Sure as the sun rises, one day your California town will be on fire. Get insurance—lots of it

Sonoma is on fire. Santa Rosa is on fire. Anaheim is on fire. And as sure as the sun rises tomorrow, one day your California town will be on fire. The best you can hope for is that you’re prepared to rebuild after it happens.

But after the fires are extinguished, thousands of Californians will learn that they are not prepared, because they do not have enough insurance to rebuild their homes. Worse, they may not receive much, if any, assistance from the federal government. FEMA coffers are being depleted from the rising number of annual declared disasters, and federal policy under the current administration seems to change by the day. There are no guarantees.

Insurance industry data reveals that for a score of reasons — inflation of the cost of work and supplies after a mass disaster, the rising cost of home construction, the difference between the cost of construction and the cost of buying an existing home — at least 80% of the homes in the United States have less than 80% of the coverage required to completely rebuild after a fire.

Almost everyone assumes they have enough insurance, but evidently they don’t.

How can that be? Buried in many California insurance policies is a clause that says the homeowner is the expert on the value of her own home, so if the amount of insurance purchased is not enough, it falls to the homeowner to pick up the difference. Our courts usually enforce that clause.

You may say, “My insurance provides 125% coverage of my home value, so I am comfortable that I have enough insurance.” Don’t take comfort in that policy. The percentage is pegged to the value of the home at the time of purchase, meaning it can sound like a lot more than it is in reality. Real estate values rise — sometimes quickly — and building costs rise after large-scale disasters due to simple supply-and-demand economics.

In the 2003 Cedar fire in San Diego, I had a neighbor who had such a clause and had bought her home and insurance just four months before the fire. Even she didn’t have enough insurance to rebuild, and had to pay a substantial sum out of her own pocket to replace what she lost.

California should change the laws that regulate fire insurance to ensure full replacement of a home lost in a wildfire. For example, California could mandate that every time an insurance company provides a quote for a new or renewed homeowner’s policy, it must also provide an option for uncapped, “guaranteed replacement coverage.” But that process, once started, will take years to move through our political system. Until those laws change, here’s what to do to ensure you have enough insurance.

Before you purchase or renew a home insurance policy, send an email to the insurance broker/agent that says: “I want enough insurance that if my home burns down in a wildfire, I have enough coverage to rebuild my home. Please tell me what amount of coverage I should have, and quote me the rate for that amount of coverage. Please respond by email rather than by telephone or in person. Thank you.”

When the broker/agent responds to that email, purchase the amount quoted immediately. Keep a record of the correspondence somewhere other than in your house — even documents in a fire safe are not “safe” in a fire. Repeat this exercise every single time that you renew your homeowner’s insurance.

Stay safe. Do what you can for our friends in Anaheim and Northern California — send them money, not your old clothes. One day you may need their help in return.

Kenneth S. Klein is a professor of law at California Western School of Law. He lost his own home to wildfire and has received awards for counseling hundreds of fire survivors.

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Home insurance covers much more than your property

The importance of your home is not just recognised by us, but also by regulatory bodies and the government. Despite investing a considerable amount of time and effort in scouting for our perfect homes, we often tend to overlook the importance of safeguarding it and its contents in the long run.

Home insurance continues to be one of the most neglected cover due to the lack of understanding of it. Let us demystify some myths to understand this cover better

Home insurance is a comprehensive cover which protects not only your property, but also its contents

Contrary to the myth that only your property will be protected from a peril like fire or burglary, home insurance provides a comprehensive cover against the loss or destruction of portable equipments, electrical & electronic appliances and even jewellery and valuables. This saves you the headache of purchasing multiple covers for different assets and against different hazards.

Home insurance covers rented properties alike: While you may not own the place where you live, your home and its contents are still dear to you and have the possibility of being damaged by the same dangers as a self-owned home. In such a contingency, if you are covered by home insurance, all your assets in the house enjoy the same protection as well.

