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Homeowners insurance covers less, costs more

August 9, 2012 2:28:04 PM PDT
Homeowners insurance premiums keep going up. And coverage keeps eroding, according to Consumer Reports. One reason - higher deductibles. So can you count on your insurance company if disaster strikes, as it has for so many people this summer? Consumer Reports says maybe, maybe not.

A huge tree fell on Michael Matra's house last summer during a hurricane. A year later, he's still trying to get the insurance company to pay for damages.

"They didn't come through with paying for damage of the landscaping, the rock wall, the sidewalk. There was some internal stuff that they have not taken care of yet at this point," Matra said.

Discrepancies between the payment a homeowner expects and what an insurer actually covers are not unusual, according to Consumer Reports National Research Center. It surveyed more than 11-thousand subscribers who've filed claims in the past few years.

"We found for large claims - when the damage was $25,000 or more - 19 percent of the people we polled did not agree with the amount their insurers wanted to pay," said Amanda Walker of Consumer Reports.

Some of the lower-rated national insurers are big-name companies, including Farmers Insurance and Allstate.

"But we also found most people were very satisfied with their insurer," Walker said.

Among the top-rated home insurers in Consumer Reports' survey are Amica and U-S-A-A, a company that primarily serves families with some connection to the military.

"If you've got a large claim and you're not happy with the amount your insurer is offering to pay - try disputing it. People with a large claim that did so received $6,000 more on average than those who did not," she said.

When disputing an insurance claim:

- Request a meeting to review your estimate line-by-line.
- Ask to see specific contract language if you're told your policy does not cover the damage.
- As a last resort, consider getting a public adjuster.
And be sure you read your policy over carefully before disaster strikes. Many companies have reduced their coverage, especially when it comes to hurricane damage.

Insurance premiums have gone up anywhere from five to 10 percent in recent years, according to industry experts. And you can expect to see rates jump again this year by as much as 12 percent! Two ways to cut your costs - get your home AND car insurance with the same company. And consider increasing your deductible from 500 to 1,000 dollars. http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2012/09/protect-your-home/index.htm

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