Phone: 239-596-3177 | Fax: 239-204-4244 9180 Galleria Court #800, Naples, FL 34109 Click here to request a proposal.

Information to help you better understand the world of insurance.

Serving all the insurance needs of Naples, Florida

Not all insurance agents are the same!
Choosing the right one can make a big difference – not just in price but also in service, proper need assessment, coverage and value.

Responsive Insurance is an independent insurance agency – meaning we do business with multiple insurance companies and compare protection and prices to find the best value for you. We’re not computers – we are real, live members of the Southwest Florida community, and we’re committed to being your advocate in times of need.

Our commitment is to serving you.
Responsive Insurance knows that in Southwest Florida there are as many unique insurance needs as we have neighbors who live here! To talk with one of our helpful team members about your insurance needs, contact us today.

Personal Insurance – Insurance protection for the things that matter most to you.
•    Auto Insurance – Get the right insurance coverage for your car, truck, van or other vehicles.
•    Motorcycle Insurance – Ride safe and insure your motorcycle.
•    ATV and Off Road Vehicle Insurance – Insurance policies that cover all your toys.
•    Classic Car Insurance – Your classic car is an icon. Insure it well.
•    RV and Mobile Home Insurance – Home insurance for your home-on-the-road.
•    Boat and Watercraft Insurance – Insurance coverage for the captain of the ship.
•    Valuable Articles Insurance – protecting things like jewelry and fine arts.
•    Homeowners Insurance – Insurance protection for your most valuable asset.
•    Personal Umbrella Insurance – Extra insurance protection for the unforeseen.
•    Condo Insurance – Condos have special needs – make sure your insurance is right!
•    Renters Insurance – Inexpensive insurance options that make sense for renters.
•    Landlord Insurance – Renting your home? Protect yourself with landlord insurance.
•    Flood Insurance – Insurance protection that covers what many homeowner’s policies don’t.

Commercial Insurance – Insurance Protection for you, your business, and your employees
•    General Liability Insurance – Broad insurance coverage for your business and activities.
•    Commercial Property Insurance – Protect your business with insurance for your commercial property.
•    Business Auto Insurance – Cover your business with insurance for commercial vehicles.
•    Flood Insurance – Insurance protection that covers what many business policies don’t.
•    Commercial Umbrella Insurance – Insurance coverage that helps protect your business from the rising costs of lawsuits.
•    Workers’ Compensation Insurance – Insurance coverage that helps you take care of your employees.

Life Care Insurance – coverage you need to prepare for the future. Both unexpected and expected.
•    Life Insurance – Insurance protection for your family.
•    Disability Insurance – to protect one of your most valuable assets – your income.
•    Long term care insurance – to protect you and your family against unforeseen cost of care at home or elsewhere.

Helpful Considerations When Purchasing Your Home or Condo Insurance:

1.    Dwelling Replacement Cost Versus Market Value: It is very important to remember that what you pay for your home is different than the replacement value or cost to rebuild the home. Land value and lot premiums, market supply and demand, age of home, etc, can lead to a significant difference between the coverage amount needed to replace the dwelling and the price you are paying to purchase the property. Please click here for an expanded explanation.

2.    Wind Mitigation Inspection: This is a very common inspection for homes in Florida. A wind mitigation inspection (click here for a sample copy) is an inspection that confirms the existence of insurance premium discounts based on the wind mitigating design features of your home or condo. I suggest a wind inspection for any home built prior to 2002 but even more recently built homes can benefit. If you aren’t sure, call or email anytime regarding the specifics of your home and whether this type of inspection would likely be beneficial.

3.    4 Point Inspection: if your home (not as relevant for condos) is over 30 years old, I would recommend including a 4 point inspection in the list of inspections that you order. These inspections typically cost about $100-$125 and confirm that the four main systems of the home (HVAC, electric, plumbing and roof) are all in good working order. Many companies require a 4 point inspection for older homes. Some companies will do their own inspection at their cost but having this information going into the process of insuring/buying the home can be helpful nonetheless.

4.    Roof Age: Roofs replaced after 2002 often get a discount for having a “Florida Building Code Equivalent (or FBC) roof design.” On the other end of the spectrum, insurance companies consider roofs to have certain life expectancies based on the roof material type. For example, some companies will consider a shingle roof life expectancy to be up to 20 years, others up to 15 years. For tile, most companies consider the life expectancy to be quite a bit longer (40 years for example). If the home (not as relevant to condos) has an older roof, I would advise confirming the age as best as you can. If it hasn’t been replaced within the insurance company’s life expectancy requirements, Citizens Property Insurance Corporation (the state of Florida’s insurance company) is a common insurer for such homes and even they require a roof verification form to confirm the roof has at least 3 years life expectancy and no current issues.

