Monthly Archives: November 2015

high waterAfter a flood, there is usually a subsequent flood of used cars on the market. Get rich quick hucksters will buy up water damaged vehicles, clean them up and hope the unsuspecting buyer doesn’t find out anything. The real pros will re-title the vehicle to hide there tracks even better.

So what’s a prospective used car buyer to do? If you are in the market for a pre-owned vehicle, there are some steps you can take. Utilizing resources like Carfax or Autocheck are helpful, but sometimes will not tell the whole story. Ultimately, it is up to you the buyer to sniff out any potential damage.

Autotrader has posted some excellent tips for sniffing out (so to speak) flood-damaged vehicles. Naturally, you can’t take the car apart piece by piece, but there are some warning signs you can look for:

  • Check under the vehicle’s carpets or floor covering for mud or rust, and don’t forget the trunk.
  • Give the underside of the carpets a sniff test. Do they smell like mildew?
  • Mud and debris collect in hard-to-clean spaces, such as under the hood and in the trunk.
  • Rust on the heads of any exposed screws under the hood, around the doors or in the trunk indicates exposure to excess moisture.
  • Mud and debris on the underside of panels and brackets is another good sign the car has been under water.
  • If you suspect you are looking at a flood-damaged vehicle, the smart move is to just walk away. If the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. The alternative is to spring for the cost of having a mechanic give it the once over.

Check with your insurance professional for additional advice and suggested resources. Also, be sure you have the proper coverage on any new vehicle purchase before you put it on the road.

flooded vehicles 3Anyone who has been living without access to media probably doesn’t know about the impending rainstorms predicted for early 2016. For the rest of us, we have heard about El Niño for the past few months. The big worry for most people is how their home will stand up to any flooding, but what about vehicles?

There is flood coverage available for your home through the National Flood Insurance Program, but how can you protect yourself from flood claims for your vehicle. The answer is comprehensive insurance. Not part of the standard auto policy, which only covers various liability scenarios, comprehensive covers your vehicle.. Often packaged with collision insurance, covers a multitude of events, including Deer Accidents (one of the most common comprehensive claims), Hail Damage, Fire Damage (whether the fire was engine related or human-related), Stolen Car (after 30 days), Vandalism, Tree Falling on Your Car (often the only way your car will be covered), and Flood Damage (regardless of what caused the flood).

If your vehicle is affected by a flood, it is essential that you call the claim in immediately. Time is important with flood damage claims, especially if it was caused be a catastrophic event. Also get the vehicle dried out as soon as possible. The sooner your vehicle gets dried out the better your chances of avoiding a total loss situation. Be sure to contact the appropriate professionals to dry your vehicle.

It is always your best bet to consult with your insurance professional to make sure you have all the proper coverages before you need them.

icy_business159If the worst happens during the upcoming winter storm season and your household belongings are destroyed, could you put together documentation to get your belongings replaced? Nothing speeds up the claims process faster than having an accurate, detailed list of what you own. Not only that, but creating such a list can help you determine the level of coverage you need.

The first step is making a list of your possessions, including descriptions, purchase dates and any receipts of appraisals. For clothing, count the items you own by category and note any especially pricy items. For major appliances and electronic equipment, attach any sales receipts and include serial numbers (usually found on the back or bottom of the equipment).

Next, take a video. With smartphones being ubiquitous today, any one can take filmed inventory of their belongings. Make sure you get complete shots and close-ups on unique features. At the very least, take some still shots and upload to a computer file.

For possessions such as jewelry, art, rugs and tapestries, collectibles, etc., your standard homeowners insurance policy may not offer any coverage at all.  Check with your insurance professional to see if additional coverage is needed.

Finally, do a complete walk-through of your home, including any additional buildings. Then take the inventory files on whatever medium you chose, and put it in an off-site secure place. For those so inclined, there are several computer programs, many free, that can assist with your home inventory.

Whether you are just beginning to set up housekeeping or have lived in your home for decades, it is impossible to recall every single thing you own. Add in the trauma of a household disaster like a flood or fire, and your memory gaps will become as wide as the Grand Canyon. Obviously some losses are irreplaceable. But for those that can be replaced, have the documentation necessary to get back everything you can.

mold 1

Do you know if you are covered for mold damage for your home? Most standard homeowners policies exclude such claims except in cases where the mold is a result of a sudden occurrence such as a burst pipe or water damage caused extinguishing a fire. Mold caused by a slow leak or a faulty roof will not be covered.

Mold is one of those insidious types of damage that you may not even know you have for years. But the expected multiple downpours expected from El Niño has brought this to the front of many people’s minds lately. With water damage very often bringing mold, it is important that you are aware of the costs associated with mold removal and if you are covered for those costs with your homeowners policy

Most experts agree that an average mold removal can cost anywhere from around $4,000 to $15,000 or more. A lot of the cost depends on the size and scope of the damage and well as the location. Is there mold growing inside a wall or in heating and air conditioning ducts or is there just mold growing under a sink?

