Frequently Asked Questions about Disaster Recovery
Q. I lost my insurance policy and I don't know who my agent is. Can I get a copy of my policy? How can I find out who my insurance company is?
A. You may want to contact your lienholder to see to whom you make your insurance premium payments, or you may be able to obtain your payee/payment records from your bank. If you paid your premium with a credit card, your credit card company may have a record of the payment and payee. When you have identified your insurance company, you should contact them for a copy of your policy.
Q. What do I do if I don't have any insurance on my property?
A. If your property is uninsured, you will not receive any claim payments from an insurance company. If a disaster has been declared, contact the Texas Division of Emergency Management by phone at 512-424-2138 or online at www.txdps.state.tx.us/dem/index.htm. You may contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). FEMA is available seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. at 1-800-621-3362, online at www.fema.gov, or on the new FEMA mobile website at m.fema.gov. You may need to rely upon your own resources and help from your community. The American Red Cross (1-800-733-2767 or www.redcross.org) may be able to assist you in your recovery.
Q: Our house was destroyed, should we continue to pay our insurance premiums?
A: Check with your lender before you stop paying premiums. Most homeowner policies have liability coverage that will pay if someone working on your property is injured, and you are sued and found legally responsible. Homeowner policies also cover personal property when it is away from your home. If you removed your personal property before the fire, it may still be covered. If you move to a rental property, you may wish to consider renters insurance. Discuss your insurance needs with your agent.
Q. How does replacement cost coverage work?
A. Replacement cost coverage replaces or repairs your damaged property with new material or items of like kind and quality.
Q. Is replacement cost coverage available on all policy types?
A. Replacement cost coverage is not available under a typical auto policy. Some insurers provide new car replacement for a limited number of years if the auto is insured when new. You should check with your agent or company to see if they offer replacement cost coverage on all policy types.
Q. I've received a check from the insurance company, but I'm not satisfied with the amount. I plan to file a complaint to request additional payment. Should I cash the check? If I cash the check, does it mean that I accept their decision and amount of payment?
A. Be careful about signing a check before discussing your concerns with the company. Call the adjuster or company first before cashing the check. Read both sides of the check carefully, as well as any accompanying documents. Some companies' checks include a disclaimer printed on the back. The disclaimer often states that your endorsement of the check releases the insurance company from further liability. In some cases, particularly with regard to damaged real property, the check may be a partial payment to initiate repairs. Additional funds may be released when you submit proof that repairs have been completed. Please be sure that you understand what the check represents and how cashing it will affect you prior to taking any action regarding the check. If you need further explanation or information, you may wish to contact your agent or insurance company.
Q. If insured property (auto, home, or mobile home) is financed, how are claim checks issued? Do checks from insurance companies have to be endorsed by me and the lienholder? If checks are issued to both me and the lienholder, how do I collect?
A. The lienholder endorsement to the policy typically requires the insurance company to pay you and the lienholder as their interests appear. In most cases, insurance claim payments for damage to property that is security for a loan will be made payable to you and the lienholder, and the checks would require endorsements from both parties. You and the lienholder would then agree on conditions for the release of funds.
Q. What is my recourse if the check made payable jointly to the lienholder and me is sent directly to the lienholder and cashed without my knowledge or endorsement on the check?
A. Disputes regarding the release of funds by the lienholder represent legal questions that the Texas Department of Insurance cannot answer. You must determine whether or not you think further discussion with the insurance company or your lienholder would be productive. If not, you might want to consider obtaining legal advice. You may also contact the Texas Department of Banking at 1-877-276-5554 or visit its website at www.dob.texas.gov/.
Q. Do I have to hire a public insurance adjuster to file and help in the settlement of my insurance claim?
A. No. Hiring a public insurance adjuster to assist you in filing a property insurance claim is optional. Public insurance adjusters charge fees to help negotiate claim settlements with insurance companies. Be aware that the public insurance adjuster fee is normally a percentage of the claim settlement and therefore is paid out of settlement money you receive from an insurance company.
Q. Are there any limitations on the compensation of a public insurance adjuster?
A. Yes, the following limitations apply:
- If certain claims are settled within 72 hours of the date on which the loss is reported to the insurance company, the public insurance adjuster is entitled only to reasonable compensation for time and expenses and cannot receive a commission consisting of a percentage of the total amount paid by the insurer.
- The public insurance adjuster's fee may not exceed 10 percent of a claim settlement (this includes any amount that was settled before you hired the adjuster). A clear statement of the public insurance adjuster's commission must be disclosed in the public insurance adjuster's written contract. You might want to review the contract language and request a change to limit the recovery to the percentage of the amount the public adjuster recovered.