5.    Roof Shape: The shape of the roof of the home has an impact on the premium. A hip roof is most favorable for insurance premium discounts and, in some cases, can make a difference of several hundred dollars per year in the premium. See the following link for photo examples of the difference between a hip and gable roof shape – the two most common types.

6.    Is The Home In A Flood Zone: This one is pretty self explanatory but I would definitely advise having a flood zone determination done to confirm if the home/condo is considered to be in a special flood hazard area. If the property is a single family home, in a special flood hazard area, and the purchase is being financed by a mortgage, you will most likely be required to purchase flood insurance. An elevation certificate is typically needed to determine the flood insurance premium when a property is in a special flood hazard area. Even if the property is not in a special flood hazard area, over 20% of National Flood Insurance Program flood claims occur in moderate-to-low risk areas according to www.floodsmart.gov. A preferred risk flood insurance policy is typically available in these lower risk areas.

Ways To Potentially Reduce Your Premium: Many of these are not things, I as the agent, suggest you do one way or the other, but rather, they are matters of personal preference and risk tolerance. They are nonetheless examples of flexibility when deciding how to protect your property – something I find most my clients appreciate.

1.    All Other Peril Deductible: Home and condo insurance policies typically have two deductibles in Florida – one for hurricane losses and another for other covered perils, called the “all other peril” deductible. Especially for single family home insurance, raising this deductible from $1000 (probably most common deductible amount) to $2500 or more can have a significant impact on lowering the premium. The impact of this change varies by company.

2.    Replacement Cost Versus Actual Cash Value Coverage For Personal Property: Replacement cost coverage for personal property gives you like kind and quality coverage so that there is no deduction taken for depreciation of your personal property items in the event of a claim. On the other hand, actual cash value coverage only pays you depreciated (aka used) value coverage for your personal property. This can result in a significant difference in settlement amount for your personal property in the event of a loss. In terms of premium, selecting actual cash value coverage instead of replacement cost coverage can reduce your premium by as much as $1000 per year.

This information is meant to be a general resource to help you be more informed in the insurance purchasing process.
Ultimately, your insurance policy is the final authority regarding all coverage and definitions.
We should discuss your specific questions regarding your specific property before you make any final decisions.

Helpful Links

logoInsurance Information Institute
A non-profit group sponsored by the insurance industry to provide general information about insurance. This is an excellent resource for unbiased information. Order publications on the Insurance Information Institute website.

 

logohqHighway Loss Data Institute and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
Information on car theft, collision and injury listed by car make, model and year. Also contains extensive highway safety tips and information.

 

logoNational Flood Insurance Program Information
Includes a wealth of information on how to insure homes against flooding. This site is the official web page for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

 

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 12.42.09 PMThe Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education
The Life and Health Insurance Foundation for Education (LIFE) is a non-profit organization designed to address the public’s growing need for information and education on life, health, and disability insurance. LIFE also seeks to remind people of the important role agents perform in helping families, businesses, and individuals find the insurance products that best fit their needs.

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The Institute for Business and Home Safety
The Institute for Business and Home Safety provides DisasterSafety.org for homeowners and small business owners as part of its overall mission of reducing property losses.

logo-1National Insurance Crime Bureau
A not-for-profit organization that partners with insurers and law enforcement agencies to facilitate the identification, detection and prosecution of insurance criminals. Site offers VINCheck™, which lets people use a vehicle VIN number to determine whether the vehicle is an unrecovered stolen or salvage vehicle.

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 12.50.39 PMOccupational Safety & Health Administration

Congress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to ensure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.

feature-0014-identity-theft_1Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft
This website is a one-stop national resource to learn about the crime of identity theft. It provides detailed information to help you deter, detect, and defend against identity theft.

How Much Home Insurance Is Enough?

The cost to rebuild your home is its replacement value. This can be very different from the estimated market value or actual purchase price. In some cases, it costs more to rebuild the home you own than to buy a new one.

How much home insurance is right for you?

Based in Naples, FL, Responsive Insurance understands the home insurance needs of our customers. We’ll work with you to estimate the replacement cost for your home when insuring it. We are also able to help you revisit that calculation estimate at a future date should you desire.
It is critical that you provide us with accurate, updated information about your home and contents. If your dwelling limit accurately reflects your home’s true replacement cost, some companies will even allow you to include an optional coverage which provides for payment beyond the dwelling coverage limit should additional coverage be required at the time of a loss.
Once a review of your home and possessions indicates you are properly insured, it’s a good idea to reexamine your coverages and limits from time to time, especially whenever you make additions or improvements.

