Category Archives: Homeowners Insurance

Is my exotic pet covered by insurance?

Photo by Andre Mouton from Pexels

Did you know that December 14 is international monkey day? This delightful holiday to honor everyone’s favorite simians was invented by two Michigan State art students in 2000.

Suggestions for how to celebrate this holiday include donating to conservation efforts or reading to children about monkeys.

Of course, here at the Triple-I, the holiday naturally got us thinking about people who keep monkeys and other exotic and unusual pets, and the insurance implications.

According to several sources we consulted, keeping monkeys as pets is never a good idea. Keeping a monkey as a pet is cruel to the animal, is illegal in many jurisdictions, and may result in serious and even deadly injuries to humans.

Nevertheless, according to one animal advocacy group, about 15,000 primates are kept as pets in the U.S., and the American Veterinary Medical Association estimates that 1 in 10 American households has an exotic pet (defined as any animal native to a foreign country).

Injuries caused by pets, if they are covered by insurance, would be covered under a comprehensive homeowners insurance policy. However it’s important to read your policy and see exactly what’s covered. If you’re not sure, speak to your insurance agent. You should expect to pay more for coverage and carry higher liability limits if you legally own exotic animals. And homeowners insurance also frequently excludes any physical damage caused by pets.

Exotic animals can require expensive veterinary treatments. While pet health insurance is becoming increasingly available and affordable, many insurers cover a restricted list of species. Pet Assure, a discount program available through some employers, is accepted for many kinds of animals.

Friday the 13th is less scary with insurance

Superstitious people consider Friday the 13th an unlucky day. The irrational fear of the number 13 even has a scientific name: triskaidekaphobia.

While Friday falls on the 13th at least once every calendar year, it can happen up to three times in the same year.

Whether you believe in this unlucky day or not, if you have purchased an HO-3 insurance policy for your home you are protected against even more than 13 perils. Lucky for you, we’ve compiled all you need to know about the basics of homeowners insurance here.

Keeping Halloween Safe, Even During a Pandemic

Dan and Ben, ready for a safety-conscious Halloween last year.

My five-year-old nephew, Ben, is a great source of pride to his electrician father, Dan. Last Halloween, Ben refused to trick-or-treat at a particular house because he noticed that the decorations there were a fire hazard.

Halloween is supposed to be fun, but it has always involved risks and potential liabilities. The video below outlines some of the “traditional” hazards and ways to mitigate them, from eliminating trip-and-fall dangers to preventing fire and pet-related perils.  

And while much of the focus of Halloween-risk mitigation is on the home, Donald R. Grady, a Boston personal injury attorney, says the biggest dangers actually involve cars.

“You see an uptick in automobile accidents,” Grady says. “Especially with teenagers, who don’t have adults with them and who rush from house to house.”

The curse of 2020

2020 has aged us all….

Perhaps predictably by now, 2020 has brought the spooky holiday threats of its own. COVID-19 has introduced new Halloween concerns.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has published a list of low-, moderate-, and high-risk Halloween activities for a time of pandemic.

Lower-risk activities include:

  • Carving or decorating pumpkins with members of your household and displaying them
  • Carving or decorating pumpkins outside, at a safe distance, with neighbors or friends
  • Decorating your house, apartment, or living space
  • Having a virtual Halloween costume contest
  • Having a Halloween movie night with people you live with.

Moderate-risk activities include:

  • Participating in one-way trick-or-treating, where individually wrapped goodie bags are lined up for families to grab and go while continuing to social distance
  • Having a small group, outdoor, open-air costume parade with people distanced more than 6 feet apart
  • Attending a costume party held outdoors, where protective masks are used and people can remain more than 6 feet apart.

The CDC provides caveats and additional guidance for these and other moderate-risk activities, so if you’re even thinking about them, definitely read the relevant guidance. It advises against the following:

  • Traditional trick-or-treating where treats are handed to children who go door to door
  • “Trunk-or-treat,” where treats are handed out from trunks of cars lined up in large parking lots
  • Attending crowded costume parties held indoors
  • Going to an indoor haunted house where people may be crowded together and screaming
  • Going on hayrides or tractor rides with people who are not in your household
  • Using alcohol or drugs, which can cloud judgement and increase risky behaviors
  • Traveling to a rural fall festival that is not in your community if you live in an area with community spread of COVID-19.