Q. May a public insurance adjuster be involved in the repair of damaged property for which the public adjuster negotiated settlement?
A. No. The public insurance adjuster may not participate, either directly or indirectly, in the reconstruction, repair, or restoration of damaged property that is the subject of a claim adjusted by the public insurance adjuster.
Q. Must public insurance adjusters be licensed by the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI)?
A. Yes, a person may not act as a public insurance adjuster in this state or hold himself or herself out to be a public insurance adjuster in this state unless the person holds a license or certificate issued by the commissioner. You may verify the license status of a public insurance adjuster on the TDI website at www.tdi.texas.gov.
Q. My car was washed away in the flood. How do I find out where it is now?
A. Contact the Unclaimed Autos department of the area police department. Also, your vehicle may have been towed to a storage facility without your consent. If the vehicle was towed without your consent, and the storage facility wants to charge you a fee, you might contact the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV) at 888-368-4689 (general information line).
Q. Is my vehicle covered for fire or flood damage?
A. Fire or flood damage to your vehicle may be covered if you carry other than collision coverage, also called comprehensive coverage, on your policy. This information can be found on your policy's declarations page. If you do not have a copy of your policy, you may wish to check with your agent or company.
Q. If my vehicle is damaged and my policy only provides liability coverage, is there any assistance available?
A. If your auto insurance policy provides liability coverage only, it will not pay for damage to your vehicle due to a flood or fire. If a disaster has been declared, contact the Texas Division of Emergency Management by phone at 512-424-2138 or online at www.txdps.state.tx.us/dem/index.htm . You may contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). FEMA is available seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. at 1-800-621-3362, online at www.fema.gov , or on the new FEMA mobile website at m.fema.gov. You may need to rely upon your own resources and help from your community. The American Red Cross (1-800-733-2767 or www.redcross.org) may be able to assist you in your recovery.
Q. My car was damaged. How does the insurance company determine if my car should be totaled?
A. Whether your car will be totaled is determined on a case-by-case basis like any other loss. Normally, when the cost of repair plus the salvage value equals or exceeds the actual cash value of the vehicle prior to the loss, it will be considered a total. A primary factor is the amount of water in your car. Generally, if water covered your dashboard or electrical components, the car will be totaled.
Q. My car was totaled due to storm damage and I have full coverage on it. The company is going to pay the Blue Book value but I still owe substantially more than that. Doesn't the company have to pay what I owe on the auto?
A. No. The company is only obligated to pay the current market value of your vehicle. You can request that the adjuster explain to you how the value was derived to ensure that all of the vehicle's equipment, features, upgrades and recent work was considered in determining the value. To cover the difference between the market value of your vehicle and what you actually owe, you would need an endorsement or separate policy, to provide guaranteed auto protection (GAP) coverage.
Q. Do I have to agree to have my vehicle totaled if I am "upside down" on the loan (will I owe the lienholder more than the actual cash value of the vehicle)?
A. The policy contract states how the loss will be paid. The insurance company decides whether or not to total a vehicle. A vehicle is typically totaled if it will cost more to repair the vehicle than the vehicle is worth. Insurance coverage for the difference between the actual cash value of a vehicle and the outstanding loan amount can be covered by a GAP endorsement or a separate GAP policy. Absent a GAP policy or another provision that includes replacement cost coverage, if the cost to repair exceeds the actual cash value (also known as a "total loss" or "totaled vehicle"), the company will pay the actual cash value of the vehicle. If the vehicle is subject to an outstanding lien, you are responsible for the balance.
Q. What if my vehicle is determined to be a total loss, but I want to keep it?
A. In the case of a total loss, if you wish to keep the vehicle, you and the insurance company may negotiate a settlement in which you may retain the salvaged vehicle. However, you would then be responsible for the cost of repairs and would be subject to the laws regarding owner-retained salvage. For questions regarding owner-retained salvage, please contact the DMV by phone at 888-368-4689 or online at www.txdmv.gov. Additionally, you may wish to contact the lienholder to find out whether retaining the salvaged vehicle would affect the lien.
Q. What if I don’t agree with the settlement offered by the insurance company, particularly as it concerns the market value determination for my totaled vehicle?
A. Ask the adjuster to explain how the settlement amount was derived. You may also provide examples of vehicles for sale in your area that are in the same pre-loss condition to support the market value. If you still disagree, you may request an appraisal of the loss. Many policies contain specific provisions that describe the responsibilities of both parties if an appraisal is necessary or desired.