Be Sure You Have Enough Homeowners Insurance

Here are some steps you can take to reduce the danger of being seriously underinsured:
1.    Call us if you have questions or concerns about the limits in your proposal. Ask us to show you how those amounts were calculated. This will also give you an opportunity to make us aware of any overlooked information.
2.     Read your policy. Certain property, such as jewelry, and certain perils, such as sinkhole or flood, should be addressed separately. Knowing what is covered and for how much will help you insure properly. If there is anything in your proposal you don’t understand, contact Responsive Insurance at 239-596-3177 and ask for an explanation.
3.     Review. At each annual renewal of your policy, you receive a new Policy Declarations page showing limits of coverage and optional coverages. Review this information. If you do any significant remodeling or add a family room, extra bedroom or bathroom, etc., tell us about these changes so your coverage limits can be adjusted to cover the improvement.
4.     Consider carefully whether your policy provides all the protection you need. Does it provide coverage for extra costs resulting from building code changes (also known as “ordinance or law” coverage)? Does it automatically increase coverage limits annually to keep pace with inflation? Does it provide additional funds if the cost of rebuilding your home exceeds the policy limits?

Make sure you know:

•    Will your insurance company stand behind agreed upon repairs after a claim? Some companies are willing to put this guarantee in writing.
•    Does your policy include replacement cost coverage for contents (clothing, furniture, appliances, and other personal property inside your home)? If not, you can add it by endorsement. This protection is especially valuable if you have a significant loss to personal property from something like a major fire or hurricane. Replacement Cost Coverage pays for losses to your possessions at the cost of brand new items. Without this option, a covered loss to your personal possessions would be depreciated by their age and condition, reducing the size of your claim settlement.
•    What are your deductibles? A common hurricane deductible in Florida is 2% of the dwelling coverage amount but other hurricane deductibles are offered. The “all other peril” deductible is for covered losses that aren’t subject to the hurricane deductible. The common range for this deductible is $1000 – $5000 but can also vary. Make sure you know BEFORE a claim, what your deductibles are so you are prepared for the required out of pocket costs.
If you have an art collection, antique furniture, jewelry, or other valuable possessions, be sure to talk to us about supplemental coverages, such as a collections or scheduled property policy/endorsement, to adequately protect your investment in these items. The cost can be modest for the extra protection, and often there is no deductible.
Consider whether you should have more coverage for personal property (removable contents) than your policy provides. Personal property coverage is often set at 50% of the dwelling coverage limit. Your limit may be lower than 50%. On the other hand, additional protection may be available for a small additional premium.
Inventory your home. Prepare an inventory of personal property items, update it periodically, and keep it in a safe place outside your home, such as a safe deposit box at your bank. It will save you hours of time trying to list everything damaged or destroyed if you need to make a claim. It will also help ensure you don’t forget some items. Responsive Insurance can suggest ways to simplify the job of preparing a personal property inventory such as videotaping each room with descriptive information on the sound track.

Personal Liability

Besides making sure you have enough protection to cover possible damage to your own home and contents, you should also evaluate your exposure to liability risks. These result from damage to the property of another, or injury to a person, not a member of your household, for which you can be responsible.
In recent years it’s become common for homeowners to be sued for injuries or damages to others, even when there is no evidence of negligence by the homeowner. The reality today is if you have any appreciable assets, you are exposed to the risk of being sued. Even if you ultimately prevail in court, your legal fees and the months or years of worry and uncertainty can be a terrible burden on you and your family.
The personal liability coverage provided by your homeowner’s policy usually provides a limit of between $100,000 and $500,000. We recommend seriously considering increasing this protection with a personal umbrella policy. Not only will it increase your personal liability coverage for the home insurance policy, but also your auto liability total coverage available. Personal umbrella limits are available from $1 million to $5 million and beyond. The cost of this coverage is usually very reasonable.
Your needs are unique and we are here to help you select the right coverage for your Florida property.

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Reduce the likelihood of water damage to your property!

If you are one of the many seasonal Florida residents and you have left or plan to leave your property for the summer as the temperature and humidity rise, there are many things you’ve probably considered and multiple checklists you’ve gone through, likely more than once, as you prepare to leave. This month I want to briefly highlight a few suggestions that I think will be helpful in potentially reducing the likelihood of water damage to your property. These suggestions can be particularly valuable if you go weeks without being in your home but are also relevant to those of you that call Florida you primary home.

