3 questions to ask your home insurance company to get proper coverage

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A home is the biggest asset most Americans have, according to Mike Gulla, director of underwriting at Hippo. He told Business Insider that unlike renters insurance, which is basically liability coverage for your personal belongings, homeowners own their home and have an interest in making sure it is well maintained. 

If the mailman slips and falls on your sidewalk, the dog bites a guest, a tree falls on your roof, or the neighbor’s kid injures himself doing a cannonball in your swimming pool, homeowners insurance can protect you. However, if your provider isn’t responsive to your claims request, that can cost you.

The latest study from J.D. Power, a consumer research company that conducts consumer surveys, shows that an insurance company’s customer service and reputation are driving factors for customers when they’re selecting a homeowners insurance carrier. Now that we’re spending more time in our homes due to the coronavirus pandemic, it makes sense that having a reputable company that responds to claims is important. 

Gulla noted that the J.D. Power study showed a consumer trend change — customers want a partnership with providers, not to be simply viewed as a “policyholder.” Homeowners insurance is something you pay for hoping that you never need it, he continued. However, when you do need it, you expect something for all those premiums paid. He said the industry is seeing a paradigm shift towards amazing customer service and value-added service in order to maintain customer loyalty.

Before the pandemic, people would be home 30% to 40% of time. Now, people are at home constantly. Families are working from home, learning from home, exercising at home, and cooking at home more than usual. This affects upkeep and impacts the wear and tear on appliances like air conditioning units, toilets, washers, dryers, and sump pumps, Gulla said. There’s an increase in accidental mishaps. As a result, homeowners need to pay attention to their policies for coverage concerns. 

1. What exactly is covered under my policy?

Gulla said that most homeowner policies aren’t updated and are underinsured. He suggests looking at your policy and contacting your provider to see if things are covered like: equipment breakdowns, service lines, water backup, and electrical outages.

2. How are you helping me now?

Homeowners should ask themselves, “What is my carrier doing to help me out?” Whether there’s a pandemic or not, has your insurance provider reached out regarding tips or discounts to maintain your home during the pandemic?

For instance, due to the limitation on in-person contact, Hippo offers virtual inspections to walk through minor repairs. Some companies are using digital networking programs to help homeowners protect assets.

3. Are there any riders I should have right now?

At the beginning of the pandemic, college students had to evacuate dorms. Gulla said that some homeowners insurance offer a “student living away at school” rider, where you list your student’s dorm on the policy.

Homeowners with college students should call the insurance company and make sure their child’s dorm is covered or if the rider is available. Even though some colleges have reopened campus, some still sent students home because of an outbreak of COVID-19 on campus. Gulla noted that there is a limitation in all homeowners insurance policies around infectious disease, so exclusions could apply. It is best to talk to your agent. 

Gulla said that for homeowners in disaster prone areas, customer service is key because of catastrophe risks from storms. He said that COVID-19 has impacted evacuations and the government response, which can have an effect on the cost of building materials and other outside factors impacting homeowners in these areas.

If a homeowner is in a risk area  —  hurricanes, wildfires, mudslide, tornadoes, hail, and earthquakes  — you need to make sure you have good coverage and an up-to-date policy. Homeowners in risk areas need to understand risk characteristics. Is your insurance provider communicating with you about how to evacuate and file claims when a disaster is coming? Is your provider transparent about your coverage? 

The goal is to protect your family and house before evacuation. The homeowner needs an evacuation plan. You need to know in advance: If you have to evacuate, will your insurance company cover additional living expenses that need to be covered due to evacuation? Is your insurance company proactively reaching out to assist you?

Homeowners should review their policy coverage yearly, not just during a pandemic. If your homeowners insurance company hasn’t provided the level of service you expected, maybe it is time for you to select a new provider.

However, remember a cheap price doesn’t mean good customer service. The average cost for homeowners insurance will vary based on the state you live in and whether you are urban or rural. Focus on customer satisfaction rankings, like those from J.D. Power, and comparison shop. This is especially important for those living in disaster-prone areas.

The top 10 insurance companies by customer satisfaction, as ranked by a J.D. Power study based on responses from homeowners via online interviews conducted in June and July 2020, are as follows:

  1. Country Financial
  2. Amica Mutual
  3. Auto-Owners Insurance
  4. Erie Insurance
  5. The Hartford
  6. Allstate
  7. State Farm
  8. CSAA Insurance
  9. MetLife
  10. Segment Average

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