What is Maine Non-Admitted Insurance?

“Non-admitted” insurance companies are not approved by the Maine Bureau of Insurance. But they play an important role in Maine’s insurance market. Non-admitted carriers are often called “surplus lines” or “excess lines” insurers. They take higher risks than admitted insurers. That comes at a cost. Here are the pros and cons of the non-admitted insurance market.

The Risk of Non-Admitted Insurance

  • Non-admitted insurance companies’ coverage forms are not approved by Maine regulators. Their customers don’t enjoy many of the Maine Insurance Code’s protections. But they are subject to federal regulation through the Dodd-Frank Act (.pdf, 800+ pages).
  • In case of insurer insolvency, the Maine Guarantee Fund does not apply. Even if a policy is active, claims might not be paid if the company goes bankrupt.
  • The Maine Bureau of Insurance doesn’t review or approve non-admitted insurance rates. They do with admitted insurers. Non-admitted insurers may charge what the market will bear.
  • Many non-admitted insurance policies have a “minimum earned premium” of 25% of the annual premium. Even if you cancel your policy right away, the insurer will keep 3 months’ premium.
  • Non-admitted insurers may add separate policy fees to premium. Those are usually non-refundable. They must add Maine surplus lines tax to the premium, too.

Non-admitted insurance is often more expensive and provides less coverage. That’s why Maine only allows non-admitted carriers to insure risks that admitted carriers refuse.

Value of Non-Admitted Insurance

Purchasing insurance from a non-admitted carrier isn’t ideal. But it is a valuable service.

  • Some protection is better than none. While non-admitted insurance coverage is restrictive, it can protect customers against catastrophe.
  • Non-admitted coverage can be a temporary solution. It can give you time to make improvements and qualify for insurance from an admitted insurer.
  • Most lenders will accept non-admitted policies as proof of insurance. Lenders require insurance from their borrowers in order to make a loan.

Be a Smart Insurance Consumer

Purchasing insurance from a non-admitted carrier can be risky. Since non-admitted insurers are not covered by the Maine Guaranty Fund, it’s important to research your insurer’s financial strength. But many non-admitted insurers have excellent A.M. Best financial ratings (.pdf). Ask your agent about yours.

Non-admitted insurance proposals list all applicable exclusions, warrantees and coverage forms. You should at least understand them, even if you can’t change them. Your agent should be able to explain them to you. If you’re a client, your Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance agent can answer questions about your insurance. We’re independent and committed to you.

Increasing Construction Costs – Do I Have Enough Home Insurance?

Increasing construction costs may mean you don’t have enough insurance. Building costs are very high now. The 2020 pandemic caused material supply shortages. Meanwhile, many people wanted to improve the homes where they were spending so much time. The increased demand and supply shortages caused increased building material costs.

Increasing Construction Costs in Maine

Construction costs have two components: labor and materials. Both factors have increased during COVID. Contractors have been very busy. That drove up labor costs. Material shortages and supply chain interruptions pushed material costs higher, too. There’s no doubt that it would cost more to rebuild your home if a disaster struck this year.

My Home’s Worth More than It’s Insured For

Your insurance amount is almost never your home’s market value. Real estate values include acreage, desirability of location, landscaping, hardscape and excavation. These don’t affect the cost to rebuild your home. Your insurance amount should cover reconstruction costs, and no more.

How Do Insurance Companies Set the Value of My Home?

Insurers and agents use software to estimate the cost to rebuild your home. The largest vendor of this software is MSB, now owned by CoreLogic. Using MSB, agents input your home’s dimensions and features to calculate the rebuilding cost. This software isn’t perfect. Neither are agents. The program uses historical building data. In a fast-changing market, past data can differ from actual current costs. If an agent enters incorrect information, the result can be wrong, too.

Almost every homeowners policy has a built-in inflation guard factor. Many insurers change these every year in response to current cost changes. Others increase by a flat percentage each year – often 4%.

These adjustments help cushion against inflation but they aren’t perfect. It’s a good idea to ask your agent to do a fresh MSB estimate every few years.

How Can My Insurance Adjust to Increasing Construction Costs?

Building costs rise and fall with supply and demand. They can spike after a disaster and drop when contractors are looking for work. It would be a pain to calibrate your insurance coverage every time the market changes. Insurance companies know this. That’s why they build extra coverage into many policies.

Look for something called “specified additional amount of insurance.” A common additional amount is 25%. That means that your policy has up to 25% more building coverage than the limit shown on the front page. This insulates you from cost spikes and estimating errors that could leave you without enough insurance to rebuild.

Concerned About Your Insurance?

