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new jersey homeowners insuranceNew Jersey homeowners insurance

At BOLLINGER we have a wide range of insurance companies that provide new jersey homeowners insurance. Here are just a few companies that we use, Chubb & Son, Atlantic Companies, Fireman's Fund, Selective, Ohio and First Trenton. If you would like to obtain a quotation for your new jersey homeowners insurance, please complete our request for quotation form and we will contact you to review your homeowners insurance needs. We hope that you find the information we are providing about new jersey homeowners insurance of value.

NJ homeowners insurance policies are policies that include property, liability, theft and medical payments coverages. Standard types of insurance coverages on your home offer protection against the financial loss you might suffer if any of the following events occur:
  • Property coverage
    • Fire, windstorm, hail, tornados, vandalism, smoke damage and other physical damage to your home or belongings
    • Theft of your personal property
  • Liability coverage
    • Someone gets injured on your property due to your negligence or that of a member of your family. Liability coverage also provides protection when somebody else's property is damaged as a result of your negligence. If someone is injured at your home, your insurer will reimburse you for immediate necessary medical expenses, generally up to a limit of $500 or $1,000. Examples of the types of expenses that would be paid are transportation to a hospital or doctor's office or a doctor's bill for necessary first aid. You should check your policy for specific details about this coverage.
HO-3 The most widely used policy

The Homeowners-3 (HO-3) or Special Form Policy has become the standard new jersey homeowners insurance policy. This policy covers your home for all risks of physical loss, except those that are specifically excluded, such as flood, earthquake, war, nuclear accident, etc. Check your policy for a complete listing of the excluded perils. Coverage for loss of your home's contents is also covered for many of the same perils for which your home is covered.

HO-5 Adds personal possession coverage 

The Homeowners-5 (HO-5) policy or Comprehensive Form Policy protects your home against the same perils as the HO-3 policy. In addition, your personal possessions would also be covered for all risks of physical loss, except those risks that are specifically excluded. This extra protection may also be provided by purchasing a HO-3 policy with the "Special Personal Property" endorsement for new jersey homeowners insurance.

HO-4 Tenants or Renters 

The homeowners-4 (HO-4) policy or renters policy protects your personal and family possessions against many causes of financial loss, including fire and theft. It also provides the same type of liability coverages as a standard homeowner's policy. You can add replacement cost coverage to further protect your possessions for new jersey homeowners insurance.

HO-6 Condominium Owners 

The homeowners -6 (HO-6) policy protects your personal and family possessions against many causes of financial loss, including fire and theft. It also provides the same type of liability coverages as a standard homeowner's policy. The HO-6 provides coverage for additions and alterations for such items as appliances, fixtures and alterations. It also provides Loss Assessment coverage in the event you are assessed by the association for a covered peril. 

HOW TO INSURE YOUR HOME AND PERSONAL BELONGINGS

When you insure your home, you are really insuring two distinct things -- 

  1. The structure of your home
  2. Your personal belongings

The structure of your home

Two ways to insure the structure of your home for new jersey homeowners insurance:

  • Replacement cost - Insurance that pays the policyholder the cost of replacing the damaged property without deduction for depreciation, but limited to a maximum dollar amount.
  • Actual cash value - Insurance under which the policyholder receives an amount equal to the replacement value of damaged property minus an allowance for depreciation. Unless a homeowners policy specifies that property is covered for its replacement value, the coverage is for actual cash value.

If you have an older home...

You should insure your home for the total amount it would cost to rebuild your home if it were destroyed. If you don't have sufficient insurance, your insurance company may only pay a portion of the cost of replacing or repairing damaged items. Here are a couple of tips to help make sure you have enough new jersey homeowners insurance: 

For a quick estimate of the amount to rebuild your home - multiply the local building costs per square foot by the total square footage of your house. To find out the building rates in your area, consult your local builders association. 

Most insurance companies will do an inspection to calculate the replacement value of your home.

Factors that will determine the cost to rebuild your home: 

  1. local construction costs
  2. the square footage of the structure
  3. the type of exterior wall construction -- frame, masonry (brick or stone) or veneer 
  4. the style of the house (ranch, colonial) 
  5. the number of bathrooms and other rooms 
  6. the type of roof
  7. attached garages, fireplaces, exterior trim and other special features like arched windows

Check the value of your insurance policy against rising local building costs each year. Ask your insurance agent or company representative about adding an "inflation guard clause" to your policy. This automatically adjusts the dwelling limit when you renew your policy to reflect current construction costs in your area in your new jersey homeowners insurance policy.