Q. What will happen to the vehicle's title if my car is totaled? How is the title on a totaled insured vehicle processed?
A. If you own the vehicle outright, you may have to sign the title over to the insurance company. In exchange, the insurance company may give you a check for the market value of the vehicle, depending on the terms of your policy. If your vehicle is still subject to a loan, the insurance company may coordinate with you and your lender to have the title transferred to the insurance company. In that situation, the insurance company may establish contact with the lender to find out the amount still owed on the loan. Example: If the insurance company determines that the market value of the vehicle is $10,000 and the amount owed the lender is $8,000, the insurance company will issue a check for $8,000 to the lender to release the lien on the car. The insurance company will then issue a $2,000 check to you after you sign over the title. For specific information about how titles are processed, please contact the DMV by phone at 888-368-4689 or online at www.txdmv.gov/vehicles/titles.htm.
Q. I lost the title to my car. How can I get a replacement title?
A. Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) by phone at 888-368-4689 or online at www.txdmv.gov/vehicles/titles.htm to request a replacement for your lost title.
Q. If I evacuate due to a disaster and my personal property in my vehicle is stolen, will my personal property be covered by my personal automobile policy? Will it be covered by my homeowners insurance policy?
A. Generally, a personal automobile policy doesn’t cover personal property. Most homeowners insurance policies provide coverage for personal property in your vehicle. Please read your policy or contact your agent or insurance company for more information regarding coverage provided by your specific policy.
Q. The insurance company requested that I tow my flooded vehicle to a specific location for inspection. Am I responsible for the towing charges?
A. No. The insurance company should pay the towing expense by reimbursing you or paying the tow truck operator once the vehicle is delivered at the inspection site. You should not be responsible for the expense since you are assisting the insurance company in a prompt inspection of your vehicle, as well as protecting it from further damage.
Q. The insurance company agreed to repair my vehicle. Can the company require the use of used parts?
A. In some cases, used parts and after market parts may be permissible, depending on the age, condition, and mileage of the particular vehicle. Most Texas personal automobile policies require the insurance company to pay the lesser of the following: actual cash value of the property; the amount to repair or replace the property with other of like, kind, and quality; or the amount stated in the declarations page of the policy.
Q. Since my car was damaged, I had to rent a vehicle. Does my auto policy cover the cost of renting a car?
A. Your policy will provide coverage for renting another vehicle only if you have an endorsement on your policy for rental reimbursement coverage. Under this coverage, the insurance company will pay up to the limit shown on the endorsement for the reasonable amount of time it takes to repair or replace your vehicle.
Q. If an insured vehicle is financed, how are claim checks issued? If issued to both me and the lien holder, how do I collect?
A. The lien holder endorsement requires the insurance company to pay me and the lien holder as their interest may appear. The lien holder and I may both be named on the check. The lien holder and I will agree on the release of funds.
Q. What is my recourse if the check made payable jointly to the lien holder and me is sent directly to the lien holder and cashed without my knowledge or endorsement on the check?
A. That is a legal question that the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) cannot answer. However, your first step would be to contact the insurer and your lien holder. You can also contact the Texas Department of Banking at 1-877-276-5554 or visit its website at www.dob.texas.gov.
Q. Are there different types of policies that provide coverage for mobile homes?
A. Yes, mobile homes may be written on various types of policies, including a homeowners policy. The majority of mobile homes are currently written on a mobilowners policy. You should check with your agent or company to see what type of policy you have.
Q. Do checks from insurance companies have to be endorsed by both me and the mortgage company? Does the same procedure apply to mobile homes?
A. Insurance claims payments for damage to property that is security for a loan must be made payable to the policyholder and the mortgage company, so they would require endorsements from both parties.
Q. Wind caused my tree to fall on my mobile home and damaged my roof. Does my mobilowners policy cover the damages to my home and would the company pay to remove the tree from my property?
A. If your policy provides coverage for windstorm it will pay for the damage to your roof. The tree itself will not be covered. Most mobilowners policies provide a limited amount of debris removal coverage. Some companies may provide an option to increase coverage. You should contact your agent or company regarding debris removal coverage.
Q. Does my mobilowners policy provide additional living expense?
A. Most mobilowners policies provide some additional living expense reimbursement in the event the mobile home is damaged or destroyed from a peril or perils insured against by the policy and the mobile home is thereby rendered uninhabitable. Some companies may provide an option to increase this coverage. It is important that you contact your agent and/or company regarding your additional living expense coverage.
