Update: Maine Flood Insurance Re-Authorized until May 31

For the second time in a month, The National Flood Insurance Program lapsed on March 28 due to lack of continued federal funding. The Senate left for Easter recess until April 12 without addressing HR4851, which would have offered an extension. This leaves anyone looking to buy Maine flood insurance – or in any other state – high and dry, in the height of flood season.

If You’re Buying a Home and Need Flood Insurance
Flood insurance servicing companies are collecting applications, but cannot accept them or bind coverage until the NFIP is re-authorized by the Senate. If your lender requires proof of flood insurance, this may delay your closing. Talk to your lender for more information. You literally can not buy flood coverage without an act of Congress.

If You Already Have Flood Insurance, and Need to Make a Claim
Claim payments  will be continued as usual for all policies currently in effect.

If You Have Flood Insurance and Need to Increase Your Coverage
Coverage cannot be increased on existing policies until the NFIP is reauthorized. This may delay a loan closing if you are refinancing or taking out a home equity loan.

If Your Flood Policy is About to Renew
Renewal policies can not be issued during the lapse. Many companies sent renewal bills prior to March 28. If you received a bill and paid it, your coverage should be in force. If your premium was not paid before March 28, coverage cannot be bound until after the NFIP is reauthorized by Congress.

What You Can Do
The NFIP is the only primary flood insurance available for residential properties. Many insurers have a servicing contract to issue business on behalf of the NFIP, but it is a government program. Without reauthorization, the program is essentially shut down. Call or email your senator to let them know what this lack of funding means to you. While there’s no guarantee, the NFIP reauthorization will likely be retroactive to March 28 – once it’s finally passed. That’s usually what happens in these cases.

Even during normal operation, the National Flood Insurance Program operates differently than most insurance programs. There are waiting periods and underwriting rules and requirements that are unique to this program. It’s impossible to advise you about your individual situation with a blog post like this. Call a Maine homeowners insurance agent for advice about your own insurance.

UPDATE:
As of April 15, 2009, Congress passed, and the President signed into law, a bill reauthorizing the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) until May 31, 2010.  The extension included retroactive funding to cover two gaps in the program (March 1 – 2 and March 29 – April 15, 2010). The program will expire again on May 31 unless it is further extended. Stand by!

Maine Flood Insurance Unavailable

For the second time in a month, The National Flood Insurance Program lapsed on March 28 due to lack of continued federal funding. The Senate left for Easter recess until April 12 without addressing HR4851, which would have offered an extension. This leaves anyone looking to buy Maine flood insurance – or in any other state – high and dry, in the height of flood season.

If You’re Buying a Home and Need Flood Insurance
Flood insurance servicing companies are collecting applications, but cannot accept them or bind coverage until the NFIP is re-authorized by the Senate. If your lender requires proof of flood insurance, this may delay your closing. Talk to your lender for more information. You literally can not buy flood coverage without an act of Congress.

If You Already Have Flood Insurance, and Need to Make a Claim
Claim payments  will be continued as usual for all policies currently in effect.

If You Have Flood Insurance and Need to Increase Your Coverage
Coverage cannot be increased on existing policies until the NFIP is reauthorized. This may delay a loan closing if you are refinancing or taking out a home equity loan.

If Your Flood Policy is About to Renew
Renewal policies can not be issued during the lapse. Many companies sent renewal bills prior to March 28. If you received a bill and paid it, your coverage should be in force. If your premium was not paid before March 28, coverage cannot be bound until after the NFIP is reauthorized by Congress.

What You Can Do
The NFIP is the only primary flood insurance available for residential properties. Many insurers have a servicing contract to issue business on behalf of the NFIP, but it is a government program. Without reauthorization, the program is essentially shut down. Call or email your senator to let them know what this lack of funding means to you. While there’s no guarantee, the NFIP reauthorization will likely be retroactive to March 28 – once it’s finally passed. That’s usually what happens in these cases.

Even during normal operation, the National Flood Insurance Program operates differently than most insurance programs. There are waiting periods and underwriting rules and requirements that are unique to this program. It’s impossible to advise you about your individual situation with a blog post like this. Call a Maine homeowners insurance agent for advice about your own insurance.

Independent Contractor or Employee? Maine Workers’ Comp Insurance Costs Hang in the Balance

 

(Note: Maine law regarding indpendent contractors changed January 1, 2013. This post from March, 2010 remains accurate. For the most up-to-date information, see “How to Save Insurance Costs and Win More Jobs Under Maine’s New Subcontractor Law“. )

 

It’s the Maine workers comp insurance question that’s worth a lot more than $64,000: What’s the difference between an independent contractor and an employee? Guess wrong and you could end up with a huge Maine workers comp audit bill from your insurance company.

The Root of the Problem
Who’s responsible if a worker is hurt on the job? Contractors’ Maine workers comp policies pay the costs of medical and lost time damages for their employees.
Contractors are not responsible for injury costs for independent contractors; the independent should buy their own workers comp insurance to protect themselves and their own employees.

