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Homeowners Insurance Information


Insuring Your Home

Homeowners insurance helps pay to repair or rebuild your home and replace personal possessions lost due to theft, fire or other disasters such as storms. Although Florida law does not require homeowners insurance, some cities and counties require liability coverage if you own certain pets or a swimming pool. Liability coverage pays for non automobile-related injuries to other people, or damage to their property, for which you are legally responsible. For mortgaged homes, the lending institution will require full insurance coverage on the structure, including flood (if located in a special zone), fire, liability, windstorm, etc. Some developments and subdivisions may also require insurance.

The following overview explains the basic types of coverage available and provides tips for homeowners and renters.

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Basic Coverage Available

Depending on which company you choose, you may obtain one of several basic packages of homeowners insurance in Florida to protect your home and belongings. Each package protects against a specified number of perils, or events that cause damage to property, such as fire, windstorm or theft.
Four categories apply to covered perils:
• Structure (the dwelling itself)
• Other structures (like sheds and fences)
• Personal property (the contents of the structures)
• Loss of use (also called Additional Living Expense or ALE)
The first three are defined as “property.”

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Property

Property coverage helps pay for damage by covered perils to your home, the contents of your home and other personal belongings owned by you or family members who live with you. In some cases, it helps pay for damage to other structures, such as tool sheds, detached garages, small boats, guest houses and their contents. Your insurance agent or company can point out the items covered in a given policy.

Your policy provides limited coverage for some personal property, such as antiques, firearms, jewelry, furs and electronics. You may need additional coverage as an endorsement, or addition to your insurance policy, to modify its original terms for an additional premium. You can insure your home and belongings for replacement cost or actual cash value.

Notes: Your homeowners insurance policy may also cover your dependent children’s belongings while they attend college, whether they live on or off campus. You may need a separate policy to protect personal possessions for your child who attends college and no longer qualifies as a dependent (on your household tax return). Homeowners policies do not cover vehicles. Your agent or company can help you find coverage for items not included in your policy.

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Additional Living Expense (ALE)

Homeowners policies provide additional living expense coverage that will pay some extra expenses if damage to your home prevents you from living there while it is being repaired. Most policies also will provide this coverage when a civil authority (law enforcement agency, emergency management service, etc.) prohibits the use of a residence due to direct damage to neighboring homes by a covered threat.

The items typically covered – above and beyond normal expenses – include extra costs for food, housing, telephone, transportation (to and from work or school), relocation and storage, utility installation and furniture rental for a temporary residence. Be sure to check your policy to find out what is specifically covered. This coverage applies only to differences in expenses.

For example, it would apply to the cost of restaurant meals minus normal food expenses. It does not cover your mortgage, groceries and utilities or the monthly cost of a telephone in a rented space (since you normally pay for the telephone in your house).

Your policy may designate limited coverage for additional living expenses, but your policy does not obligate your company to pay this amount up front or in full if you suffer a total or partial loss. For this reason, you must keep receipts for additional living expenses and submit these to your company for reimbursement.

Additional living expense coverage does not apply to your dependent children while they are away at college. It applies only to the primary insured structure in the event of a loss.

Policies generally offer ALE coverage without any deductible. Flood insurance policies, however, don’t provide this coverage. For more information, contact your insurance agent or company.

Two additional types of coverage are known as personal liability and medical payments.

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Personal Liability

This coverage protects you against a claim or lawsuit resulting from (non auto) bodily injury or property damage to others. For example, if a neighbor slips and falls in your house and sues you, and a jury finds you legally liable, this coverage would pay that claim plus legal fees up to the policy limits. This coverage applies to you and all family members who live with you. It does not cover intentional damage or harm caused by you or family members who live with you. Check your policy for exclusions and discuss them with your agent.

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Medical Payments

Regardless of fault, this coverage pays for medical expenses, up to the medical payment limits, of persons accidentally injured at your home. It does not apply to your injuries or those of anyone living with you or to activities involving an at-home business.

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Replacement Cost Versus Actual Cash Value

When buying coverage, you may insure your property and belongings for actual cash value or replacement cost.

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Replacement Cost

Replacement cost is the amount needed to replace or repair your damaged property with materials of similar kind and quality, without deducting for depreciation (the decrease in the value of your home or personal property due to normal wear and tear).

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Actual Cash Value

Actual cash value is the amount needed to repair or replace damage to your home after depreciation. For example, your insurance company would deduct for the age and condition of a 17-year-old roof with a 20- year life expectancy. Here is how the two types of coverage work in practice.

Let’s say you bought a new television in 1994 for $700. In 2005, a lightning strike destroys the TV. A policy for actual cash value will only pay an amount that reflects the TV’s current value – say $300.

