Insurance tips from the pros: Colorado has some extreme weather. Are you ready for it?
Living in Colorado has a lot of perks, but it’s got its risks, too.
The state is part of the country’s “hail alley.” It’s coming off a year that saw its three biggest wildfires on record ravage well over half a million acres.
On top of those threats, on Monday, a tornado destroyed two homes in Weld County and damaged at least five more, officials said.
With those risks and others in mind, the Colorado Division of Insurance put out a news release on earlier this year urging residents to review their homeowners, renters and car insurance coverage but there really isn’t a bad time to do that, experts say. Unless it’s too late.
“Now is the time. Before the unthinkable happens,” Carole Walker, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Insurance Association said last week. “Know what your insurance covers, know what your limits are.”
Here are some recommendations from Walker and Jonnie Anderson and Oliva Hein, owners of Lone Tree-based independent insurance office Legacy Insurance Partners, as Colorado moves into another summer of abundant sunshine and potentially damaging weather.
Do an annual insurance checkup
At Legacy Insurance Partners, Anderson and Hein have software that alerts them when a clients’ premiums are set to increase by 10% or more so they can check if the client is satisfied or wants to look elsewhere in the market.
Thanks, in part, to Front Range’s hail-prone nature (“Hail still by far tops the list as our most expensive insurance loss,” Walker said), car insurance premiums, in particular, have increased rapidly in the state over the past decade and outpace the national average, according to insurance data firm Zebra.
But increasing premiums and a chance to save with a new policy are just one reason to do the annual homework. Changing life circumstances and home upgrades are also reasons to look into augmenting coverage.
“A lot of people did a remodel during COVID or tricked out the yard, built a new deck,” Walker said. “Make sure you are talking to your insurance professionals. Did you do things to increase what your repair and replace costs are?”
“Did you have a baby? Did you get a pool?” Anderson said of questions clients should be asking themselves. “If somebody gets a new roof, well, that could lower their premiums.”
Know what’s covered and what isn’t
In a state where the biggest population centers are in hail-prone areas, basic auto coverage only goes so far. In other words, be prepared to either spring for extra coverage, pay for those hail dings to be fixed out of pocket or live with the pockmarks.
“In Colorado, you really can’t afford to do without comprehensive coverage,” Walker said. “It covers hail, flooding, and theft, which is way up by the way.”
Many homeowners policies leave things out or undercover certain things, too, in Anderson and Hein’s experience.
When snow and freezing temperatures struck the Denver area in May this year, Legacy saw a lot of clients making claims for sewer and water backups related to burst pipes. That’s something Hein and Anderson insist is part of every homeowners policy they write.
“It’s something that a lot of agencies do leave off because it provides a small premium savings,” Hein said.
Inventory your stuff
The last thing anyone wants to do after a disaster is rack their brain to try to remember everything they lost.
It’s a simple concept — and one made easier in recent years by insurers upgrading their technology offerings — but make sure you have a running list of your stuff, particularly the most valuable items. Photos and videos documenting those belongings are essential.
Think of it as a home improvement project, Walker said. For the biggest of big-ticket items — say jewelry or perhaps an art collection — consider getting an appraisal and buying additional coverage beyond a homeowners policy.
When in doubt, talk to your agent
If you’re feeling undercovered, talk to your agent. If you’re preparing to make a claim, talk to your agent.
It’s easy for Anderson and Hein to say because they run an insurance agency, but they emphasize there is a lot to know and insurance agents are licensed professionals in Colorado.
Things people might not know that Anderson and Hein highlighted: You don’t have to wait until your annual renewal period to change your insurance. You can change whenever you want.
And not every loss is claim-worthy. For some items, say a lost piece of jewelry, filing the claim will drive up your premiums to the point of offsetting whatever you recoup from your insurance company, Anderson and Hein said.
“I think people need to be better coached that insurance is for catastrophic losses, losses you don’t have the money in your checking account to cover,” Anderson said.
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