Monday, August 27, 2018

Flood Insurance Liability Issues for Real Estate Professionals

As real estate professionals, you already inform your clients when flood insurance will be lender-required for closing. But what about when flood coverage isn’t mandatory?

Eighty percent of homes flooded during Hurricane Harvey were not protected by flood insurance. As those devastated by the damages sought help to recover, many homeowners wondered how this could have happened. They pointed to the fact that their realtors, lenders, and builders had assured them at the time of closing that they “didn’t need flood insurance”. And then the lawsuits ensued.

The National Flood Insurance Program’s (NFIP) risk mapping system has failed to keep up, with both risk assessment technology, and with the sheer volume of communities that need to be remapped. Many communities throughout the nation are 20-30 years overdue for revised flood mapping. At this time, FEMA’s flood zone maps are just not an accurate predictor of flood risk.

Here’s the good news: homes in the NFIP’s low-to-moderate risk zones can be protected against flooding for premiums of $450 per year or less. That’s $1.23 per day. By contrast, just one inch of water in a 1,500 sq ft home costs an estimated $14,250 in damages. Foregoing flood insurance is just not worth it, especially here in Florida.

At Viera Insurance Agency, we offer flood coverage three ways:
  1. NFIP (FEMA) policy: $450 per year or less for low-to-moderate risk zones
  2. Private policy: Usually lower premiums and better coverage than the NFIP
  3. Endorsement to the homeowners policy: Several home insurers are now offering optional flood coverage. The cost to add flood to a homeowners policy could be as little as $100 per year.
Here are some talking points to help you inform your clients about flood risk:

  • Floodwaters don’t stop at a line on a flood map. You may not be required to buy flood insurance, but you should consider financially protecting your new home.
  • Almost 25% of flood claims come from homes outside of high-risk flood areas. This doesn’t include flood-damaged homes that have no coverage, and can’t file a claim.
  • FEMA disaster assistance is a loan that must be repaid with interest, and is not a substitute for flood insurance.
  • Talk to your insurance agent about options for flood insurance, even if coverage is not lender-required.
You’ve worked hard to build your business, and you care about your customers. Protect yourself and your clients by recommending flood insurance. Call us at 321-259-2228 with any questions.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Roof-Overs: Should You Install a New Roof Over an Old Roof?

New roofs are expensive, and a roof-over might seem like a good way to reduce the cost. Unfortunately, there are several reasons why it is best to remove your old roof before installing a new one.

The #1 reason to avoid a roof-over is that you may have trouble retaining your current homeowners insurance policy, or shopping for a new one. Homeowners insurance carriers generally do not allow roof-overs.

In a conventional roof replacement, the old shingles are removed, and the roof decking is thoroughly inspected for leaks, wood rot, or other damage. Once the deck is sound, a water barrier underlayment is installed, and the new shingles are installed on top. 

With a roof-over, the roof deck cannot be inspected. The water barrier also cannot be installed, as it needs to adhere directly to the roof deck. The new shingles will not lay properly, as designed, and installing new shingles over old ones usually voids the warranty on the new shingles. A roof-over also adds about 400 pounds of extra weight per 100 square feet of roofing, putting additional strain on the deck, which may already be rotting or in disrepair.

For these reasons, your homeowners insurance company may cancel your policy if you install a new roof over your old one. Please contact us with any questions.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Brevard County, New Preliminary Flood Maps, August 2017

Digital Preliminary Flood Maps for Brevard County Ready for Public Viewing 

BREVARD COUNTY, FL. -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has completed its restudy for coastal Brevard County and released preliminary Flood Insurance Rate maps.

New storm surge modeling will result in changes to flood zone areas on the Barrier Island and Merritt Island. Some areas will have revised flood elevations, which will impact annual flood insurance premiums, both positively and negatively. Some areas not currently in flood zones will change and be included, which will then require mandatory flood insurance for a mortgage.

The public is invited to view and comment on the preliminary maps and data by attending one of the upcoming FEMA Open House meetings:

  • Wednesday, Sept. 20, from 2-5 p.m., Space Coast Room, 2nd Floor, Building C, Brevard County Government Center
  • Thursday, Sept. 21, from 4-7 p.m., Main Dining Room, Cocoa Beach Country Club
Find out whether your property is impacted, how a change may affect you, how securing flood insurance coverage before a change can save you money, and how to appeal a change either before or after the fact. FEMA staff will be available for questions and information on these and other topics of interest. - Brevard County Government

The preliminary maps are also available to view online. Here's a simple guide to determining whether your property will be affected:

Visit FEMA's Map Service Center at

Enter your address in the search bar

Make note of the Map Panel Number and click Show all products for this area

Click to open the Preliminary Products folder, then open Preliminary Firm Panels. Find your Map Panel Number, and download the corresponding pdf file. This is the new preliminary flood map for your area.

