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Matthews & Associates
2905 Sackett Street
Houston, Texas  77098

Five things all homeowners should know

Insurance companies that provide hurricane coverage often deny a policy holder's valid insurance claims for damage. Or they may try to pay as little as possible. You must make your insurance company treat you fairly. Here are five things all homeowners should know.

1. You are entitled to complete replacement of damaged property if your policy includes replacement cost. Some insurance companies may address your hurricane damage in a piecemeal fashion that is insufficient. They may try to put your property back in the condition it was before the hurricane, but that may not be enough for a complete fix. Some companies may try to replace only a few damaged singles or replace just one side of your roof. Roof patching as opposed to total replacement often leads to later leaks. Consequently, a homeowner is often entitled to complete replacement of damaged property, which may include an entirely new roof. Insurance companies may not tell you that they must pay the cost of replacing an item, and not just cover the actual cash value of the property damages.

2. The narrow definition of flood damage puts the burden of proof squarely on the insurance company. A home or business owner’s insurance often excludes flood damage; consequently, insurance companies often claim any type of water damage is a result of flooding. But if the insurance company cannot prove that the water damage meets the specific, narrow definition of flood damage, the company must pay the claim. Property is often damaged by both wind and flood, but the burden of proof is on the hurricane insurance company to prove that the property was damaged by flood and not damaged by wind. Proving a property was damaged by water but not wind is frequently impossible. Furthermore, the law states that if property is damaged by both something which is covered (like wind), and something which is not covered (like flood), then that loss is covered.

3. An insurance company must pay living expenses. If a hurricane makes your home uninhabitable, your insurance company must pay for your residence in a place of like, kind and quality of your own home.

4. Your recovery may exceed the amount for which you have insured your property. Some insurance companies offer inflation guard coverage that covers losses to a home whose value has increased since the policy's purchase. So if you insured your home for $400,000 and included an inflation guard provision, and, say, your home was worth $500,000 when it was hurricaned, your policy would cover most, if not all, of the increase in your home’s value.

5. Special circumstances and damages  may also be covered in your policy. Read the fine print yourself because your insurance carrier may neglect to inform you that your policy covers debris removal, damaged screened pool enclosure replacement and the costs of bringing a building up to code. These costs are in addition to simply returning a house to pre-hurricane condition.