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Tuesday, January 16, 2024

Is Your Home Gone with the Wind?

 Catherine Powell

Image courtesy Pxhere

As I sit here writing this, the wind is howling outside my window.  The wind speed is predicted to gust as high as 70 MPH today.  Even though it's mid-winter here in Jacksonville, a passing storm front can make it seem like hurricane season any time of year.  When the windows are rattling and the shingles are threatening to blow off your roof, it doesn't matter whether it's winter, summer, spring, or fall.  The only thing that matters is that you're covered for the worst that Mother Nature can do to your property.  That's why I've decided to clue you in on what you need to know to successfully file a wind damage claim.

While wind damage is covered under your homeowner's policy, to qualify in Florida you first need to pass a wind mitigation inspection.  That entails hiring an inspector to assess whether your home's roof, windows, and doors are capable of handling everything that Mother Nature can throw at them.  The inspection costs anywhere from $100-$200 and includes:

  • A roof inspection that assesses the age and condition of the shingles, the roof decking and roof-to-wall attachments.  The inspector will also determine whether your roof has a secondary water barrier that's designed to waterproof the holes made in the shingles by the roofing nails.  He'll also assess whether the shape and slope of your roof complies with current building codes.
  • Next, the inspector will need to verify the condition of the underside of your roof.  This entails gaining access to the attic to determine if any water damage or rot is present as well as the construction techniques employed when the roof was built.
  • Does your home meet current building codes?  Depending on when your home was built will determine if it's up to snuff when it comes to being able to handle high winds, or if it has been retrofitted to meet current building codes.
  • To qualify for a discount, all the windows & door openings must meet certain criteria.  The windows must have a documented impact rating or be equipped with shutters designed to sustain the impact of large debris that might be propelled into them during a windstorm.  Doors including the front, back, garage, and sliding glass must have impact-rated shutters that can be closed to protect them from flying debris as well.
  • The law requires your insurer to provide every homeowner with discounts for passing the inspection.  The more wind-resistant features your home has, the higher the discount.  The wind mitigation inspection is good for up to five years, unless repairs are made to the roof, in which a new inspection will be required.
What other factors do you need to understand to keep a claim from being denied?

Image courtesy Pxhere

When it comes to potential wind damage, there are more factors than most people realize.  Before the next storm rears its ugly head, take a walk around your property to look for any chinks in your home's armor.  Some of the factors that could result in having a wind damage claim denied include such things as:
  1. Preexisting Damage - If a tree should fall on your home and it is later found that the tree was rotten or diseased, your claim could be denied since you neglected to rectify the situation that put your property in peril.  (The same thing can happen if the shingles on your roof were found to be damaged or missing prior to a tree poking a hole in it.)  Neglecting your duties as a homeowner can come to haunt you should you need to file a claim.  That means you need to make sure the trees on your property aren't diseased or overgrown.  It's far cheaper to pay to have a tree pruned or removed rather than having to pay for an expensive home repair because your insurer denied your claim.
  2. Wear and Tear - Another thing that can cause a claim to be denied is wear and tear.  An old roof way past its prime, or other obvious signs of neglect can be just the ticket to cause a wind damage claim to be denied.  If it's been several years since you had your roof or windows replaced, it wouldn't hurt to conduct a visual inspection of your home to make sure there's nothing that requires your attention.
  3. Collateral Damage - Should wind damage occur to a detached garage, shed, deck, or gazebo, make sure these are covered by your homeowner's policy before submitting a claim.  If wind damage occurs to your vehicle, your auto insurance will cover this provided you carry comprehensive coverage.
  4. Your Deductible - Before you submit a claim, make sure you know how much the repair is likely to cost, as well as how high your deductible is.  The last thing you want to do is submit a claim for $800 in damage only to find out your deductible is $1,000.
  5. The Filing Deadline - Once wind damage to your property has occurred, the clock is ticking.  Failure to file a claim in a timely manner could cause you to have your claim denied.  Even if it's after hours, most insurance companies have a 24/7 phone number you can call to file a claim. If you aren't sure how long you have to file a claim, either read your policy or contact your insurance agent.
  6. Insufficient Evidence - Claims can be denied for failure to properly document the damage.  While it's all right to cover the damage with a tarp in order to prevent subsequent damage from occurring, if you want your claim to be processed you need to thoroughly document the damage.  This should include photographs or video, as well as an estimate of what the damage will cost to repair.  By no means should you initiate repairs on your own or dispose of any evidence before your insurance sends out an adjuster to assess the situation.
  7. A Neighbor's Tree - In Florida, if a neighbor's tree were to fall on your house, then the neighbor is responsible to cover the damage done to your home.  If the tree in question sits between both properties, then the owner is the one on whose property the trunk predominantly sits.  If the neighbor's tree caused the damage, filing a claim with your insurer is bound to be denied.  
Should the damage to your home be such that it is temporarily rendered uninhabitable, find out if your policy has a loss of use provision, since this would mean you would be reimbursed for part or all of what it costs you to stay at a hotel until your home is made whole again.  If your current policy doesn't contain such a provision, contact your agent to see how much it would cost you to add it, because in Florida you never know when your home could be gone with the wind.

Catherine Powell is the owner of A Plus All Florida, Insurance in Orange Park, Florida.  To find out more ways to save on flood insurance, check out her website at http://aplusallfloridainsuranceinc.com/

1 comment:

  1. The last thing you want to do is to file a claim that's certain to be denied.

    ReplyDelete

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