A replacement cost policy would cover the entire cost of a new TV of the same type – say $900. Legislation passed in 2005 requires full payment without a depreciation hold-back for personal residential policies in some cases. Call the Consumer Helpline at 1-800-342-2762 for further information.

Your agent must offer you replacement cost coverage for your dwelling. If you reject this coverage, you must sign a statement on the application form indicating that you don’t want it. Standard replacement cost depends upon the dwelling limit stated on your policy. Insurance companies design most homeowners policies to require the policyholder to insure the dwelling for at least 80 percent of its replacement cost.

And while it is rare, you can insure your home for less than 80 percent. If you do so, you will be charged a co-payment penalty, in addition to your deductible, when you file a claim. Some companies offer guaranteed replacement cost dwelling insurance – an option that costs only a few dollars more, and insures your home for an increased amount, even if it exceeds policy limits. Many companies will not offer guaranteed replacement benefits for older homes.

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Inflation Guard

Inflation or room additions can increase the replacement cost of your home and its contents, while the actual cash value of your home may decrease over time. An inflation guard endorsement gradually increases your dwelling’s coverage limit annually to keep your insurance coverage up-to-date with current prices and inflation. It also may keep the policy value in line with increases in local building costs per square foot. If your policy lacks this endorsement, you are responsible for periodically updating your coverage with your insurance agent or company.

No matter how you insure your home, you should keep track of its replacement cost evaluation. Check with your agent or company once a year to make sure your policy provides adequate coverage.

Most companies limit the amount to be paid out on certain types of items. These include such things as firearms, jewelry, antiques and electronics. Make an inventory list and review it with your agent to find out whether any of your items have limited amounts of coverage. You may want to buy higher limits for these items for an additional premium.

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Windstorm Coverage

Most homeowners policies cover damage caused by windstorms, hurricanes and hail, but insurance companies may exclude this coverage in some high-risk areas. The Citizens Property Insurance Corporation provides homeowners with insurance in high-risk situations (like a home on the beach) and to consumers who can’t find coverage in the private market. It may have special coverage restrictions during hurricanes for lawn furniture, grills, fences, and other such items.

For more information about high-risk insurance options, you may also contact the Department of Financial Services Consumer Helpline toll-free at 1-800-342-2762, visit the DFS Web site at www.fldfs.com; call Citizens at 1-888-685-1555, or visit www.citizensfla.com.

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Ordinance or Law Exclusion

Your agent must offer you ordinance or law coverage. If you do not wish to buy this coverage, you must sign a form stating that you reject it. Some companies automatically include this coverage for a limited amount. If a local building ordinance or law increases the cost of repairing or replacing your dwelling, the insurance company will not pay that extra amount, unless you had added ordinance or law coverage to your policy.

This is how it works: Your home was built in 1982 and the building code called for construction at least five feet off the ground. In 2001, the building code was changed to call for the same construction at least 10 feet above ground.

Complying with this code will require a change in design and building materials; thus, you will pay more to repair or rebuild your home, if necessary. An ordinance or law exclusion means the insurance company will not pay the cost of bringing the repaired home up to current building requirements.

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Mold Exclusion

Some companies have recently begun to exclude damage caused by mold and fungus from their policies. Some offer a buy-back provision, and some limit the amount they will pay. For more information regarding insurance against water damage, you may order our publication “In the Event of Unexpected Water Intrusion” or view it online at www.fldfs.com.

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Sinkhole Damage

Florida law requires licensed insurance companies to make coverage available for damage caused by sinkholes. Surplus lines insurance companies aren’t required to provide sinkhole coverage, but may do so (see Surplus Lines Companies on page 19). If you suspect that sinkhole activity caused structural cracking or damage to your home, contact your insurance agent or company immediately.

For more information regarding sinkhole damage, you may order our publication “Sinkholes in Florida” or view it online.

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How Much Insurance to Buy

Do not rely on the purchase price of the home, the amount of the mortgage loan, or the amount set by the property tax appraiser or insurance agent. In order to be adequately covered, your home must be insured for the amount it will take to rebuild the home at current prices for building materials and labor costs, including the amount necessary to bring it into compliance with current building codes. Please contact your insurance agent, and consult a licensed contractor or certified property appraiser who will provide you with a detailed estimate. This is the only way to ensure that you have adequate coverage at the time of a loss.

If your home is underinsured at the time of a loss, there may be a penalty or reduction in the amount the insurance company will pay for the loss. Please ask your agent about limits and exclusions.

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Insurance Packages

An insurance form specifies the perils for your home and belongings that your policy covers. The following overview explains the basic insurance packages available to Florida homeowners, condominium-unit owners, mobile home owners and renters. The basic homeowners policy is a package policy that may be modified. But dwellings, adjacent structures, contents, liability and medical payments usually cannot be eliminated from the basic package.