Mold can be prevented or at least slowed by taking a few simple steps. The Insurance Information Institute (III) recommends the following:

  • Lower indoor humidity with air conditioners, dehumidifiers, and exhaust fans.
  • Inspect hoses and fittings on appliances, sinks, and toilets.
  • Use household cleaners with mold-killing ingredients like bleach.
  • Opt for paints and primers that contain mold inhibitors.
  • Clean gutters to avoid overflow and check roof for leaks.
  • Avoid carpet in wet areas like basements and bathrooms.
  • Remove and dry carpet, padding, and upholstery within 48 hours of flooding.

Talk to your insurance professional to see which kinds of damage, especially water-related, you are covered for and what you need to do to make sure you have everything you need. Don’t take a chance on having to pay a giant bill later for something you thought your insurance would pay for.

NFIP (1)

Most homeowners insurance policies do not cover flood damage. Any losses you incur because of flooding will come out of your own pocket without a National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) policy. If you think flooding won’t happen in your area, think again. With the monster rainy season experts are predicting, anything can happen.

The NFIP warns that “flood risk isn’t just based on history, it’s also based on a number of factors: rainfall, river-flow and tidal-surge data, topography, flood-control measures, and changes due to building and development.” The NFIP offers flood insurance to homeowners, renters, and business owners if their community participates in the NFIP. Coverage is only available through an authorized agent or broker and cannot be purchased directly from the government.

So what is covered by a NFIP policy?

Building Property: The insured building and its foundation; Electrical and plumbing systems; Central air conditioning equipment, furnaces and water heaters; Refrigerators, cooking stoves and built-in appliances such as dishwashers; Permanently installed carpeting over unfinished flooring; Permanently installed paneling, wallboard, bookcases and cabinets; Window blinds; Detached garages (up to 10 percent of building property coverage); detached buildings (other than garages) require a separate building property policy; and Debris removal.

Personal Property: Personal belongings, such as clothing, furniture and electronic equipment; Curtains; Portable and window air conditioners; Portable microwave ovens and portable dishwashers; Carpets that are not included in building coverage; Clothing washers and dryers; Food freezers and the food in them; and Certain valuable items such as original artwork and furs (up to $2,500)

What is NOT Covered? This is very important to know: Damage caused by moisture, mildew or mold that could have been avoided by the property owner; Currency, precious metals and valuable papers such as stock certificates; Property and belongings outside of an insured building such as trees, plants, wells, septic systems, walks, decks, patios, fences, seawalls, hot tubs and swimming pools; Living expenses such as temporary housing; Financial losses caused by business interruption or loss of use of insured property; and Most self-propelled vehicles such as cars, including their parts.

While most homes in California don’t have basements, where coverage is limited, other areas (below the lowest floor) also have restrictions. These areas include: Crawl spaces under an elevated building; Enclosed areas beneath buildings elevated on full-story foundation walls that are sometimes referred to as “walkout basements;” and Enclosed areas under other types of elevated buildings;

Be sure to speak with your insurance professional to make sure you have all the coverage you need. Don’t be left high and dry.

flood damageThe winter storm warnings for California are dire. According to reports, we all need to brace ourselves for El Niño and an onslaught of rain. But you say you don’t live in a traditional area for mudslides, and have never once seen a flood. Just remember how full the sewers get after a steady rain, especially when the ground is hard and not absorbing any water.

Of  course, it’s better to be safe than sorry. The National Flood Insurance Program (www.floodsmart.gov) has produced an excellent series of tips to keep your home and family safe.

  • Make sure your sump pump is working and then install a battery-operated backup, in case of a power failure. Installing a water alarm will also let you know if water is accumulating in your basement.
  • Clear debris from gutters and downspouts.
  • Anchor any fuel tanks.
  • Raise your electrical components (switches, sockets, circuit breakers, and wiring) at least 12 inches above your home’s projected flood elevation.
  • Place the furnace, water heater, washer, and dryer on cement blocks at least 12 inches above the projected flood elevation.
  • Move furniture, valuables, and important documents to a safe place.
  • If flooding occurs, go to higher ground and avoid areas subject to flooding.
  • Do not attempt to walk across flowing streams or drive through flooded roadways.
  • If water rises in your home before you evacuate, go to the top floor, attic, or roof.
  • Listen to a battery-operated radio for the latest storm information.
  • Turn off all utilities at the main power switch and close the main gas valve if advised to do so.
  • If you’ve come in contact with floodwaters, wash your hands with soap and disinfected water.

Check with your insurance professional about obtaining flood insurance and find out what your homeowners policy does and does not cover,. Don’t be caught short if you need to make a claim. Be proactive, not reactive.