Harvey

A Texas National Guardsman carries a residents from her home during flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey (Photo courtesy U.S. Department of Defense).

As the rest of the state watched helplessly as first Hurricane Harvey’s winds, then water, wreaked havoc on the coast of Texas and Houston, something else began circulating — a warning about a change to state law regarding weather-related claims on homeowners insurance.

House Bill 1744 was signed into law May 27 by Gov. Greg Abbott. Billed as tort-reform legislation that would reduce the opportunity for insurance fraud, some now say the law may very well get its first stress test in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

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NBC 5 did a report on the City of Dallas' logo appearing on the SLWA solicitation.

NBC 5 did a report on the City of Dallas’ logo appearing on the SLWA solicitation.

When we opened an envelope emblazoned with the City of Dallas logo, our first thought was that it was our water bill or some other city awareness campaign about fees and services. But my husband was a little perplexed when he opened it only to find a pitch for a warranty on our sewer line. His first thought: “Is this a scam?”

When he handed it to me, that was my first instinct, too. We receive a lot of direct mail solicitations at our East Dallas home. Insurers who want to sell us coverage, Realtors who want to sell our house, and all manner of businesses who want to serve us. There’s one big difference between all the other direct mail campaigns we receive and this one: They didn’t pay for the honor of using the City of Dallas’ official emblem.

It only set Service Line Warranties of America back $450,000 to use the official City of Dallas logo on their solicitation, but it’s costing the city its reputation and the last remaining ounces of faith and goodwill from its citizens, the people who are tired of driving over potholes, paying for expensive public works projects that may never materialize, and all of the ugly politics at 1500 Marilla.

But I did want to find out if the service that SLWA offers with the endorsement of the city itself is actually worth the $73 annual fee it demands. I asked Charles Polansky, an expert with HUB International, whether this offer is something Dallas homeowners should consider, or if it should hit the circular file like most direct mail solicitations we receive.

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earthquake wall crack

Reader tells us her wall cracks got worse after Tuesday’s quakes

Tuesday night to Wednesday morning, we had 12 little earthquakes in North Texas.

I definitely felt one, the strongest one said to be a 3.6 on the Richter Scale. My son lives near Palo Alto where they had a fierce 6.0 quake this summer. He usually laughs at my earthquake reports — especially the photo of knocked over lawn furniture saying, “We will rebuild.” But Tuesday night, he wasn’t laughing.

“It’s a rumble,” he agreed, as I tried to describe the sound our Texas quake made as my lights flickered for a second. I was unloading dishes from the dishwasher and had just set down a wine glass. Saw a slight shimmy. The dog was confused. My mother in law was freaking, and I got chills for a minute. My insurance man had been texting me, so I texted him and asked, do we have earthquake coverage?

He is in Lubbock. He thought I was kidding! No, he said, even when he found out about the 3.6. He says he’s never written an earthquake policy in Texas during his life. I turned the question to a few local insurers, including one of our new sponsors, Charles Polansky, a Private Client Advisor at HUB International Personal Insurance here in Dallas. He has been on the phone non-stop with clients since Tuesday.

Nick Klein with HomeTeam Insurance also says his phone has been ringing off the wall, at least 60 clients have contacted him since the rumbles. He thinks a majority will not be adding earthquake insurance, except for those with Travellers and MetLife. Those are two companies that give insureds the option to add earthquake insurance as an endorsement to their existing homeowners policy.

But those deductibles will be high — a minimum of 10 percent.

Nick also writes in California where the earthquake deductibles are 10 percent minimum. Try that on a $3 million dollar home, which is almost an average price.

“The clients we quoted are scared,” said Nick. He also thinks the more and more we have earthquakes in North Texas, the less likely insurance companies will be to add earthquake insurance as optional coverage.

“In Cali, very few companies even offer it,” he says.”People get it from a state pool, like people in hurricane-prone areas.”

I put Charles through the ringer with a Q & A Tuesday night as the earth was rumbling. Jump for the whole thing.

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Trulia Heatmap Tornadoes Dallas

 

(Graphic: Trulia Heatmap From NOAA tornado data)

love what Trulia manages to do with a little data. This company is consistently making the best tools that break down statistical information, helping homebuyers decide which areas best suit their needs. 

Their newest tool, the Natural Hazards heatmaps, are perfect for seismophobics, potamophobics, brontophobics, and pretty much any other weather-related phobia you can think of. With data from the USGS, FEMA, NOAA, and the Forest Service, Trulia has created color-coded models showing which areas pose the greatest risk for these natural disasters.

Of course, if you plan buy wherever you want — data be damned — I’m sure these maps will help you negotiate your homeowner’s insurance policy. Take a minute to click around on their Trulia Local page for Dallas. It’s interesting stuff.

On the flipside, if you want to avoid natural disasters altogether, Trulia Economist Jed Kolko has compiled a list of the top-10 U.S. cities least likely to be hit with an act of God. Topping that list is Syracuse, N.Y., with Cleaveland and Akron, Ohio, in second and third, respectively. Fourth is Buffalo, N.Y., and fifth is Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick, Md.