Tag Archives: homeowners insurance

self storage 3

If you are like millions of others, you have too much stuff for your house or apartment. There are simply too many things and not enough storage room. So you turn to one of the many storage facilities there are in practically every community. You rent an appropriately-sized unit and move those baby clothes and old exercise equipment right in. Of course, some things have a real value past sentimentality. Have you thought about whether you need additional (or any) insurance protection for your stored keepsakes?

The Insurance Information Institute has these suggestions:

Some standard homeowners and renters insurance policies include coverage for personal possessions kept off-premises including a storage facility. Off-premises coverage includes theft and damage from fires, tornadoes and other perils listed in the policy. However, it does not cover for damage caused by flooding, earthquakes, mold and mildew, vermin or poor maintenance. And check the coverage limits, as these vary by company.

Find out what type of financial protection is provided by the storage facility.  Most facilities provide reimbursement based on the square footage of the unit. Check both the coverage limits and whether it is provided on an actual cash value or replacement cost basis. Most storage facilities will also offer a variety of supplemental insurance packages; ask your insurance professional if it would make sense to buy this additional coverage.

Consider special insurance or storage for expensive items.  If you intend to store valuable property, such as art, antiques, jewelry or furs, there may be dollar restrictions under your standard homeowners or renter’s insurance policy for theft. Think about adding a floater or endorsement to your policy in order to fully cover these items.

There are also specialized storage facilities available for these types of items, as they often need to be kept at specific temperature and humidity levels. Small items such as jewelry will cost less to insure if they are kept in a bank safe-deposit box. Keep in mind contents in a safe-deposit box are not insured by the bank.

As with any coverage decisions, you should consult with your insurance professional to be sure everything that needs protection has it.

house for rent 2Ah, the lure of easy money. You’re planning on taking a week away here and there throughout the year. You keep hearing about rental services like Airbnb and think it’s a great alternative to traditional hotels. Then someone suggests renting out your own home while you are away. Why not, you think. They have a good vetting policy, renters are screened and most rental stories you here are good ones. Plus, maybe you can break even on your lodging costs if someone is also paying you. But before you sign-up, pull out your homeowners insurance police and do some research.

If you only plan to rent out your home once or twice a year, a standard homeowners policy will probably suffice. Some insurance companies may require a special endorsement. Either way, you should definitely notify your insurance professional about the rental. You may also want to consider mandating a renter’s insurance policy, as property belonging to the tenant would not be covered.

If you plan on renting out your residence several times a year on a regular basis, or have a vacation property for rental, this would constitute a business. Standard homeowners insurance policies do not provide any coverage for business activities conducted in the home. To be properly covered you would need to purchase a business policy—specifically either a hotel or a bed and breakfast policy.

If you are planning to lease your home for a longer period of time, say six months or a year, you will likely need a landlord or rental dwelling policy. f you are regularly renting out a vacation home or investment property, this would also require a landlord or rental dwelling policy. Landlord policies provide property insurance coverage for physical damage to the structure of the home, for any personal property you may leave on-site for maintenance or tenant use, and liability coverage.

Your best resource for all things insurance is your insurance professional. They are well-versed in what coverages are offered in a standard homeowners policy, which are needed for different rental arrangements, and how to best protect you and your home. Make an appointment to discuss all of your coverage options and make sure you have what you need.

wedding 1Planning a wedding comes with plenty of stress coupled with and equal amount of reward. There is nothing like planning for the Big Day. Of course, veteran event planners know that sometimes, not everything goes as planned. That’s why it’s a good idea to look into wedding insurance.

 

Actually, “wedding insurance” is somewhat of a misnomer. A special  event policy can be purchased for other celebrations: a milestone anniversary party, a bar or bat mitzvah, a quinceañera, graduation party or any special occasion. Special event insurance is designed to provide financial protection if you have to cancel or postpone a gathering due to adverse weather and natural disasters such as hurricanes.

 

Most policies will also cover an event cancellation in the event a death or of serious illness or injury of a main participant, as well as a missing clergy member or key vendor, such as a caterer or photographer.

 

Coverage may also be available should the bride or groom suddenly be called for military service, tuxedos or gowns become unavailable due to stores going out of business or damage to the clothing, or the necessity to cancel a honeymoon trip due to illness, bad weather or other circumstances.

 

If you are planning a backyard wedding at your home, you may want to review your homeowners or renters policy to see if any additional liability coverage is needed. Also check to see if your current coverage will cover the loss or theft of wedding gifts and wedding rings. You may need to purchase a one-time endorsement.