Poll: Homeowners Gain
in Disaster Prep; Coverage Understanding Still Lags

The 2020 Triple-I Consumer Poll found that homeowners are protecting their properties against disasters like flooding and hurricanes at a higher rate than previously reported, a welcome development as the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season got off to an early start and is expected to produce a higher-than-average number of storms.

 “The insurance industry’s focus on resilience is starting to pay dividends as more Americans recognize the very real risks their residences face from floods, hurricanes, and other natural disasters,” said Sean Kevelighan, CEO, Triple-I. “There is still time to act. Hurricane Sally today became the eighth named storm to make landfall in 2020 but the Atlantic hurricane season continues through the end of November.”

However, the poll also found that greater consumer understanding on insurance coverage is still needed.

In something of a surprise, 27 percent of homeowners surveyed reported they have flood insurance, the highest level of flood coverage reported since the Triple-I began asking Americans this question in 2007. Most insurance industry and FEMA National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) sources estimate anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of U.S. residences are covered under a flood insurance policy.

It is possible a number of Triple-I Consumer Poll respondents with homeowners insurance believe they have flood coverage when they actually do not. The discrepancy between those who have flood insurance and those who think they do gives insurers an opportunity to inform their customers about the need to purchase flood insurance, either from the NFIP or a private insurer, according to the Triple-I.

In addition to floods and hurricanes, the poll looked at how Americans assessed their risks from wildfires and earthquakes and surveyed the percentage of U.S. drivers who received auto insurance premium relief this year after the pandemic reduced miles driven nationwide. 

The poll was conducted in July and is available here.

If the power goes out, can you get reimbursed for spoiled food?

Following a major disaster like Hurricane Laura extended power outages are common. Nearly 800,000 customers in Louisiana and Texas were without power after the storm hit. However, most electric utility companies do not offer their customers reimbursement for food spoilage caused by long-term power outages.

In the areas of Louisiana and Texas affected by Hurricane Laura, none of the power companies serving those areas provide such reimbursements, according to Bill Davis of Triple-I .

Insurance companies will usually cover up to $500 of food that spoils from a power outage caused by a covered peril under standard homeowners insurance policies. Homeowners insurance deductibles will apply to food spoilage coverage, however, so a $500 deductible, which most policyholders carry, would mean that the policy would only pay if the policyholder suffered more than $500 in food spoilage losses. Some insurers offer food spoilage coverage with a separate deductible for an additional premium.

Ordered to evacuate due to Hurricane Laura? You might have insurance coverage for additional living expenses

Loretta Worters, Vice President Media Relations, Triple-I

People who evacuated their residence due to Hurricane Laura may have coverage for additional living expenses under either their homeowners or renters insurance policies.

Additional living expenses (ALE), also known as Loss of Use, pays the additional costs of living away from home if you cannot live there due to mandatory evacuation or as a result of damage to your home from an insured catastrophe, such as a hurricane. It covers hotel bills, restaurant meals and other costs, over and above your usual living expenses.  It can also include storage fees, mileage if you have to drive farther to work, pet boarding and laundry.  Even utilities that are more expensive in your temporary home may be included.  Also remember you are entitled to stay in a place that’s comparable in size and quality to your house.

Keep in mind that the ALE coverage in your homeowners policy has limits—either a percentage of your dwelling coverage – typically 20 percent,  or a time limit, usually 12 months. If you rent out part of your house, ALE also covers you for the rent that you would have collected from your tenant if your home had not been destroyed. This is sometimes insured on an actual-loss-sustained basis (what the homeowner would have earned had the loss not occurred).

Consumers who have chosen to go to a hotel because their power is out, won’t be eligible for ALE reimbursement.  ALE is only triggered through a mandatory evacuation or if the property is considered uninhabitable.  If you left because of a mandatory evacuation order but stayed away because the power was out, you may only be eligible to claim expenses for the time until the evacuation order was lifted. 

Standard home insurance also doesn’t cover ALE as a result of flood damage. The National Flood Insurance Program doesn’t include additional living expenses either, although there are some privately sold flood policies that do. Consult your insurance policy or contact your insurance professional for details.

Getting the right insurance for moving

For a variety of reasons, many people have moved during the pandemic. One in five U.S. adults either changed residence due to the pandemic or know someone who did, according to a Pew Research survey. There are many safety factors to consider if you are moving, and it’s also important to understand how insurance protects your possessions before, during, and after a move.

Loretta Worters, Vice President Media Relations, Triple-I, has put together this comprehensive explanation of how insurance covers you when you move.