Q. My mobile home was flooded. Will my mobilowners policy pay for my damage?
A. Some mobilowners policies do provide coverage resulting from a flood. Other mobile home policies exclude flood coverage. It is important to check your policy and/or contact your agent regarding flood coverage for your mobile home.
Q. I lost the title to my mobile home. How can I get a replacement title?
A. Contact the Department of Housing and Community Affairs, Manufactured Housing Division, to request a Statement of Ownership and Location (SOL) to your mobile or manufactured home. Contact numbers and additional information are online at www.tdhca.state.tx.us/mh/faqs-sol.htm.
Q. Can I make repairs to my property immediately?
A. Generally, you should make temporary repairs if necessary to protect your property from further damage. Do not make permanent repairs until an adjuster has inspected the damage. Your policy covers the cost of necessary temporary repairs, so save your receipts for materials and labor. You may wish to take pictures of the damage before making temporary repairs.
Q. Who should I contact if I have damage to my home as a result of a windstorm and my windstorm insurance is provided through the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA)?
A. For questions on policy coverage or filing a claim on your TWIA policy, please contact your insurance agent or contact the TWIA at 1-800-788-8247 or on its website at www.twia.org. For questions regarding inspections of your property for certification to the Windstorm Building Code, please contact the TDI Windstorm Inspection unit at 1-800-248-6032 or refer to its website at www.tdi.texas.gov and click on "More Windstorm Info."
Q. What's the difference between the different types of homeowners policies?
A. Homeowners policies may either provide "all risk" or "named peril" coverage. All risk is used to describe policies that typically cover all perils unless specifically excluded in the policy. Named peril means the damage must be caused by a peril that is specifically named or listed in the policy. Homeowners policies typically provide coverage for your dwelling, personal property, other structures, loss of use (also called additional living expenses-ALE), personal liability, and medical payments.
Q. Does a homeowners insurance policy provide ALE coverage?
A. If you can't remain in your home because of loss from "a covered peril," your homeowners or renters policy will pay for staying in a hotel, motel or other temporary shelter. However, payments are limited based on your specific policy provisions. If the damage does force you to move, be sure to tell your insurer where you are and how to reach you by phone. Also, you should leave a note at your damaged residence telling the insurance adjuster how to find you.
Q. Does a homeowners insurance policy provide ALE coverage during a mandatory evacuation?
A. It depends on your particular policy. Some policies may provide coverage if a civil authority prohibits you from use of the residence premises as a result of direct damage to a neighboring premises caused by a covered peril. This coverage is generally limited for a period of up to two weeks. You should contact your agent or company regarding your specific policy.
Q. There is a power outage in my area and we have no utilities in our home. Will my policy pay for a hotel until power is restored?
A. Probably not. A homeowners policy generally provides ALE only if your home is damaged by a peril covered in your policy and, as a result of the covered damage, the residence is unfit to live in. Please read your policy or contact your agent or insurance company for more information regarding coverage provided by your specific policy.
Q. When does my ALE begin to cover my expenses?
A. Generally, for policies that include coverage ALE and loss of fair rents or fair rental value, coverage begins once a covered peril makes the residence premises wholly or partially unfit to live in. However, even if your policy does include ALE coverage, it may be some time before you are reimbursed for these expenses. You may wish to keep detailed records and receipts of all potentially reimbursable expenses. Please read your policy or contact your agent or insurance company for more information regarding coverage provided by your specific policy.
Q: Do I have to provide receipts to the insurance company to receive ALE? Does the insurance company have to advance me money for ALE?
A: Yes, you must submit receipts to the insurance company. The company is not required to advance you money, but many insurance companies will give you an advance prior to receiving receipts. Review the section of your policy that addresses ALE.
Q: If I received payment for a total loss but want to relocate and not rebuild my house, will I still receive ALE?
A: Yes, most homeowners policies say "if you permanently relocate, payment will be for the reasonable time required for your household to become settled." Please review your policy.
Q. Does my homeowners policy cover my detached garage or storage shed?
A. Coverage for other structures such as a detached garage or storage shed that are set apart from the dwelling by a clear space is generally the same as your insured dwelling. The total amount of coverage for other structures is usually 10 percent of the amount of insurance you have on your insured dwelling. Some policies may not provide coverage for other structures such as portable buildings or buildings that are used for business purposes. You should contact your agent or company regarding your specific policy.
Q. Will my homeowners insurance policy reimburse me for service charges assessed by the fire department for responding to the fire at my property?
A. Depending on the policy, you may have some coverage for fire department service charges. Please read your policy or contact your agent or insurance company for more information regarding coverage provided by your specific policy.