Loss of cash whilst in transit: While your society may have the privilege of beefing up their security, one still runs the possibility of loss of money while in transit from the ATM to the house. Home Insurance covers and compensates for such losses and robberies that one may encounter.

Acts of God also covered by home insurance: Contrary to the popular misnomer, home insurance actually protects your safe haven from a variety of natural calamities including floods, natural fires etc. Different policies offer different covers, as deemed suitable by them. In such cases, you should ideally go for one with the maximum coverage

Personal accident: Accidents don’t see the time or place, hence they are called accidents! A good home insurance policy will protect you from all personal accidents that you may encounter within the boundary of your home, including death.

Key replacement: How many of us have been in a situation where we are in the midst of a hustle-bustle, only to realize that we have misplaced our home/vehicle keys. Interestingly, your home insurance can reimburse the cost of replacing your Home and/or vehicle keys which are lost or stolen.

Be it your own or rented, homes signify comfort, protection and stability. Hence, it is imperative for us to secure this asset and its contents from all the probable perils which it may encounter. This Diwali, let’s safeguard what protects us.

PLEDGE TO PROTECT

  • If you are covered by home insurance, all your assets enjoy the same protection as well.
  • Home Insurance covers and compensates for such losses and robberies

The writer is head – product development, SBI General Insurance

Myrtle Beach average home insurance rates

Not only do homeowners in Myrtle Beach pay the highest insurance rates in the entire state, but they also pay the sixth highest rates in the nation, according to an analysis done by Insurance.com.

The top six most expensive locations by zip code, on average, for home insurance are as follows:

1. Conch Key, Fla. 33050

Average annual premium: $11,702

2. Venice, La. 70091

Average annual premium: $11,151

3. Pascagoula, Miss. 39595

Average annual premium: $7,922

4. Gulf Shores, Alabama 36561

Average annual premium: $7,850

5. Galveston, Texas 77550

Average annual premium: $7,105

6. Myrtle Beach, S.C. 29577

Average annual premium: $3,858

Many of the most expensive zip codes for home insurance are in states that experience a lot of severe weather, which explains why the rates are so costly.

“The most expensive ZIPs in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas, South Carolina and Massachusetts are all coastal areas prone to catastrophic storms that are costly to insurers, who then pass that cost to homeowners,” the analysis states.

The rankings for the priciest locations were determined by identifying the zip code with the highest average rate for home insurance in each state and then listing them in descending order. The rankings for the cheapest locations were determined likewise.

The analysis showed a national average rate of $1,228 for $200,000 dwelling coverage with a $1,000 deductible and $100,000 in liability.

As far as rates go throughout the Palmetto State, Myrtle Beach has the most expensive. Cleveland has the cheapest, with the average rate at $894.

The top four most expensive locations in S.C., by zip code, on average are as follows:

1. Myrtle Beach 29577

Average annual premium: $3,858

2. Garden City 29576

Average annual premium: $3,690

3. Briarcliffe Acres 29572

Average annual premium: $3,491

4. Sullivan’s Island 29482

Average annual premium: $3,437

The top four cheapest locations in S.C., by zip code, on average are as follows:

1. Cleveland 29635

Average annual premium: $894

2. Slater-Marrieta 29661

Average annual premium: $896

3. Greenville 29604

Average annual premium: $896

4. Greenville 29602

Average annual premium: $896

Metro Credit Union Launches Metro Insurance Advisors

CHELSEA, Mass., Oct. 18, 2017 /PRNewswire/ — Metro Credit Union announced the launch of Metro Insurance Advisors, an agency offering a complete line of insurance products and coverage for automobiles, homeowners, renters, and businesses.   

Metro Credit Union

“Insurance is a product that all individuals need,” stated Robert Cashman, President and CEO of Metro Credit Union. “As the trusted financial institution for more than 190,000 members, our goal is to provide high-quality, affordable solutions that make managing finances easy. We are pleased to add Metro Insurance Advisors to our already-robust line of financial solutions.” Cashman continued, “We are proud to partner with MAPFRE Insurance, the number one provider of auto and home insurance in Massachusetts. Partnering with MAPFRE allows us to deliver a comprehensive suite of insurance products at the best price, while delivering the exceptional service our members and business owners have come to expect.”

