What Snowbirds Need To Know About Risks of Florida Home Ownership

If you’re among the half-million or so Canadian snowbirds who own property in Florida that may have been flooded or been otherwise damaged thanks to the recent rains and winds brought down by Tropical Storm Irma, call your insurer now (if you haven’t already).

But, don’t expect to get any help in recouping the damages from any U.S. government agencies. The U.S. government’s relief programs, typically from the Federal Emergency Management System (FEMA), are only provided to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, refugees and asylum seekers.

When you get your insurer on the line, you will need to find out the extent of your coverage against losses, your timeframe for filing a claim and whether or not your estimated loss exceeds your deductible.

Don’t forget to let your agent know that you’re not permanently located in Florida or the U.S.

Your insurer will want you to provide receipts for expenses related to the damage, like relocation costs and temporary repairs. Also necessary are repair estimates from licensed contractors. Your insurance company will want to officially assess your loss, so don’t throw anything that’s been damaged away. Also know that temporary repairs are taken out of your total settlement, so make sure you don’t go overboard with interim fixes.

While you have your insurance agent on the phone, you might also check to see if your coverage should be upped for future incidents.

Florida traditionally has held tremendous appeal as the most popular U.S. destination for Canadian home buyers. But as Irma showed, there can be risks to offset the appeal of its sunny skies and year-round warmth, especially when hurricane season approaches.

Since Canadians are prevented from participating in relief programs like FEMA’s, it only makes sense to ensure your insurance is sufficient to protect your investment.

Flood insurance is available. If you don’t already have it, you should ask about it now for the next time around. It is granted mainly through the National Flood Insurance Program, though its caps of $250,000 for home damages and $100,000 for property may not be sufficient for your home’s value. Supplemental insurance may help, but only a handful of private insurers offer it in Florida.

Also worth noting is separate windstorm coverage, particularly valuable for property along either of Florida’s coasts. It will protect your home as well as your personal belongings within it, and may, depending on how it’s written, also cover detached structures like sheds and swimming pools. While these sorts of damages may be covered under your homeowner’s policy, in an area like Florida that’s prone to Irma-strength forces, your best bet is to look into added coverage.

In addition to making sure the insurance coverage you have on your Florida investment is sufficient for weather-related risks, it’s also a good idea to be ready with protective measures.

One recommendation, for example, is to ensure healthy trees are kept trimmed and damaged ones are removed to lessen the risk of flying limbs causing damage. Gutters and downspouts should be secured and cleared to protect against water damage. Windows and doors should be protected, furniture battened down and the water supply cut off. If you won’t be there to put these measures in place before the next tropical storm lands, make sure your property manager or a friend can help out.

It’s great to have the option of a Florida getaway, especially when our winters sometimes seem to never end. Do yourself a favor and make sure you’ve done everything you can to protect it.