Category Archives: New Mexico

Policy wording: Prohibited Use (evacuation)

When you go into your insurance agent’s office to get homeowners insurance, you’re confronted with myriad questions and options are are likely concerned mostly with getting done as soon as possible and finding a fair price. Your insurance agent talks to you about “value” and “service,” but it sounds like more marketing talk.

It’s not. Your insurance agent really is there to help you. If ever there’s a good time to ask questions, to not stop until you understand everything, this is it! What could be more important than losing your home?

After you’ve written your homeowner’s policy, a few weeks later you get a thick packet in the mail. A document comprising a hundred pages or more gets removed from the envelope and you probably stow it away in a drawer. It might occur to you that some dark night when you’ve got no other reading material, that this long policy might make for some excellent reading to put you right to sleep. You’re right.

However, actually reading that policy can awaken you to a number of things, all of them sooner or later important, about your policy. Many people think that the document is constructed to be obtuse and “legalese” so that the insurance company can have their own loopholes to get out of coverages in court.

Did you know that the state department of insurance approves the types of coverage offered by those companies and will not let them wiggle out of things?

Those long, legalese documents contain plenty of added information about additional coverages that you have, of which you might never have been aware.

With this year’s prolific fire season, and especially the 3 fires surrounding the Santa Fe area right now, and excellent example of reading the fine print pops up: Prohibited Use.
It is a very real reality that thousands of people in our surrounding communities are being evacuated because of encroaching fire. In addition to the severe emotional hardship involved in distilling your belongings down to what will fit in a car, you worry additionally about having to locate to a mass shelter or a run down motel. This coverage is here to help you out in this time.

Prohibited Use, if you have it (which you likely do) is in the Section I – Additional Coverages portion of that long & boring document. Check your sub-sections under Loss of Use. You’ll find Prohibited Use, which from one of our companies reads thus:

We will pay the reasonable increase in living expenses necessary to maintain your normal standard of living and the loss of fair rental income when access to the residence premises is denied by civil authorities because of a loss to a neighboring premises caused by a peril we insure against.

Note that the language in your policy may be different.

To consider this coverage, think about:

    1. Does your normal standard of living include separate bedrooms, both a bath and a shower, a full kitchen and an outdoor entertainment area? Mine does. A small motel does not have that “normal standard of living.” (of course in the event of an evacuation, your lodging options may be limited – consider driving a bit further to have a little more comfort in this time of need)
    2. Access to premises denied by civil authorities. In my world, mandatory evacuation fits that description perfectly.
    3. A neighboring premises… caused by a peril we insure against. Does homeowners insure against fire? You betcha. Is the surrounding forest neighboring premises? You betcha

Nobody is suggesting that evacuating your home due to a fire is a vacation, but your homeowners insurance company is there to help – in the areas in which they specialize or are responsible – to take as much of the problem, discomfort and difficulty away by paying for you to reside in a location as much like your home and standard of living as what you left.

One important difference between policies to pay attention to will occur in the next sentence in your policy – and that is the length of time that coverage is provided for this. Hopefully, after that period of time, you’ll be able to return back to your home safe and sound.

The lesson here is – even though it may look daunting and unfriendly, actually sitting down and reading that long book of legalese can reveal a plethora of coverages that help you, not hurt you.

We really ARE here to help.

Tips to prepare for a wildfire

From our friends at Acuity Insurance comes this information, which we don’t want to have to think about, but it is better to consider this now and be prepared in advance. This summer has shown a preponderance of dry, drought conditions and high temperatures leading unfortunately to terrible fires burning around the Southwest.

Listed here are several suggestions that you can implement immediately. Others need to be considered at the time of construction or remodeling. You should also contact your local fire department, forestry office, emergency management office or building department for information about local fire laws, building codes and protection measures. Obtain local building codes and weed abatement ordinances for structures built near wooded areas.

Find Out What Your Fire Risk Is

Learn about the history of wildfire in your area. Be aware of recent weather. A long period without rain increases the risk of wildfire. Consider having a professional inspect your property and offer recommendations for reducing the wildfire risk. Determine your community’s ability to respond to wildfire.

  • Are roads leading to your property clearly marked?
  • Are the roads wide enough to allow firefighting equipment to get through?
  • Is your house number visible from the roadside?

Learn and teach safe fire practices.

  • Build fires away from nearby trees or bushes.
  • Always have a way to extinguish the fire quickly and completely.
  • Install smoke detectors on every level of your home and near sleeping areas.
  • Never leave a fire, even “just” a cigarette, burning unattended.
  • Avoid open burning completely, and especially during dry season.

Always be ready for an emergency evacuation.

  • Evacuation may be the only way to protect your family in a wildfire.
  • Know where to go and what to bring with you.
  • You should plan several escape routes in case roads are blocked by a wildfire.