If you live in Southern Maine, contact a Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance agent in South Portland. We offer a choice of several of Maine’s top insurance companies. We can help you find the proper coverage for your home and your budget.

Looking for new home insurance, but not ready to talk to a human yet? Get up to 5 Maine insurance quotes online here.

We’re independent and committed to you.

Should I Adjust Insurance After Home Improvements? Three Questions Will Tell

Did you make home improvements to your house or condo this year? Many people did. After the project’s done, many clients ask “should I increase my home or condo insurance after a renovation”?

You depend on your homeowners insurance to pay to rebuild your home after a disaster. It’s important for insurance to keep up with inflation and changes in your home.

How can you tell if your project requires an insurance adjustment? Three questions should give you the answer. This assumes you had enough insurance before your project.

Did You Build Something?

Did you add living space to your home? Finish a basement or attic? Add a deck? If so, you should increase your Coverage A (Dwelling) insurance. How much? Probably by the full cost of the renovation.

Did you add a structure to the yard? A shed, fence, gazebo or swimming pool? Check your policy’s Coverage B (Other Structures) limit. Most homeowners policies cover Other Structures at 10% of Coverage A. If your home’s insured for $300,000, you likely have $30,000 Coverage B. Is that enough? Then you don’t need to adjust your insurance.

Update, or Upgrade?

Some home projects don’t affect property rebuilding cost. Most homeowners and condo insurance policies cover building items at replacement cost. That means “new for old”, without depreciation. If a fire damages your 20-year old roof or boiler, your insurance pays for a new one.

Did you replace your worn-out roof, flooring, kitchen or boiler?  If the replacement is the same quality as the old, you may not need to adjust your insurance.

Did you upgrade laminate counters with stone? Linoleum with ceramic tile? Standard cabinets with custom?  You should upgrade your Coverage A. How much?

Here’s a guide for what to include:

  • Demo and removal costs – not included
  • Design services – included
  • Materials – included, but only the upgrade differential.

Are Your Improvements Even Insured?

Home and Condo insurance doesn’t cover everything. Most landscaping and earthwork isn’t covered. Trees are covered only for a fraction of their replacement cost, and against limited perils.

Did you install solar panels or other green energy items? Off-the-shelf policies don’t cover breakdown or most power surge. Optional coverage may be available. You may want to update your insurance.

Questions About Your Home Insurance?

Do you live in Southern Maine? Considering an insurance change? Not sure if you have enough home insurance to rebuild? Contact a Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance agent in South Portland at 207-799-5541.

We can help determine the replacement cost of your home. We offer a choice of many of Maine’s top insurers. We can check the market to find you the best value, and recommend coverage based on your needs. We’re independent and committed to you.  

Relocating to Portland Maine? We Can Help

During the COVID pandemic, many people are relocating to the Portland Maine area. 2020 has been a banner year for people moving here.

Looking for a safer, more affordable place to live, work and play? A desirable place to raise a family? A slower pace? Portland offers all of this. So do nearby suburbs like South Portland, Cape Elizabeth, Scarborough, Falmouth, Cumberland and Westbrook.

Portland Maine is Safe

Through November 2020, Maine successfully managed the public health aspect of the COVID pandemic. Cumberland County had about 1/3 the infection rate of the rest of the country: 11,500 cases per million. Rural Maine had even lower rates.    

Maine is a safe place to live even after COVID time. Maine’s crime rates are among the lowest in the nation. Our roads are safer, too: traffic deaths are about 10% below national average.

Maine: Room to Spread Out

The Portland Maine MSA is home to about 250,000. That’s 390 people per square mile. Even Portland, the state’s largest city, only has about 3,000 people per square mile. Portland is the ideal size for a small city: about 70,000 people.

Like the outdoors? Sailing, hiking, skiing, snowmobiling, cycling and beaches are all a short distance from home.

Prefer to be entertained? Portland has choices. Live music venues, theatres, professional sports teams, museums and more.

Portland Maine’s Foodie Culture

Portland has a national reputation for restaurants, breweries, distilleries and food. The proximity of local farms and seafood adds to its farm-to-table culture. Portland was Bon Appetit’s Restaurant City of the Year in 2018.

COVID restrictions limit indoor restaurant dining in 2020. But it’s too much a part of Portland’s identity to disappear. The restaurant scene will be vibrant again.

We Can Help You Settle Here

Whether you’re buying a house or a condo or renting an apartment, our agents can help with insurance. We’ll send proof of renters or hazard insurance to your landlord or lender. We can provide you with the insurance card which you need to register your vehicles in Maine.