Q. My home was not flooded by rising water; however, the sewer line backed up and caused damage in my home. Is this covered under my homeowners policy?
A. It depends on your policy. Some policies exclude water or sewage from outside the residence premises plumbing system that enters through sewers or drains. Contact your insurance company or agent regarding coverage.
Q. The food in my refrigerator spoiled because of loss of power in my area. Will my homeowners policy pay for the loss?
A. Most homeowners policies will provide up to $500 for spoilage of refrigerated or frozen food caused by an off premises power failure, if the power failure is a direct result from a peril covered in your policy. If the power failure is a result of physical damage to the dwelling or any equipment contained in the dwelling and is caused by a peril covered in your policy coverage is not limited to $500. Other policies may not provide the $500 for a loss resulting from a power failure off premises unless added by an endorsement.
Q. Is there coverage for loss avoidance measures?
A. Most homeowners insurance policies provide some coverage for expenses and damage to covered property that you remove to ensure it doesn't receive more damage.
Q. My home and all of my outbuildings and fences were totally destroyed in a fire. Does my insurance company have to pay me the full amount of my policy?
A. Under most property policies in Texas, if the insured property, other than personal property, is a total loss due to fire damage, the insurance company must pay the full amount under the policy for each destroyed item covered by the policy. This is known as "liquidated demand." For some property, like your home, the policy will include a dollar amount for the limit of liability. For other property, like other structures and fences, the coverage is often a percentage of the limit of liability for the dwelling. For example if your home is insured for $100,000 and the policy covers other structures for 10 percent of the dwelling limit, you would have $10,000 available for other structures. Please read your policy or check with your agent or insurance company for further information.
If you have a mobilowners policy, or if you have insurance with a farm mutual or surplus lines insurance company, please read your policy or consult with your agent or insurance company to determine whether it includes coverage for liquidated demand.
Q. My house was flooded and I placed my furniture and household items in the front yard to dry out, but they were stolen. Will my homeowners policy cover this loss?
A. It depends on your policy. Even though there is an exclusion for flood losses, many policies contain an exception to that exclusion such as "We do cover an ensuing loss by theft or attempted theft or any act of stealing." Contact your insurance company or agent regarding coverage.
Q. Under a homeowners policy, who determines the cause of damage and who pays for an expert if one is needed?
A. The insurance company usually determines the cause of damage as its adjusters investigate and evaluate the loss. If an expert is required to determine the cause of the loss, the cost is usually borne by the insurance company. You should only pay if you hired the expert in support of the claim.
Q. My house got water in it from the flood. I had damage to the roof and the roof is sagging and rain water came in through the roof. I don't have flood insurance, but I do have homeowner's insurance. What, if anything, may be covered under my homeowner's policy?
A. If a covered peril such as wind or lightning caused damage to the roof and created an opening, then water damage to your home and personal property resulting from rain water coming through that opening may be covered under most homeowners policies.
Q. How does replacement cost coverage work on policy types such as homeowners, dwelling, and mobile home?
A. Replacement cost coverage replaces/repairs your damaged dwelling or personal property with new material and items of like kind and quality. In most cases, you should only be responsible for paying the deductible. Some homeowners and dwelling policies automatically include replacement cost coverage for the dwelling; others may be endorsed for an additional premium; and some may only provide actual cash value. Companies may also offer replacement cost coverage for mobile home policies. You should check with your agent or company to see if your company offers replacement cost coverage on your policy. When you repair your home, some companies may pay the actual cash value first and then pay the withheld depreciation as repairs are completed.
Q. I've received a check from my company for damages to my home. It is going to cost more to repair than the amount received. Did they pay me enough for damages?
A. If you have replacement cost coverage, your claim may be paid in two stages. Your first claim check may be for the actual cash value (ACV) of the damaged property. ACV is determined by taking the replacement cost for the covered loss and deducting for depreciation. Once the damaged property is repaired or replaced, you are entitled to receive the depreciation that was previously withheld in your first check up to the replacement cost of the damaged property and not to exceed the actual amount spent or the total amount of insurance on the dwelling. Generally, in order to receive the difference between ACV and replacement cost, the policy contract requires that the repair or replacement be completed within a specific period of time, usually 180 to 365 days from the date of loss. Policies may also provide an option to extend that time frame if requested in writing as outlined in the actual policy. It is important to check your policy and/or contact your agent regarding the specific requirements of your policy.
If you are not underinsured, you should only be responsible for paying your deductible in most cases. If you believe your company is not offering an amount sufficient to repair/replace your damaged property, minus your deductible, you may want to request appraisal in accordance with the provisions in the policy. Have your company explain the basis for its payment and clarify if additional funds are forthcoming.