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Homeowners Insurance

The three packages offered most frequently to owners of single-unit homes include Broad Form HO-2, Special Form HO-3 and Modified Coverage Form HO-8. These policies insure your home and belongings against a number of perils. The perils include:
1. fire or lightning
2. windstorm or hail
3. explosion
4. riot or civil commotion
5. aircraft
6. vehicles
7. smoke
8. vandalism or malicious mischief
9. theft
10. falling objects
11. weight of ice, snow or sleet
12. accidental discharge or overflow of water or steam
13. sudden and accidental tearing apart, cracking, burning or bulging
14. freezing
15. sudden and accidental damage from artificially generated electrical current
16. volcanic eruption

The more perils your policy covers, the more you will pay for it. Homeowners policies vary in their broad coverage; they may also differ in price and customer service between companies. It is important to review your insurance needs and compare them to the coverage offered before making a decision.

Broad Form (HO-2) covers all 16 perils. Special Form (HO-3), the most popular homeowners form, covers the home for everything not specifically excluded. It also covers personal property for all 18 perils. Modified Coverage Form (HO-8) insures your property against the first nine perils listed previously, and volcanic eruption.

Florida law also requires insurers to offer coverage for sinkhole damage. All homeowners policies provide liability coverage. For a complete chart of the types of insurance forms and the perils covered, Click Here.

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Renters Insurance

Renters or Tenants Insurance (HO-4) insures your household contents against the perils included in the Broad Form (HO-2). It also includes personal liability coverage.

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Condominium Insurance

Condominium-Unit Owners Form (HO-6) covers property and certain items not insured by the association’s policy against the perils included in Broad Form (HO-2). It also includes personal liability coverage.

A condominium association may choose to cover some items in its policy, so make sure you are thoroughly familiar with its bylaws and policy to know what the association is responsible for. If you have difficulty obtaining copies of these documents, call the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, Division of Florida Land Sales, Condominiums and Mobile Homes, at 1-800-226-9101.

A condo association policy does not cover:
Floor, wall and ceiling coverings
• Electrical fixtures
• Appliances
• Air conditioning and heating equipment
• Water heaters
• Water filters
• Built-in cabinets and countertops
• Window treatments, including drapes, blinds and hardware replacement
• Air conditioning compressors that serve only one unit, no matter where they are located

Condo associations can also require unit owners to insure items such as front doors and screened porches. In addition, unit owners should continue to insure interior additions or upgrades which are not the same kind or quality as the original building items.

Condo unit owner policies issued after Jan. 1, 2004 are required to provide coverage that is more than any other policy covering the same property. This means that, if an item is covered under an association’s policy, that policy pays first, followed by the unit owner’s policy. This change also affects the amount of coverage needed for the building under the unit owner’s policy, so it is important to review your existing policy with your agent to make sure you are adequately covered.

Condo associations may assess individual unit owners for damages to the commonly owned areas that are not covered by the association’s policy. Your unit-owner’s policy may provide limited coverage for a “loss assessment.” An assessment by the condo association for its deductible isn’t covered by your unit-owner’s policy. The extent and amount of “loss assessment” coverage varies by insurance company, so you should review your coverage with your agent or insurance company.

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Mobile Home Insurance

Typical mobile home policies provide basically the same coverage as Broad Form (HO-2) or Special Form (HO-3) policies. Check your individual policy for any exclusions. If you own a mobile home, there are three coverage forms (which are still subject to the limits of your policy) to insure your dwelling:
• A stated amount policy specifies that you will recover the policy’s face amount in the event of a total loss, based upon the agreement made in your application. Insurance companies usually offer this type of policy for newer-model homes.
• An actual cash value policy will pay the amount needed to repair a home after depreciation. These policies usually feature lower premiums.
• A replacement cost policy will pay for the replacement of a damaged or destroyed home without deducting for depreciation.

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Other Factors to Consider

Because policies vary, some additional factors should be considered when determining your coverage needs. Please check with your agent. Additional factors include:

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Coverage Availability When Storms Threaten

You cannot obtain immediate coverage when a tropical storm or hurricane reaches a certain distance from Florida. Insurance companies generally refer to this as the storm being “in the box.” This applies to new applications or requests to increase coverage. Don’t wait until the last minute to buy your policy, especially during hurricane season (June 1 through Nov. 30), when several storms can form simultaneously.

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Flood Insurance

Typically, homeowners policies exclude flood damage (rising water). Depending on your home’s location, however, you may qualify for flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program. You also may qualify for a discount if you include a special elevation report with your application. For more information, contact the National Flood Insurance Program at 1-888-FLOOD29 (1-888-356-6329).

