Sinkholes

            If you’ve picked up a Florida newspaper this week you’ve probably been slapped in the face with a huge Floridian fear: sinkholes. Sinkholes seem like one of those things that you see in “end of the world” movies where the earth is just swallowing itself and everyone but the main character is stupidly standing still and screaming as they too, fall into the ground. Most of us that have experienced a real sinkhole know that it’s not quite that dramatic, but it can be traumatizing nonetheless, and if you own property in Florida your insurance premiums are probably about to sky-rocket.

            Here’s the problem: with so many false reports alongside the actual reports of sinkhole damage to properties, insurance companies have to dole out loads of cash not only to fix the situation, but even just to pay people to go out and LOOK for damage in the first place. Most sinkholes show signs in settling before there’s ever a huge collapse, but a lot of people are freaking out at the smallest crack in their driveway. It takes your insurance company around a thousand dollars to send someone to survey your property. Then, if there actually is sinkhole damage, the estimates to fix it can range anywhere from a couple of hundred to “make-you-sick-to-your-stomach” kind of cash. So where Florida hurricanes took up the number one chunk of your protection, sinkholes are swallowing that up too.

            The Florida 10% rate hike cap is gone. In the Tampa area alone, premiums are probably about to jump by 2000% – no exaggeration. So if you were paying around $150 for your premium you’ll now be looking at closer to $4000. Ouch. So just like any other insurance plan you have, make sure you talk to your agent so that you’re getting the coverage you need without paying for coverage you don’t. Ever penny is about to count and with a tight economy your agent may become your biggest ally. Educate yourself. Don’t be scared to ask questions, don’t be the person standing still and screaming while the hero is running to safer ground and better insurance. 

What’s Up With Chinese Drywall?!

Who might have Chinese Drywall?

            -Chinese drywall is most prevalent in homes built between 2002 and 2006 in Washington, California, Oregon, Louisiana, Virginia, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.

How can I know if I have it?

            -Have you been smelling rotten eggs? Are your wires and pipes corroding? Look for tarnished metals. Also, if you display asthma-like symptoms or migraines, bloody noses, eye irritation, sore throat, nausea, insomnia, or irritability that wasn’t common before you moved into your residence. All of this can be caused by the high levels of Hydrogen Sulfide contained in the drywall.

 

Does my homeowner’s insurance cover it?

            – When Chinese drywall first started becoming an issue in 2009 most insurance policies wrote in exclusions denying claims.

What happens if I find out I have Chinese Drywall?

            -Most families have to move out of their home during litigations or while the builder repairs the defective drywall. The first Chinese drywall case was Armin and Lisa Seifart vs. Banner Supply Company in Florida. This case has basically become a blueprint for all others, citing that the builder is held responsible for negligence.

For a self-assessment guide visit the Florida Department of Health online.

Also, Fox 13 did a story on how Chinese drywall is affecting Tampa homeowners.


What YOU Need To Know About Workers Compensation

            Starting a new business is a scary feat of its own. There are taxes, licenses, deposits, loans, and so many other legal matters to worry about. When you add employees to the mix, workers compensation insurance can be really intimidating if you don’t know where to start. Your insurance agent can really be your greatest ally in bringing down your rates and even getting you money back through various dividend plans! (Yes, it’s possible) Before entering the office, there are some things you should know:

-Florida workers compensation insurance is required if you have four or more employees and are in a non-construction business. If you’re in the construction realm you MUST have it even if you only have one employee. So if it’s just you and your spouse making crafts and selling them on ETSY there’s no need to purchase it. If your aunt, uncle, mom, and dad are also on your payroll for crocheting, gluing, and painting you MUST HAVE it!

-There are different classes of businesses and with each class comes a different rate and premium set by the state of Florida and the National Council on Compensation Insurers, Inc. If you employ a NASCAR pit crew your rates will be higher than a mail-sorting temp agency. (Even though we all know paper cuts can be brutal!)

-There are different routes of payment. If you have a good idea of how much your business will make you can put down a deposit and then set-up a monthly payment. In some policies you can put down only $200 and pay monthly according to your exact payroll.

– Multi-policy discounts are made to help you not hurt you. However don’t go overboard; if you’re not running a jet-ski rental do you really need that commercial watercraft insurance?

-If you have a dividend plan you can get money back at the end of the year if there are minimal claims. MAKE SURE YOU REQUEST IT! Your insurance agent has to negotiate this with your carrier.

            Above all else just make sure that you feel comfortable with your coverage. There’s already enough for you to worry about on a day-to-day basis and insurance is there to lessen that load. Paying for a plan that makes sense for you and your business will be well worth it when the time comes for you to use it.  

Welcome To The Sunsh… Hurricane State

Andrew. Donna. Opal. Erin. Kate.

As many soon-to-be mothers look through baby name books, many Florida mothers avoid names of hurricanes they’ve seen or learned about that have hit home

Hurricane season is no joke, but much more of a reality to Southern coastal states such as Florida, Georgia, Texas, Louisiana, Virginia, Mississippi, and the Carolinas. It’s six months of holding our breath and five categories of what may come. Radio, television, and now internet advisories of warnings and watches have become something that we, as Floridians, are accustomed to. We don’t have a Florida Hurricane Timeline for nothing, we’ve been through it, we’ve seen what they can do, and we’ve learned how to better prepare ourselves. 

But for the thousands of people who relocate to Florida every year hurricane season can be a little unnerving. So here are some tips for all you Florida newbies that the natives can appreciate. 

-It will rain almost everyday in the summer – and it will go away. Learn to pack an umbrella.

-A watch means lookout for it, it could be on its’ way. A warning means you better hunker down and listen to whatever the person on the radio/tv/internet is telling you to do.

-Thunder and lightning does NOT mean a hurricane is imminent. Don’t you have storms back home?

-It’s not an all or nothing situation, there is middle ground here. You won’t necessarily just get the best or worst of a hurricane’s potential so be prepared for the unexpected.

-If you see Floridians on the beach enjoying the big waves don’t freak out. It’s pretty normal and they usually know when to go home. However, don’t go to the beach if you’ve never been through this kind of weather before. The calm before the storm can give a bit of false security to the unknowing.

-Board up your house to be prepared, however leaving the boards on for all six months will usually make your neighbors think you’ve vacated the premises and gone back home.

-If a hurricane has been named chances are that your insurance company has closed their books until after the storm, so make sure you have the coverage you want before an emergency arrives.

-Cut your trees back! Unless you want to be raking and picking up limbs for the following month.

-Dorothy you’re not in Kansas anymore. Tornadoes come on strong and quickly, hurricanes usually have ample warning. Get out of town! Have a plan of where to go if there’s a hurricane headed your way.

-If you do decide to stay home, I know it’s a new experience and everything looks crazy outside and you just want to see what’s going on around you, but stay away from windows and glass doors. 

More or less just know to expect the unexpected. A lot of Florida natives tend to procrastinate whereas newbies are under prepared because they really don’t know what they’re getting into. Do your research, have a plan.

For an in depth preparedness plan and more information go check out The National Hurricane Center and see what we can offer you as a Florida resident.