First time homebuyer? We make the insurance part easy. A 10-minute phone call is all it takes to start. Or, you can compare Maine insurance quotes online at our website. When you’re ready for help, Noyes Hall & Allen agents are known for responsiveness and knowledge. We’ve earned great customer reviews.

Call a Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance agent in South Portland at 207-799-5541. We’re independent and committed to you.

What is a Home Insurance Inventory and Why Do I Need One?

Portland, ME is a great place to live. Friendly neighbors, farm to table dining and safety make it a popular choice for families and retirees.

Even in a safe place like Maine, bad things can happen. If something happens to your home, you want to be confident that your  insurance will help get life back to normal. When it comes to home insurance, you want to know that your agent is on your side. The team at Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance has been committed to you since 1933.

When you file a home insurance claim, your insurance company needs to know what you lost. Then they pay you to replace it. Imagine after a tragedy trying to remember everything you had in your home. It’s overwhelming.

You can avoid stress and helplessness by preparing a home inventory. This creates a record of all the rooms in your home and what was in them. You can do it with a video, computer spreadsheet or on paper. Either way, aim for as much backup information as possible. Recording details like model numbers and receipts are a good start. Store the inventory in a safe place, and back it up in the cloud or in your safe deposit box.

Are you buying a home or condo in the Portland, ME area? Are you  considering changing insurance companies?  Call an experienced Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance agent at 207-799-5541.

We are independent agents. That means we offer you lots of choices from a wide variety of insurance companies. We will help you find the best value for the coverage you need. We’re independent and committed to you.

What is Homeowners Equipment Breakdown Coverage?

Maine home owners have a lot to worry about. Homeowners insurance can help with some of the big ones. Most homeowners policies cover fire, wind damage, and water damage from plumbing leaks.

Other big expenses aren’t covered by basic homeowners insurance. Off-the-shelf policies exclude flooding, foundation leaks, and breakdown of systems and appliances. But many home insurers now offer a homeowners Equipment Breakdown Endorsement.

What Does the Mechanical Breakdown Endorsement Cover?

Your insurance company’s form may differ. But most cover the cost to repair or replace items hit by mechanical or electrical failure. Think heating systems, solar panels, appliances, electronics, IOT smart devices and more.

Some examples

  • Your expensive dishwasher breaks down when the motor burns out.
  • A central air conditioner compressor fails.
  • The boiler or water heater break.
  • Your smart home monitoring system stops working.
  • The solar panels on your roof stop generating electricity.

What’s the Coverage Limit on Homeowners Equipment Breakdown?

Insurance company forms can differ, but many have a $100,000 limit. That’s enough to cover almost any system in American homes.

Does a Deductible Apply to Equipment Breakdown?

Yes. Usually it’s different than your regular homeowners policy deductible. $500 is a common deductible on homeowners Equipment Breakdown Endorsements.

What’s Not Covered by Equipment Breakdown?

Wear & tear and gradual deterioration are never covered. Everything eventually fails. Don’t expect insurance to pay for items past their useful life.

For example, if your 30-year old air conditioning compressor dies. the insurance company will likely deny your claim.

Other exclusions apply to all homeowners policies. Examples include intentional damage; flood; or seepage through a foundation.

Homeowners Equipment Breakdown Coverage vs. Home Warranty

Many home buyers buy a home warranty when they invest in a home. Home warranties help guard against big expenses in the first few years of ownership. They pay the cost of repairing or replacing major appliances or equipment.

Unlike Equipment Breakdown insurance, home warranties usually pay even for wear & tear. That’s why home warranty coverage is much more expensive than equipment breakdown coverage.

Equipment breakdown often costs less than $50 a year. Home warranties can cost $50 or more per month.

Why to Buy Homeowners Equipment Breakdown Coverage – or Not

You might purchase breakdown coverage on your homeowners if:

  • Your home or most of its equipment is newer.
  • The coverage is inexpensive.
  • It’s included in some bundle of other extra coverage that you want or need.

You might NOT purchase homeowners Equipment Breakdown coverage if:

  • You already purchased a home warranty
  • Your home’s equipment is older and you’re worried about breakdown due to wear & tear.

Do you own a home or condo in the Portland, Maine area? Have questions about equipment breakdown? Worried about big expenses from property damage? Contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance in South Portland at 207-799-5541. We offer a choice of Maine’s top property insurance companies. We’re independent and committed to you.

Is Skunk Spray Covered by Insurance?

A Portland, Maine woman recently had an unwelcome guest. A skunk snuck into her home and sprayed 4 times inside before police could remove it. What a mess! The home and everything in it must be deodorized.

