Americans Put Too Much Faith in Homeowners Insurance

Insurance Journal

Too few Americans take steps to prepare for disasters and too many assume their home insurance policies will bail them out if one strikes.

As disaster season peaks, a new national consumer survey commissioned by Trusted Choice and the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (the Big “I”), reveals that many homeowners lack adequate insurance coverage, do not fully understand their homeowners policies and do not have enough savings to support their households in the event of a disaster.

At least 73 percent of respondents don’t have a flood insurance policy that is separate from their homeowners coverage and more than 40 percent of those surveyed don’t have or don’t know if they have coverage that will fully replace their belongings and home in the event of a disaster.

At least 28 percent of homeowners polled do not have enough savings to support their households for even one month after a disaster if they had to leave their home. Only one-third said they could support their household for more than three months in this circumstance.

Also, according to the August 2016 survey, less than one-third of respondents have an up-to-date and complete home inventory stored away from their premises.

“Most people think that a basic homeowners policy will cover them in the event of a disaster, however these new findings highlight that a startling number of homeowners have not taken some of the most basic steps to adequately prepare for a disaster such as a hurricane, flood or fire,” says Robert Rusbuldt, Trusted Choice president and Big “I” president & CEO. “This is disturbing as hurricane and wildfire seasons are about to peak, affecting many parts of the country.”

With almost three-quarters of respondents lacking proper flood insurance coverage, they are completely vulnerable and have no protection from damage caused by rising water or flooding including common problems such as seepage of underground water into a home, leaky roofs and toppled trees from saturated soil. According to FEMA, floods are the leading disaster in the United States, and people outside high-risk flood areas file more than one-fifth of all National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) flood insurance claims.

“It is very troubling—with flooding being so pervasive and hurricane season in full swing—that this large majority of homeowners is risking everything,” says Madelyn Flannagan, Big “I” vice president of agent development, research and education. “A little planning and knowledge can go a long way.”

The survey also showed a lack of basic understanding regarding standard homeowners insurance coverage. More than one-fifth of survey respondents didn’t know whether they have replacement cost coverage for their belongings and home (which allows them to replace lost possessions with new items) or if they have actual cash value coverage (which takes depreciation of the structure and personal items into consideration). In most standard homeowners policies actual cash value is the default coverage.

“The risk of financial ruin in the event of a major disaster is significantly higher for those homeowners who have only actual cash value coverage because they cannot fully recoup their losses,” continues Flannagan.

The survey shows that only 58 percent have replacement cost coverage.

More than half of those surveyed (56 percent) have just enough savings to support their households for three months or less if they had to temporarily move away as a result of a disaster to their property. Twenty-eight percent said they couldn’t sustain for even a month.

For off-premises living expenses in these cases, a standard homeowners policy provides only limited protection (usually 10 percent of the coverage on your home) and a flood policy provides no coverage for these expenses.

The survey was conducted for Trusted Choice and the Big “I” by MFour Mobile Research Inc. using MFour’s Surveys on the Go Smartphone Application Panel which includes Apple and Android mobile device users. MFour is an independent research company headquartered in Irvine, California. Interviews of a nationally representative sample of 1,000 U.S. homeowners were conducted in August 2016 and weighted by age and gender to represent the general U.S. population over age 18.

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