Smathers Beach, Key West. MARK HEDDEN/Keys Weekly

Last Updated November 10, 2022

Monroe County was approved in the Federal Disaster Declaration for IA (Individual Assistance).

Monroe County Hurricane Ian affected individuals and households can apply with FEMA in the following ways:

• Apply online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov.

• Constituents may call the registration phone number at 1-800-621-3362 (TTY: 800-462-7585).

FEMA makes important changes to the Proof of Loss Requirement. Read Here

Helpful Links

The information in this extended post is provided by Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, the Florida Division of Consumer Services, FIRM Board members, and YOU–FIRM’s members.  If you don’t find the answers to your questions here, please email the FIRM office at info@firmkeys.org.  We will research your question and add it to our FAQs.

Information about filing flood insurance claims can be found here.

 

Citizens Claim Information

Catastrophe Response Centers

Citizens will deploy mobile Catastrophe Response Centers (CRCs) to impacted areas to provide in-person service to our policyholders who may be cut off from their usual means of communication. Citizens’ CRC staff will:

  • Process first notices of loss (FNOL)
  • Make advance payments for additional living expenses, when warranted
  • Answer questions and offer general assistance

Once confirmed, the CRC locations and operating hours will be posted on Citizens  Hurricanes webpage and Facebook.

Claims and Loss Reporting

Policyholders should report a loss to Citizens using one of these convenient options:

  • Access myPolicy, Citizens’ online policyholder self-service tool, on their computer or mobile device.
  • Agents can assist Citizens customers by reporting FNOLs in PolicyCenter®. Use the job aid for filing FNOLs. Once the claim is filed, a claims representative will call the policyholder with the adjuster’s contact information.
  • Call Citizens’ toll-free Claims Hotline at 866.411.2742.

Impacted HO-3, HO-6 and DP-3 policyholders be aware of two important policy provisions that require you to:

  • Take reasonable emergency measures for the sole purpose of protecting the covered property from further damage when experiencing a loss
  • Give prompt loss notice to Citizens. Except for the policy provisions regarding reasonable emergency measures, there may be no coverage for permanent repairs that begin before one of the following occurs:
    • 72 hours after the loss is reported to Citizens
    • The loss is inspected by Citizens
    • Verbal or written approval is provided by Citizens

Communication to Policyholders

Citizens will email policyholders in the storm-affected area with information about CRCs and claims reporting. If necessary, Citizens also send storm- and claims-related texts.

Electronic Claim Payments

Citizens now offers eligible Personal Lines policyholders an electronic claim payment option only at CRCs via their U.S. bank account for additional living expenses.

To be eligible for an electronic claim payment, the recipient must:

  • Be the named insured and/or additional named insured(s) on a Personal Lines policy
  • Have a valid email account and/or U.S. mobile phone number

CRC staff can help policyholders with this option.

Assignment of Benefits

You can help curb assignment of benefits (AOB) abuse and keep rates stable. Call Citizens as soon as you know or suspect you have damage. See the Assignment of Benefits webpage for more information.

Visit Citizens Hurricanes webpage for more information.

 

Florida Office of Insurance Regulation – Emergency Order FAQs

On September 28, 2022, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (OIR) issued an Emergency Order in response to Hurricane In. OIR is providing the following frequently asked questions to assist insurers and policyholders in understanding the provisions outlined in the Order.

Q: To whom does the Emergency Order apply?

A: The Order applies to all insurers licensed to do business in Florida. To further clarify, this order applies to property and casualty insurers including workers’ comp, life insurers, health insurers, health maintenance organizations (HMOs), and surplus lines insurers (exception for surplus lines insurers is the provisions regarding rate filings as those rates are not subject to OIR approval).

 

Q: Can an insurer cancel or nonrenew, or even send notice of a cancellation or nonrenewal, between the timeframe provision in the Emergency Order?

A: From September 28-November 28, 2022, no insurer or other regulated entity may cancel, nonrenew, or issue a notice of cancellation or nonrenewal of a policy or contract except at the written request of the policyholder. Further, any and all cancellations that have been issued with 10 days preceding September 28, 2022, must be withdrawn and reissued on or after November 28, 2022.

 

Q: What if a policyholder already received a cancellation notice and the cancellation date falls between the timeframe in the Emergency ORder?

