Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Square Peg - Protection Plans 2
© S. Bradley Stoner

Some years back I wrote a column/blog on protection plans... you know, of the Aetna, Geico, Farmers, Mutual of Omaha, and You-Gotta-No Worries type. Yep, I’m talking insurance here... again. And before I get sued, I’m not singling out any one of those Pillars of the Protection racket... um companies, although I may have a word about health insurers in general, but that’s another story. And, I’m not talking auto insurance. I have great auto insurance at a pretty darn good price. Of course I had to wait a few years before I got those good rates. However, I’ve got to tell you I’d like to have some of that “under 25” premium back, though. Not to mention the higher premiums I paid until I was well past 30. I figure they owe me... you know, for all that investment capital gains they made on my premiums because I never filed a claim until last year. The two accidents I was in before I was 40 were the other guys’ fault, so their insurance had to pay, not mine. Oh well, be that as it may, what I’m talking is homeowner’s insurance.

Why, you might ask, am I peeved about homeowner’s insurance? Thanks for asking. I’ll be glad to tell you. Deductibles, that’s why. Well, one deductible. If my house burns down, gets destroyed by a tornado, or run over by a run-away bulldozer, I’m covered. They’ll replace my house at current market value, and they’ll pay to have whatever is left of my old house to boot. Not bad. Contents of the home, you ask? Yes sir, covered one hundred percent. Of course that cost just a tad more, but not too much considering that over the past sixty plus years I’ve managed to accumulate a lot of stuff. And, because I don’t want any disputes, I have everything cataloged and listed... everything but that electric blue and pink paisley tie my wife keeps trying to hijack to the trash bin. I’ve got pictures stored on a portable hard drive in a fireproof safe. So, it’s all good in those departments.

Nope, I’m talking wind and hail damage to my roof. Seems there IS a deductible on that. It’s the only one. Now I’d read my policy when I first got it, so I undoubtedly saw this minor glitch... um provision. I didn’t give it a lot of thought. The roof on my house is fairly new... it has a lot of life left, so how much damage can a little wind do? Remember, I’m covered for tornadoes, so they don’t count. Also, we’ve never had hail much bigger that pellet size and they certainly don’t do any damage to the shingles. They get baseball and grapefruit sized hail east and west of where we live, but it never (I may be cursing myself by saying this) here. I apparently forgot that this is Texas and it gets what we fondly refer to as “blue northers.”

Blue northers are storms precipitated by arctic lows pushed into our balmy clime by a big U-shaped dip in the ole Jet Stream. They bring with them frigid temperatures (well frigid to us... and the rest of y’all can just quit laughing right now) and wind. We’re not talking ten mile an hour wind either. We’re talking sustained winds out of the north at 40 mph with gusts to 60 or 70+ mph. That’s equivalent to an F0 tornado. If gusts are above 72 mph, it’s equivalent to an F1. But, and this is a very big but in the old insurance world, northers produce straight line winds, so not a tornado. That’s important because 70+ mph winds will relocate shingles on your house, usually to somewhere on your neighbor’s lawn. And, because these are straight line winds, not tornadic, your deductible applies.

Well, it turns out my deductible is a very small percentage of the value of my house. Now you might say, “Great!” After all, a very small percentage is a good thing when it comes to deductibles. Normally, I would agree. HOWEVER... in this case, that very small percentage adds up to a very LARGE chunk of the cost of roof replacement. Matter of fact, it’s such a large chunk that it’s not worth filing the claim for the pittance I’d get. So why does this get my goat? Simple. It turns out wind and hail damage is the most common insurance claim in this area. Given that the deductible only applies to roofs, it’s like betting the odds at a crooked casino. The house always wins, and I’m not talking my house. I’m talking the insurance company.

When I consider that our insurance (and by our, I mean everybody’s) rates increase every year following a major disaster, like a hurricane, or those tornadoes that keep hitting Moore, Oklahoma, or the mudslides in California. Frankly, I’m tired of paying for everyone else’s bad luck and bad decisions. And before somebody calls me out for being callus, let me ask you this, Why would you build, and more importantly rebuild in a known disaster path? I mean, it’s not like folks don’t know that when it rains in California there are going to be mudslides, and if you build on a hill, it’s very likely you will eventually slide down that hill. And how many times does an F5 tornado have to carve a path through a town before folks realize that it might just be a bad idea to build there? I know disasters can happen anywhere, but when experience shows a proclivity for them in a particular area, you’d think folks would get a clue.

“So, why did you build where you knew there were blue northers?”

Oh shut up!