FAQs on Home Insurance
I am closing on a new house, what do I need?
We do new home closings all of the time! We will contact your closing attorney and your lender to provide them with two items. 1. A temporary proof of insurance called a binder 2. a receipt showing you have paid us the full annual cost of the home insurance OR an invoice to pay at closing. Closing dates change often. We constantly stay in contact with everyone to make sure the policy is issued for the correct date. Your lender will also inform us if the homeowner's insurance will be paid by your lender in the future years. If it is, your insurance company will send the bill to your lender at renewal. The annual term will then be paid out of your escrow account.
Can I reduce the replacement cost amount on my home policy?
In most cases, no. We perform detailed cost estimators on every new quote to determine the true rebuilding value of your house. A replacement cost policy requires you insure the dwelling to 100% of its true replacement value. If an agent issues a policy at a suppressed rebuilding cost, at the time of inspection a certified inspector will do their own cost estimator and compare their work with the agent's. If the two values do not match, the insurance company will force you to insure the property correctly.
When does a company perform inspections?
If you issue a new homeowner's policy, carriers will perform an exterior inspection of your house to check for pride in home ownership. They will make sure your roof is in tact without misplaced and cracked shingles, level walkways, proper drainage, no moss on the siding, no loose debris in the yard, etc. Make your house look like something the company wants to insure! In some instances, a company will order an interior inspection. They may do this if your house is older than 75 years of age to check for updates or if you have a high value home. There could be other reasons as well. Insurance companies over time also have the right to re-inspect your property as a policy ages.
I live within 2,600 feet of the water and I thought I couldn't switch my insurance?
In CT prior to October of 2014, preferred carriers would not write homeowner's insurance if your house was located a half of a mile or less from the coast without hurricane mitigation (hurricane straps, shutters, hurricane rated glass). You would of been forced to seek out specialty carriers that would write your house. Being a coastal agency, we dealt with this a lot. After October of 2014, the State of CT required all insurance carriers in the preferred market to accept homeowner's insurance up to the coast. They considered not doing so redlining. Today as a coastal homeowner, you will have no issues re-quoting your insurance in a variety of markets.
Do CAT Claims affect my insurance?
I no longer live in my house, do I have to notify my agent?
If you were at one point living in your house and it is now vacant, rented out (even to family members...), or under renovation, you need to notify your agent IMMEDIATELY. A standard home insurance policy assumes the owner named on the deed or a spouse is occupying it. If you are renting a house, it needs to be written as a rental. If it is vacant it needs to be written as vacant. If you have a claim and a policy is written with the wrong occupancy, the company can deny your claim.
When do I need Lead Certificates?
Many carriers in the preferred market require lead certificates if you are renting out a home or individual unit built prior to1978. Some carriers will require lead free or lead safe certificates certifying there is no lead risk before they will accept the risk. We offer various markets that will not require lead certificates in these situations.
I have an adverse claims history and nobody wants to insure me - now what?
You will most likely have to go to an excess and surplus lines company. Due to the strict guidelines in a preferred market, if you have certain types of claims such as a large liability loss or multiple incidents within a short period of time, you may not be eligible. We have access to many specialty markets to find you a quote in these situations. They will price accordingly!
Dogs - Are They a Problem?
Having a dog is not an issue in itself. However, most carriers have restrictions on a number of breeds. Pit bulls, rottweilers, ridgebacks, akitas, dobermans, chows to name a few will give you trouble when trying to get homeowner's insurance. In some cases you may have to go to an excess and surplus market to find house insurance and they will apply an animal liability exclusion on the policy. If you have an animal liability exclusion on youer policy, this means when your pup bites someone (or another dog) and causes injury, there is no coverage.
My mortgage company pays my home insurance. How do I switch?
If you want to switch your homeowner's insurance and your mortgage company pays your home insurance bill, we contact the bank for you. We provide them with all of the new policy information and inform them you are moving your insurance. Once they receive the bill they will make the payment out of your escrow account. We recommend you always take any refund money from your old policy if it is being canceled mid-term and place it back into your account to pay towards the new insurance.
At Summit, we have access to a wide array of dwelling products for home, condo, rental properties, and even renovation projects. We write property insurance across the entire state of CT and have multiple marketplaces to find the most competitive rates for whatever your situation is.