Check the latest building codes in your community. Building codes require structures to be constructed to minimum standards. If your home is severely damaged, you might have to rebuild it to comply with the new standards requiring a change in design or building materials. These changes could cost more. Generally, homeowners insurance policies (even a guaranteed replacement cost policy) won't pay for this extra expense. However, some companies offer an endorsement that pays a specified amount toward these costs. (An endorsement is a form attached to an insurance policy that changes what the policy covers.) 

Do not insure your home for the market value. The cost of rebuilding your house may be higher (or lower) than the price you paid for it or the price you could sell it for today. 

Some banks require you to buy new jersey homeowners insurance to cover the amount of your mortgage. Make sure it's also enough to cover the cost of rebuilding. 

Increase the limit of your policy if you make improvements or additions to your home. 

YOUR PERSONAL BELONGINGS

Two ways to insure your personal belongings:

  • Replacement cost coverage - Insurance that pays the dollar amount needed to replace damaged personal property with items of like kind or quality without deduction for depreciation.
  • Actual cash value - Insurance under which the policyholder receives an amount equal to the replacement value of damaged property minus depreciation. Unless a homeowners policy specifies that property is covered for its replacement value, the coverage is for actual cash value.

Here are a few other things to keep in mind when you are insuring your personal property in your new jersey homeowners insurance policy:

  1. Check the limits on personal items, such as jewelry, silverware, furs and computer equipment. If the limits are too low, consider buying a special personal property "endorsement" or "floater." An endorsement is an addition to your policy. A floater is a form of insurance that allows you to insure valuable items separately. 
  2. Make an inventory of everything you own in your home and in other buildings on the property, except your car which must be insured separately. Write down the major items you own along with all available information: 
    1. serial number
    2. make and/or model number
    3. purchase prices
    4. present value
    5. date of purchase
  3. Don't forget to include indoor and outdoor furniture, appliances, stereos, computers and other electronic equipment, hobby materials and recreational equipment, china, linens, silverware and kitchen equipment, jewelry and clothing. 
  4. Take either still or video pictures of these items. Attach receipts to the inventory when available. Store the inventory and visual records away from your home - perhaps in a safe deposit box. 
  5. Add major purchases to the inventory and a visual record soon after the purchase. 

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT new jersey homeowners insurance

For consistency, it is assumed that you have a policy known as Homeowners-3 (HO-3), the most common homeowners policy in the United States. Check with your agent to see if that's what you have. If you have a more restrictive policy, review your options under the last question and talk to your insurance representative.

  • Q. Are you covered for direct losses due to fire, lightning, tornadoes, wind storms, hail, explosions, smoke, vandalism and theft?
  • A. Yes. The HO-3 provides broad coverage for a large number of perils, including all those listed above, subject to your policy limit.

Action

Check the dollar limits of insurance in your policy. Make sure you are comfortable with the amount of insurance you have for specific items. For example, the standard policy provides only $1,000 for theft of jewelry. If your jewelry is worth a lot more, you should purchase higher limits. You may wish to add a floater to your policy to cover specific possessions, such as expensive paintings or silverware. The floater will provide both higher limits and protect you from additional risks, not covered in your standard policy.

Also, if you live on the Atlantic or Gulf coasts there may be some restrictions on your coverage for wind damage. Check this out with your agent.

  • Q. Your house is totally destroyed in a fire. You purchased $150,000 worth of insurance to cover the structure of your house. Will this be enough to rebuild your home?
  • A. If the cost of rebuilding your home is equal to or less than $150,000 you would have enough coverage. The HO-3 policy pays for structural damage on a replacement cost basis. If the cost of replacing your home is, say, $120,000, then that is all the insurance you need. On the other hand if the cost of rebuilding your home is $180,000, then you will be short $30,000. If you choose not to replace your home, you will receive the replacement cost of your home, less depreciation. This is called actual cash value.

Action

Make sure that the amount of insurance you have will cover the cost of rebuilding your house. You can find out what this cost is by talking to your insurance representative or builders in your area.

Do not use the price of your house as the basis for the amount of insurance you purchase. The market price of your house includes the value of the land on which the house is situated. In almost all cases, the land will be still there after a disaster, so you do not need to insure it. You only need to insure the structure.

  • Q. Are you covered for flood? 
  • A. No.

Action

Flood insurance is provided by the federal government, under a program run by the Federal Insurance Administration. If you are in a flood prone area it may be wise to purchase flood insurance. In some parts of the country, homes can be damaged or destroyed by mudslides. This risk is also covered under flood policies. Contact your agent or company representative to get this insurance.