“We are pleased to partner with Metro Credit Union, the largest state chartered credit union in Massachusetts, as it launches Metro Insurance Advisors,” said John Kelly, Senior Vice President at MAPFRE Insurance. “This new insurance agency will offer Metro’s members access to our comprehensive coverage options, along with the exceptional service that has made us a market leader in Massachusetts. Members and insurance customers alike will discover that Metro and MAPFRE share the same values: providing quality products and expertise they can trust, with the goal of increasing financial peace of mind.”

About Metro Credit Union
Metro Credit Union is the largest state-chartered credit union in Massachusetts, approaching $1.7 billion in assets. Metro provides a full range of financial products to more than 190,000 members in Essex, Middlesex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Plymouth, Barnstable, Bristol and Worcester counties, as well as to over 1,200 companies throughout the Commonwealth.

Founded in 1926, Metro currently operates 15 branch offices in Boston, Burlington, Chelsea, Framingham, Lawrence, Lynn, Melrose, Newton, Peabody, Salem, and Tewksbury. Learn more at www.metrocu.org

About MAPFRE Insurance
MAPFRE Insurance, rated “A” (Excellent) by A.M. Best Company, actively writes property and casualty insurance in 19 states across the United States through a network of more than 5,000 independent agents and brokers.  MAPFRE Insurance is the 19th largest provider of personal automobile insurance and the 20th largest personal lines insurer in the United States.  MAPFRE Insurance is also the largest private passenger automobile insurer, homeowners’ insurer and commercial automobile insurer in Massachusetts.  MAPFRE Insurance provides a full range of insurance products, including coverage for automobiles, homes, motorcycles, watercraft and businesses, as well as term life insurance.  MAPFRE Insurance is part of the MAPFRE Group.

MAPFRE is a global insurance company present on five continents. It is the benchmark insurer in the Spanish market, the leading multinational insurance group in Latin America and one of the top 10 insurance companies in Europe in terms of premium volume. MAPFRE employs more than 37,000 professionals and services 37 million clients. In 2016 MAPFRE’s revenue amounted to $30 billion, with net earnings of $861 million.  www.mapfreinsurance.com

View original content with multimedia:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/metro-credit-union-launches-metro-insurance-advisors-300538851.html

SOURCE Metro Credit Union

Moratorium on insurance policies affect prospective Nevada County homeowners

The bad news about his home insurance came a day before George Fitz planned to sign the paperwork for his new house.

Fitz, moving here from Santa Monica, intended to sign the papers this past Friday and close on the Union Hill-area home the following Monday.

Then came the call.

“She said, ‘I really hate to tell you. I hate to make this call,'” Fitz said.

The home insurance policy Fitz planned to buy was in limbo because of the Lobo and McCourtney fires that erupted late Oct. 8. An insurance moratorium was in place across Nevada County. The $1,237 policy, with a $1,000 deductible, was no longer an option, Fitz said.

He spent the next day calling as many insurance agents as he could.

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“And everyone basically gave me a ‘No,'” Fitz said. “‘You cannot get insurance right now.'”

Fitz’ home was financed through his Santa Monica house, which he said is the equivalent of closing on his new home with cash. He could have bought his new home without insurance.

“Which seems sketchy, as there’s two fires going on up there,” he added.

Fitz opted for the California FAIR Plan — an insurance pool that provides basic insurance to those who can’t get a policy through the insurance market.

That plan cost $1,911, and only covered fire. An additional policy for personal property and liability cost another $997, for a total insurance cost of $2,908 — over two times the initial price.

“They were just all denying coverage,” Fitz said. “The whole county, is what they told me.”

The Effects

Richard Harris had a few people contact his Grass Valley insurance company with questions about their policies as the Lobo and McCourtney fires burned.

“We were getting phone calls,” said Harris, owner of Harris Insurance Services. “‘Are they going to raise my rates? Are my quotes still good?’ Your quote is still good.”