One of the most common claims I see is for water damage. Water damage can come in many forms and from various causes but there are some things you can do to at least help prevent such losses. I would suggest a proper A/C maintenance for your home by a licensed A/C contractor. Incidence of damage from A/C drain lines/pans backing up or overflowing and causing damage to ceilings, etc… is not uncommon. Another suggestion would be to have a licensed plumber check your connections and shut off valves and replace any supply lines to washing machines, for example, that may be degraded or of a material more prone to failure. These two steps are relatively simple and can at least help prevent water damage.

I have asked Juli Klein of Juli Klein’s A/C Services LLC to share a few tips from her years of experience regarding things to address or lookout for related to A/C operation and maintenance.
A short and sweet summary of 4 primary concerns are listed below:

1. Get a thorough A/C maintenance that includes checking overflow switch function.
2. Be sure thermostat/humidistat are set for adequate dehumidification .
3. Be sure to install a clean filter prior to leaving (if seasonal).
4. Monitor the power bill, highs or lows could be trouble.

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National Flood Insurance Program Change

In this month’s newsletter I want to specifically address a National Flood Insurance Program change that is taking effect 04/01/2015. If you received and read the November 2014 newsletter, you saw reference to the policy surcharge that is being instituted as one means to eliminate part of the deficit that the National Flood Insurance Program is facing. Now that April 1st is nearly upon us, I’ve started to get some questions from clients regarding their flood insurance renewal premium. The non-primary (relevant definition outlined below) surcharge is much more substantial than the primary home surcharge. And, given that so many of you reside in Naples seasonally, I thought this information was worth sharing again. The surcharge for a primary residence is $25 per year but the surcharge for a non-primary residence: single family and individual condo units, is $250 per year. This surcharge will apply to all policies – including preferred risk policies for properties not in special flood hazard areas. For purposes of this surcharge, primary residence is defined as below:

For rating purposes only, FEMA defines a primary residence as a building that will be lived in by an insured or an insured’s spouse for more than 50% of the 365 days following the policy effective date. In general and with a few exceptions, flood insurance premiums for policies written through the National Flood Insurance Program are consistent across the companies that administer the program. There are some private markets for primary flood policies but this is a relatively newer option in part in response to some of the major flood premium increases related to Biggert Waters. Although I couldn’t find an actual percentage, my take is that the vast majority of flood insurance coverage is still through the National Flood Insurance Program. Our position is that flood insurance is still important to consider and that knowing the statistics can also be helpful. According to the National Flood Insurance Program website at www.floodsmart.gov “people outside of mapped high-risk flood areas file nearly 25% of all National Flood Insurance Program flood insurance claims and receive one-third of Federal Disaster Assistance for flooding.” A quick list of bullet point facts about flood can be found at the following page on the National Flood Insurance Program website here.

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How April 2015 Program Changes Will Affect Flood Insurance Premiums

Executive Summary: If you own a seasonal home in Florida and maintain flood insurance, the National Flood Insurance Program is instituting a surcharge as of April 1, 2015 which is more substantial than the surcharge for primary home flood insurance and could be equal to a significant percentage of your total premium. Also, the maximum available flood insurance deductible for many residential properties is being increased. For more detail, read my notes below and see the attached summary from FEMA.

Many of you may remember the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012. Even if you don’t remember the act by its lengthy official title, you will likely recall the media attention it attracted as some homeowners’ flood insurance premiums dramatically increased as a result of changes in the program. One of the substantial changes which impacted a small percentage of policies but with dramatic impact, was the elimination of certain pre-firm (flood insurance rate map) subsidies for homes built prior to the flood map in their area.

If you aren’t already asleep, please keep reading as I promise I’ll wrap it up and get to the relevant aspects soon.

The Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 was driven at least in part by the fact that the National Flood Insurance Program was/is billions of dollars in debt. There were literally periods over the last several years where the program has either expired or come close to expiring and then extended again, in some cases for a short term period. One of the Biggert-Waters resolves was to limit or eliminate subsidies so premiums were at full risk rates. When some homeowners saw premiums increase by staggering amounts, and because of the implications for such an impact on an industry like housing in Florida, the outcry wasn’t just from homeowners.

