Houses, Disasters, Insurance…Oh My!

Our previous house was almost two hundred years old. It was a fixer-upper, albeit a small one, and we really never had any problems with it. At least none that every required us to use our home owners insurance. And as much as I wished one of the huge pine trees that surrounded our house would blow over during a wind storm and take out the kitchen, they never did. So for eight years we paid our insurance premiums and never filed a claim.

Then we bought our new old house and had our insurance through the same company. We closed on the house and moved in. I was 14 days away from giving birth to my daughter, so to say I was a bit emotional, over tired, and well, tired would not be an exaggeration. I got a phone call from our insurance company that they were dropping us. The reason? The assessor had driven by and said the house looked like it should be condemned and it was a “piece of junk.”

If I hadn’t been so pregnant and overwrought I might have laughed since this condemned house had just appraised for a boatload of money, certainly more than a piece of junk would cost. We were faxed a list of things that were found wrong with the house. Areas of peeling paint. Yes, I fully acknowledge that the house needed a paint job, but that is a reason to drop an insurance policy?

We ended up scrambling to find a painter to paint our house within the two week period the insurance company generously allowed. One who came, walked around the house and said to do the house right it, so it would look good up close would cost $30,000. I asked if how much it would cost to do it wrong and have it look good from across the street, while I squinted and hopped up and down on one foot. And that was the paint job we went with.

In the end we got to keep our home owners insurance, as required by our mortgage company. And we have dutifully paid it monthly asking nothing in return other than for it to be there should we ever need it, which knock on wood we hope not to.

The House and I
posted about insurance:

But it goes to show: you never know where danger’s gonna come from.

You don’t. You don’t know. But the insurance companies sure as hell do. They have whole fleets of boring people whose job it is to run the numbers on just this sort of thing.

And so she has written a ten step proposal: How All of Us Can Live happily Without Costing Anybody Anything.

1. Wherever you live, it’s a danger. Move.
2. Take nothing with you. Your things are just a burden on us all.
3. When you get there, hunker down. Bad times are coming…

You’ll have to go to her blog to read the rest of the steps in her proposal. How often can you laugh about insurance? And I don’t mean in that hysterical I am having a breakdown sort of way.

Teresa at Blog By The Sea has an excellent post up about re-homemaking after a disaster.

I thought it might be helpful to some people if I would share some thoughts about rebuilding, shopping to replace items, and accepting help from others after a catastrophic disaster loss. These are based on my experience after the Oakland Hills Fire and the experience of other people I knew. This is not a post about surviving, but rather an honest post for people who have replacement cost insurance. It is about about things like negotiating with your carrier, replacing lost collections, and buying new furniture

She also offers some suggestions for gifts if you know people who have just been through a catastrophic disaster.

Our very own Grace Davis has posted an Evacuation List of things you should take with you should you need to evacuate your home in a disaster situation. It is a great list and the comments left by other people might give you some ideas also. I am not overly attached to anything in my house, other than my laptop and photos. And of course my children I’d make sure to bring them with me.

I never would have thought of photographing my house for insurance purposes. Nor would I have thought to grab bills or the checkbook. No, I would be the one with a van full of Legos my children couldn’t leave behind and an odd assortment of snack foods I grabbed on the way out the door after scratching my head and walking around in circles for as long as was possible.

Lists like the one Grace posted are what I need to really think about the things that I would need to have with me.

11 Responses to “Houses, Disasters, Insurance…Oh My!”

  1. The House and I Says:

    Thanks for noticing!

  2. Jennifer Says:

    My goodness! We’ve been through 2 tree catastrophes in 3 years and our insurance company hasn’t dropped us! I thought for sure they would! :)

    Maybe you need to change ins companies???

    (stories 1) we moved in in June, I was pregnant, 2 children - 18 mos and 3 years, wind storm made tree lose 1/3 of itself (the size of a normal tree) and it fell on our roof, of course hubby was at work and I was at home w/ 2 kids, power went out, what fun!?, couldn’t get minivan out of carport b/c leaves and branches from said tree were covering the carport entrance, by the time inspector came I was beginning to miscarry (stress maybe?). OH well, to quote Willy Wonka, “it all came out in the wash”, by Nov I was pregnant with our only boy! :)
    2) more windy/stormy weather had branch damage but not bad enough to file ins
    3) more windy/stormy weather - big branch fell on roof, small leak, ins covered.
    I really though we’d be dropped, but not yet.)

    $30,000 for painting???!! That sounds like a rip-off, I’d go for the squinty job too! :)

  3. Jennifer Says:

    And thanks for the links, it sounds like I could be more prepared for the unfortunate.

  4. t in hd Says:

    One word: @$$hole$

    Insurance companies never fail to piss me off. Except USAA. I’ve never had reason to complain about them in all the 16 years we’ve been with them, thank goodness. Most of the rest of them can ram it right up their…, ahem….sorry about that. Touched on sore subject. I’ll excuse myself right of this comment now.

  5. Lazy Organizer Says:

    So paint was all that was needed to go from condemned to insurable? I bet you all feel so much safer now with that new paint job.

  6. Brigitte Says:

    The threat to drop you on the basis of some guy’s driveby sounds like it MUST be illegal in some way.

    I hate insurance companies, and I used to WORK for them for 15 years or so, blecchh.

  7. Jody Says:

    Thanks for the mental prod to take care of some of these issues. I’m always meaning to create an evacuation folder, and a copy of important docs to stash at an off-site location, but I’m always putting it off. My sister nearly had to evacuate in San Diego and I’m being reminded again not to get complacent (although with all this drought, I’d almost have welcomed a hurricane-related evacuation order — almost).

    Oh, and I agree, something was wrong with that insurance company. Have you ever taken any of its competitors up on an offer to appraise your place for a different policy? We get solicitations all the time….

  8. Daisy Says:

    The appraiser from the insurance company was certainly a jerk. I wonder if he’d have dared say those rude things to your face.

  9. t in hd Says:

    Oh yes, I agree with Jody. Get quotes from other companies and when you find something as good (or better?), invite that assesor from your current company to come by for a chat about your “insurance needs” and then tell him just where they can stick their insurance.

    @!$#% insurance companies.

    Sorry, I’ll leave again.

  10. Jenna Says:

    Married to (I wrote working with first; gah, brain function) a firefighter, you would think that we would have photos of our home. We know, first hand, what a fire can do. And yet we don’t have them. I should get on that one.

    Thanks for the prod.

  11. cristen Says:

    that insurance story is absolutely ridiculous and infuriating. what a load of you-know-what.

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