According to Harris, those who own their homes and had insurance faced little problems, at least initially. Those who had no insurance and wanted to buy it during the fires, or those in Fitz’s situation, didn’t fare as well.

An insurance moratorium, enacted during the blazes, meant insurance companies would write no new policies during the fires, Harris said.

“Everything’s a go and then a fire happens,” Harris said.

Larry Ingersoll, manager of Placer Title Company, said he also saw effects from the fires. A few people discovered that a lender would no longer provide a home loan until the fires were extinguished and an inspector had visited the site.

“Sometimes that does delay escrow,” he said, adding that the situation is slowly returning to normal.

Fitz didn’t face that problem, as his Southern California home financed his new house. However, he opted for insurance and found himself at what at the time was his only resort — the California FAIR Plan.

Teresa Dietrich, who in January will become president of the Nevada County Association of Realtors, said she’s seen a number of people use the plan, including herself at one point.

“It does cover your structure,” Dietrich said. “It does not cover your contents. It definitely had some limitations to it. It had some gaps.”

Dietrich said home insurance prices can change for a new homeowner after the first year. Some people will find they can secure a better rate their second year.

Fitz found that he could get a better rate once the moratorium was lifted.

On Wednesday Fitz discussed a one-year policy that covers everything for $1,747, with a $1,000 deductible. He’ll cancel his other policies, get that money back and end up paying about $500 more than the initial insurance plan.

“I just immediately jumped on it since I was happy to get a good policy for less than the Fair Plan thing,” Fitz said in an email.

Next steps

The fires destroyed 22 homes in Nevada County, with an unknown number of structures damaged. The destruction has led about 40 people — homeowners, renters and their family — to approach Nevada County officials and seek help in the wake of the fires, said Mali Dyck, interim deputy CEO, in an email.

The state Department of Toxic Substances Control today will begin evaluating properties in the county as it works to safely dispose of hazardous materials before the larger clean-up effort starts, she added.

Homeowners who want assistance from the county and state in cleaning their properties should contact the county’s Environmental Health Department at 530-265-1222 and complete a “right of entry” form to allow workers to enter, Dyck said.

The fires that raged across Northern California this month likely will lead to discussion among legislators next year.

State Sen. Ted Gaines said he expects the Legislature to scrutinize all aspects of the fires, including insurance, when it reconvenes.

“I think it’s going to be interesting to see what happens in the next session,” he added.

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email ariquelmy@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.

Homeowners Near Yosemite Are Struggling To Stay Insured

With fires burning across California devastating entire communities, homeowners are beginning to file claims with their insurance companies. But in the mountains of eastern Madera County, many homeowners say they’re losing their insurance during a time when they could need it most.

“They don’t look at the property, they look at their map and say no.” – Frank Ealand, Homeowner

Frank Ealand lives in an area near Coarsegold in the foothills of eastern Madera County that insurance companies call a fire prone zone. He says in the past three years his homes have gone without insurance after being dropped by companies three times.

“They don’t look at the property, they look at their map and say no,” says Ealand. “On the other house they never canceled it, but they did raise the rates from $700 a year to over $2,000 a year.”

In response, he’s fire-proofed the couple acres he lives on surrounded by dry grass and oak trees. He’s mowed it down to the stubs, put gravel around his home and used cement siding on his house instead of wood. He’s even gone further than most people. He has his own personal fire truck. He’s had to use it once to put out a fire on his neighbor’s property.

“Their fence was on fire, so I went down and banged on their door and the pump was not working, so they had no water,” says Ealand. “So I came home and got the fire truck and went down and put their fence fire out.”

But he says that’s still not enough to get affordable home insurance. Ealand is just one of many in the area in similar bind.

In August, Bass Lake resident Theresa Wilson says her insurance dropped her three story home after 22 years.      

“I’ve only had one claim in all of those years with my insurance company and they wouldn’t even talk to me,” says Wilson. “Just the non-renew and that was that. My insurance went from $1,400 a year to $3,200 a year.”