If you find the map difficult to read, you are not alone. It is the job of the county floodplain manager to interpret the maps and apply them to each individual parcel in the county. Properties located (either partially or entirely) in zones beginning with A or V will be lender-required to carry flood insurance. The FEMA Open House meetings should yield more specific information on the zone changes.
If you are going to be required to purchase flood insurance due to mapping changes, there's a considerable savings to be had by purchasing your policy before the new map takes effect. Also, it's important to note that over a quarter of all flooding in the U.S. occurs in 'low-to-moderate risk' areas where flood insurance is not required. Much of the flooding from Hurricane Harvey took place in 'low risk' flood zones. 

Florida is a peninsula, surrounded by water. Don't take the chance; protect your home against floods.

Viera Insurance Agency | 321-259-2228

Friday, March 17, 2017

Why Are Florida Homeowners Insurance Rates So High?

If you've just moved to Florida from another state, you've likely noticed that Homeowners Insurance rates here are higher, about twice the national average. The Florida home insurance market is unique for several reasons. Here's why Floridians pay more:

Natural Disasters

Even though Florida hasn't been devastated by a major hurricane since 2005, we still have more other natural disasters than other states. Thunderstorms, hail, tornadoes and sinkholes are all more common in Florida. Sinkholes, in particular, are extremely costly for insurance companies. These events contribute to the high cost of reinsurance. Reinsurance is the extra layer of protection that insurance companies purchase to pay catastrophic losses. It's your insurance company's insurance policy, so to speak.

Revised Hurricane Modeling
The 2010 wind-estimate model developed by Risk Management Solutions was a significant departure from previous models. This new model shows that Florida insurers are much more vulnerable to wind losses in inland Florida counties than previously thought. In response, Florida insurers increased the amount of reinsurance they carry. Higher reinsurance costs get passed along in the form of higher premiums.

Assignment of Benefits (AOB)
AOB is a mechanism by which homeowners sign over their insurance policies to the contractors performing the repairs. The system is rampant with fraud, with many contractors attempting to pad or falsify claims in order to collect from insurers. Even worse, in Florida, when lawsuits are filed in these cases, the insurance company is typically responsible for attorney's fees. Increased costs associated with AOB claims and lawsuits are a major problem in the Florida market.

Post-2005 Market Fluctuations
The 2004/2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season changed everything about the Florida market. National insurance companies left the state entirely, and many smaller, Florida-based companies folded altogether. As a result, premiums increased due to lack of competition (and the recent hurricanes themselves, of course). A few years and no major hurricanes later, brand-new insurance companies began cropping up in Florida. By 2015, the market was saturated, and rates were artificially low, sometimes dangerously low for the level of risk. This was an attempt by new companies to build their book of business quickly. For some, it backfired. For others, they gained a foothold, but they had to increase rates to do so.

At Viera Insurance Agency, we always strive to provide the best value policy for our clients, and we understand that the high cost of homeowners insurance in Florida can be frustrating. There are steps you can take to lower your rate:

1. Shop for a home with these characteristics: 
  • Masonry Construction (Concrete Block)
  • Newer than 2002 (OR at least with a roof newer than 2002)
  • Furthest from the ocean is best
2. Have a Wind Mitigation Inspection: That newer roof that we mentioned will have wind-resistant features that will save you money on your policy.

3. Consider increasing your deductible: A $2,500 deductible might be a significant savings over a $1000 deductible.

We know homeowners insurance in Florida is expensive and complicated. With over 50 companies to shop for you, we are here to help!


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Water Damage and your Homeowners Policy: What's Covered

Water damage is one of the most common causes of loss in Florida homeowners insurance claims. Though most insureds expect their policy to protect them against any and every type of water damage, this is not the case. There are exclusions and limitations that you need to understand before you experience a water loss.

Full Water Damage Coverage
The water damage coverage that is included with most homeowners (HO) and landlord (DP) policies. Damage must be sudden and accidental, such a a pipe burst, appliance malfunction, or water coming through a hole in your roof caused by a storm. With full water damage coverage, your policy will pay up to the total policy limit, minus your deductible.

*A note on 'sudden and accidental': Maintenance issues or preventable losses are generally not covered. Examples would be damage caused by a leaky roof or pipe or by a worn-out dishwasher. It is the homeowners responsibility to maintain the home and take reasonable steps to prevent damages. 