  • Q. A pipe bursts and water flows all over your floors. Are you covered?
  • A. Yes. The HO-3 covers you for accidental discharge of water from a plumbing system.

Action

Check your plumbing and heating systems once a year. While you are covered for damage, who needs the mess and hassle?

  • Q. Water seeps into your basement from the ground. Are you covered? 
  • A. No. Water seepage is excluded under the HO-3. And if the water seepage is not due to a flood you will not be covered under a flood policy. Problems like seepage are viewed as maintenance issues and are not covered by insurance. 

Action

You should see a contractor about water-proofing your basement.

  • Q. Are you covered for earthquake damage?
  • A. No.

Action

Earthquake coverage is sold as additional coverage to the new jersey homeowners insurance policy. To determine whether you should purchase this insurance, talk to your agent or company representative. In earthquake prone areas, the price of this insurance is relatively high. In other areas, it is relatively inexpensive.

  • Q. A neighbor slips on your sidewalk and threatens to take you to court for damages. Does your policy protect you?
  • A. Yes. The policy will pay for damages, if the accident is the result of your negligence. It will also pay for the legal costs of defending you against a claim. Also, the medical payments part of your homeowners policy will cover medical expenses arising from an injury to a neighbor or guest.

Action

Check to see how much liability protection you have. The standard amount is $100,000. If you feel you need more, consider purchasing higher limits. The cost for higher limits is nominal.

  • Q. During a storm, a tree falls and damages your roof. Are you covered?
  • A. Yes. You are covered for the damage to your roof. You are also covered for the removal of the tree, up to a $500 limit.

Action

Cut down dead or dying trees close to your house. Prune branches that are near your house. It's true that your insurance covers damage, but falling trees and branches can also injure your family.

  • Q. During a storm, a tree falls and does no damage to your property. Are you covered for the cost of removing the tree?
  • A. Your trees and shrubs are covered for losses due to risks like vandalism, theft and fire, but not wind damage.

Action

Decide if you need extra insurance for the trees, plants and shrubs on your property. You may be able to purchase extra insurance, which will not only cover the cost of removal of fallen trees, but will also cover the cost of replacing trees, and other plants. Talk to your insurance representative about the availability and cost of this extra insurance.

  • Q. During a storm, the power from the electric utility is lost. All the food in your refrigerator is spoiled and must be thrown out. Can you make a claim?
  • A. The general answer is no. However, there are a number of exceptions. In some states, food spoilage is covered under the new jersey homeowners insurance policy. In addition, if the power loss is due to a break in a power line on or close to your property, you may be covered.

Action

Check with your agent to determine whether you are covered for food spoilage in your state. If not, you can add food spoilage coverage to your policy for an additional premium.

  • Q. Your golf clubs are stolen from the trunk of your car. Can you recover?
  • A. Yes. The HO-3 covers your personal property while it is anywhere in the world. However, if your golf clubs are old, you will only get their current value. This normally will not be enough to purchase a new set. 

Action

Consider purchasing a replacement cost endorsement for your personal property. This way you will get the full cost of replacing the golf clubs, less the applicable deductible.

  • Q. You have a power boat with a 50 horsepower engine. If it is stolen, are you covered? What if there is a boating accident and you get sued? Are you covered?
  • A. If the boat is stolen from your residence, in most cases, you can recover only $1,000. If the boat is stolen elsewhere you are not covered. 

You are also not covered for liability arising from an accident with the boat. The new jersey homeowners insurance policy provides liability coverage for boats with engines less than 25 horsepower.

Action

See your insurance representative about getting extra coverage for your boat, including theft and liability. Ask about the Boat owners policy.

  • Q. Your house is close to the ocean. You have heard that if your house is destroyed by the wind, the town's new building code requires that you rebuild the house on stilts. This will cost $30,000, in addition to the cost of rebuilding your house. Are you covered for this extra cost?
  • A. No. The HO-3 excludes costs caused by ordinance or laws regulating the construction of buildings.

Action

Purchase the Law and Ordinance endorsement. This will cover the extra costs involved in meeting new building codes. Not all insurance companies offer this coverage.

  • Q. Am I covered for an "Act of God"?
  • A. Yes. Normally, you are covered for "Acts of God". The term "Act of God" usually refers to natural disasters like hurricanes and tornadoes, as opposed to man-made acts, like thefts or auto accidents. Most natural disasters, with the notable exceptions of floods and earthquakes, are covered under normal insurance.

