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Homeowner alert: Time to review your property insurance

Alma Rosa Castillo tells homeowners, “Don’t be scared, be prepared,” when it comes to making sure they have the right insurance for hurricane season. Photo by Carrie Robertson Meyer/Third Coast Photo

Hurricane season began June 1, so homeowners need to be sure they truly understand the difference between their property, wind, hurricane and flood insurance policies, said Alma Rosa Castillo, owner of All American Hallmark Insurance Agency in Corpus Christi. With more than 30 years’ experience in home insurance, Castillo is an expert in guiding her customers to the right coverage.

“A lot of people don’t know how to read a policy; they don’t know what coverage they have,” Castillo said. “They don’t know what an endorsement is or a form 431. They come to me because I explain everything. Then, they know exactly what kind of coverage they have and won’t be surprised when they have a claim.”

Much of the confusion has come from an ongoing controversy about high-priced windstorm insurance, which must be purchased separately from comprehensive home coverage. The most important question a customer should ask is whether their policy covers windstorm damage. Most in the Coastal Bend do not.

“With hurricane season here, you need to know if you are covered in case of a storm,” Castillo said. “A hurricane can bring a lot of high water. That is not covered with windstorm insurance. High water is covered by flood. Now you need two policies for hurricane, not just one.”

Hurricane insurance is obsolete, she explained. As of about two years ago, the typical hurricane insurance was replaced with windstorm and hail only. Homeowners now need all three: wind, flood and homeowners.

Because of the high cost of windstorm insurance, which is required with just about any mortgage, some people can no longer afford to own a home in the Coastal Bend, Castillo said. A new law approved last year has expanded the ability of carriers to offer windstorm in an affordable homeowner package.

“That’s only on newer homes and for people with good credit,” she said. “Not everyone qualifies.”

Castillo said her agency keeps up with the ever-changing insurance marketplace to better serve its customers.

“We spend a lot of time with each client explaining the best coverage, the middle coverage and what the bank wants based on the home loan,” she said. “That’s how we manage to find an insurance premium that fits their budget.”

Once a hurricane is within 200 miles of shore, windstorm insurance is no longer available for purchase by customers in the path of high winds. Once the storm is named a hurricane and heads to land, homeowners without windstorm insurance are stuck.

“You better not wait to buy,” Castillo said. “Sometimes, you have to wait up to 30 days to be covered after you have applied. Don’t wait for a storm to be on its way to try and get insurance.”

Castillo added that hurricanes are really nothing to be afraid of.

“Don’t get scared, be prepared, I always say,” she added. “Go to your agent, discuss your insurance policy, talk about scenarios: What if this happened, would I be covered? Make sure your policy is current and review it with your agent.”

All American Hallmark Insurance is located at 4510 Weber Road, Suite A. Call (361) 993-6643 for more information.

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