Fast forward to the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014 and some of the outcry has been addressed and relieved, at least temporarily. The goal of limiting subsidies is still very much present but the transition will be less dramatic overall. I have attached a summary fact sheet from FEMA which will lay out some of the changes taking place in April 2015. One notable change for many Responsive Insurance Inc clients is the addition of a policy surcharge. The surcharge for a primary residence is $25 per year but the surcharge for a non-primary residence: single family and individual condo units, is $250 per year. This surcharge will apply to all policies – including preferred risk policies for properties not in special flood hazard areas. For purposes of this surcharge, primary residence is defined as below:

For rating purposes only, FEMA defines a primary residence as a building that will be lived in by an insured or an insured’s spouse for more than 50% of the 365 days following the policy effective date.

Another notable change is an increase to the maximum deductible available to $10,000 for single-family and two- to four-family dwellings. According to FEMA’s update, if this higher deductible is used, it must apply to both building and contents coverage. There is no guarantee at this point that mortgage companies will accept this higher deductible.

Please review attached information for more detail. The source for the specific details of the referenced changes is FEMA/National Flood Insurance Program data. As always, call or email anytime if you want to talk about your coverage or how these new guidelines may affect your coverage/premium.

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Do you have a water leak? Here are 8 places to check.

This Property Casualty 360 article from Aug. 28th, 2014 has invaluable information on how to protect your home from water damage.

“By the time your basement starts flooding, it’s too late. The damage is done, and you’ll end up paying exorbitant fees to fix the problem and clean up the mess.

But in truth, water damage doesn’t usually come out of nowhere. In most cases, flooded basements and other expensive leaks start small and grow with time. They begin as:

  • Simple cracks here and there
  • Easily overlooked puddles
  • Tiny leaks that you can’t even see

Fixing these smaller problems isn’t always free, but it’s much cheaper than dealing with real water damage — the type that forces insureds to camp out for a few nights at the closest hotel.

The goal is not to reach that point. Water damage (of any type) usually carries a price. But scanning for damage before it gets worse is an invaluable investment where the only real cost is time.

Here are eight areas to check before a tiny drip becomes a major water loss:

1. Toilets

The toilet is one of the most common sources of water leaks in the entire home. In fact, experts estimate that anywhere from 20% to 35% of all residential toilets lose water. Because this loss is often silent and invisible, it usually goes unnoticed.

In order to check your toilet for leaks, remove the top of the tank and listen very carefully for any hissing. You can also add some food coloring to the tank and wait 20 to 30 minutes. If any of this dye appears in the toilet bowl (without flushing), you probably have a flapper valve leak.

2. Hot Water Tanks

Another common source of leakage is the hot water tank. You should periodically check the pressure relief valve to make sure that it is working properly. Often, these pressure valves feed directly into the drain, making it difficult to detect surface leaks. However, if you hear any sounds from the valve, pipe or drain, you most certainly have a leak.

3. Faucets, Spigots and Showers

A leaky faucet won’t necessarily cause water damage throughout the rest of the house. After all, the excess water flows directly into a basin and drain. But ignoring this common problem could end up costing you a lot more than you realize. A typical home can lose anywhere between 2,000 and 20,000 gallons of water per year from leaky spigots, faucets and showers.

Sometimes you can fix the problem with a few extra washers or by readjusting some valves. But if these DIY solutions don’t work, it might be time to call in a professional plumber. Doing so is cheaper than letting the problem continue.

4. Invisible Leaks

Leaky faucets and toilets are relatively easy to spot. But if you could remove all the walls of your house, you’d see an entire latticework of pipes and valves that direct water throughout your home. Any one of these areas can break down and begin leaking — without you ever hearing or seeing the problem until it’s way too late.

The fix? Turn off all of the water in your home — including automatic appliances like sprinklers, washing machines and water heaters.

Check the water meter and write down the current reading. In one hour, check the meter again. If the reading is different, there is a leak somewhere in the home that might require a call to a professional before the problem gets worse.

5. Supply Line Leaks

Sometimes leaks happen in the water supply line leading to your home. Finding these leaks is difficult since supply pipes are often buried deep within the ground (3 feet or more). However, there are telltale signs of a problem, including:

  • Water within the meter box (especially when there’s been no rain recently)
  • Damp soil around the meter or along the buried supply line pipe

If there is a leak between the meter and your home, you’re usually responsible for any repairs. But if the leak exists within the supply line itself, the local water utility is responsible.

6. Attic and Roof Inspections

The most obvious sign of water damage is a flooded basement, but one of the most common entry points is the roof. Periodically check the attic for cracks or mold. A well-insulated attic shouldn’t show any signs of moisture — even after prolonged periods of heavy rainfall.

