by Stefanie Powers
Whether or not we want to face it, Hurricane Season 2021 is fast approaching. With so many SWLA residents still displaced or living in damaged homes, we must review our homeowners insurance policies to determine exactly what’s covered and what is not, so there are no surprises if another storm hits.
Craig Doland, Allstate agent/owner at Hight-Doland Agency in Lake Charles, offers some insight.
“It’s important to know the difference between flood and hazard insurance,” he explains. “Typically, the only insurance that covers rising water or storm surge is flood insurance. Most homeowners insurance, including hazard insurance, clearly excludes flood. If a pipe bursts and floods your home, that is not a flood. If the sewers back up into your home from drains or toilets, that is not a flood. If something strikes the home and breaks a window or puts a hole in the roof and water is blown in or rains in, that is not flood. Flood is rising water or surge that comes in and gets into the home from the bottom up.”
Doland says that the most important thing people need to do is read their declaration page every time their insurance is renewed, and call their agent with questions. “Those are the documents that are sent out either through the mail, or via email if you have opted for electronic delivery. The packet can be anywhere from two to 20 pages, but within it, there are several pages called the declaration pages.” These pages list the dollar amount of coverage on your home, along with other structures, personal property, liability limits and more.
“It will also clearly show the deductibles selected,” Doland adds. “There are several types of deductibles for coastal areas, and you can have more than one. Tropical Cyclone deductible (TCD) applies to hurricanes or tropical storms. Wind and Hail (W/H) deductible applies to any wind or hail damage. All Other Peril (AOP) deductible applies to everything else. Some policies may have all three; some may only have one.”
Doland recommends reading the actual policy jacket, which includes the details and the definitions of the policy, how claims are settled, what is covered, and what is excluded. “This is sent out when the policy is first written and may or may not come with every renewal,” he explains. “Many do not, so it is important to keep a copy or an electronic copy.
The policy jackets can be from 20 to over 100 pages and can seem intimidating, but I tell people to look for the exclusions, or what is not covered. No policy covers ‘everything,’ as each policy will have things that are excluded and/or have limited coverage.”
Doland says one of the numerous things he has learned from the tragedy in SWLA is that many people never look at their renewal declaration pages. “So often, I heard, ‘Well, I didn’t know I had that deductible’ or ‘I didn’t know my home was only covered for that much.’ These are conversations I had with friends, family, customers, and the population in general, regardless of what insurance company they use. This is a concern because companies communicate to their customers through mail or email at every single renewal.”
Doland admits he doesn’t always read everything he gets in the mail or emails. “But, when it comes to something as important as your home, cars, boats, life, etc., everyone should take five minutes and review the policy documents for information and accuracy.”
Disclaimer: The information here is general and does not address specific policies, coverages, etc. Please contact your agent to address specific questions or concerns.