The coverage involves a 30-day waiting period before the policy becomes effective, unless the policy is purchased at the same time you buy your home. Some insurance companies also offer flood insurance. Generally, you will get separate coverage for your home and personal property. Your insurance agent or company can assist you with application forms for flood coverage.

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Hurricane Deductibles

The Hurricane Insurance Affordability and Availability Act offers homeowners a broader selection of deductible amounts. These deductibles depend on the value of the insured property and apply only to hurricane claims (i.e., resulting from a hurricane declared by the National Weather Service). Consequently, you may owe extra out-of-pocket costs for damage that occurs:
• any time a hurricane watch or warning is issued for any part of Florida
• up to 72 hours after such a watch or warning ends and
• any time when hurricane conditions exist throughout the state

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Homeowner Hurricane Deductible Table

Insured Value Minimum Allowed Maximum Allowed

Florida Homeowner Hurricane Deductible Table.

New legislation passed following the 2004 hurricane season – when many homeowners had damage from multiple storms and faced multiple deductible payments – limits the number of times a hurricane deductible must be paid to once per calendar year, per insurance company. If you change companies, you could pay two deductibles. Once the hurricane deductible has been met, subsequent hurricane losses are subject to the “other perils” deductible.

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Home Rental or Dwelling Insurance

If you rent your home to others, insurance companies offer landlord coverage to suit your situation. If you rent a room or a portion of your home, ask your agent what coverage you may need. Most companies write up to four rentals on personal dwelling fire policies.

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Building Materials

The building materials used in the construction of your home can affect the cost to insure it. For example, it’s more expensive to insure a frame house than a brick one.

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Home-Warranty Plans

Homeowners insurance can protect your home from losses due to fire, theft and other perils. A home-warranty plan, though, offers a service contract that can pay for unexpected repairs to the home’s plumbing, electrical system, appliances, etc., during the warranty period, which typically ranges from one to 10 years. Such plans offer no substitute for homeowners insurance or a lack of quality construction for a new home. Carefully research your insurance needs and the qualifications of your homebuilder. Also read and understand any home warranty plan under consideration. Read the exclusion section of the warranty.

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Homeowners Insurance Help

You may contact the Service Office in your area – listed in the back of this guide – or call the DFS Consumer Helpline toll-free at 1-800-342-2762 if an unresolved problem or question remains even after you talk with your insurance company or agent.

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In Case of Loss

Immediately report property damage to your agent and insurance company. Your agent should provide claim forms if required, and report your loss to the insurance company. The company will arrange for an insurance adjuster to visit your property and assess the damage.

Take precautions if the damages require you to leave your home. Secure your property. Remove valuable items. Lock windows and doors. Contact your agent or insurance company and leave a phone number and address where you can be reached.

Take these same precautions if you must evacuate before a storm, wildfire or other natural disaster.

Make emergency repairs and document them – keeping a file with all of your receipts. Your policy requires such repairs to prevent further weather-related damage to your home and its contents.

Keep all receipts and take photographs of the damages – before and after temporary repairs – to submit with your claim. Your insurer will reimburse these costs later.

Don’t make extensive repairs before the claims adjuster arrives or throw out damaged furniture and other expensive items; the adjuster will want to see them.

Make a list of everything you want to show the adjuster when he or she arrives.

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Your Rights and Responsibilities

You have the right to choose your own insurance agent and company. You do not have to buy your insurance from the lending institution financing your home, though if you fail to obtain or keep your own coverage, your lender may obtain a force-placed policy for you.

You have the right to a fair quote for coverage, and you are entitled to a refund of the excess if your agent quoted your premium incorrectly and you paid too much for your policy.

You have the right to a proper and timely investigation of legitimate insurance claims.

You have the right to receive copies of all forms and applications signed by you or your agent.

You are responsible for verifying licenses. Call the DFS Consumer Helpline toll-free at 1-800-342-2762 to verify the license of an insurance agent, customer representative or insurance company.

You are responsible for reporting suspected fraud to DFS. Call our Fraud Hotline toll-free at 1-800-378-0445.

You are responsible for filling out a complete and accurate insurance application and reading what you sign. Avoid signing any blank, incomplete or inaccurate form.

You are responsible for reading and keeping copies of all forms and applications signed by you or your agent.

You are responsible for obtaining a binder (i.e., proof of coverage) from your agent or company once you sign the application and pay for coverage.

You are responsible for reporting to your company or agent any changes affecting your policy (like home improvements or the purchase of additional personal property).

You are responsible for keeping insurance records, letters, claim-reporting information, advertisements and other papers sent by your agent or company. Keep copies of your important insurance records in more than one safe place, if possible. For example, you could keep backup copies in a safe deposit box or with a trusted and responsible relative or friend.

You may need quick access to such information if you must leave your home.

You are responsible for contacting your agent or company immediately after a home or property loss occurs.

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