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Weather Alert: review these storm preparedness tips

Precautions You Can Take Against Lighting As A Homeowner

Warm weather usually means fun in the Carolina sun, but summer heat also can bring severe weather. Threatening thunderstorms often loom large on summer afternoons, so it’s important to be prepared for downpours and accompanying lightning. Consider the following suggestions when planning both outdoor and indoor events this summer to reduce the risk of a lightning strike.

  • Watch the weather. Pay attention to your local weather forecast before participating in outdoor activities. If there’s a chance of thunderstorms, consider rescheduling or moving the event indoors. If that’s not possible, have an emergency plan in place in case a severe storm rolls in, and designate a sufficient nearby structure as an emergency shelter.
  • Stay inside. If severe thunderstorms are imminent, go indoors and wait until they pass. Safe, enclosed shelters include homes, schools, offices, shopping malls and vehicles with hard tops and closed windows. Open structures and spaces do not provide adequate protection.
  • Duck and crouch. If you’re caught outside during a severe storm, it’s important to crouch low on the ground, tuck your head and cover your ears to help protect yourself from harm. Do not lie down; lightning strikes can produce extremely strong electrical currents that run along the top of the ground, and laying horizontally increases electrocution risk.
  • Turn off faucets. During a thunderstorm, lightning can sometimes be conducted through the plumbing. Avoid any type of contact with running water, including bathing, showering and washing your hands, dishes or clothes.
  • Turn off electronics. All electrical appliances—televisions, computers, laptops, gaming systems, stoves and more—that are plugged into an electrical outlet could carry a current from a lightning strike. Surge protectors will reduce the risk of damaging electronics.

Stay away from windows. Not only is lightning a threat, but high winds and hail create flying debris that could be harmful during a thunderstorm. Close all windows and doors and stay as far away from them as possible.

Are You Adequately Insured?

Condominium owners sometimes assume that the homeowners association’s master insurance policy is all the coverage they need. In reality the master policy only covers the building, not your personal belongings, or any upgrades you’ve made to your unit. For example, upgraded flooring, new cabinets or appliances or renovations are not normally covered by the master policy. It also does not cover parts of the building that are used only by you—like the balcony or the pipes that feed into your unit from the main community pipes.

All HOA residents need their own insurance for the insides of their units, their belongings, and any damage that might be caused by something within your unit – such as a leaking toilet. In the few rare cases where coverage is provided under the master policy, you will still be responsible for the deductible. To have your personal belongings and any deductibles covered, you need to invest in a condominium owner’s insurance policy, available from most carriers. These policies generally cost only a few dollars each month and are well worth it! Be sure to ask about water or sewer backup coverage. Sewer backups are not unheard of, and a standard policy won’t cover the damage to your unit without a sewer backup rider.

If you have any questions regarding what type of coverage you need, please contact your insurance agent. The homeowner association’s agent is also very familiar with the type of coverage condominium owners need and can help you avoid double coverage or gaps in coverage between you personal insurance and the homeowners association’s master policy.



Our Community’s Insurance

Some of your HOA fees go towards paying for your community insurance needs. Have you ever wondered exactly what kinds of HOA insurance your community association actually needs? Below is a list of the different types of insurance typically available to associations.

Your community association may not have all of these types of coverage; but they’re available if needed. The board of directors and the HOA manager work closely with the association’s insurance professional who is familiar with your unique needs.

Property insurance. Most other types of coverage are built around property insurance. It covers all buildings, structures, and personal property owned by the homeowner association, including common property, parks, woods, open spaces and recreational facilities, and sometimes includes portions of residential areas.
General liability. In addition to protecting physical property, your community association has commercial liability insurance. Unlike property damage, which often can be measured in dollar amounts, liability claims have no limits other than those imposed by courts.
Auto (owned, non-owned, and hired). Homeowner associations with employees who drive cars, trucks, or maintenance vehicles on association property or elsewhere while carrying out association business need auto insurance.
Directors’ and officers’ liability. The board of directors is made up of volunteers trying to serve their communities, but as the old adage says, “No good deed goes unpunished.” So, even when boards behave appropriately and use sound judgment someone may still file a lawsuit claiming wrongful termination, sexual harassment, discrimination, or mismanagement of funds, to name a few common suits.

Umbrella liability. This type of coverage closes some of the gaps in other types of insurance policies. No standard umbrella policy exists, so the association management works closely with your insurance professional to design a policy tailored to your specific needs.
Terrorism. Insurance companies are now required by law to offer coverage for certified acts of terrorism. An “act of terrorism” is usually defined as any violent act that is dangerous to life or property with the intention of affecting the population’s conduct, with damage totaling at least $5 million.

Workers’ compensation. This insurance—required in most states—provides benefits for employees who sustain injuries while working for the association.
Mold. Damage from mold is excluded from most standard property insurance policies, which tend to provide coverage for damages that are sudden and accidental but don’t generally cover the cost of cleaning and maintaining a home.