What’s Covered/What’s Not

Homeowners and renters policies provide coverage for belongings while they are at a residence, in transit, and in storage facilities — but they will not pay for any damage done to personal property while being handled by movers when packing or moving the items. 

Types of Coverage to Consider When Moving:

  1. Trip transit insurance covers personal property for perils including theft, disappearance, or fire (the same perils covered by homeowners or renters policy) while in transit or storage. Trip transit insurance can be written for the full value of the property or as excess coverage over and above that provided by the moving company. It does not, however, cover breakage or flooding at, say, a storage facility.
  2. Special perils contents coverage will cover breakage of all but fragile items.
  3. A floater will fully protect high-value items, such as jewelry, collectibles, fine art, etc. 
  4. Storage insurance is also important should someone need to temporarily or permanently store items before or after a move.

Coverages Available Through Moving Companies

The type of liability coverage a moving company offers for damage or breakage is not technically insurance and therefore is not governed by state insurance laws. Under federal law, however, all interstate movers must offer two different liability options—full-value protection and released-value protection. Most movers offer both options for intrastate moves, as well.  It’s important to understand the various types and levels of protection available and the charges for each option.

  • Full-value protection is a plan under which the mover is liable for the replacement value of the belongings in a shipment. If personal property is lost, destroyed, or damaged while in the mover’s custody, the company will repair or replace the item or make a cash settlement for the cost of the repair or the current market value. The cost for full-value protection liability coverage varies by mover; different deductibles are available, which will reduce or increase the price. Note that full value liability is more expensive and is the default.
  • Released-value protection is offered at no additional charge beyond the moving fee. However, it provides only a minimal protection—no more than 60 cents per pound per article. So if the mover loses or damages a 10-pound stereo component valued at $1,000, the homeowner would only receive $6.00 in compensation (60 cents x 10 pounds).
  • Separate liability coverage may be offered by a mover to augment released-value protection for an additional fee. If this extra coverage is purchased, the mover remains liable for the amount up to 60 cents per pound per article, but the rest of the loss is recoverable from the insurance company up to the limit of the policy purchased. The mover is required to issue and provide a written record of the policy at the time of purchase.

Check Professional Mover’s Agreement

Homeowners should review the mover’s contract and ability to:

  • Determine exactly what kind and how much coverage the moving company provides for property loss and/or damage.
  • Review the contract carefully for the estimated value of your possessions and match it to the homeowner’s list. An up-to-date home inventory will make this task easier. 
  • Find out the maximum value of the mover’s insurance should goods be damaged.
  • Check that the moving company’s policy includes coverage for damage done to the homeowner’s premises—both the house they are leaving and the one being moved into.
  • Know what the time limits are for filing claims with the mover and decide whether they are reasonable—take time to unpack and check for potential damage.

Moving Yourself
If you choose to move yourself, you won’t have the benefits of a moving company’s coverage if belongings are damaged or broken. To be protected:

  • Consult with an insurance professional and review the trip transit, special perils, and floater options.
  • Buy the optional collision damage waiver coverage from the rental company if renting a truck.  Collision and comprehensive coverage likely will not transfer to a non-owned moving van, only to a private passenger vehicle.


New Home, New Insurance

If moving to a new state, or even from a city to a suburban area, a new home insurance policy will be needed.  That’s because a new home is a different property with different risks, which means different coverages may be required. The cost of the policy also may vary. For example, a larger home in a coastal area will likely be more expensive than a small apartment in an inland city. 

When buying a new home, consider insurance costs.  Rates are based on many factors, including square footage, geographical area (is the home in a flood, earthquake or hurricane-prone area of the country?); the age and construction of a home (is it brick or wood shingle?); roof condition; proximity to a fire station; and credit history.  Notify the insurer about a new address and make sure to inquire about possible savings on home and auto premiums for features like a shorter commute, a gated community, or lower-crime area than previously, alarms, or other security systems. 

The same holds true for car insurance. That’s because a new state may have different requirements or factors that result in a different policy cost. Even if moving within the same state, insurance carriers should be notified to ensure policies are up to date.

In-State vs. Out-of-State

An out-of-state move can have big implications, because not all insurance agents or companies are licensed to write policies in every state. Insurance requirements may also vary across state lines Call your agent to see if the current company can write policies in the state they are moving to. If not, consider it an opportunity to shop and compare new policies.