Q. Do checks from insurance companies have to be endorsed by me and the mortgage company? Does the same procedure apply to mobile homes?
A. Insurance claims payments for damage to property that is security for a loan must be made payable to the policyholder and the mortgage company, so they would require endorsements from both parties.
Q. What recourse do I have if the check was issued directly to the mortgage company? How long can a mortgage company hold money before releasing any to me? Can the mortgage company disperse the money in small increments? Can they withhold disbursements?
A. Your insurance company may not make a check for a claim payable only to the mortgage company. If they do, you shouldn't accept it and request that the check be re-issued to you and your mortgage company.
The Texas Insurance Code provides that the mortgage company must, within 10 days after it receives the insurance proceeds, tell you what its requirements are to release the money. Once you have provided sufficient evidence to show that you have met those requirements, the mortgage company has 10 days to release the funds.
- If you have a concern about a private mortgage lender, you should contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at 877-382-4357. You may also visit its website at www.ftc.gov. Additionally, you may wish to contact the Office of Consumer Credit by phone at 800-538-1579 or online at www.occc.state.tx.us.
- If the lender is a state-chartered savings and loan, or bank, contact the Texas Department of Savings and Mortgage Lending at 512-475-1350.
- If the lender is a federal chartered lender, contact the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) Customer Assistance Group at 1-800-613-6743.
- In some instances, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) can help. Call HUD at 800-225-5342.
Q. Are plumbing problems/backed up toilets covered by any types of insurance, even after a flood?
A. Some homeowners policies provide coverage for accidental discharge, leakage or overflow from within a plumbing system and if rising flood waters cause toilets to overflow, the loss may be covered. Contact your insurance company or agent regarding coverage.
Q. I bought my house several years ago and last year my mortgage was bought by another mortgage company. My original company provided flood insurance, but now I find that the new mortgage company did not provide it. What can I do?
A. Mortgage companies are required by statute to ensure that a property in a flood zone has flood insurance. A mortgage company must provide notice to the borrower of the requirement of flood insurance. If the borrower fails to purchase flood insurance, then a mortgage company may purchase flood insurance for the property. For information regarding the statute, contact the Federal Emergency Management Association (FEMA) representative at a Disaster Recovery Center (DRC) or the NFIP. Remember that it is important as a homeowner to ensure that all necessary insurance coverage is in place.
- If you have a concern about a private mortgage lender, you should contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at 877-382-4357. You may also visit its website at www.ftc.gov/.
- If the lender is a state-chartered savings and loan, or bank, contact the Texas Department of Savings and Mortgage Lending at 512-475-1350.
- If the lender is a Federal Chartered Lender, contact the Office of Thrift Supervision, western region at 972-277-9500.
- In some instances, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) can help. Call HUD at 800-225-5342.
Q. Wind caused my tree to fall on my house, which caused damage to my roof. Does my homeowners policy cover the damage to my house and pay for the removal of the tree from my property?
A. Most homeowners policies include the peril of falling objects, which would include a tree. Some policies limit the coverage for removal to $500 per tree and $1,000 per loss. Contact your insurance company or agent regarding coverage.
Q. My neighbor's tree fell down on my house and damaged my roof. Will my neighbor's homeowners policy pay for the damage to my home and remove the tree?
A. Probably not. Your neighbor is not legally liable for an act of nature. However, if the tree was dead, your neighbor may be responsible for the damage to your home. If your neighbor's policy does not pay for your damage, you can make a claim under your policy if the peril that caused the tree to fall is a covered peril in your policy. You should contact your agent and/or company regarding the damage.
Q. A windstorm blew my fence down. Will my homeowners insurance cover loss of my fence?
A. If your policy provides coverage for wind, you may have coverage for the fence. Coverage for fences is usually limited to actual cash value which is the replacement cost for the damaged property less depreciation. Some policies do not provide any coverage for fences damaged by wind. You should check your policy and/or contact your agent regarding coverage.
Q. During the storm, a tree fell on the roof of my home which allowed rain to enter from the opening made by the tree. I now see mold growing. Do I have coverage?
A. Most homeowners policies will provide coverage for the property damaged by rain that entered through an opening caused as a direct result of wind. Generally, mold is excluded in the homeowners policy; however, some policies will cover an ensuing mold loss caused by or resulting from covered water damage. Coverage for ensuing mold loss would include the reasonable and necessary costs to repair or replace your damaged property. Most policies do not include any additional cost for remediation or testing of ensuing mold unless your policy includes mold remediation coverage.