Does Home Insurance Cover Skunk Spray?

Will home insurance cover the cost to remove the smell? It depends on whether you bought “off the shelf” coverage or upgraded. It also depends whether your insurance company uses the latest edition of the coverage form (spoiler alert: in this case, the latest is NOT the best).

Skunk Spray Damage Coverage in Basic Homeowners Policies

The most common home insurance form is the ISO HO 00 03. Many Maine insurance companies use it. It’s tried and tested over decades. Insurance people call it “HO-3”.

Insurance Services Office (ISO) updates the form periodically. Each insurer decides which edition to use. In Maine, some insurers still use the 1991 version. Many use the 2000 edition. A few have adopted the 2011 edition.

Before the 2011 edition, “off the shelf” HO-3 policies covered skunk spray damage to buildings. Damage to contents was not covered by the basic policy.

The 2011 edition excludes “discharge or release of secretions by any animals”. Even building damage is no longer covered for skunk spray in the 2011 form.

Which Homeowners Policy Edition do You Have?

Your insurance policy should list coverage forms. The first two letters are the coverage type – “HO” for homeowners. The next four digits are the form number. Basic homeowners are 00 03. Condo policies are 00 06. Renters policies are 00 04. The final four digits are the month and year of the edition. For example, HO 00 03 05 11 is the 2011 edition of the basic homeowners policy.

Can You Buy Extra Insurance for Skunk Damage?

We recommend “open perils” coverage for contents. That covers skunk spray damage on the pre-2011 forms. Ask your agent if you’re eligible for that.

Unfortunately, we know of no way to add skunk spray coverage to the 2011 edition of the policy. The exclusion in the 2011 form denies coverage for skunk spray to both building or contents. You can’t buy it back. That stinks (sorry, we couldn’t help it).

What if a Skunk Sprayed My Vehicle?

You may have purchased “other than collision” coverage on your auto insurance policy. Some people call this “comprehensive” coverage. Most common auto insurance policies in Maine cover damage by animals. That includes skunk spray. So, if a skunk gets into your car and sprays, you probably have coverage. As long as you purchased “other than collision” coverage.

Action Items:

  • Check your property insurance policy’s coverage form and edition date
  • Ask your agent if you have “open perils” coverage. If not, get a quote to add it if you’re eligible.
  • If you’re on the 2011 homeowners form, ask your agent for a quote with a company that uses one of the older editions.

Do you live in the Portland Maine area? Have questions about home, condo, renters or auto insurance? Contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance in South Portland at 207-799-5541. We’re independent and committed to you. We offer a choice of many of Maine’s preferred insurance companies. One of them is likely a good fit for you.

How to Insure A Maine Home Owned by a Trust

Many home owners in Maine transfer some of their property to a living or  family trust.  Trusts can be a useful estate planning tool. Once they were used only by the wealthy. Today, people of all financial means place property in trusts.

Trusts are legal documents. Your attorney can explain if a trust is a good solution for you. They can also help you establish a trust.

Insuring Property in a Trust

How can you insure real estate owned by a trust? It depends on the use of the property. Is it your primary home? A vacation home? Does someone who’s not a trustee live in the home? Is the property owned by a family trust, and used by several relatives?

Each insurer has different requirements for trust-owned property. An experienced insurance agent can help you find the right insurance solution. Independent insurance agents offer a choice of several insurance companies.

Some insurance companies use special policy endorsements for trusts. Others simply add trusts as an “additional insured” on the policy.

Are you living in a trust-owned property in Southern Maine? Are you a trustee? If so, contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance in South Portland at 207-799-5541. We offer a choice of Maine’s preferred property insurance companies. We’re independent and committed to you.

Don’t Be Left in the Dark – Safely Survive a Power Outage

by Kayla Bachelder, Concierge Agent, Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance

Ahh, a stormy night at home. Nowhere to be. You’re on the couch with a nice cup of tea, wrapped in your favorite blanket, about to watch your favorite movie.

What’s that? Did the lights flick—oh no!  Power outage!

Silence. The dog growls in the sudden darkness. The cat springs from his favorite spot on the back of the couch, causing you to spill your hot tea everywhere. Complete chaos! How long will the power be out? What will go wrong before the lights come back on?

The Ultimate Defense: Generators

If you have an automatic generator, nothing changes. Critical heating and cooling systems and lights stay on. You continue to sip your tea, pet your cat and watch your favorite movie (some insurers offer a homeowners discount for automatic generators – ask your agent).

If you have a portable generator, it takes a few minutes to hook it up. Then you can power your most important appliances and lights. You may now carry on with your night.