 

  • Q. Does your policy provide less coverage than the HO-3?
  • A. If the answer is yes, review your coverage with your agent. Some older policies provide less coverage than the HO-3. They may not provide coverage for water damage, theft, or liability. They may also provide coverage for the house on an Actual Cash Value basis, rather than a replacement cost basis. Actual Cash Value means replacement cost less depreciation. For example, if your roof is destroyed in a storm, the insurance will only pay the cost of a new roof less the amount of depreciation of the old roof. If your roof was in great shape, this deduction will not be large. However, if the roof was old and worn out, the deduction for depreciation may be large.

Action

Try to get an HO-3. Community-based groups, like Neighborhood Housing Services, can help you get such insurance. 

TEN WAYS TO SAVE MONEY ON YOUR new jersey homeowners insurance

The price you pay for your homeowners insurance can vary by hundreds of dollars depending on the company you buy your policy from. 

Companies offer several types of discounts, but they don't offer the same discount or the same amount of discounts in all states. That's why you should ask your agent or company representative about any discounts available to you. 

Here are 10 steps you can take to help you save money on your 

new jersey homeowners insurance: 

  1. Shop around

    Friends, family, the phone book and Internet are some of the sources you can use to find homeowners insurers. Get a wide range of prices from several companies.

    But don't consider price alone. The insurer you select should offer both a fair price and excellent service. Quality service may cost a bit more, but you buy insurance in case you need to make a claim, so it's important to get a company with a good reputation. Talk to a number of insurers to get a feeling for the type of service they give. Ask them what they would do to lower your costs. 
  2. Raise your deductible 

    Deductibles are the amount of money you have to pay toward a loss before your insurance company starts to pay. Deductibles on new jersey homeowners insurance policies typically start at $250.
     

    Increase your deductible to:
    $ 500 -- save up to 12 percent
    $1,000 -- save up to 24 percent
    $2,500 -- save up to 30 percent
    $5,000 -- save up to 37 percent

    Depending on your insurance company.

     

  3. Buy your home and auto policies from the same insurer Some companies that sell homeowners, auto and liability coverage will take 5 to 15 percent off your premium if you buy two or more policies from them. 

  4. When you buy a home:

  5. Consider how much insuring it will cost. 

    A new home's electrical, heating and plumbing systems and overall structure are likely to be in better shape than those of an older house. Insurers may offer you a discount of 8 to 15 percent if your house is new. 

    Check the home's construction:

    On the East Coast, Brick construction is favorable because of its resistance to wind damage.

    On the West Coast, Frame construction is favorable because of its resistance to earthquake damage. 

    Choosing wisely could cut your premium by 5 to 15 percent. 

    Avoiding areas that are prone to floods can save you about $400 a year for flood insurance. new jersey homeowners insurance does not cover flood-related damage. 

  6. Insure your house, not the land.
  7. The land under your house isn't at risk from theft, windstorm, fire and the other perils covered in your new jersey homeowners insurance policy. So don't include its value in deciding how much homeowners insurance to buy. If you do, you'll pay a higher premium than you should. 
  8. Improve your home security and safety
  9. You can usually get discounts of at least 2 percent for a smoke detector, burglar alarm, or dead-bolt locks. 

    Some companies offer to cut your premium by as much as 15 or 20 percent if you install a sophisticated sprinkler system and a fire and burglar alarm that rings at the police station or other monitoring facility. These systems aren't cheap and not every system qualifies for the discount. Before you buy such a system, find out what kind of discounts are available. 

  10. Stop smoking
     
  11. Smoking accounts for more than 23,000 residential fires a year. That's why some insurers offer to reduce premiums if all the residents in a house don't smoke. 

  12. Seek out discounts for seniors 
  13. Retired people stay at home more and spot fires sooner than working people and have more time for maintaining their homes. If you're at least 55 years old and retired, you may qualify for a discount of up to 10 percent at some companies. 

  14. Stay with an insurer
  15. If you've kept your coverage with the same company for several years, you may receive special consideration. Several insurers will reduce their premiums by 5 percent if you stay with them for 3 to 5 years; by 10 percent if you remain a policyholder for 6 years or more.

    Some companies offer loss free credits.

  16. Look for private insurance first If you live in a high-risk area 
    --- one that is especially vulnerable to coastal storms, fires, or crime 
    --- and have been buying your new jersey homeowners insurance through a government plan, you should check with an insurance agent or company representative. You may find that there are steps you can take that would allow you to buy insurance at a lower price in the private market.