7. Wall-To-Wall Tests

Unfortunately, checking the attic isn’t enough. Test all of the interior walls throughout your home. Sometimes you can spot damage with your eyes, but it’s better to use your fingers to detect any moisture buildup. Don’t forget to check all the walls in the basement as well. Cracks and mold require immediate intervention.

8. Gutter Cleaning

When it comes to simple home maintenance tips, gutter cleaning doesn’t usually rank very high. It’s about as exciting as oil changes or dental appointments.

But seasonal cleaning (especially after autumn) is one of the simplest and most cost-effective ways to protect a home from water damage. Not only do you need to clean out all of the gutters, but you also want to ensure that the drainpipes leading away from your home are free of any blockages as well.

Last, but not least, check to make sure that there are no standing pools of water anywhere around your home. Damp soil is usually a bad sign.

Water damage checkups: A free investment that saves money

Catching water problems early on is a huge money saver. It’s much better to bring in a professional plumber to handle small fixes than it is to clean out a flooded basement or repair heavily damaged walls.

As an added benefit, conducting these DIY checkups will actually make future visits from the plumber even cheaper. Professionals often charge by the hour, and every minute spent looking for problems is money that comes directly out of your pocket. If you can isolate the source of any leaks or damage beforehand, you’ll save a lot more money in the long run.”
By
Source

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Information Regarding Sinkholes from the Florida Geological Survey

Questions related to sinkhole activity, coverage, etc… are pretty common when discussing Florida and Florida insurance. I thought this month I’d reference just a quick overview which I linked to via a Naples Daily News Article. This information is a little dated but most should be relevant and hopefully helpful. At the bottom of the article there is a link to even more information from the State of Florida.


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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Aug. 12, 2013

CONTACT: DEP Press Office, 850.245.2112, DEPNews@dep.state.fl.us

INFORMATION REGARDING SINKHOLES FROM THE FLORIDA GEOLOGICAL SURVEY

~Facts and information about encountering sinkholes in the state of Florida~

TALLAHASSEE – The Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s Florida Geological Survey has compiled the following information to provide a single point source for general knowledge about the nature of sinkholes in the state of Florida and additional information about proper protocol should you ever encounter a sinkhole in an urban area.

Facts about sinkholes in Florida:

-The entire state of Florida sits on top of several thousand feet of limestone. Limestone is a rock that can form with natural void spaces called porosity.  In limestone where the void spaces are connected, the rock is permeable.  Porous and permeable limestone makes great aquifers and provide millions of gallons of fresh drinking water for residents and agriculture. The most significant factor in the development of sinkholes is the dissolution of the limestone underlying Florida by naturally acidic groundwater.

Sinkholes are a natural and common feature of Florida’s landscape. They are only one of many kinds of karst landforms, which include depressions, caves (both air and water filled), disappearing streams, springs and underground aquifer systems, all of which occur in Florida. Thousands of naturally occurring sinkholes can be seen throughout the state of Florida including many that connect underground to springs, rivers and lakes.

Sinkholes form in karst terrain from the collapse of surface sediments into underground voids. In Florida one may see solution sinkholes, cover-subsidence sinkholes or cover-collapse sinkholes. The first two types will show very little topographical disturbance to the naked eye, while the third is the type which shows a abrupt change in topography and is most associated with the thought of sinkholes.

Questions about sinkholes in urban and suburban environments:

-My yard is settling… Do I have a sinkhole? Maybe. But a number of other factors can cause holes, depressions or subsidence of the ground surface. Expansive clay layers in the earth may shrink upon drying, buried organic material, poorly-compacted soil after excavation work, buried trash or logs and broken pipes all may cause depressions to form at the ground surface. These settling events, when not verified as true sinkholes by professionals, are collectively called “subsidence incidents.” If the settling is affecting a dwelling, further testing by a licensed engineer with a licensed geologist on staff or a licensed geology firm may be in order. Property insurance may pay for testing, but in many cases insurance may not cover damage from settling due to causes other than sinkholes.

A sinkhole opened in my neighborhood… should I be concerned? Although sinkholes in Florida sometimes occur in sets, most are isolated events. The bedrock underlying the state is honeycombed with cavities of varying size, most of which will not collapse in our lifetimes. A quick inspection of your property for any sinking or soft areas might be prudent. Unless the sinkhole is very large, and extends to your property, there’s likely to be little reason for concern.

Should a sinkhole open in an area near you the hole should be immediately cordoned off and clearly marked to protect traffic. Contact local law enforcement to report the hazard and call your city or county road department to initiate repair work. If the road is private, repair of the hole is usually the responsibility of the landowner or property owners’ association.

