As Hurricane Irma bears down on the Atlantic coast on the heels of Harvey's Gulf devastation, Americans are starting to get more serious about avoiding financial disasters brought on by hurricanes. Opes Private Wealth Management CEO and certified financial planner Marc Lowlicht offers some top tips:
"Homeowners and renters (who have renters' insurance for contents) should compile a detailed inventory of their home and if possible take pictures or video of contents. Also include the value of each item."
"Many insurance companies offer smartphone apps to help with this process. Creating such an inventory helps settle claims quicker, as well as provides a reference for potential disputes about claims and values. In addition, you can use this inventory after the storm passes to provide the adjustor a detailed accounting of what has been damaged."
"Important documents such as legal papers, wills, birth certificates, passports, insurance policy information etc., should be stored in a secure place -- if not at a bank, then in a safe deposit box, then in a waterproof container in the interior of the home. Once the storm passes contact your insurance company as quickly as possible, as you will be in the que along with a large number of claims."
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"Keep in mind it is your responsibility once the storm is over to do your part to mitigate any addition damage to the property. This should be done as temporary measure until the adjustor can assess the damage and approve permanent repairs. Do not make permanent repairs without authorization from your insurance company."
"Keep receipts for temporary repairs so you can get reimbursed. In addition, if you are evacuated and or can't return to your home, your insurance company should provide you reimbursement for additional living expense or loss of use (check your policy as this differs from policy to policy). This may include, depending on your policy, hotels, meals, transportation, pet kenneling etc. In addition, some policies may cover spoiled food and wine due to extended loss of power."
"It is important for homeowner to be aware that the deductible for hurricane damage is usually much higher than the policy's standard deduction. This higher deductible can be as high as 5% of the home's value; some policies have a deductible cap of $25,000 to $50,000. In addition, damages caused by flood, surface water or ground water is primarily covered under flood insurance not a homeowners policy. Therefore, if the homeowner lacks such coverage damage related to this will not be covered leaving the homeowner to foot the bill for said damage. The exception to this is a broken water pipe in the home which would fall under the homeowners policy."