 

HOME SECURITY

Nine out of ten household burglaries are preventable

A burglar's three worst enemies -- light, time and noise! 

A burglar won't find your home an "easy mark" if he or she is forced to work in the light, if he or she has to take a lot of time breaking in, and if he or she can't break in without making a lot of noise.

Case your place

Take the time to "case" your house or apartment, just as a burglar would.

Where is the easiest entry? How can you make it more burglar resistant?

Trim trees and shrubs near your doors and windows, and think carefully before installing a high, wooden fence around your back yard. High fences and shrubbery can add to your privacy, but privacy is a burglar's asset. Consider trading a little extra privacy for a bit of added security. 

Force any would-be burglar to confront a real enemy -- light. Exterior lights, mounted out of easy reach, can reduce the darkness a burglar finds comforting.

Research shows that if it takes more than four or five minutes to break in to your home, the burglar will go elsewhere.

Simple security devices -- nails, screws, padlocks, door and window locks, grates, bars and bolts -- can increase the amount of time it takes to break into your home. This could discourage intruders and keep them from entering.

Try to make the general prospect of robbing your home a noisy job. Consider investing in a burglar alarm. The most effective ones also ring at an outside service. 

Are any of your valuables - paintings, a silver collection or a computer easy to see from outside? Rearranging your furnishings might be advisable if it makes your home less inviting to criminals.

SIMPLE SECURITY STEPS

  1. Doors

    Make sure you have strong doors. Outside doors should be metal or solid hardwood, and at least 1 3/4 inches thick. Frames must be made of equally strong material, and each door must fit its frame securely. Even the most efficient lock, if it is placed in a weak door, will not keep out a determined burglar.

    A peephole or a wide-angle viewer in the door is safer for identifying visitors than a door chain.

    Sliding glass doors present a special problem because they are easy to open, but there are locks designed for them. A broomstick in the door channel can help, but don't depend on it for security.
  2. Locks

    Deadbolt locks are best. They usually are locked with a key from the outside and a thumb turn on the inside. The cylinder (where the key is inserted) should be pick-resistant. Ask your hardware dealer for a reputable brand, or buy your locks from a locksmith.
  3. Windows

    Key locks are available for all types of windows. Double-hung windows can be secured simply by "pinning" the upper and lower frames together with a nail, which can be removed from the inside.

    For windows at street level or on fire escapes, consider installing metal accordion gates.
Discounts

Most insurance companies provide 2 to 15 percent discounts for devices that make a home safer -- dead-bolt locks, window grates, bars and smoke/fire/burglar alarms.

When improving the security of your home, it is also important not to exchange security for personal safety. Don't make your home such a fortress that you are unable to escape in case of a fire or other emergency.

HOME SECURITY HABITS

  1. Establish a routine to follow in making certain that doors and windows are locked and alarm systems are turned on. 
  2. Avoid giving information to unidentified telephone callers, or announcing your personal plans in want ads or public notices (such as giving your address when advertising items for sale). 
  3. Notify police if you see suspicious strangers in your area. 
  4. Handle your keys carefully. Don't carry house keys on a key ring bearing your home address or leave house keys with your car in a commercial parking lot. 
  5. Don't hide your keys in "secret" places outside your home - burglars usually know where to look. 

VACATION TIPS

  1. Leave blinds open in their usual position. 
  2. Have mail and packages picked up, forwarded or held by the post office. 
  3. Lower the sound of your telephone ringer and answering machine so they can't be heard outside. 
  4. Arrange to have your lawn mowed or your walk shoveled. 
  5. Stop newspaper deliveries. 
  6. Ask a friend to pick up "throwaway" newspapers and circulars. 
  7. Use automatic timers to turn lights on and off in your living room and bedrooms at appropriate times. Consider connecting a radio to a timer. 
  8. Tell police and dependable neighbors when you plan to be away and join with your neighbors to keep a close watch on what's happening in your area - working closely with them is a good way to prevent crime. 

INSURANCE NEEDS WHEN YOU REMODEL YOUR HOME

Before the first nail is hammered, you should check with your insurance representative to make sure your home, the contractor and the subcontractors have adequate insurance coverage. 

Addition to your home

Don't make the mistake of waiting until an addition or extra room is completed to increase the insurance coverage on the structure of your home. If the new addition is destroyed or damaged before insurance coverage has been increased, you may be responsible for the cost of repairing or rebuilding the addition. 

We suggest that you contact your insurance agent or representative before or shortly after the construction begins to increase the insurance coverage on your house to reflect the increase in the cost to rebuild the structure.

