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The Basics of Buying Cheap Hurricane Insurance in Florida

One of the most important things homeowners in hurricane prone areas can do is get good insurance that will cover damage done to homes and property in the unlucky event a storm strikes. Recent years of particularly bad storms and rising real estate costs have caused many insurers to pull out entirely or drastically raise their rates, making insurance a more complicated endeavor than ever before. So how can you get the coverage you need at a rate you can afford? These are few things to consider.

Basic Policies

Most basic homeowner policies will have at least some hurricane coverage included, though you’ll need to check into exactly what that covers. Many times it only covers damage done by the wind from the storms, not the rain or flooding that come with them. In cases like these, you’ll not only need a basic policy but flood insurance as well to provide comprehensive coverage to your home and property. Policies covering any kind of hurricane damage probably won’t be cheap anywhere in Florida, as it’s the state that’s hit the hardest by hurricanes.

First, you’ll want to decide whether or not you’re willing have a higher deductible in exchange for lower premiums. With some insurers, you may not have a choice, as high deductibles may be all they offer, sometimes up to 10% of the value of your home. New Florida laws, however, require insurance companies to spell out how much a hurricane deductible could potentially cost a policyholder and require disclosure of all available discounts. This takes the mystery out of what you’ll end up paying as well as give you a break on premiums. Be advised, however, that revisions to this only allow one discount per season, so choose yours carefully.

When buying any policy, no matter how much it costs, find out exactly what it covers before hurricane season arrives. Insurance policies have changed in the past few years to start shifting the costs of hurricane damage onto the consumer rather than on the insurer. Many policies will have limits on the cost they will cover for replacement. In the event that your home is completely destroyed and you have to rebuild from the ground up, this can be a big issue and will leave you without the financial means to buy construction materials. New laws have mandated that insurers must offer to pay at least 50% of the cost for a home required to be rebuilt and updated to more expensive building codes.

Flood Insurance

Because most polices won’t cover your home in the event of hurricane flooding or storm surges, you’ll want to pick up some extra flood insurance. Look into the National Flood Insurance Program, a government program which is sold through private insurers. Be advised, however, that these policies are limited to $250,000 and any additional coverage that you want will have to be purchased separately. Those living in extremely high risk areas may have difficulty getting coverage from any insurer, at least not at a practical cost.

You’ll also need to check with your policy to see what kinds of water damage are covered by your flood insurance. Policies can get pretty specific and if you’re not careful, you could wind up paying for things you thought you were covered. Most policies cover the costs of replacing the structure of your home and the possessions you have inside, but won’t cover the cost of alternate lodgings during the time your home is being repaired. You should also consider whether or not your policy covers water damage that causes mold, which can be an extremely costly problem to repair. This is often an additional provision for coverage, and one that you might want to consider, especially with the humidity of Florida.

Florida-Specific Provisions

Many new laws have been passed in regard to hurricane insurance after the drastic increases that followed the 2005 season in Florida. New Florida insurance code prohibits insurance companies from not renewing homeowners’ policies until 90 days after a hurricane-damaged home is completely repaired. This will keep you insured at least until your home has been brought to livable standards, making it easier for you to find replacement insurance. Insurance agents are also mandated to present policyholders with a list that details what each policy covers and what it doesn’t so you won’t be left guessing when the time comes. Florida policyholders will also benefit from laws requiring insurers to pay the cost of repairs up front.

For those who have trouble getting private insurance, Florida has a state-run insurer. This insurer, Citizens Property Insurance Co., can be the last resort for those who can’t get or afford other coverage. Even last resort insurance can be better than none at all if a hurricane destroys your home and belongings.

For those living in Florida, the state most often ravaged by hurricanes, finding reasonably priced and comprehensive coverage can be an uphill battle. But if you take the time to learn your rights, determine your risks, and carefully consider your options, a great policy that won’t bankrupt you is within your reach.