Q. During the storm, my home was flooded. Does my homeowners policy cover mold damage from the flood water?
A. Typically, homeowners policies do not cover damage caused by or resulting from flood, surface water, waves, tidal water or tidal waves, overflow of streams or other bodies of water or spray from any of these whether or not driven by wind. If there is no flood coverage provided in the homeowners policy, any ensuing mold loss resulting from flood would not be covered under the policy.
Q. If I evacuate due to a storm, and my personal property is damaged or stolen while in another location, will my personal property be covered by my auto or homeowners policy?
A. Homeowners policies provide coverage for personal property while away from the insured location or premises. Most policies limit the amount of this coverage to either 10 or 20 percent of the total amount of coverage for personal property. Some policies limit theft coverage for personal property while away from the residence premises at any other residence owned by, rented or occupied by the policyholder, unless the policyholder is temporarily living there. Generally, a personal automobile policy won't cover personal property.
Q. Can my insurance company increase my homeowners insurance premium because I filed a claim for hurricane damage?
A. No. State law and regulation prohibits an insurer from surcharging an individual homeowners insurance policy premium because of a claim or claims that are a result of a loss caused by natural causes.
Q. My home was damaged by the storm surge. Will my homeowners policy provide coverage for damage caused by storm surge or flood?
A. Most homeowners policies specifically exclude coverage for losses that result from flood. A flood exclusion may specify that the insurance company will not pay for losses caused by or resulting from flood, surface water, waves, storm surge, tides, tidal water, tidal waves, tsunami, seiche, overflow of streams or other bodies of water, or spray from any of these, all whether driven by wind or not.
If you bought a policy that provides coverage for damage caused by flood or rising water the policy should cover the damage to your home that was caused by storm surge. This type of coverage is typically purchased under a flood insurance policy through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The NFIP policy refers to a flood (in part) as a general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of normally dry land from overflow of inland or tidal waters and/or unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source.
Q. My home was damaged by the storm surge. Will my Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA) dwelling policy provide coverage for damage caused by storm surge or flood?
A. The TWIA dwelling policy specifically excludes coverage for losses that result from flood. The flood exclusion in the policy specifies that the insurance company will not pay for losses caused by or resulting from flood, surface water, waves, storm surge, tides, tidal water, tidal waves, tsunami, seiche, overflow of streams or other bodies of water, or spray from any of these, all whether driven by wind or not.
If you bought a policy that provides coverage for damage caused by flood or rising water the policy should cover the damage to your home that was caused by storm surge. This type of coverage is typically bought under a flood insurance policy through NFIP. The NFIP policy refers to a flood (in part) as a general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of normally dry land from overflow of inland or tidal waters and/or unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source.
Q. My insurer denied my claim simply because of where my home was located and stated that the damage was caused by flood/storm surge. Is that right?
A. Whether or not an individual claim is covered will depend on the specific language contained in the actual policy or policies insuring your home. Insurance companies cannot make blanket decisions and deny claims without investigating the facts of each claim. If you feel your company denied your claim without investigating the specific facts of your individual claim, you may file a complaint with TDI online at www.tdi.texas.gov/consumer/complfrm.html.
Q. What coverage do I have for my house, personal property, and other structures under my TWIA policy?
A. Generally, the TWIA dwelling policy provides coverage for direct physical loss caused by windstorm or hail to your dwelling, other structures such as detached garages, and personal property, including clothing. The amount of insurance for other structures is included in the limit of insurance for the insured dwelling and will not exceed 10 percent of that limit unless you have specifically insured other structures on the dwelling policy. You should contact your agent and review your policy and any applicable endorsements for specific coverages.
Q. Does my TWIA dwelling policy provide coverage for additional living expense (ALE)?
A. If your home is your primary residence and you have endorsement TWIA 310 or TWIA 320, your policy provides ALE coverage. If you can't remain in your home because of a windstorm loss, your TWIA policy will pay for staying in a hotel, motel or other temporary shelter. However, payments are limited based upon which endorsement you have on your policy. If the damage does force you to move, be sure to tell your agent and TWIA where you are and how to reach you by phone. Also, you should leave a note at your damaged residence telling the insurance adjuster how to find you.
A primary residence is a dwelling occupied by you for more than a total of 180 days in the most recent calendar year or a dwelling that is your principal residence. TWIA does not provide ALE coverage for secondary residences.
Q.Does my TWIA dwelling policy cover my fence damage?