Contractors and subcontractors

When hiring a general contractor, you need to make sure that the contractor has workers compensation. Workers compensation pays for medical and rehabilitation expenses, and lost wages if the workers sustain injuries on the job. Injured workers may sue you if the contractor does not have proper insurance. 

In most home improvement projects, the contractor subcontracts the builders, electricians and plumbers. The workers hired may not be full-time employees of the contractor and therefore not covered under the contractor's workers compensation policy. While some independent builders, electricians and plumbers may carry their own workers compensation coverage, others may not. 

You should verify the insurance coverage of the contractor and the subcontractors. If the coverage is insufficient, you may need to fill in the gaps by extending the limits of the liability portion of your new jersey homeowners insurance policy. 

FILING A CLAIM

This is a brief overview of the claims filing process. If your home has been burglarized or damaged by fire or natural disaster, more information is available.

A homeowners insurance policy is a contract between you and your insurance company. You should understand the policy before a loss occurs. Review your policy with your insurance representative so you'll know what's covered. 

FILING YOUR CLAIM 

  1. Report any burglary or theft to police. 
  2. Phone your agent or company immediately. Insurance policies place a time limit on filing claims. Ask questions: Am I covered? Does my claim exceed my deductible? Your deductible is the amount of loss you agree to pay yourself when you buy a policy. How long will it take to process my claim? Will I need to obtain estimates for repairs to structural damage? 
  3. Make temporary repairs and take other steps to protect your property from further damage. Save receipts for what you spend and submit them to your insurance company for reimbursement. 
  4. Prepare a list of lost or damaged articles. 
  5. Save receipts from any additional living expenses you incur if your home is so severely damaged that you have to find other accommodations while repairs are being made. Most new jersey homeowners insurance policies include a provision for reimbursement of these expenses. 
  6. Get claim forms. Once your insurance company has been notified of your claim, the company is required to send you the necessary claim forms to you by the end of a specified time period. (The time period varies from state to state.) Return the properly filled out forms as soon as possible. 
  7. Have an adjuster inspect the damage to your home. Your insurance company will probably arrange for the adjuster. 

SETTLING YOUR CLAIM

Once you and your insurance company agree on the terms of the settlement, the law requires that you be sent payment promptly. Unless there are problems with your claim, it will be processed quickly. 

If you are unsatisfied with you claim, follow these steps: 

  1. Talk to your agent or the claims manager at your insurance company. Explain your side of the matter. Provide copies of supporting documents. Also, send a letter and documents to the claims executive at the insurance company's headquarters whose address is usually found on the first page of the policy. 
  2. Call the National Insurance Consumer Help line. If after hearing from your insurance company's claims executive, you still feel your claim hasn't been handled properly, call 1-800-942-4242. It is a toll-free consumer information telephone service sponsored by the insurance industry. Trained personnel and licensed agents are available to assist consumers who have complaints. The Help line operates Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. ET. 
  3. Contact your state insurance department. Explain the reasons for the disagreement to a consumer services representative at the department. He or she will discuss the matter with your insurer and help to resolve any difference so the claim can be settled. 
  4. Consult an attorney. The American Bar Association notes that many situations involving legal matters can be handled by consumers on their own, without a lawyer. If you do hire an attorney, provide them with a copy of your insurance policy and all other relevant documents. If the insurance company has made a settlement offer, tell your attorney about it and ask if he or she believes that a lawsuit will help you get a larger settlement. Attorneys usually work on an hourly rate, but with cases involving injuries, they generally work on a contingency basis. Get the attorney's fee structure in writing before you decide to pursue the case. You can remain current on the progress of your claim by insisting that you receive copies from your attorney of all correspondence involving your case. Your attorney must have your agreement before committing to any settlement. 

REVIEWING YOUR POLICY

After your claim has been settled, take time to re-evaluate your homeowners insurance coverage to make sure you have adequate protection.

DO YOU NEED FLOOD INSURANCE?

Flooding is not covered by a standard new jersey homeowners insurance policy.

To determine if you need flood insurance, ask your insurance professional, mortgage company or neighbors about the flood history in your area. If there is a potential for flooding, you should consider purchasing a policy that covers the structure and your personal belongings. 

Flood insurance can be purchased from an insurance agent or company under contract with the Federal Insurance Administration (FIA), part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Flood insurance is only available where the local government has adopted adequate flood plain management regulations under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Flood insurance is available even if you are not located in a flood zone.