The increases and the non-renewal notices stem from a few things. Brian Harper, with Farmers Insurance in Oakhurst, says his company predicted around five years ago that the area would burn because of poor forest management and because of the effects of climate change, millions of dead trees and overgrown brush.

“Insurance companies . . . had the foresight to say something’s changing . . . They saw it coming and then of course we have a bunch of fires that totally vindicates all the changes that they’ve made.” – Brian Harper, Insurance Agent

“The insurance companies, not just Farmers, but other insurance companies as well, had the foresight to say something’s changing,” Harper says. “We’re in the middle of the drought. It seems to be that is the logical reason that they saw it coming and then of course we have a bunch of fires that totally vindicates all the changes that they’ve made.”

Harper says insurance companies have to assess how much risk they can take on. As a result companies are either doing nothing, sending out non-renewal notices, raising premiums or not taking on new clients. Another issue insurance companies are factoring in is that the Madera County Fire Department is short-staffed.

“There’s just not enough volunteers and there’s not enough fire engines to meet the need in the underserved but populated areas of Madera County,” says Nancy Koerperich who doubles as Madera County’s fire chief and the CAL FIRE unit chief for Madera, Mariposa and Merced.

About half of Madera County’s 17 fire stations have at least one full time firefighter. The others rely only on volunteer firefighters and most of them only have one volunteer. The county also has a partnership with CAL FIRE that helps augment the shortage. But the crews with CAL FIRE are pulled across the state when fires spark, like they are currently.

“If we had another large fire in Madera or Mariposa our resources are going to be at minimal levels,” says Koerperich. “We’re down to not just our backups, but even what we would consider our next backups. One person on a fire engine is a dangerous situation.”

“[People] tend to shop a lot for an insurance on an auto, but on a home they sometimes don’t think about, hey, I should go shopping. I should find out what else is out there.” – Janet Ruiz,

And insurance companies don’t see a station with one firefighter as a resource that can do much. Across the industry companies have different formulas to calculate risk. This combined with climate change and the health of the forest raise that risk. The county tried to pass a measure earlier this year for a sales tax that would’ve used the funds collected to hire more full-time firefighters. It didn’t pass.

Janet Ruiz is the California representative with the Insurance Information Institute. She says insurance companies really do want to help people, but have to make sure they have enough funds to protect those they represent.

“The main thing is that we want to be able to pay our claims, we want to rebuild, we want to help people recover,” says Ruiz. “So we are anticipating how much we each can handle.”

Ruiz says when a homeowner’s insurance is dropped or premiums are raised they should shop around with local agents and then online, because there are affordable options out there. She says it may take time to find one and to think of the process like shopping for auto insurance.

“People don’t think about that in a home,” says Ruiz. “They tend to shop a lot for an insurance on an auto, but on a home they sometimes don’t think about, hey, I should go shopping. I should find out what else is out there.”

For people like Frank Ealand who have shopped around and still can’t find an affordable option they’re just going without insurance. He also doesn’t have a mortgage.

“I figure I can take care of it myself,” Ealand say. “Rolling the dice. I’m not worried about fire coming at me from the outside. My risk is fire from the inside by something going wrong here.”

But for those who still have a mortgage and are having insurance issues they’ll have to take a higher premium no matter the cost.

Hiscox Re Offers Private Label Flood Insurance Endorsement for U.S. Insurers

Bermuda-based reinsurer Hiscox Re, along with insurance linked securities investors (ILS), has launched a flood insurance product for personal lines insurers to sell in the U.S.

The turnkey flood insurance product, named FloodXtra, is designed to take advantage of the insurance gap once again made obvious by recent hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in the U.S. and the potential for private market sales if Congress reforms the current government flood insurance program. Less than 12 percent of American homeowners have a flood insurance policy, according to an Insurance Information Institute poll taken in 2016, even though flooding is the most common natural disaster in the country.

The coverage is a sublimited white label endorsement that personal lines carriers can add to their own homeowners policies.

