Don’t assume you have it covered
The brush fire in Devonshire Marsh was unusual and scary and made me question if my insurance was adequate for both my property and personal belongings. Do you have any advice?
Your home should indeed be insured! If you have a mortgage, your bank will require you to have insurance and require proof each year that you have renewed it. Insurance should cover 100 per cent of the replacement value of your home (the building); not the market value of the property, but the value of the bricks and mortar, or rebuild cost. This can be ascertained by way of an official appraisal by a certified appraiser, or can be done for no charge by the insurance company. This amount should be reviewed annually, to see if building rates have increased, but will only need appraising again if you increase the square footage of the home.
If you don’t have a mortgage, it is not mandatory to have insurance, but it is prudent. The question you should ask yourself is how would you afford to replace it if something happened (ie, as in this case, a fire or other catastrophe). If you own a condominium, insurance is usually covered by the maintenance fees, however, some small condominium complexes are self-insured. You should still carry contents insurance for your belongings.
Building insurance typically covers damage to buildings by a wide range of causes including fire, lightning, storm, hurricane, flood, earth, leakage of water or oil, riot, malicious persons, theft, falling trees and impact by vehicles. Some may cover loss of rent or the cost of renting alternative accommodation if the house is damaged to the point of unlivable. However, no insurance company can cover everything and each policy can vary, so read the fine print and ask your insurance representative to explain anything you don’t understand. For example, it is rare that docks, piers and jetties would be covered under normal house insurance, although an extended policy may allow for some coverage.
If your house is damaged follow these guidelines:
1. Take pictures, and secure the property as quickly as possible with a tarpaulin or other protective item to prevent any further damage.
2. Call the insurance company. They usually try and get a representative out to review the property within 48 hours if possible. Meanwhile, obtain estimates for repairs and submit. Two estimates is the norm, but it may not be necessary to obtain more than one if they deem it fair and reasonable.
3. Hurricane or earthquake damage usually has a deductible. Depending on the quality or amount of coverage the minimum deductible is likely to be about $2,500.
4. The homeowner usually pays the deductible to the insurance company, whereupon the insurance company will handle the repairs. Only if the insurance company gives permission, can they pay the deductible to the contractor once work has been completed and the contractor can bill the difference to the insurance company. Insurance usually covers things that are an integral part of the house, such as shutters, windows, kitchen cabinets and lighting.
It is worth bearing in mind that all personal belongings can be added as a separate section into your home insurance policy, this covers things like clothing, jewellery, and electronic equipment. The rate is slightly different for contents. Most insurance companies do not require a detailed inventory, however, I would recommend that you take count of all personal belongings that have any monetary value; it certainly never hurts. It is also a good idea to take pictures of your valuables — some insurance companies even have a prepared form to assist you with this.
One more word of advice, keep all your important documents in one place — passports, overseas driving licences, birth, marriage, divorce and death certificates, insurance policies, receipts, wills, powers of attorney and other legal documents.
That way, if you do have to leave your home in a hurry you can grab this “file” and save yourself a lot of time and trouble having to replace or recreate them afterwards.
• Heather Chilvers is among Coldwell Banker Bermuda Realty’s leading sales representatives. She has been working in real estate for nearly 30 years. If you have a question for Heather, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 332-1793. All questions will be treated in confidence. Read this article on Facebook: Ask Heather Real Estate
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