Pro tips on road trips – Memorial Day travel at a record high despite gas prices

The national average cost of a gallon of unleaded fuel is now at $4.56 but it is still expected that Memorial Day weekend will be one of the most heavily traveled times of the year. AAA predicts that over 39 million people will hit the road and go 50 miles or more from home to enjoy the three day weekend. This prediction of travelers is up over 8% from 2021. So what does this mean if you’re one of those brave road trippers? Here are some pro tips:

  • Have your vehicle serviced ahead of time – oil and fluid change/top off, check tire pressure or rotate them, and windshield wipers
  • The Red Cross recommends always having an emergency kit with supplies such as water, a flashlight, cell phone charger, jumper cables, first aid kit and spare tire
  • Be sure your proof of insurance card and registration are in the vehicle
  • Pack extra bottled water and stay gassed up in the event of traffic delays
  • Use a navigation app such as Waze for traffic detours, road closures, etc.
  • It’s also a good idea to pack your spare key in a purse or bag that won’t necessarily be in the vehicle the whole trip. It’ll do you more good in your hotel room than all the way back home if you happen to misplace or lose your keys while you’re away.

If you plan to rent a vehicle at any point on your trip, we always recommend purchasing the insurance coverage that they offer. It’s very common that people assume they have everything they need on their own auto policy back home but it doesn’t always transfer to a temporarily rented vehicle. Typically, the coverage for the vehicle itself would (as long as you have comprehensive and collision on your policy), but liability is one of the most important parts as well as injury protection for you and your passengers. It’s wise to add their protection when possible, especially since it’s usually inexpensive.

The best move you can make is to be prepared… with your packing list but also your mindset. With 39 million people on the road, you’re bound to have delays or detours but try not to stress. This kicks off a summer of sunshine and should be a fun time! After all, it wasn’t that long ago that we didn’t have the ability to vacation during the pandemic so hang in there and safe travels!

Just released: Roof guideline improvements!

When the House session ended earlier this month without any progression for Senate Bill 1728, we were disappointed and discouraged. And we assume, if you’ve been following along, you were too. We were unsure if and when a special session would be called by the governor, or if we’d be forced to exercise all the patience we have left until next year.

But gratefully, we are excited to share that some good news was just released and it may be just the relief we’ve been asking for!

In a meeting of the Florida Cabinet earlier this week, it was revealed that the Office of Insurance Regulation will now allow property insurers to offer roof deductible endorsements as well as a schedule on what will be paid on roof replacements.

Similar roof deductible provisions were included in Senate Bill 1728, which passed the state Senate in the regular session but stalled in the House. However, Florida state statutes allow the OIR agency the authority to make regulatory change without the need of legislation. Thankfully, our home state’s insurance regulators are taking steps on their own to help cut the cost of roof claims.

One of the main improvements in this is that policyholders will have the option to choose their roof deductible up front and carriers will no longer be required to offer full replacement cost only. Currently, Florida appears to be the only U.S. state that requires full roof replacement when only 25% of the roof is damaged.

This change comes at a very opportunistic time for all of us as June 1 is when many carriers must renew their reinsurance, and prices are expected to increase dramatically.

This is potentially really good news for the real estate, mortgage lending and insurance industries. We don’t know for sure yet what change will come from this but it’s a step in the right direction of making home insurance available and affordable. We are hopeful.

 

Why home insurance may be the cause of your headache

Headaches are known to be caused by things like dehydration, malnutrition, stress or lack of sleep. But if we had to guess, home owners and those affiliated with the real estate industry have experienced a headache lately that can be blamed fully on the current state of home insurance. As much as we don’t like or agree with the challenges home owners are facing, we can provide a little insight as to why things are the way they are.

To put a quite complicated issue simply, it really boils down to three things:

Fraud – Roofing guidelines have gotten more and more strict and it’s in large part due to an unfortunate amount of claims filed unnecessarily for roof replacements. The involvement of roofers themselves, public adjusters and the misuse of the Assignment of Benefits tool have all contributed to an increase in claims that insurance companies have struggled to sustain through. Profitability and the ability to pay legitimate claims are down, making insurance companies unable to be there for consumers when they need them the most.

Litigation – Property claim payouts have been cited to be up to 4.5 times more when an attorney is involved. Over the past 9 years, approximately 71% of the billions of dollars paid out on property claims when to attorney fees. This one speaks for itself.

Reinsurance – Approximately 40-45 cents of every dollar of a homeowners insurance premium goes toward the cost of reinsurance. This is the insurance that insurance companies buy to protect themselves from overwhelming losses in larger claims and catastrophe situations. When insurer’s expenses are up this high, one of the only ways to compensate is to increase premiums.