Private insurers have increasingly expressed interest in entering the flood insurance market that is now dominated by the federal government program, the National Flood Insurance Program. American have suffered billions of dollars in uninsured flood losses in years with stroms. Congress has been weighing reforms that would make it easier for private insurers to sell the coverage.

“Recent events have highlighted the inadequacy of flood insurance provisions in the U.S. The market is deregulating and the good news for consumers is this will give them a greater choice of flood cover,” said Bevis Tetlow, head of North American Underwriting “FloodXtra is part of this solution, allowing our carrier partners and ILS investors to leverage our in-house flood analytics and proprietary technology, which in turn boost U.S. homeowners’ resilience to flood.”

The Hiscox Re coverage will be made available only for homeowners in moderate and low risk flood risk zones (X, B, C and D zones), and not in the highest hazard zones.

As Congress Eyes Flood Insurance Renewal, Private Markets Get Ready

The future of the NFIP is in flux. The program was $25 billion in debt, before this hurricane season. Federal lawmakers face a deadline of Dec. 8 to reauthorize the NFIP. The Trump Administration has proposed cutting back on coverage for new homes and for existing homes that repeatedly flood.

FloodXtra provides insurance carriers with rates, rules, forms, a ready-to-use underwriting portal and pricing system, and reinsurance. Hiscox Re is promising limits up to $100,000, flexible deductibles, competitive pricing and coverage that is broader than standard insurance coverage. Hiscox Re includes coverage for additional living expenses, outbuildings and pool houses that is not found in standard flood policies. An additional endorsement for water backup is also available. Home insurance policyholders need to answer only two additional questions to obtain a quote.

Other FloodXtra features Hiscox Re is highlighting include:

  • Fast and efficient underwriting portal providing instant location level pricing;
  • Straightforward policy wording designed to dovetail standard home insurance products;
  • Quality claims experience for the insured – carrier partners own the claims process;
  • Assistance with form development, rate filing and underwriting platform integration;
  • Quota share reinsurance with up to 100 percent cession to Hiscox Re, client participation preferred.

FloodXtra is an expansion of Hiscox Re’s current flood risk portfolio. It already offers flood specific excess of loss coverage to insurers and also FloodPlus, a non-admitted Lloyd’s product available to homeowners across the U.S. which can be purchased as a stand-alone cover or in combination with other Hiscox products.

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What does my insurance cover?

There is just so much that can go wrong in an ex-hurricane – to my roof, my car, my house, my travel plans, my person? Where do I stand ?

It is complex. And there is good news, middlin’ news and bad news.

Can we start with the good news?

If you have home insurance then cover for storm damage applies and if there is significant damage to the buildings or to the contents of your home as a direct result of Ophelia, then you will be fully covered although some excesses will apply, depending on the nature of your policy.

And the bad news?

It is unlikely that everything on your property will be covered mind you and many typical policies exclude damage to gates, hedges, fences and garden furniture.

What about my roof? Will I be covered if all the tiles blow off?

Yes, and depending on your policy, you may also be covered for emergency repairs in the immediate aftermath of the storm and then a more comprehensive fix further down the road.

And my car? What happens if all those slates land on my car?

If you have comprehensive car insurance then you are completely covered for damage caused by falling trees and other storm related damage.

People on Twitter were saying that if I drive my car during a Red Alert and something bad happens, I am not covered. Is that true?

It is nonsense. If you are driving your car in the middle of the storm and – heaven forbid – you are blown into a tree you are completely covered. The only circumstance in which you might find a claim tricky is if you do something phenomenally stupid while out driving – trying to drive your Fiat 500 through a six-feet puddle or doing doughnuts on a Salthill beach or the like. So, don’t do that.

My property has been badly flooded? Where do I start?

In the immediate aftermath of any serious flooding some clear steps must be taken.

First, power and gas have to be disconnected and cracks and bulges in walls and ceilings have to be carefully assessed as wet plaster can threaten a property’s structure.

