March 21, 2011

Storm season is coming: Is your property protected?

Missouri Director of Insurance urges consumers to prepare

VIDEO: Communications Director Travis Ford explains the importance of a creating a list of possessions that could be lost in a storm, fire or theft.

Jefferson City, Mo. - Spring has arrived, which means severe storms are likely across Missouri in the next few months. The Missouri Department of Insurance is encouraging consumers to make sure their property is protected and accounted for.

Department Director John M. Huff says consumers should review their homeowners or renters insurance policies to make sure they understand what's covered and what's not. Huff says most standard policies cover losses from fire, theft, tornadoes and strong winds and hail. But he says the standard homeowners policy does not cover damage from flooding, earthquakes or sewer and drain backups. This type of damage requires consumers to buy extra coverage.

"Don't assume you're insured against all types of damage to your home or business," said Huff. "Consumers should talk to their homeowners insurance agent to determine whether they need these extra protections."

Renters should consult an insurance agent as well. Tenants need renters insurance to cover their belongings, while landlords are responsible for insuring the building itself.

 The Department of Insurance also recommends completing a list of personal possessions, including jewelry, electronics, clothing and furniture. This checklist makes filing damage claims easier, and it helps you and your agent determine how much insurance you need, and what deductibles you should select.

The department offers a downloadable Home Inventory Checklist on its website. The publication walks consumers through each room of the house to document their possessions, when they were purchased and how much they cost, if that information is available.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners offers a free app that allows iPhone users to enter details and prices of their possessions, as well as digital photos.

As an alternative to these checklists, homeowners can take photos or video of their personal property. Regardless of what format you choose, keep a copy of your home inventory list in a fire-safe container and with your insurance agent. This list should be updated periodically.

Huff also says you should shop around every two or three years, even if you're satisfied with your current insurance policies. Rates change, and better deals may be available. Missouri has a highly competitive market for homeowners insurance, with more than 100 companies offering policies to consumers.

Consumers can file complaints or ask general questions about insurance by contacting the Missouri Department of Insurance at or calling the Insurance Consumer Hotline at 800-726-7390.