How Soon Must You Report Your Property Insurance Claim to Your Insurance Company?

In Florida, most homeowners insurance policies contain a clause stating how soon a policyholder is required to report their insurance claim to the insurance company.  Although each insurance policy differs slightly regarding notice to the insurance company, most policies consist of essentially the same reporting requirement. When a loss occurs a policy holder must:

give prompt notice to us or our agent
Just about every homeowners insurance policy contains this requirement and almost all of them use the word “prompt.”  Unfortunately, insurance policies do not define what constitutes “prompt” notice and as a result, whether an insurance claim is considered to have been reported “promptly” very much depends on the facts of each claim.

For example, during hurricane Wilma, many policyholders suffered damage to their roofs that was not immediately noticeable so these policyholders did not file insurance claims.  It is not until sometime later that the policyholder’s roof would begin to leak from the damage caused by the hurricane.  Because of this, some policyholders first reported their hurricane Wilma claim to their insurance company months and sometimes years after hurricane Wilma came through Florida.  These “late reported” claims resulted in years of litigation in Florida Courts regarding what constitutes “prompt” notice and whether the insurance company is required to pay for the insurance claim when the notice is not “prompt.”

Reporting of Non-Hurricane Related Insurance Claims

For typical property insurance claims that do not result from hurricane damage, such as plumbing leaks, fires, drain backup, etc., “prompt” has been interpreted by Florida courts, in the most simplest sense, to mean that you must report your claim such that the insurance company is not prevented from conducting a full independent investigation and determination of coverage for your insurance claim under your insurance policy. Florida courts typically refer to this concept as “prejudice”, and depending on how “prompt” your reporting was, prejudice may be presumed against you and you may be required to prove that the reporting of your insurance claim did not “prejudice” the insurance company. For a full discussion of the legal standard for “prejudice”, you can read the Third District Court of Appeals case of Hope v. Citizens Property Insurance Corporation here. Some of the things that may considered “prejudicial” to the insurance company are:

  • Repairs made to the home such that the insurance company cannot inspect the damages that existed at the time of the loss
  • Discarding plumbing parts, pipes, or damaged building materials making them unavailable for inspection by the insurance company
  • Failing to protect the property from additional damage resulting in further damage that makes it impossible for the insurance company to inspect the damages as they existed at the time of loss

Although these factors may make it more difficult to recover from the insurance company, they do not necessarily preclude you from doing so. Contact us for a free evaluation of your claim.

Reporting of Hurricane Related Insurance Claims

Since hurricane Wilma, the Florida legislature has created Fla. Stat. § 627.70132 which specifically address the time in which an insurance claim involving damage from a hurricane must be reported to the insurance company:

A claim, supplemental claim, or reopened claim . . . for loss or damage caused by the peril of windstorm or hurricane is barred unless notice of the claim . . . was given to the insurer . . . within 3 years after the hurricane first made landfall or the windstorm caused the covered damage.

If you have any questions about your insurance claim, please contact us.

Who is Responsible for Water Damage From a Neighboring Condominium Unit?

Condominium living in South Florida is a popular and convenient choice that comes with pros and cons. One of the biggest problems we have to deal with involving condominiums is when a unit owner suffers water damage to their own condo unit due to a water leak or plumbing break from a neighboring condominium unit (usually from a unit above). This problem is made worse when one or both of the unit owners do not have property insurance. This is more common than you would expect, even when many South Florida condominium associations have a mandatory requirement that each unit owner carry insurance for their own unit. The condominium association itself must also carry property insurance for the common areas of the building.

In Florida, condominium associations and condominium owners are governed by Chapter 718, Florida Statutes. This chapter explains in detail which areas of the condominium building must be insured by the condominium association’s insurance policy and those areas that are the responsibility of the individual unit owner.

According to §718.111(11), a condominium unit owner is responsible for insuring the following areas:

  • All personal property (within the unit or in limited common elements)
  • Floor, wall, and ceiling coverings (tile, marble, wood floors, paint, etc.)
  • Built-in cabinets and countertops (kitchen cabinets, bathroom vanities, etc.)
  • Water heaters (one of the most common sources of water damage)
  • Electrical fixtures
  • Appliances
  • Water filters
  • Window treatments, (curtains, drapes, blinds, hardware, etc.)

Of course if you do not have your own insurance coverage and your unit suffers water damage, you will be responsible for repairing the damage in these areas. If the water damage was caused by someone else in a unit above you or next to you, you may be able to recover from that person directly or their insurance company if they have one. However, whether that person’s insurance will pay for the water damage to your unit will depend on the specific facts of the claim.

As a condominium unit owner in South Florida, you have to expect that your unit can be damaged not only by a neighboring unit or the condominium building itself (such as a roof leak or leak from a common plumbing line), but also from the forces of nature. The best way to protect yourself from the uncertainty of potential damage is by buying insurance for your condominium unit.

Should you find yourself in a situation where your condominium unit has been damaged either by a neighboring unit, the condominium building itself, or the forces of nature, contact Schatzman & Hovanyecz, P.A. to discuss the facts of your claim and how we can best help bring about a favorable resolution for you.