Contractors reviewing plansUp to Now
Until recently, Maine workers comp insurance agents instructed their contractor clients to obtain certificates of workers comp insurance from subcontractors. Then, when the insurance company conducted the Maine workers comp audit, the premium auditor would exclude the subcontracted cost when calculating workers compensation premium. This was an effective cost and risk control technique.

A New Maine Independent Contractor Definition
A new Maine law, effective January 1, 2010, (P.L. 2009, Ch. 452) sets a new standard for defining an independent contractor in the construction industry. It says that a person is presumed to be an employee unless that person meets all 12 parts of a new definition of independent contractor.

Contractors must pay Maine workers compensation insurance (by reporting the payroll to their workers comp insurer) for anyone who does not meet that new definition. Moreover, the employer must get pre-determination before each job starts, or all workers are considered employees.

What’s a Contractor to Do?
Under  PL 2009, a contractor must obtain either:

  1. A Maine workers compensation certificate of insurance for the independent showing that coverage was in force for the duration of the job; or
  2. “Predetermination of Independent Contractor Status” from the Maine Workers Compensation Board. This predetermination is not binding – an injured worker might still be shown to be an employee after the fact – but it allows the contractor to presume that the worker is an independent contractor, and thereby not purchase Maine workers compensation insurance on their behalf.

The Maine Workers Comp Board does not approve predetermination requests retroactively; the contractor must have the determination letter as of the date the work begins. Moreover, the Maine Workers Compensation Board took the position that a predetermination is required for each and every job that the independent does, regardless of the scope or duration of the job.

Needless to say, this is proving to be a hardship for general contractors and independents alike. The contractor’s typical job is short-notice, and independent contractors are often hired on the same day, leaving no time for a predetermination request to work its way through the Workers Compensation Board. Contractors are paying higher workers compensation premiums to include independent contractors, or risk losing the work due to delays.

Emergency Legislative Relief Considered
The 124th Maine Legislature has taken up LD 1815, in an attempt to clarify subcontractor status and to ease the burden on the day-to-day operations of contractors. While a Predetermination of Independent Contractor Status would still be required, the predetermination would be valid for one year. At least a contractor would not have to have this predetermination for every job. They could keep this form in their files and thereby exclude the independent’s payroll from their workers compensation rating.

We believe the proposal to require a predetermination on an annual basis is a step in the right direction. We hope the Maine Legislature agrees.

For more information and advice about Maine business insurance, Maine workers compensation or for an insurance quote, contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance at 207-799-5541.

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Is Your Maine City Responsible for Your Sewer Backup?

There are few nightmares for Maine homeowners more unpleasant than a sewer backup in the basement. We don’t need to go into details about sewer backups. Suffice it to say, we hope you’ve never seen one, and never will. Unfortunately, in heavy rains like those in Maine this March, they’re all too common.

What Causes Sewer Backup?

  1. Sewer lines become full of groundwater or stormwater, and back up, usually through basement drains.
  2. Line blockages in the street cause a backup.
  3. Tree roots or some other obstruction on your property blocks the line from your home to the street.

How Can I Prevent a Sewer Backup?

The most common protection is to install a backflow valve. This is designed to allow sewage to flow out of your home (“the good way”), but not from the street into your home (“the bad way”). These are sometimes called check valves or flap valves. Gate valves are manually operated, and completely seal the pipe leading from your home to the street. A plumber can recommend the best solution for your home.

What if I Have a Sewer Backup?

  1. Call your city’s sewer maintenance department.
  2. They will check the line in the street near your house.
  3. If the line is not found to be blocked, you should call your plumber.
  4. We do not recommend trying to clean your own home after a sewer backup. Call a qualified remediation contractor, such as ServiceMaster Elite, ServPro or other a similar professional.

Is the City Responsible for My Property Damage?

Probably not. The Maine Tort Claims Act holds your city responsible only if they were negligent in maintaining the lines. Most municipalities have strong maintenance programs for their systems. They’re not responsible for people dumping inappropriate items into the system, such as grease, non-flushable items, or debris. If you think that the damage was caused by your municipality’s negligence, contact their legal department.

Does My Homeowners Insurance Cover Sewer Backup?

“Off the shelf” Maine homeowners insurance policies do not cover property damage from backup of sewers or drains. Optional coverage is broadly available from your Maine insurance agent. For more information about sewer backup insurance, homeowners insurance or other storm insurance, contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance at 207-799-5541.

February 25 Maine Wind Storm Damage Update

Our Maine insurance agency has been very busy taking claims and reporting them to insurance companies, and keeping our clients informed of the progress of their claims.

So far, the damage that’s been reported to us has been mostly concerned with homeowners insurance: trees falling on property and wind damage to buildings, followed by water backup into basements. Many Mainers lost power, which caused their sump pumps to fail, allowing water to back up into their homes.

pie chart of claims reported to Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance

What kind of damage did you have to your property?