A: For policies that would have been canceled during this period, the insurer must extend the coverage through November 28, 2022, or any later date identified by the insurer.  Insurers should provide some type of communication to policyholders confirming the extended coverage.

 

Q: If coverage must be extended through November 28, 2022, how does this affect a policyholder’s premium?

A: The premium for the extended term will be pro-rated for that specific term.

 

Q: How does the Emergency Order affect new policies written?

A: It does not apply to new policies issued on or after September 28, 2022.

 

Q: When can an insurer cancel or nonrenew a property and casualty insurance policy?

A: An insurer may not cancel or nonrenew a personal or commercial residential property insurance policy covering property damaged as a result of Hurricane Ian in any Florida county for a period of 90 days after the dwelling has been repaired with the exceptions provided in section 627.4133(2)(d)2.,F.S.

For a policy with no Hurricane Ian damage, an insurer can cancel or nonrenew a policy on or after November 28, 2022, with appropriate statutory notice.

 

Q: If an insurer cannot issue a nonrenewal notice until at least November 28, 2022, can the time period for the nonrenewal notice issued on or after November 28, 2022, be less than the statutorily required 120 days to match the policy’s anniversary?

A: No. The nonrenewal notice issued on or after November 28,2022, must follow the 120-day statutory provision.

 

Q: How does the Emergency Order affect policy renewals when increased coverage limits are requested by insured, due to updated appraisals or determined by the terms of an insurance contract that will cause an increase in an insured’s rates?

A: The Emergency Order does not preclude necessary coverage increases based on requests from the insured, updated appraisals required by law, inflation guard endorsements, or other policy provisions applied upon renewal which may affect rates since such changes are not the result of a rate increase.

FIRM FAQs

Following a storm that leaves damaged property from wind and flooding, the FIRM office receives numerous calls from policyholders who are experiencing damage for the first time as well as folks who thought they knew exactly what to do, but faced with the reality, realize they have questions.

Here you’ll find commonly asked questions and answers provided by licensed insurance agents who serve on FIRM’s Board of Directors. If you don’t see your question, email us at info@firmkeys.org and we’ll get an answer and add it to the list.

 

Q: How do I know when I should file a claim?

A: If you sustain damages during a hurricane or even a bad storm–you should be filing a claim.

 

Q: How long to I have to file a claim?

A: Typically, you should file a claim within 60 days of a loss–Flood claims require a Proof of Loss Statement. The Proof of Loss form is a sworn legal document that provides the insurance carrier with information about the loss & damages. It may also ask for other information like occupancy at the time of loss and other insurable interests in the property.  The forms vary from carrier to carrier & some carriers may not automatically request it as part of the claims process but can request it at their discretion.

It is important the homeowner complete the form accurately & should include estimates or other documentation to substantiate the value of the loss.

Typically, with NFIP, the proof of loss statement is required within 60 days after the loss.

However, with windstorm claims, you may have up to 3 years.  In any case, the sooner the better.

 

Q: Who do I call to file a claim?

A: You should contact your insurance carrier directly.  It is a good idea to notify your agent of your claim so they are aware and can notate it in your file. Contacting your carrier eliminates having to give the same information to them that you’ve given to your agent.

If you are unsure who your carrier is, contact your agent.

 

Q: Should I hire a public adjuster?

A: FIRM recommends that you do NOT hire a public adjuster.

  1. A public insurance adjuster performs tasks that your agent and insurance company adjuster can and will do (for free!). In most cases hiring a public adjuster is an unnecessary expense that will not lead to a better result for you.
  2. There is an incentive for a public adjuster to prolong negotiations with your insurance company and falsely inflate claims payments. The more you are paid, the more the public adjuster will be paid.
  3. Hiring a public adjuster ultimately reduces your reimbursement, because you have to pay a percentage of it to the adjuster. You will have less money to make repairs and replace your belongings than if you worked directly with your agent and insurance company.
  4. Some insurance claims adjusters have relationships with attorneys and contractors who intentionally inflate their prices after disasters.
  5. If the amount of your loss exceeds your policy limit, you may need to hire an attorney to settle your claim. A public adjuster cannot help you if an attorney must get involved, yet you still have to pay the adjuster’s fee.
  6. You know your home and belongings better than anyone else. You are the best person to fill out paperwork and quantify your losses, and you likely don’t need the help of a middleman.
  7. Public adjusters often discourage good relations between claimants and their insurance company. This may actually prolong the process and delay your ability to rebuild.
  8. A public adjuster does not work for your insurance company, so they might not have the best information about your policy’s coverage, requirements, and restrictions. The public adjuster might offer poor or incorrect advice and lead you down the wrong path, adding time and frustration.