Limited Water Damage Coverage
This is becoming increasingly common, as water claims continue to increase. Many insurance companies exclude water damage altogether for homes over a certain age (usually 30 or 40 years), and then offer the option to purchase limited water damage coverage. This 'buyback' usually has a $10,000 limit. 

Flood Exclusion
Flood is defined as rising water, or water that touches the ground before it comes into contact with your home. Flood is almost always excluded on HO and DP policies, and must be purchased on a separate flood insurance policy, or less commonly, as a flood endorsement that can be added to your homeowners policy. If you don't have either the endorsement or the separate flood policy, you will not be protected against rising water. This is true whether or not the floodwaters are driven by wind. 

Seepage Exclusion
Seepage is generally considered to be a maintenance issue, and will usually not be covered by an HO or DP policy.

Water & Sewer Backup Exclusion
This exclusion refers to water that backs up through sewers (like from a toilet bowl), or from drains (like from a sink). The exclusion applies whether the damage is caused by a public sewer or water system, or by water inside the home. Most insurance companies offer an inexpensive Water Backup endorsement that can be added to your policy in order to remove this exclusion, and it is highly recommended.

It is important to discuss your water coverage in detail with your agent. Please let us know if you have any questions.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Admitted vs Non-Admitted Insurance Carriers: Which is Better?

Most insurance is placed with Admitted (also called Standard) insurers, but there may be situations in which a particular risk is placed with a Non-Admitted (also called Excess or Surplus) insurance carrier.

An Admitted carrier is required to be licensed in every state in which it writes policies. It must also obtain state approval for all forms and rates. Admitted carriers are required to contribute to the state guarantee fund, which is used to pay for losses if an insurer becomes insolvent or is unable to pay the losses due to their policyholders.

A Non-Admitted carrier is usually only licensed in one state, and though it must receive approval from every state in which it does business, its policy forms and rates are not regulated by the states. Non-admitted carriers are not required to contribute to the state guarantee funds, as they are not protected by these funds.

Non-admitted carriers are used for difficult-to-insure risks. This may include risks with prior claims, unacceptable features that do not meet admitted company underwriting guidelines, or unusual exposures that do not fit conventional policy forms. Because the rates are not state-regulated, the non-admitted carrier can price each policy independently for the specific type of risk. This sometimes results in lower rates than what an admitted company could offer.

Typically, in order to be eligible for a non-admitted policy, a risk must have been rejected by three standard carriers. Also, the insured must sign a form stating that they understand that coverage is being provided by the non-admitted market, and that any claims will not be guaranteed by the state.

It is important to note that just because a carrier is non-admitted does not mean that it is not regulated. Non-admitted carriers still have to follow insurance laws in the states in which they do business; most just intentionally do not file rates because they want to retain the flexibility they need for the types of risks they write. 

Admitted and non-admitted insurance carriers both have their place in the market. Much more important than the admitted status of a company is its financial strength. Non-admitted carriers often operate throughout the nation and even in other countries, and many of them are multi-million or billion-dollar companies. The state of Florida only requires a new admitted property insurer to show assets of $5 million. It is common for an admitted insurer, especially a smaller, newer one, to be far less financially stable than most non-admitted companies.

As always, your best course of action is to discuss your options in detail with your agent. She can provide detailed financial information for various companies, and advise you of the most appropriate policy for your individual risk.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Insurance Considerations for Investment Homes

A Dwelling policy is the ideal home insurance policy for rental homes in Florida. Tenant occupancy will probably void your Homeowners policy, so it is crucial to ask your agent to switch your Homeowners policy to a Dwelling policy, preferably before the lease begins.

Sometimes referred to as “landlord insurance” or “rental property insurance”, a Dwelling policy covers the building, just like a Homeowners policy does, but there are some differences:

Personal Property/Contents coverage is not automatically included on a Dwelling policy, but can be added. It is a good idea to add enough contents coverage for your appliances and carpeting, and more coverage if you have additional items in the home.

Fair Rental Value coverage compensates you for lost rental income due to a covered loss. For example, if your rental property is damaged in a fire, and you aren't able to rent it out for 3 months while it's being repaired, your policy will pay the lost rental income.

Loss of Use coverage provides funds for your existing tenants to rent another place while your damaged home is being repaired. 

There are three Dwelling policy forms: the DP1, DP2 and DP3. The DP1 and DP2 contain serious coverage deficiencies, and should be avoided. The DP3 is the best Dwelling policy to cover your investment.

As a landlord, you should also consider requiring your tenant to carry a Renters policy (HO4). Renters insurance covers the tenant's personal belongings, loss of use and the tenant's liability. These coverages provide an extra layer of protection, and may keep you from having to file a claim on your own policy.

Please let us know if you have additional questions on the best ways to protect your investment properties!