Is there a safe area of Florida where there is no chance of sinkholes? Technically, no. Since the entire state is underlain by carbonate rocks, sinkholes could theoretically form anywhere. However, there are definite regions where sinkhole risk is considerably higher. In general, areas of the state where limestone is close to surface, or areas with deeper limestone but with a conducive configuration of water table elevation, stratigraphy, and aquifer characteristics have increased sinkhole activity.

Additionally, the Department announced Friday that the Florida Geological Survey, in conjunction with the Florida Division of Emergency Management, has received a $1.1 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to address sinkhole vulnerability. Find more information here.
For even more information visit:
http://www.dep.state.fl.us/geology/geologictopics/sinkhole.htm

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Roof Shape For Possible Premium Discounts

Wind Mitigation Features: Hip roof shape vs. gable roof shape

Anybody familiar with home insurance in Florida, and thus home insurance premiums, is most likely familiar with the concept of wind mitigation credits. These credits are based on a standardized evaluation of the homes construction components including the building code in place when the roof was built/replaced, the size and spacing of nails used for the roof deck attachment, the method for attaching the walls to the roof, whether the home has secondary water resistance, the presence of opening protection like hurricane shutters, the shape of the roof. The purpose of this post is to help clearly distinguish between two of the most common type of roof shapes – gable and hip.

The roof shape you see at the top of this page is a hip roof. You can see that all sides of the roof line are parallel to the ground. This type of roof shape provides better protection against wind damage and thus often results in (varying among companies) premium credits on average from $150 to over $500 per year.

Alternatively, the roof shape you see below is a gable roof. This is a pretty extreme example of a gable shape but is great for pointing on the distinguishing factors. This type of shape is more susceptible to wind damage and thus does not result in the same discounts as the hip shape. There are many variations of the gable shape and many combinations of roof shape possible for one home.

A home may still be eligible for a hip roof discount if there is some gable. The specific eligibility for hip roof as described on the wind mitigation form (the most current version as taken from the state of Florida Office of Insurance Regulation Website) is as follows: Hip roof with no other roof shapes greater than 10% of the total roof system perimeter. There are specific details as to what portion of the structure’s roof is to be included in this measurement.

Most companies do not require the wind inspection in order to qualify for roof shape credits alone. However, if there is question as to how much of the roof perimeter is hip, a certified inspector performing a wind mitigation inspection is the best resource for determining the qualification.

A copy of the current Uniform Mitigation Verification Inspection Form can be found at the following link for reference: http://www.floir.com/siteDocuments/OIR-B1-1802eff02012012.pdf

It’s worth noting that many homeowners insuring homes built after the 2002 building codes changes do not currently purchase wind inspections because there are several default credits built into the rating discounts due to these building code requirements. However, there is a moderate chance of additional mitigation credits if an inspection is performed. Most inspection companies charge approximately $130 to perform a wind mitigation inspection.

Condo unit owners can often benefit (depending on age of inspection report and form it was completed on) from the master association’s inspection for the condo building the insured unit is in.

This information is meant to be a general resource. Every individual’s insurance needs are different and it’s important that your specific needs are considered when making decisions about your coverage. It would be my honor to help you with your insurance needs, so please call or email anytime.

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My neighbor’s home just sold for $50,000 less than I’ve got my home insured for, aren’t I over-insured?

This is a very common discussion topic when it comes to setting the limits of “dwelling” coverage on a homeowner’s or dwelling policy. Especially in the last 5 years, as property values have depleted significantly.

The market value (what your neighbor sold their house for) and the replacement value (what it would take to rebuild) are not the same thing. I’ve seen many homes with sale prices less than their replacement cost because they were a foreclosure, short sale, or simply because of the time of sale. These same houses would actually often cost more to build than to buy.

One example of how this could occur is with new developments. When a major builder is selling hundreds of properties within the same development, there are certain cost benefits that are applied that most likely would not apply in the event of you having to rebuild your individual house or a portion of it as a result of a claim. Think of it this way, if you purchase 3000 cabinet doors or 10, which cost per piece do you think would be lower? This is just one item of many that go into building a home. And just one example of how purchase price and replacement cost can be different. Another example could be a simple scenario of supply and demand – there are 35 houses like your neighbors on the market and in order to sell it, he had to sell it for less. In some cases, the scenario can turn the other way and homes can be less to rebuild than to buy – if a premium neighborhood or lot, for example, where the land value (not included in dwelling coverage) makes up a large portion of property value.

