Factors That Determine the Amount Of Settlement You Get

 

  • Policy Type
    • Replacement Cost and Actual Cash Value - Replacement cost policies provides you with the dollar amount needed to replace a damaged item with one of similar kind and quality without deducting for depreciation (the decrease in value due to age, wear and tear, and other factors). Actual cash value policies pay the amount needed to replace the item minus depreciation.

      Suppose, for example, a tree fell through the roof onto your eight-year-old washing machine. With a replacement cost policy, the insurance company would pay to replace the old machine with a new one. If you had an actual cash value policy, the company would pay only a part of the cost of a new washing machine because a machine that has been used for eight years is worth less than its original cost.
       
    • Extended and Guaranteed Replacement Cost -  If your home is damaged beyond repair, a typical homeowners policy will pay to replace it up to the limits of the policy. If the value of your insurance policy has kept up with increases in local building costs, a similar dwelling can generally be built for an amount within the policy limits.

      With an extended replacement cost policy your insurer will pay a certain percentage over the limit to rebuild your home -- 20 percent or more, depending on the insurer --- so that if building costs go up unexpectedly, you will have extra funds to cover the bill. A few insurance companies offer a guaranteed replacement cost policy that pays whatever it costs to rebuild your home as it was before the disaster. But neither type of policy will pay for more expensive materials than those that were used in the structure that was destroyed.
       
    • Mobile Home, Stated Amount - If you own a mobile home, you may have a stated amount policy. With this policy, the maximum amount you receive if your home is destroyed is the sum you agreed to when the policy was issued. If you opt for the stated amount, update your policy annually to make sure that the amount will cover the cost of replacing your mobile home. Check with local mobile home dealers to find out what similar homes now sell for. 
       
  • Policy limits
    • Most insurance policies provide adequate coverage because they include an inflation-guard clause to keep up with increases in local building costs. If you have replacement cost coverage, your insurance company will pay the full cost of repairing or replacing the damaged structure with a building of “like kind and quality." In other words, if you were adequately insured and lived in a three-bedroom ranch before the disaster, your insurance company would pay to build a similar three-bedroom ranch. 

      Most insurance companies recommend that a dwelling be insured for 100 percent of replacement cost so that you have enough money to rebuild if your home is totally destroyed. 

      You may not be fully covered, however, if you have made significant improvements on your house, such as enclosing a porch to create another room or expanding your kitchen, without informing your insurance company of the changes at the time. 
       
  • Temporary living expenses
    • If you can't live in your home because of the damage, your insurance company will advance you money to pay for reasonable additional living expenses. The amount available to pay for such expenses is generally equal to 20 percent of the insurance on your home. This amount is in addition to the money for repairs or to rebuild your home. Some insurance companies pay more than 20 percent. Others limit additional living expenses to the amount spent during a certain period of time. 

      Among the items typically covered are eating out, rent, telephone or utility installation costs in a temporary residence, and extra transportation costs. Insurance policies often discuss additional living expenses under the heading loss of use.
       
  • Rebuilding and making repairs
    • If your home was destroyed, you have several options.
      • You can rebuild a new home on the same site.
      • Depending on state law, you can sell the land and build or buy a house in a different place, even another state.
      • You can decide that you would rather rent.

If you decide not to rebuild, the settlement amount depends on state law, what the courts have said about this matter and the kind of policy you have. Find out from your insurance agent or company representative what the settlement amount will be based on. 

Concerning repairs, if you downgrade, for example, replace an expensive wood floor with one using a cheaper product, you are not entitled to the difference in cash.

  • Other factors
    • Compliance with current building codes -  Building codes require structures to be built to certain minimum standards. In areas likely to be hit by hurricanes, for example, buildings must be able to withstand high winds. If your home was damaged and it was not in compliance with current local building codes, you may have to rebuild the damaged sections according to current codes.

      In some cases, complying with the code may require a change in design or building materials and may cost more. Generally, homeowners insurance policies won't pay for these extra costs, but insurance companies offer an endorsement that pays a specified amount toward such changes. (An endorsement is an addition to an insurance policy that changes what the policy covers.) Information concerning this coverage is found under ordinance or law in the Section I exclusion part of your policy. 
       
  • The use of public adjusters
    • Your insurance company provides an adjuster at no charge. You also may be contacted by adjusters who have no relationship with your insurance company and charge a fee for their services. They are known as public adjusters. If you decide to use a public adjuster to help you in settling your claim, this service could cost you as much as 15 percent of the total value of your settlement. Sometimes after a disaster, the percentage that public adjusters may charge is set by the insurance department. If you do decide to use a public adjuster, first check references and qualifications by contacting the Better Business Bureau and your state insurance department (See back cover for contact information). 
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