Tips for portable generator owners:

  • Save instructions for properly setting up your generator. Don’t rely on your memory to do it safely.
  • Protect yourself from carbon monoxide. Never use a portable generator indoors. Keep portable generators away from windows.

For the Rest of Us

Be Prepared Before the Power Goes Out

Power outages can be unpredictable, and you never know how long your power may be out. Always be prepared.

  • Prune trees back from your house.  Even healthy tree limbs can succumb to wind or ice storms. Reduce the risk of damage or loss of electricity. Remove limbs that overhang your home, fences or driveway. 
  • Keep your chimney clean.  People who rarely use their fireplaces or wood stoves often postpone chimney cleaning. During ice storms, we’ve seen house fires caused by dirty chimneys. 
  • Always have plenty of fuel for your generator and any outdoor cooking appliances.
  • If you have an electric sump pump, consider installing a gravity activated backup.
  • Create an emergency blackout kit. Store it somewhere accessible. It won’t be helpful in the back of a closet, or out in the shed.

Emergency Blackout Kit Essentials:

  1. Basic first-aid supplies
  2. Flashlights (avoid using candles)
  3. Drinking water
  4. Extra batteries
  5. Emergency numbers & contacts (incase your cell battery dies)
  6. Backup supplies for your children and pets: diapers, food, etc.?
  7. Canned food is always good to keep on hand in case you can’t get to a store.

Preparing for a Regional Emergency

After a big storm or other regional emergency, power may be out for several days. Are you prepared?

When a Big Storm is Forecast

  • Freeze containers of water to help keep refrigerated food cold.
  • If your water comes from a well, fill your bathtub with water. This will allow you to flush toilets, etc.
  • If you rely on an electric sump pump to keep your basement dry, lift items off the floor.

When the Power Goes Out

  • Leave the refrigerator and freezer closed. A Full freezer will hold food safely for up to 48 hours. A refrigerator will keep food cold up to 4 hours. After that, in cold weather, store food outdoors, in coolers.
  • Turn off electric appliances that were on at the time. This can help avoid a power surge when the electricity comes back on.
  • In winter, open kitchen cabinets to allow the warmer air in the house to reach your water pipes. Pipes are often against cold outside walls. Those walls are even colder when the house has no heat or hot water running through the pipes.
  • If you don’t have a fireplace or wood stove, go elsewhere if the temperature drops too low. NEVER use a gas cook stove or oven to heat your home.
  • Use gas or charcoal grills or camping stoves outside – never indoors.
  • When driving, treat an inoperable traffic light like a four way stop.

When the Power Comes Back On

Check cooking equipment and other appliances to make sure they’re off.

Unsure if your food is still good? Toss it! Better to be safe than sorry. Make a list of the items you discard. Some homeowners insurance policies cover spoilage of refrigerated food. Contact your insurance agent to see if your policy does.

Answers to Your Insurance Questions

Do you live in Southern Maine? Have questions about insurance for frozen pipes or food spoilage? Concerned about water backing up into your basement? Call a Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance agent in South Portland at 207-799-5541. We’re independent and committed to you.

We offer a choice of Maine’s preferred home, condo and renters insurance companies. We can help you find the best insurance value and answer your questions.

What Structures Besides the Home Does Homeowners Insurance Cover?

Your home insurance covers far more than the home itself and its contents. If you read your homeowners policy from Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance of Portland, ME carefully, you’ll spot a section called “other structures.”

What are other structures?

Other structures refer to any buildings on your property that are not directly attached to the home. Those include fences, sheds, detached garages, workshops, etc. It also includes your backyard gazebo, and the pool house, if you are fortunate to have a pool.

Similar to the policy section that covers your home’s contents, the other structures section describes your coverage and its limits. Your other structures will be covered for a percentage of the replacement value of your home. It is typically ten percent of the value. That is not per structure, but for all other structures as a whole.

That means if your insured home value is $300,000 and your other structures coverage provides ten percent coverage, you have $30,000 of coverage for your workshop, fences, detached garage, and other buildings.

Other structures coverage is automatically included, whether or not you have any outbuildings. That’s so that you don’t have to call your insurance agent if you add a shed or build a small detached garage. “Other Structures” can’t be removed from a homeowners policy, and there’s no additional charge for the coverage.

Also, you are covered for the same perils as named in your home’s coverage. If your house has coverage for wind or hurricane damage, so do your other structures.

Call us at Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance in South Portland, ME at 207-799-5541 to learn more about other structures insurance. You can add to your coverage so your workshop or fences are fully insured.