Your standard homeowner's policy, also known as an HO3 covers a few key items:
Dwelling coverage - this is the true replacement value of your house if you took your exact house and built it again. Market value does not apply and is not to be confused with replacement cost. When we choose a carrier to quote you through, we obtain the details from your specific home directly from the town assessor office and perform a detailed report to arrive at a value. In addition to whatever the dwelling value is, you can also purchase extended dwelling coverage. This means your policy can cover 25%, 50% or an unlimited amount above your stated dwelling limit.
Other Structures - this covers anything detached from your house, such as garages, sheds, barns, fences, etc. This is usually calculated automatically at 10% of whatever your dwelling amount is.
Personal Property - Anything you can carry in or out of your house is covered here. These items include clothing, personal belongings, furniture, televisions, and other belongings. This is usually calculated between 50% and 70% of your dwelling amount.
Loss of Use - If your house is damaged in a catastrophic event, your policy provides coverage towards living elsewhere while your house is being repaired and rebuilt. Your carrier will reimburse for meal costs and living expenses for hotel stays or renting another space. This is usually calculated at 20% to 30% of your dwelling amount.
Personal Liability - the classic example is someone slipping and falling on your property and then suing you for their injuries. Or perhaps your son drove a baseball through your neighbors window and caused property damage. This is where your liability would come into play to cover bodily injury and property damage out of negligence. Personal injury is also an important coverage that extends for claims against libel and slander.
These are the core coverages of your home policy. However, there are many additional coverages that are usually built in or can be purchased separately as well.
These coverages are not limited to: Water backup coverage / Identity Theft / Refrigerated items / Limited Mold, etc.
Scheduled Personal Property - can be added to a homeowners, condo, or renters policy. Typically you will see the cost per $1,000 of jewelry coverage fall between $11 - $14 dollars. You can also schedule items such as musical equipment, fine art, furs, cameras, and silverware.
A Condominium policy (HO6) is almost exactly the same as your regular homeowner's policy. The biggest difference is that you will not have as much Coverage A (Dwelling) as a normal home. This is due to the fact that your association's policy usually insures the building as it stands.
The purpose of the Coverage A on your individual condo policy is to fill the gap between the deductible that is on your association's policy. In some cases the deductible might be large, for example $50,000 if it is a coastal association. If this was the real deductible you would want to make sure you have at least $50,000 in dwelling coverage.
The other reason you have dwelling coverage on a condo policy is for betterment and improvements you have done to your own unit. If you spent $30,000 of your own money upgrading your unit, your association policy may not provide coverage.
Another important coverage is Loss Assessment. Let's say your condominium complex has a total of 25 units. Assume there is a tree that crashes through three of the units and causes $150,000 of damage. The association may ask each of the 25 unit owners to help pitch in to cover the deductible on the master policy. With a $50,000 deductible the association may ask each owner to pay a portion of the loss which would equal $2,000 per owner.
Just like a standard home policy, you can get coverage for your personal property, loss of use, liability, and scheduled personal items.
A renter's policy (HO4) is what you would purchase if you are occupying someone else's house, apartment, or condo. There is no dwelling coverage on this type of policy. The main items you are covering are your own personal property, loss of use, and liability.
If you rent a unit and are negligent for any damage to the property you are renting, your policy would provide liability coverage. Perhaps you accidentally set a fire in the house by forgetting to turn the stove off. Or you may have accidentally shut off the heat before you went away for vacation and the pipes froze.
Dwelling Fire (DP1, DP3)
Similar to a home policy, a special form dwelling fire (DP3) covers a property you are renting to tenants. These are replacement cost policies. You are covering the dwelling itself, any other structures on the premises, personal property if you furnish the house or unit you are renting out, and loss of use if the place burns down and you can't collect your rental income. You will have premises liability for slip and fall claims and coverage for malicious mischief / vandalism. Most of the perils that are covered by your standard home policy are recognized on a DP3 as well. The main difference is the occupancy.
Vacant - when you vacate a house for a longer period of time, typically you will only be offered an ACV (DP1) or actual cash value policy which is less broad in coverage and will only respond to specifically named perils. Companies generally do not offer replacement cost on a vacant policy. In some cases if you are pending sale on a home or between tenancy, select companies will allow replacement cost.