About Our Insurance Agent

Homeowner association insurance agents have a broad range of specialties and areas of expertise. Fortunately, community association insurance is one of them. Our community association has unique needs and exposures, so the board has been very diligent in selecting an agent with experience in this area. Our insurance agent serves the association by:

  • Inspecting the community and identifying exposure that needs to be addressed.
  • Obtaining premium quotations and helping the board select the best program.
  • Reviewing the association’s documents, recommending the minimum legal insurance requirement, and recommending additional coverage that might be appropriate.
  • Verifying the property values for replacement and/or reproduction costs.
  • Reviewing the association’s fidelity bond, and ensuring that all appropriate parties are included.
  • Offering the unit owners special coverage and reduced rates.
  • Creating a claims procedure manual.
  • Reviewing the association’s claims annually and recommending how to reduce future claims.
  • Helping the board decide how claims deductibles will be processed.
  • Customizing a risk-management program.
  • Educating the board about coverage, exclusions and limitations.
  • Educating the residents about the association’s policy, where it stops and where the residents’ and owners’ responsibilities begin.
  • Assisting the association to establish procedures for service providers.
  • Providing certificates of insurance or evidence of coverage to lenders.

Critical Component: Insurance—Ours and Yours

Of the many things homeowners association assessments pays for, insurance is one of the most important. Homeowner association governing documents and state law require the HOA board to purchase adequate insurance as part of a comprehensive risk-management program.

HOA communities often have two types of commercial insurance coverage—property and liability.

Property insurance covers loss of or damage to any common structures or physical property caused by fire, flood, storms or other natural events. For instance, if high winds uproot a tree that damages a common roof, the homeowners association’s property insurance would cover the cost of repairs. Property insurance may also cover what is referred to as “human perils,” such as theft, and “economic perils,” such as stock market fluctuations, that could impact our homeowner association’s investments.

Liability insurance covers losses that would result if someone took legal action against the HOA for an injury, financial loss or other type of damage. For example, one important type of liability insurance is Directors’ and Officers’ insurance, which covers volunteers like the HOA management board and committee members so they’re not jeopardizing their personal assets to serve the community association.

An association’s insurance does not cover individual homeowners or residents, their homes or belongings. Each member should have his or her own personal insurance policy. If you need information about homeowners insurance, talk to a licensed insurance agent who specializes in homeowners associations. Or you may want to talk to the association’s insurance provider; this person will know exactly where the association’s master policy coverage ends and where yours should begin. This prevents you from over or under insuring yourself.

Be Prepared for Disasters

If you think hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes and floods won’t happen to you or you don’t need to insure against these disasters, you’re among the nearly half of U.S. homeowners and renters who lack the insurance coverage to deal with potential losses, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). Having insurance against the elements is especially important in the South.

In a NAIC national survey, about 48 percent of homeowners and renters said they did not have an inventory of their possessions. Of those who reported having a checklist, 32 percent had not taken any pictures and 58 percent had no receipts validating the cost of their possessions. In addition, 44 percent of respondents acknowledged they had not stored their inventory in a separate location.

Here are some easy tips to follow from the NAIC to help you prepare for disasters:

  • Take an inventory of your valuables and belongings. This should include taking photographs or a video of each room. This documentation will provide your insurance company with proof of your belongings and help to process claims more quickly in the event of disaster.
  • To enable filing claims more quickly, keep sales receipts and canceled checks. Also note the model and serial numbers of the items in your home inventory.
  • As you acquire more valuables such as jewelry or antiques, consider purchasing an additional floater or rider to your policy to cover these special items. These types of items typically are not covered by a basic homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy.
  • Don’t forget to include those items you rarely use such as holiday decorations in your home inventory.
  • Store copies of all your insurance policies in a safe location away from your home that is easily accessible in case of disaster. You may want to store your policies and inventory in a waterproof, fireproof box or in a safe location such as a bank safe deposit box.
  • Consider leaving a copy of your inventory with relatives, a trustworthy friend or your insurance provider and store digital pictures in your e-mail or on a website for easy retrieval.
  • Know what is and is not covered by your insurance policy. Depending where you live, you might need additional protection. Make sure your policies are up to date. Contact your insurance provider annually to review and update your insurance policy.
  • Keep a readily available list of 24-hour contact information for each of your insurance providers.
  • Find out if your possessions are insured for the actual cash value or the replacement cost. Actual cash value is the amount it would take to repair or replace your home and possessions after depreciation, while replacement cost is the amount it would take to repair or replace your home or possessions without deducting for depreciation. Speak with your insurance provider to determine whether purchasing replacement coverage is worth the cost.
  • Speak with your insurance provider to find out if your policy covers additional living expenses for a temporary residence if you are unable to live in your home due to damage from a disaster.
  • Appraise your home periodically to make sure your insurance policy reflects home improvements or renovations. Contact your insurance provider to update your policy.