A. Your TWIA dwelling policy does cover a fence if it was damaged by windstorm. Fences aren't insured for replacement cost coverage. Claims on fences are paid on a depreciated basis.
Q.Does my TWIA mobile home policy provide coverage for additional living expense (ALE)?
A. No, coverage for additional living expense isn't covered under a TWIA Mobile Home Policy.
Q.Is my fence covered under my TWIA mobile home policy?
A. No, fences aren't covered under a TWIA mobile home policy.
Q. What is the difference between a flood insurance policy issued by the NFIP and a policy issued by an insurance company? Does one provide better coverage than the other?
A. Flood insurance is provided by the federal government through the NFIP. The policies that are sold by insurance companies are usually NFIP policies sold through the write your own (WYO) program. This is done to make it easier to purchase flood policies through local insurance agents. Even though the policies are purchased through the insurance companies, they are NFIP policies. Claims are handled by NFIP adjusters and by insurance company adjusters that are certified by the NFIP to handle flood claims. Questions and complaints can be referred to the NFIP at 1-888-225-5356. Some insurance companies may also offer flood coverage other than the NFIP policy. You should check with your agent or company to see if flood coverage other than the NFIP policy is available, and to compare the coverages being offered to determine the best coverage for your needs.
Q. How can I obtain insurance coverage to protect my home and contents from damage caused by flooding?
A. The NFIP makes flood insurance available to people who live in communities that participate in the NFIP. Contact your agent or the NFIP at 1-888-225-5356 to purchase a NFIP policy. The home need not be near a body of water or in a floodplain to qualify.
Q. Why would I buy flood insurance if my property is in a low or moderate risk area?
A. Twenty to 25 percent of all flood insurance claims come from low to moderate risk areas.
Q. Can I buy flood insurance if I rent?
A. You can buy up to $100,000 of flood insurance for your contents.
Q. How much flood insurance can I buy?
A. You can buy up to $250,000 for the dwelling and $100,000 for your contents.
Q. Does the policy provide any coverage for additional living expense?
A. No, the NFIP policy doesn't provide coverage for additional living expenses.
Q. How is damaged residential property valued after a loss under an NFIP policy?
A. If the property is insured to at least 80 percent of its value and is your principle residence, the dwelling will be valued at replacement cost if the dwelling is replaced. If the dwelling is rebuilt at a new location, the replacement cost won't exceed what it would have cost to replace at the former location. Contents, appliances, carpets and carpet pads and outdoor property are valued at actual cash value. Actual cash value is the cost to repair with new material of like kind and quality less depreciation.
Q. Is there coverage for the cost of debris removal? What about loss avoidance measures?
A. The cost of removing debris on your property, and the cost of removing debris of your property that is on someone else's property is covered, but it's subject to the limit of the policy. You will be compensated at the Federal minimum wage if you perform the work yourself. Loss avoidance is limited to $1,000 for the cost of sandbags, temporary levees, pumps and plastic sheeting and lumber, including the value of your work. An additional $1,000 is available for the cost of moving insured property to protect it from flood. These benefits don't increase the limit of insurance.
Q. If my automobile was parked on my property and damaged by flood, does the flood policy cover the damage?
A. No, automobiles aren't covered property under the NFIP policy. If you have comprehensive or full coverage under your auto policy, flood should be covered by that policy. If you have liability only, there is no coverage for the auto.
Q. Does flood insurance cover damage to built-in appliances?
A. Check to see what flood insurance coverage you have. Then, call NFIP at 1-888-225-5356 to determine what would be covered in a flood insurance policy. Generally, flood policies provide coverage for the structure and personal property. Built-in appliances may fall under either category.
Q. What coverage is available for commercial buildings?
A. Up to $500,000 is available for non-residential buildings, and an additional $500,000 for contents of non-residential buildings. Buildings and contents are valued at actual cash value.
Q. When does coverage become effective under an NFIP policy?
A. There is a 30-day waiting period before coverage goes into effect after an NFIP policy is purchased. However, there is an exception to the 30-day waiting period when a new policy is initially purchased in connection with a loan. In that case, the policy becomes effective at the time of the loan closing.
Q. What if my dwelling or commercial building is valued over the maximum limits available?
A. The insurance company that insures your commercial building for fire might add excess flood coverage. That coverage usually has the NFIP maximum limits as a deductible. Availability might depend on the flood zone of each location. There may be insurers that will write excess policies for dwellings over the $250,000 maximum limits. You should contact your agent to learn more about available coverage.
Q. Where can I get more information about flood insurance?
A. Visit www.floodsmart.gov.
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Last updated: 05/19/2015