If you end up in a dispute with your insurer, the Florida Department of Financial Services has a mediation program to resolve claim disputes.  It is free to the consumer and paid for by the insurer.  More information about the mediation program can be found here.

Q: Will my insurance automatically go up if I file a claim?

A: This is not a hard yes/no–natural disasters typically don’t make your premiums go up; however, after the last year, six insurers in have gone bankrupt, and Hurricane Ian added insult to injury. All property insurance carriers will be mandated to surcharge your policy to replenish the Florida Insurance Guarantee Association Fund.

The Florida Insurance Guaranty Association (FIGA) establishes and maintains a service-oriented operation for processing covered claims of insolvent members. FIGA is a non-profit corporation created by the Florida Legislature in 1970.

 

Q: If I don’t have too much damage that may not exceed by deductible, should I not file a claim to avoid my insurance going up?

A: You should always file a claim if your property is damaged by a covered peril (loss).

The Citizens windstorm deductible on your policy is a calendar year deductible. This means you only must pay one hurricane deductible within the calendar year, provided you are insured with the same insurance company or an insurance company within the same group if windstorm damage occurs from a second hurricane during the same calendar year.

A storm does not have to be a named storm for coverage to apply, on windstorm there are separate deductibles for “hurricane”( named storms including tropical storm)  & “other wind” which usually refers to hail or just a bad windy rainstorm.

This is not the same for flood. Flood can happen anytime – “flood” means a general & temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of two or more acres of normally dry land area – or two or more properties – one of which is the homeowners property.

For flood claims your deductible applies for each claim made. Keep in mind the policyholder can have different deductible options for Dwelling and Contents. The calendar year option does not apply for Flood & is not available.

 

Q: Are the contents of my house covered under homeowner’s insurance or flood/windstorm insurance?

A: If you have personal property coverage on your policy, the coverage will pick up if the peril is covered under that policy, ex: windstorm, flood, or fire.

 

Q: Mold–how do I know if I have it as a result from the flooding:

A: Smell and sight–mold usually develops quickly after a storm should water or rain get inside your property, but you may not always see it. Call and report to your carrier if water got inside your property.

 

Q: I see signs for “free” mold inspections.  Are they legit?

A: Contact your carrier before letting a random company come in for an inspection. Contact your agent or carrier directly when it comes to free inspections–the adage too good to be true applies here. As we know, there is a lot of insurance fraud in Florida.

 

Q: Is my outdoor landscape covered under my flood insurance?

A: No, but you can claim the damage on your income tax return. Storm damage to shade trees and landscape elements reduces property value and may require out-of-pocket expenses for repair, removal, and restoration. The federal income tax code allows some recovery of your loss and expenses through a casualty loss tax deduction.

 

Q: What about my pool?

A: Pools typically aren’t covered, however the equipment that services the pool may be covered.  Consult your policy to confirm.

 

Q: I was so freaked out during the flood that I didn’t take any pictures of the water height or anything. How can I show how high the water was in my property?

A: You do not need to take pictures during and storm–and water lines will be evident on the outside of your home. Flood adjusters have resources to determine this.

 

Q: Do you have tips on taking good pictures?

A: When a storm is approaching, make it part of your prep to walk around the outside of your property and take a quick video with your phone–same inside.  Then you have a record of what your property looked like before any damage occurred.  Continue to video your property if you start the process to repair or stop further damage from occurring.

 

Q: How long will I have to wait for my claim to be processed and a check to be issued? I can’t afford to repair my home without it.

A: This depends, if you have a mortgage then your check will be made payable to your and your mortgagee. You must endorse the check and send it to the mortgagee. Your lender then disburses the funds to your contractor. This can be a painful process with some lenders.

Some insureds see immediate relief if the home is not habitable (referring to your loss of use coverage). As far as damages to the structure, it depends on if you have a lender involved. It can be a lengthy process.

 

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