Most Americans live or work in areas that have some risk of flooding. Flooding is caused by a number of conditions including hurricanes and severe storms, overflowing rivers or tidal waters, heavy rain, mudslides, levee failure and snowmelt. About 90 percent of natural disasters involve flooding in one way or another. Unfortunately, many people still don't understand the importance of flood insurance. An overwhelming majority of residents who were flood victims in 1997 were not covered for their flood exposure.

  • new jersey homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage. Only flood insurance will cover your losses in the event of a flood. Insurance for homeowners, renters and businesses is available through the federal government.
  • Floods and flash floods occur within all 50 states. Almost everyone is vulnerable to floods, no matter where they live. In fact, the National Flood Insurance Program says that one out of four flood claims come from outside flood risk areas.
  • Flood insurance policies can be purchased from licensed brokers. Flood insurance is available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). It is sold via the more than 80 participating insurance companies that write and service policies through a special arrangement with the Federal Insurance Association (FIA), as well as through thousands of insurance agents nationwide. Contact your insurance agent for details or call the NFIP at 1-800-638-6620.
  • Don't wait to obtain a flood insurance policy. If your community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program, you are eligible to purchase flood insurance through the NFIP. Remember that there is a 30-day waiting period before your coverage takes effect, so don't delay.
  • Flood insurance coverage. The maximum coverage amounts are $250,000 for a home and $100,000 for its contents. Maximum coverage for businesses is $500,000 for buildings and $500,00 for contents. Separate deductibles apply for building and contents. Flood insurance does not cover personal property located in a basement.
  • Disaster aid is only available in federally declared disaster areas. Before most forms of federal disaster assistance are offered, the President must declare the area a major disaster -- and less than 10% of all disasters are declared by the President. Flood insurance claims are paid even if the President does not declare a disaster.
  • Relief from floods primarily comes in the form of loans. If your area is declared a disaster, no-interest or low interest loans are usually made available by the federal government. But these loans are just that - loans -- and must be paid back. Obtaining a flood insurance policy is the only way to truly protect yourself from the cost of flooding disasters.

RENTERS INSURANCE

What if you came home from work only to find your apartment had been totally trashed by a burglar? Or what if you walked into your living room and found yourself standing in a 3 inch flood of water? Well, if you think it's not a major problem because your landlord will foot the bill, YOU'RE WRONG. 

Your landlord's insurance does NOT cover your personal property. Things like your clothes, stereo, furniture, television, bicycle, jewelry, personal computer, artwork and other items are not covered by your landlord's insurance against destruction or loss. As sorry as your landlord may be about the 3 inches of water in your living room or your stolen stereo, you're the one who'll have to buy a new couch and stereo system, not him. 

Renters insurance covers your personal property and:

  • protects you against losses from fire or smoke, lightning, vandalism, theft, explosion, windstorm, and water damage from plumbing. 
  • covers your responsibility to other people injured at your home or elsewhere by you, a family member or your pet and includes legal defense costs if you are taken to court. 

COMMON QUESTIONS

  • Q. Does renters insurance cover all my personal property ?
  • A. It depends. Some things like - jewelry and computers - often have a per-category limit (for example, some policies have a $5,000 limit for computers). For these things you may want to buy a floater, this provides additional coverage for specific items not included in your basic policy.

 

  • Q. If I file a claim, will my policy be canceled?
  • A. If you didn't cause the loss or damage, your insurance shouldn't be affected. If you were at fault -- if you caused a fire by smoking in bed for example -- the insurance company might consider this when setting the price for your next policy.

 

  • Q. Is my personal property covered away from home?
  • A. Yes, but coverage amounts vary from 10% of your personal property coverage to the full value.

 

  • Q. As a student, am I covered by my parents' policy?
  • A. If you are a college student under the age of 26, and your parents have a homeowners or renters insurance policy, their insurance might give you limited coverage in the dorm, but not if you live in an apartment.

 

  • Q. Can I purchase a renters policy with my roommates?
  • A. Yes, but the regulations might be different from state to state, and the policies might also be different from company to company. Find out what regulations apply in your state and then shop around to find an insurance company that can help your situation. Each roommate's name should be included on the policy.

 

  • Q. What about unmarried couples?
  • A. Some insurance companies now allow unmarried couples who have been living together to obtain joint coverage, rather than two separate policies. Each person's name should appear on the policy.

 

  • Q. What happens if my rented or borrowed items are stolen?
  • A. Items that are "in your possession" are covered under a standard renter's policy.

 

  • Q. What if my insurance company doesn't respond to a claim?
  • A. Your state insurance department or local consumer protection office can answer questions on filing claims and also take complaints. 