Student Housing - Student housing is a completely separate market and needs to be quoted specifically for such a risk. Due to the increased risk profile of housing students (think keggers, frat parties, people jumping off balconies...), you will have to obtain a specialty quote through the excess and surplus market.
High Net Worth (HO5)
For successful individuals who have acquired larger homes, more expensive automobiles, and finer jewelry, we have multiple marketplaces for you.
No Coverage A Cap - we have access to carriers such as CHUBB, AIG, and NatGen Premier that will write dwellings up to $25,000,000 in replacement value. Options such as unlimited replacement cost apply even if it costs more than your dwelling limit to restore your home after a loss. With most standard carriers, once you start getting past $1,000,000 in dwelling coverage, you start to fall out of their risk appetite.
Higher deductible options - If you are someone who can withstand a higher out of pocket cost after a loss, HNW carriers offer a wide variety of deductible options up to $50,000 to reduce premiums.
Cash Settlement Options - If your house is destroyed after a major loss and you decide not to rebuild, you can opt for cash up to the policy limit.
Open Peril Replacement Cost on Contents - Versus a normal HO3 policy, an HO5 policy will cover your personal contents & belongings on an open peril basis without limitation unless specifically excluded.
Waiver of Deductible - If you sustain a large loss, the carrier can waive the deductible past a certain threshold.
Higher Per Item Value on Scheduled Property - If you have Jewelry that is worth thousands of dollars per piece, you will have more flexibility on adding those item to your schedule.
Higher Underlying Liability Limits & Umbrella Coverage - On a HNW policy, you will have access to obtaining higher limits on underlying liability and umbrella limits past $5,000,000.
If you have a manufactured, modular, or mobile home, you will need specific insurance to cover your home.
In many ways the coverage you obtain on your mobile or manufactured home mimics a homeowner's policy. There is comprehensive coverage available for direct loss such a fire, lightning, explosion, vandalism, and falling objects. These are the same perils that are also covered by a standard HO3.
With a manufactured home, you will have the option for total replacement cost or actual cash value.
A replacement cost policy will allow you to receive a settlement for the cost to fully replace your home plus personal property items without depreciation opposed to an actual cash value policy.
Agreed Loss - If you paid $60,000 for your manufactured home brand new and you want to insure it to the dollar, you have the ability to do so. What the contract says the value is will be the amount you receive back after a total loss.
Liability Coverage - Just like a normal home policy, you will have liability coverage for slip and fall claims that happen in or around your home.
Living Expenses - Your mobile home might be your permanent home. If you are unable to live in your home after a loss, you can purchase loss of use to cover you in the event you need to live elsewhere and pay for meals while your home is repaired or replaced.
You can also purchase homeowner-like coverages such as water backup & sump overflow, identify theft coverage, personal injury on liability, and scheduled property.
What Determines Homeowner's Insurance Price?
Credit Score - just like auto insurance, this plays a huge factor in determining the price of homeowners insurance.
Coverage A amount - Coverage A is the cost driver of your policy because the rest of your coverages such as B, C, and D are calculated from it. The higher the dwelling coverage is on your policy, the higher the other coverages, the higher the overall rate.
Deductible - By choosing a larger deductible, the carrier rewards you for picking up more of the initial cost at the time of a claim. If you have a larger home, carrying a higher deductible is a great option to reduce cost on your homeowners policy.
Distance to coast - typically the closer you get to the coast line, companies charge more due to hurricane exposure. You may see an automatic hurricane deductible applied to your policy. If you are within 2,600 feet of the coast, you could see a mandatory 5% named storm deductible on most policies. As you move further away from the coast the deductible will diminish.
House Construction - Certain characteristics like having a non-combustible masonry built house versus a frame house can make your insurance less expensive.
Territory - Certain cities & towns simply have lower rating exposures versus other areas based on company loss statistics in those areas and other rating factors.
Alarm Credits - If your house has a central station burglar alarm, fire alarm, or sprinklers you can receive credits for protective safeguards.
Loss Experience - if you have not submitted any claims within the past 3 to 5 years, you can receive a loss free credit.
Account Credit - Pairing auto and umbrella insurance with the same carrier can generate big savings, typically in the range of 20% to 30% savings on your overall premium.