Cherokee Housing Services offers homeowners insurance program
By Tesina Jackson Staff Writer
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – For the past year, the Cherokee Nation’s Housing Services has offered the Community Shield program to assist Cherokee homeowners insure homes and personal property. Prior to that, the Housing Authority of the Cherokee Nation offered the program. Management of Community Shield moved to Housing Services in 2008 when the tribe’s administration took over most HACN duties. Community Shield offers Indian homeowners, tribes and other entities insurance coverage for homes located in Indian Country. It is a group policy that provides coverage for the dwelling value and personal property. “I’ve been working with the program for several years and I think it’s a good program,” Mary James, Housing Services senior director, said. “I don’t think you’re going to go anywhere and get coverage for $370 a year and where everyone has the same premium.” The $370 is the annual fee for a basic premium on a house. “What happens is that Housing Services pays the annual premium,” James said. “The homeowner then reimburses Housing Services by paying monthly.” Basic coverage includes fire, lightning, explosion, riot, windstorm, hail, falling objects and weight of ice, snow or sleet, sinkhole and volcanic action. It does not include liability, medical, theft, vandalism and additional structural coverage. People applying for Community Shield through Housing Services must be CN citizens, have a home located within the tribe’s jurisdictional boundaries, be approved by Housing Services and not have a family income over 80 percent of the National Median Income Guidelines set by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. For those who qualify, all premium payments are made monthly by the homeowner and are due on the first of the month. The program offers $80,000 coverage on its basic dwelling and an additional $10,000 coverage on contents. Claims have a deductible of $250. It also offers group coverage, which is individual homeowners/tenant coverage on a group basis. It requires 10 or more participants and one designed administrator to oversee the program, providing an affordable and economical way to protect any combination of homes and an easy way for administrators to monitor who has coverage. For participants living in mobile homes, the annual fee is a bit more expensive at $465. James said this was because mobile homes have more risk since they are more susceptible to wind damage, fire damage and all risk pools, which are what insurance companies base premiums. Community Shield is offered, in partnership with the CN, by AMERIND Risk Management Corp., which was established in the mid-1980s by Indian housing authorities across the U.S. AMERIND, a non-profit organization, is a risk management program stationed in Santa Ana, N.M. It offers affordable coverage for tribal homeowner/tenants to protect their homes and personal properties. The corporation is owned by a majority of federally recognized tribes, which have kept more than $300 million working in Indian Country since 1986 rather than profiting non-Indian organizations. “AMERIND has been a good program to work with throughout the years,” James said.
Get coverage you need without paying more than you should
Have you noticed the cost of homeowner’s insurance coverage has increased significantly over the last several years? Policies that cost $325 just a couple of years ago are often two to three times that amount now, putting the squeeze on homeowners’ budgets. Here are 10 ways to minimize the cost of homeowner’s insurance:
Raise the deductible The deductible is the amount of risk you agree to accept before the insurance company starts paying on a claim. With the cost of homeowner’s insurance escalating, it no longer makes sense to let the insurance company assume all the risk. If you have a low deductible of $50 to $100, consider raising it to at least $500 to $1,000. You could save up to 25 percent on your premiums.
Combine policies Consider buying your homeowner’s and auto insurance policies from a company that offers both. Some companies offer discounts of 5 percent to 15 percent if you buy both types of coverage from them. Check around and make sure the price is lower than buying the two policies from two different companies before making this move.
Ask about discounts Make sure you’re receiving all the discounts for which you’re eligible. Discounts exist for smoke detectors, deadbolt locks, security or fire alarm systems, fire extinguishers in the home, etc. If you’re over 55 and retired, you may qualify for an additional 10 percent discount.
Don't buy unnecessary insurance It makes no sense to buy insurance to protect yourself against risks you are unlikely to encounter. For example, don’t buy earthquake coverage in a non-earthquake zone or add a jewelry floater to your policy if you don’t own expensive jewelry.
Make your home a better insurance risk Ask your insurance agent what you can do to make your home less expensive to insure. Making changes that reduce risks of damage in windstorms and other natural disasters is one example. Another is updating old wiring or heating systems, which may reduce your risk of fires and therefore reduce your premiums.
Know what your homeowner’s insurance covers Your home is your biggest investment. Make sure it’s adequately protected from risks you cannot afford to cover yourself and that it covers any home improvements, major purchases and increased costs of rebuilding.
Keep insurance coverage up to date Once a year, before your homeowner's insurance policy is due to renew, dig out the current policy, read all the details and call your insurance agent to discuss any changes in your situation that occurred during the year.
Avoid risks that insurers shun Insurers are shying away from some risks. For instance, owning certain types of dogs such as Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers and Pit Bulls can limit or void your policy. Owning a swimming pool or a trampoline can increase your coverage cost. Read the fine print in your policy under the “Conditions and Coverage” sections so you know the things that are excluded from coverage. You may opt to buy additional coverage to protect yourself from certain exposures.
Improve your credit score Insurance companies are increasingly using credit information to price insurance policies. Don’t have too many open credit accounts; don’t charge close to the limits on your credit cards; and pay all your bills on time to keep your credit score healthy.
Shop around Shop around for homeowner’s insurance rates, but keep in mind that you may be receiving a longevity discount if you’ve been with your current insurer for several years. Typical discounts are 5 percent if you’ve been with the company for three to five years and 10 percent for six years or more. Get quotes from three agents and take any longevity discounts with your current insurer into consideration when you compare prices. – Information provided by financialplan.about.com