There are of course many factors involved in sales price and replacement value, but these examples help us to point to the overall important realization that market value and coverage needed are not the same thing. Replacement cost estimating tools are available to help determine an accurate coverage amount for your home and are a good reference tool both when the policy is written and while it’s in force.

Finally, there is also something called a “coinsurance clause” which can result in reduced payment amounts for claims when the home is not insured to within a certain percentage of the replacement value (typically 80%). Coinsurance clauses are important to be aware of and often a replacement cost estimate, as referenced above, is a helpful tool to help avoid them.

If you have questions about your homes coverage limit or haven’t reviewed the coverage recently, now would be a good time.

This information is meant to be a general resource. Every individual’s insurance needs are different and it’s important that your specific needs are considered when making decisions about your coverage.

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I have great health insurance, do I really need uninsured motorist coverage on my auto insurance?

The previous blog was in relation to the importance of reviewing your Bodily Injury Liability coverage as it relates to Florida’s “no fault” law. Today, I’d like to highlight another coverage that is very important to consider, both in terms of how it relates to the limitation of PIP I referenced previously and in terms of how it relates to your ability to provide for yourself or your family. Uninsured motorist coverage is for your (and others in car/household as defined by your policy) protection against injury caused by another driver when they are at fault and don’t have any or sufficient bodily injury liability coverage.

First, as discussed in the previous blog, Personal Injury Protection coverage has a living benefit limitation (all components combined) of a maximum of $10,000. We don’t have to expand this portion of the discussion much to recognize that this basic amount of medical and disability coverage doesn’t accommodate the medical costs of a serious injury. In an accident with another driver, where they are the at-fault party, you don’t want to be limited to your own PIP coverage and whatever minimal medical payments coverage you may have.

But, the question that is the primary topic of this blog is posed in a scenario where the insured has great major medical insurance. After all, when the PIP coverage runs out, won’t my personal health insurance take over? The answer to this is that for medical related costs, it may be more than sufficient. However, what people don’t often consider is the non-medical related changes that can occur and for which medical insurance does not provide. For example, the commercial pilot that can no longer fly because of injury to his sight. Or the plumber who can no longer work in his trade due to damaged nerves in his hands as a result of an auto accident. Uninsured motorist coverage provides more broad coverage for costs or liability that an at fault party would be legally responsible to pay. And this goes beyond the boundaries of major medical insurance coverage.

If you’d like to review your uninsured motorist coverage or have any questions about this or other insurance topics, please call us today.

This information is meant to be a general resource. Every individual’s insurance needs are different and it’s important that your specific needs are considered when making decisions about your coverage.

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Isn’t Florida a “No Fault” State?

Many times clients will ask this question in relation to deciding what level of coverage they should purchase on their auto insurance policies. This topic is a significant source of confusion and I’d like to take some time to remove some of the mystery.

Florida does technically have a no-fault component to the auto insurance law. However, the interpretation of this term is where I believe the confusion often lies. The specific portion of Florida auto insurance requirements that falls into this no-fault category is the coverage called Personal Injury Protection (or “PIP” for short).

If you are involved in an accident, the state mandated Personal Injury Protection coverage on YOUR policy responds for YOU (may include other persons in your car/household as defined in your policy), regardless of who is at fault. (A helpful link to recently updated components of the Personal Injury Protection coverage is listed below). However, this coverage in terms of total coverage limit is not very significant and injuries could pretty easily require more treatment than the standard PIP coverage would provide. Furthermore, Florida being a “no fault” state in this sense, does not mean that pursuit of fault will not be initiated and that you don’t have personal responsibility for injuries to someone else or their property.

Bodily Injury liability coverage is a very important coverage in the event that you are responsible for injuring someone else. If their PIP coverage is exhausted and you are at fault, you are responsible. Bodily Injury liability coverage should be reviewed to confirm that you not only have proper protection for yourself but also for responsible protection of others in the event of your accidental injury of them and/or their family.

If you have questions about your coverage or would like to have it reviewed, please contact us today. This information is meant to be a general resource. Every individual’s insurance needs are different and it’s important that your specific needs are considered when making decisions about your coverage.

Link to Personal Injury Protection Info: http://flsenate.gov/Committees/BillSummaries/2012/html/215

Glossary of Insurance Terms

Insurance terminology can be a bit confusing. Knowing what these terms mean can help you better understand your coverage and the options you have. To that end, we’ve included a link below to a great resource – a glossary of insurance terms provided by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

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http://www.naic.org/consumer_glossary.htm