2015 Hurricane Season has Begun. Make Sure you are Prepared Now.

2015 hurricane season outlookFor the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season, the National Hurricane Center has predicted a below normal season for hurricane activity and although there have been no Atlantic hurricanes yet, we are already on our second named storm of the year (both in the Pacific).

If you have not already begun preparing, this would be a good time to make sure you are prepared for the upcoming 2015 hurricane season because it only takes one hurricane to change your life. It is important to make sure your home and your family are prepared for a hurricane before it arrives.

The National Hurricane Center has a very informative page on preparing for hurricane season that can be read here National Hurricane Center Preparedness Week.

Feel free to give us a call if you would like to know more about how to prepare your home for the hurricane season.

Your Insurance Claim is Covered, but Were You Paid Enough Money?

Many times, we find that even though a Florida insurance company will offer a policyholder coverage for an insurance claim involving property damage, the insurer will look for every opportunity to pay as little money as possible for the covered damages. Given how often this is done, we felt it is important to discuss a policyholder’s rights when faced with the problem of not having enough money to make repairs to their damaged home or business after suffering a loss with a Florida insurance company.

Some insurance companies in Florida, including the biggest insurer, Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, regularly engage in the business practice of lowballing their policyholders when it comes time to make payment on a covered claim. Unfortunately, without enough insurance money to complete repairs to the damaged home, underpaid policyholders are typically forced to reduce the cost of repairing the damage by:

  • Making substandard repairs for less money
  • Finding a less qualified and/or less experienced contractor to repair your home for cheaper than a (same may even have to forget about having a contractor entirely)
  • Reducing or eliminating certain necessary repairs to reduce to total cost
  • Sacrificing on the quality of repairs

However, you do not have to accept the amount offered to you by your insurance company. If you think you were underpaid by your insurance company, contact Schatzman & Hovanyecz, P.A. for a free consultation. We will be able to assess your claim, evaluate your damages, and ensure that you receive maximum recovery while protecting the rights afforded to you by your insurance policy and Florida law.

First District Court Asks Supreme Court of Florida to Decide if Citizens Property Insurance is Immune from Bad Faith

Bad faith is an available remedy to policyholders in Florida against their homeowners insurance carrier if that insurance company engages in unlawful conduct as described in Fla. Stat. §626.9541. Typically this is available after the policyholder has already prevailed against their insurance company in an underlying lawsuit regarding the original insurance claim for damages. Bad faith typically provides extra-contractual damages, including punitive damages, for the insurance companies lack of good faith in handling, adjusting, and paying insurance claims.

Many people may not know that Florida’s largest home insurer, Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, unlike all other Florida homeowner insurers, is immune from prosecution for bad faith. This is because of the immunity provided to state agencies in Fla. Stat. §627.351(6)(s)1. However, in what could be a landmark decision in Florida as it relates to property insurance, the First District Court of Appeal in Perdido Sun Condominium Association. Inc. v. Citizens Property Insurance Corporation certified a question of great importance to the Supreme Court of Florida that could have a huge impact on policy holders and Citizens Property Insurance, Florida’s largest property insurer:


It may be years before the Supreme Court of Florida addresses this question. However, should the Supreme Court agree with the First District, this decision could have a huge impact on how Citizens Property Insurance Corporation functions as a homeowner insurer in Florida.

The First District Court’s opinion can be found here.

The Importance of Promptly Reporting Your Homeowners Insurance Claim in Florida

Among the many complicated obligations contained in an insurance policy, one of the most important is the policyholder’s duty to promptly report the insurance claim to their insurance company. This means that a policyholder should consider contacting their insurance company at the first sight of a potential claim. Insurance companies generally require prompt notice of an insurance claim so that they are able to conduct their own independent investigation of the claim to arrive at a coverage decision. Occasionally however, a situation beyond the policyholder’s control prevents immediate reporting of an insurance claim. Some examples are:

  • A policyholder who may not see or know about the property damage until sometime after the incident;
  • A policyholder who may not know that there is coverage for their particular situation or damages; or,
  • A policyholder who may think that their damages are under their deductible.

If you believe this has happened to you, don’t worry.  Even if you fail to report your insurance claim for weeks, months or years it does not mean you are prevented from filing a claim or recovering damages from your insurance company.

If an insurance company denies your claim saying that you did not give prompt notice, Florida law requires that the insurance company prove that it has been substantially prejudiced by the late notice.  When considering whether the insurance company has been prejudiced in light of the late notice, the Court may look to see if the insurance company was able to determine coverage for your insurance claim.  There are also other considerations in determining prejudice to the insurance company, but this is not a bright line test and is something that must be addressed on a case by case basis.

Hurricane Damage Claims

When it comes to damages from a hurricane, Florida Statute § 627.70132 specifically requires that

claims for property damage caused by a hurricane must be filed within three (3) years of the hurricane making land fall.
As a result, when it comes to hurricane damage, it is extremely important to contact your insurance company as soon as possible, and certainly, within three (3) years of the date that the hurricane made land fall.

Ultimately it is the policyholder’s obligation to report their claim promptly. So if you are unsure about when to report your claim, have questions about an unreported claim, or would like additional information, please do not hesitate to send us an email or give us a call.