It’s safe to say that everyone involved in the insurance, real estate and associated industries agrees that something has got to change. There are people unable to accomplish homeownership or being priced out of opportunities because of these issues. At this time, the reform bill that the Senate presented to the House has been postponed until either next session or a special session, should the Governor call for it. Therefore, there is little to no control over the situation other than hoping for legislative action to be taken sooner than later and spreading awareness to minimize fraudulent and litigious activity.

Hang in there, guys. You make think home insurance is quite a necessary evil at this point. And while the necessary part is true, it isn’t all evil… we’re actually here to help and advocate for home owners. We can get through this together.

 

What exactly is MFA and why is it important?

Although you’ve heard all the talk about cyber security and data breaches in the past, have you ever really thought about it happening to you? It’s no surprise but cyber crime has grown to the highest cost in the 17 year history of reporting, according to IBM. Currently, data breach costs are upwards of $4 million.

These attacks are happening more frequently and costing individuals and business owners more money. It could be that we have more work-from-home opportunities than ever before, better cyber technology making cyber criminals more efficient, or more vulnerability in the health and finance sector. It’s been predicted that right now, a cyber attack could occur ever 11 seconds, which is nearly four times the frequency recorded just five years ago.

There are several ways you can protect yourself but one of the most simple and important methods is unfortunately overlooked. As if we insurance folks didn’t have enough acronyms to talk about, here’s another one: MFA. Multi-Factor Authorization. MFA is a security method that requires the use of two or more authentication factors to verify a user’s identity. This is most commonly used for users accessing an organization’s network or using a personal or work email remotely. MFA just provides assurance that the user tapping in to private information is who they say they are and that they deserve access. This keeps data safe even if one set of a username and password is compromised. The use of MFA can stop cyber attacks in their tracks, blocking 99.9% of account-compromising attacks.

So we clarified that MFA is just a method of double checking one’s identity. In real-life terms, that just means that before one can access your accounts or email, they have to take an extra step so that at least two of the following three categories is confirmed:

  • Knowledge – something only that user knows like a password, answer to a personalized security question, or PIN
  • Possession – typically the device the user is on like a smartphone, laptop, or software token
  • Biometric – something unique to the user such as a fingerprint or face scan

Why is MFA also important for a business?

  • Strengthen your existing security system – Firewalls & antivirus protection is only as strong as the authentication steps that protect them
  • Protect high-value targets such as Administrative or Executive accounts – these typically have sensitive information, broader access and confidential personal/business information
  • Limit digital credential theft – even if a hacker obtained username and password information, they are unlikely to have the device or access to the backup MFA such as a personal email with verification code sent
  • Stop cyber exploitation – cyber crimes are more than just stealing private information. Hackers can also destroy such data, deploy ransomware, change programs or transmit spam/malicious code

MFA is just one added layer of protection that you can implement in your email or other account specific systems that you use to stay cyber safe.

Flood Insurance Risk Rating 2.0: New & Improved

The National Flood Insurance Program had some major changes that became effective October 1st. They are calling this initiative “Risk Rating 2.0”, in which FEMA considers a substantial leap forward when it comes to flood insurance. While some of the changes are minor details, there are a few pretty big adjustments to this coverage that you’ll want to know about in order to best serve your clients.
Since the 1970s, this type of insurance coverage has been rated based solely off of a zone determined by the property location and elevation. FEMA now has years of analyzed data combined with a conscious effort to make flood insurance more fairly rated.
With the evolution of the new Risk Rating 2.0 program, FEMA will now use the following factors to more accurately rate a property for flood insurance:
  • Flood frequency
  • Multiple flood types such as river overflow, storm surge, coastal erosion and heavy rainfall
  • Distance to a water source
  • Property characteristics such as construction type, cost to rebuild, and elevation
  • Prior insurance/claims
Some things that remain the same are:
  • Existing statutory limits on rate increases require that most rates can not increase more than 18% per year
  • FEMA will continue to offer premium discounts for pre-FIRM subsidized and newly mapped properties
  • Policyholders will still be able to transfer their discount to a new owner by assigning their flood insurance policy when their property changes ownership
  • Discounts to policyholders in communities who participate in the Community Rating System will continue
FEMA estimated that 20% of Florida homeowners will see an immediate premium decrease, 68% will see an increase up to $120, and 12% will see an increase over $120.
Overall, this is good news and a positive, fair change moving forward. Flood insurance can be complex but it doesn’t have to be. Any time we can be of assistance with flood insurance questions, please reach out. We’re happy to help navigate these waters…. literally.