contact an insurance broker to know where you stand and what additional coverage is available to you.