When to Make the Switch

In most cases, the new owner will need to have proof of insurance at closing when buying the new home. An insurance agent should be notified well in advance of closing and providing a timeline for the move so coverage is in place at the appropriate time.  Depending on the insurer, coverage on the former home will generally remain in effect until the sale of the property is complete, as long as premiums are paid, which should be confirmed with the insurance agent.

Vacant Homes

If the homeowner relocates before the existing home is sold and it remains vacant or unoccupied, there may not be coverage under the existing homeowners policy. Insurers typically discontinue coverage on a home if it has been unoccupied for more than 30 days, so prospective homeowners should explore other options with their insurer.

Mangroves and Reefs: Insurance Can Help Protect Our Protectors

Hurricanes and storm-related flooding are responsible for the bulk of damage from disasters in the United States, accounting for annual economic losses of about $54 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).  

These losses have been on the rise, due, in large part, to increased coastal development. More, bigger homes, more valuables inside them, more cars and infrastructure – these all can contribute to bigger losses. The CBO estimates that a combination of private insurance for wind damage, federal flood insurance, and federal disaster assistance would cover about 50 percent of losses to the residential sector and 40 percent of  commercial sector losses. 

Recent research illustrates the benefits provided by mangroves, barrier islands, and coral reefs – natural features that frequently fall victim to development – in terms of limiting storm damage. In many places, mangroves are the first line of defense, their aerial roots helping to reduce erosion and dissipate storm surge. A healthy coral reef can reduce up to 97 percent of a wave’s energy before it hits the shore. Reefs — especially those that have been weakened by pollution, disease, overfishing, and ocean acidification — can be damaged by severe storms, reducing the protection they offer for coastal communities. 

In Florida, a recent study found, mangroves alone prevented $1.5 billion in direct flood damages and protected over half a million people during Hurricane Irma in 2017, reducing damages by nearly 25% in counties with mangroves. Another study found that mangroves actively prevent more than $65 billion in property damage and protect over 15 million people every year worldwide.  

A separate study quantified the global flood-prevention benefits of coral reefs at $4.3 billion.  

Such estimates invite debate, but even if these endangered systems provided a fraction of the loss prevention estimated, wouldn’t you think coastal communities and the insurance industry would be investing in protecting them? 

Well, they’re beginning to.  

The Mexican state of Quintana Roo has partnered with hotel owners, the Nature Conservancy, and the National Parks Commission to pilot a conservation strategy that involves coral reef insurance. The insurance component – a one-year parametric policy – pays out if wind speeds in excess of 100 knots hit a predefined area. Unlike traditional insurance, which pays for damage if it occurs, parametric insurance pays claims when specific conditions are met – regardless of whether damage is incurred. Without the need for claims adjustment, policyholders quickly get their benefit and can begin their recovery. In the case of the coral reef coverage, the swift payout will allow for quick damage assessments, debris removal, and initial repairs to be carried out.  

Similar approaches could be applied to protecting mangroves, commercial fish stocks that can be harmed by overfishing or habitat loss, or other intrinsically valuable assets that are hard to insure with traditional approaches.  

Don’t Get Burned by Mishandled Fireworks

As towns cancel fireworks celebrations because of the coronavirus pandemic, many more backyard and neighborhood fireworks displays will likely take place on July Fourth.

In New York City, more than 12,500 calls were made to 911 for illegal fireworks in June alone – roughly  12 times the number of comparable calls received  in the first six months of 2019.

Though fireworks are legal in some form in most states, they can be very dangerous when not handled by professionals. According to the National Fire Protection Association, fireworks caused 19,500 fires in 2018. A recent wildfire in Utah that prompted the evacuation of 100 homes was attributed to fireworks.

And nearly 4,900 Americans go to the emergency room with fireworks-related injuries during the first eight days of July, according to the Pew Research Center.  

The video above explains the insurance coverage available for fireworks-related damage or injury. For example, if a neighbor’s fireworks damage your home, their homeowners policy should cover you. But if you are setting off illegal fireworks, remember: homeowners insurance  doesn’t usually cover accidents caused by illegal actions.

For Fourth of July  safety tips, click here.

Have a safe and enjoyable holiday!

National Insurance Awareness Day

June 28 is National Insurance Awareness Day, which means it’s a good day to evaluate your insurance coverage and assess your risk.

Triple-I has put together a video to help remind you to review your policies and consider any life changes that might necessitate updating your coverage.

This is also a good time to consider your catastrophe risk. Hurricane season started on June 1st – do you know the storm risk in your area? Do you need supplemental flood or wind insurance? Remember: anywhere that it can rain, it can flood.