 

  • Q. Is my bike or car covered by renters insurance?
  • A. Your bike is covered, but vehicles aren't. You need to get a separate auto insurance policy to protect your car, van or motorcycle.

 

How do you determine the amount of coverage you need?

  1. Take An Inventory: 

    Make a list of everything in your apartment. Record model numbers, serial numbers, date of purchase and price of item. Take photographs or make a video of these items.

    Give one inventory to your insurance agent, and keep another for yourself.

    Keep your inventory and visual record of your things outside of the apartment maybe in a safe deposit box or at the office.
  2. Ask About: 

    Theft Limits - For example, most renters policies have a $1,000 total limit on jewelry that is stolen, a $3,000 - $10,000 limit for computers. Ask for a list of standard coverage limits so you know whether you'll need to get additional coverage for your personal property .

    Cash Or Replacement Value - Your policy can insure your personal property in one of two ways--either for the cash value or the replacement cost. 

    Cash value coverage takes into account the age and condition of items at the time of damage or loss. You would be reimbursed for the value of the item minus depreciation. 

    Replacement value pays today's cost for an item of similar kind or quality.

    Deductible Options - Find out about the deductible or your out-of-pocket cost. Keep in mind that raising your deductible will usually lower your premium.
  3. Discounts:

    Insurance companies frequently offer discounts to their auto policyholders interested in buying a renters policy from them. You can also get discounts if your apartment or home has a security system, smoke detectors, or deadbolt locks. More discounts might be available depending on your age or whether you're a non-smoker.
  4. Shop Around:

    Look on the Internet, ask friends or relatives or flip through the yellow pages to find the agent that is right for you. Call a variety of insurance companies and agents and ask a lot of questions. Keep your inventory handy, so you can find the amount of coverage that is most appropriate for you. The minimum limit is generally $25,000.
  5. Review Your Policy:

    Review your policy with your insurance professional so that you understand what's covered. For example, flooding is not a covered peril in a renters insurance policy.

    However, if you live in a flood prone area, you may want to consider purchasing a flood insurance policy.

INSURANCE TIPS FOR CO-OP/CONDO OWNERS 

You will need two separate policies to protect your investment. 

Your own insurance policy. This would provide coverage for your personal possessions, structural improvements to your apartment and additional living expenses if you are the victim of fire, theft or other disaster listed in your policy. You would also get liability protection.

A "master policy" provided by the condo/co-op board. This would cover the common areas you share with others in your building like the roof, basement, elevator, boiler and walkways for both liability and physical damage. 

To adequately insure your apartment, it is important to know what structural part of your home is covered by the condo/co-op association and what is not. You can do this by

reading your association's bylaws and/or proprietary lease. If you have questions, talk to your condo association, insurance professional or family attorney. 

Sometimes the association is responsible for insuring the individual condo or co-op units, as they were originally built, including standard fixtures. The individual owner, in this case, would only be responsible for alterations to the original structure of the apartment, like remodeling the kitchen or bathtub. Sometimes this includes not only improvements you make, but those made by previous owners.

In other situations, the condo/co-op association is responsible only for insuring the bare walls, floor and ceiling. The owner must insure kitchen cabinets, built-in appliances, plumbing, wiring, bathroom fixtures etc.

Also ask your insurance professional about the following additional coverages:

Unit Assessment : This would reimburse you for your share of an assessment charged to all unit owners as a result of a covered loss. For instance, if there was a fire in the lobby and all the unit owners were charged the cost of repairing the loss, this type of insurance would provide coverage.

Water back-up : Insures your contents for damage by the back-up of sewers or drains.

Umbrella Liability: This is an inexpensive way to get more liability protection and broader coverage than what is in a standard condo/co-op policy. You may feel more comfortable with this additional protection.

Flood or earthquake: If you live in an area prone to these disasters, you will need an additional policy since standard new jersey homeowners policies do not include either flood or earthquake coverage.

Floater or endorsement: If you own expensive jewelry, furs or collectibles, you might consider getting additional coverage since there are specific dollar limits for these types of high ticket items. For instance, there is generally a $1,000 limit for theft of jewelry. 

When purchasing insurance, it is important to find an agent or company that specializes in condominiums or co-ops. Also don't forget to ask about all available discounts. You can reduce your rates by raising your deductible and by installing a smoke and fire alarm system that rings at an outside service. If you insure your unit with the same company that underwrites your building's insurance policy, you might also get an additional reduction in premium. 

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