Standing water can hide hazards, and rats’ urine causes the potentially fatal Weil’s disease so broken skin cuts must be kept out of water and hands carefully disinfected.

What’s next?

All damage has to be recorded with both stills and video and insurance companies contacted.

If necessary, arrange for emergency repairs to be carried out to stop any damage getting worse – do not take any risks and do not attempt to patch things up in the middle of the storm.

Keep evidence of damaged goods and/or receipt everything that you replace.

It is essential you take photographs and video of the damage immediately after it has happened.

If you need to move out of your home while you are being repaired then alert your insurance provider to this and keep all receipts.

If your house has been flooded and you have to get rid of carpets and furniture, do not permanently dispose of it until the insurance company has come around.

How long will it take for claims to be processed?

We won’t know until the mopping up process has been completed but insurance companies will be busy in the days ahead. If past evidence is anything to go by they do tend to be good in the aftermath of major events.

My flight has been cancelled, what about me?

If your flight has been as a result of Ophelia, then the airline must offer you the choice between the following: re-routing as soon as possible, re-routing at a later date at your convenience or a refund.

If you choose the first option then the airline must provide you with care and assistance while you wait for the alternative flight.

What does that mean?

Meals and refreshments, hotel accommodation, transport between the hotel accommodation and the airport and telephone calls and access to email.

Will I get compensation?

No. Weather conditions incompatible with the safe operation of a flight are regarded exempt under passenger rights legislation.

Bukit Batok Fire and Home Insurance

Last night’s fire in Bukit Batok is a sober reminder of how bad things can happen to anyone. True, residential fires only occur about 3,000 times a year. While this may sound low in context of 1.3mn households living in Singapore, this can actually translate to about 10% probability that one could suffer a fire accident at least once over his adulthood (i.e. 50 years). Given that such an accident can practically wipe out everything you own in your flat, a 10% chance is too high to completely disregard. While many people may believe that merely having a fire insurance policy for their flat provides sufficient level of protection against such a risk, we will show here that this is actually not quite true.

This graph shows the number of residential fires, housebreakings and residential thefts that have occurred in Singapore from 2010 to 2016

*Theft in Dwelling from 2010 to 2014 was estimated by VP

Why home content insurance is important

Most singaporean homeowners should already have a fire insurance policy for their residences. However, fire insurance itself is actually not adequate to provide full protection on your home. For instance, while fire insurance should cover both the fire and smoke damage on the building itself, it actually doesn’t cover any of one’s personal belongings. Rather, it will only pay to restore the most “basic” parts of your flat, like this family experienced here. Without a home content insurance, therefore, a homeowner of a typical 4-room flat could easily lose S$80,000 worth of furniture, appliances, personal belongings and renovation work.

On the other hand, some home content insurance policies that reimburse you for your damaged personal belongings cost as little as S$30 to S$50 per year. Even if you were to pay this for 50 years, the total cost would sum up to around S$2,500. This seems like a cheap way of protecting your home, especially in comparison to the S$8,000 of expected loss (S$80,000 x 10%) one could experience. This math would actually be even more favorable if you account for other potential risks that a home faces like theft.

Emergency accommodations

When your flat gets burned down, you likely won’t have a place to stay until it is restored. You might not even have any emergency cash lying around to pay for some immediate needs like clothing. This is another area where having purchased a home insurance policy pays off. Many insurance companies like Etiqa and NTUC Income provide alternative accommodation coverage of around S$10,000 so your family can afford a place to sleep. Not only that, Etiqa goes the extra mile to even provide a few hundred dollars of emergency cash for food and other immediate needs.

Survey and document any damage, save records and receipts

Thankfully, the family in Bukit Batok whose flat was burnt yesterday escaped safely with only minor injuries, according to the press. Their belongings, on the other hand, weren’t so lucky. If they had purchased a home content insurance policy before the accident (hopefully they did), they should be able to jump back on their feet soon, right? Actually, it’s not that simple. There’s one last caution that you must exercise.

If your home actually does catch fire, it’s important to keep record of everything you can. Even if you have a home insurance policy, you still need to provide a record of all items that are destroyed or damaged along with their purchase price in order to qualify for reimbursement from your insurance company. While it may be difficult to record every article of clothing you owned, you should still try to list all of the major furniture and appliances that cost the most. Of note, it’s generally a good idea to save receipts of your major purchases and renovation works online to ensure you don’t lose it in the fire.

The article Bukit Batok Fire and Home Insurance originally appeared on ValuePenguin.

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6 Ways to Prevent Water Damage This Winter

If the worst happens, your homeowners insurance will cover leaks and burst pipes, or water that comes into your home through your roof and windows. But it doesn’t cover flooding.

QWhat can I do to avoid water damage this winter? I know my policy doesn’t cover flooding, but does it pay for other types of water damage claims?

AYes. Homeowners insurance covers water damage, such as from leaks and burst pipes, or water that comes into your home through your roof and windows. In fact, water damage accounts for almost half of all property damage claims, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Burst pipes or undetected leaks can cause damage to the floor, walls, ceilings, furniture, artwork and other valuables, can soak electrical systems, and can even cause dangerous mold if not cleaned up quickly. A Chubb study found that 57% of homeowners who have experienced a water leak claim in the past two years spent more than $5,000 on clean-up costs, and 15% spent $20,000 or more.

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Here are six things you can do to protect your home from water damage, especially if you’re leaving town during the winter.

1. Install a water leak detection device. A minor water leak can cause expensive damage if it remains undetected—if the leak is behind a wall, say, or if it happens while you’re away from home. The lowest-cost leak detectors include sensors you can set up under sinks or near a water heater, dishwasher or refrigerator; they sound an alarm if they detect any moisture. Leak detectors that cost a bit more (typically $50 to $80) will send an alert to your smartphone if they detect moisture or a big change in the amount of water used in your home (signaling a possible leak). Some sensors even monitor the flow of water to your house and can shut down the water valve automatically if there’s a noticeable change in the amount of water used, which is particularly helpful if you travel frequently. Your home insurance company may offer a discount for installing some kinds of leak detection devices.

2. Turn off the main water supply before leaving town for an extended period of time, says Annmarie Camp, executive vice president at Chubb Personal Risk Services. “That’s the easiest and most cost-effective way to prevent water loss from happening,” she says. As an alternative, you could have someone check your house every few days and walk around to make sure there aren’t any leaks.

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3. Check your water supply lines at least once a year. Give your house an annual leak checkup to inspect water supply lines and washing machine hoses for signs of wear, says Camp. Check for leaks from your hot water heater, washing machine, ice machine in your refrigerator, and any other appliances that can leak. Most water supply lines tend to last for about five years; you may want to replace rubber hoses with steel-braided hoses, which tend to last longer, says Camp.

4. Get sewage-backup coverage. Heavy rains and melting snow can overburden the storm water system, causing water or sewage to back up into your house. Sewage and drain backups usually aren’t covered automatically under your homeowners insurance, but it may cost only $50, say, to add $10,000 in coverage. Also consider having a battery-powered back-up for your sump pump if the electricity goes out.

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5. Clean your gutters and inspect your roof. Remove leaves and other debris, which can clog gutters and send water pouring down the side of your house or under your roof. Also inspect your roof and repair or replace missing or damaged shingles, which can cause water to come in through the roof.

6. Protect your pipes from freezing. Insulate accessible pipes with pipe insulation materials, especially in attics and crawl spaces. When it gets very cold, keep cabinet or closet doors open to help prevent pipes there from freezing. Consider low-temperature detectors, which can send an alert to your smartphone if the temperature in areas of your home near pipes dips below freezing. For more information, see the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety’s Freezing and Bursting Pipes white paper.

For more information about protecting your home from water damage, see the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety’s plumbing damage protection pages. Also see the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes’ ways to protect your home. For more information about water damage and other homeowners insurance claims, see How to Get Your Insurer to Pay Your Claims.

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Got a question? Ask Kim at askkim@kiplinger.com.