 

Always check with your insurance professional when you have coverage questions. Instead of guessing — maybe wrongly — you will have solid answers and can be certain that you are covered for most unforeseen (and uncontrollable) circumstances.

swimming pool 2

The weather has been great, you are getting back in to swimsuit shape, and your backyard pool is beckoning. You are thinking about barbecues, pool parties, and enjoying a nice water-centric summer season. Of course, something like a swimming pool can have become a liability issue.

First off, be sure your insurance company knows you have a pool if you do. Not listing it on your homeowners policy will probably result in a denied claim should you file one. Where most people see the focus of great backyard parties, insurers see increased risk. That, of course, is what drives insurance rates.

If you have a homeowners or renters policy, it should cover for bodily injury of someone other than residents of the insured home if they are injured – up to the limits of the policy. The personal liability coverage should cover medical costs for the injured party including emergency room, ambulance charges and follow-up medical visits. You may want to purchase additional liability insurance; maybe up to $300,000 to $500,000.An umbrella liability policy is not a bad thing, either, say for an additional $1 million of liability protection.

Your homeowners insurance policy may cover any personal liability for personal injury to guests or visitors. However it would most likely provide very little coverage for damage to the swimming pool itself. If the pool itself is above average in cost (expensive material, special design, etc.) and/or has special features, such as a waterfall, you may want to consider a special endorsement. You may also wish to consider that most damage to the in-ground pools consists of cracking from ground movement or maintenance type issues to pool equipment, which most likely will not be covered by a standard home insurance policy.

Having a swimming pool can be a great thing, especially in the middle of a sweltering day. Inviting friends and family over can make you a very popular person. Just remember all of the potential implications of being that great friend. Talk with your insurance professional and see that an insurance claim won’t ruin your summer.

pocket money 3You get into a little fender-bender in your car. Not too much damage but you decide to turn in a claim. All the appropriate estimates are obtained and your insurance company pays for the repairs no problem… except for your deductible. Doh! You forgot about that.

Just to refresh your memory, a deductible can be either a specific dollar amount or a percentage of the total amount of insurance on a policy. Logically, the higher your deductible is, the lower your premium will be. Since you are shouldering more of the risk, you pay less up front.

Here is how it works: if you have a $500 “dollar deductible” and a $2,000 claim, the insurance company would pay you $1,500 ($2,000 – $500). This type of deductible is common for auto insurance and homeowners insurance. “Percentage deductibles” are calculated differently.

In the case of a homeowners insurance claim, the deductible is based on a percentage of the home’s insured value. So if your house is insured for $100,000 and your insurance policy has a 2 percent deductible, $2,000 would be deducted from the amount you are reimbursed on a claim. In the event of the $10,000 insurance loss, you would be paid $8,000.

Deductibles are different in health insurance where there a single annual deductible for the policy. With an auto or homeowners insurance policy, the deductible applies each time you file a claim.

For earthquake insurance, California residents can purchase a policy through the California Earthquake Authority (CEA). The standard CEA policy deductible is 15 percent of the replacement cost of the home. The CEA also offers a 10 percent deductible for other structures, personal items coverage up to $100,000 and $15,000 in “loss of use” coverage.

For more information on deductibles, how they affect your premium, and any other questions you may have, make an appointment with your insurance professional. They will explain all facets of your policies and help figure out how you can obtain the coverage you need at a price you can afford.

tree on houseYou are a diligent, responsible homeowner who has purchased what you believe is adequate coverage for your house. If you are like a lot of people, you have a decent knowledge of what is covered and what is not. How about tree damage? If a tree fell on your home or property, would your policy cover that kind of damage?

For the most part, the answer is yes. This is not limited to your main residence and would include a detached garage, a guest house, shed, or anything that is not specifically excluded in your policy. This includes any contents as well. The tree can be felled by natural disaster (windstorm, lightning, etc), but if your tree came down due to neglect, that may not be covered.

Whether you own the tree or not doesn’t matter as far as filing a claim goes. Especially in cases of a windstorm where branches, bushes and whole trees can be projected from great distances, ownership isn’t something that could be readily assessed.

Standard home insurance policies also provide coverage for damage to trees and shrubs due to fire, lightning, explosion, theft, aircraft, vehicles not owned by the resident, vandalism and malicious mischief. Coverage is generally limited to up to five percent of the amount of insurance on the structure of the house. Generally, most insurers will limit the coverage to about $500 for any one tree, shrub or plant.

Of course, if the tree was located on your neighbor’s property, your insurance company may attempt to collect from your neighbor’s insurance company, especially if the tree fell due to poor maintenance. You may be reimbursed for any deductible. If a tree fell on your property but did not damage anything, it is unlikely you will receive anything to pay from removal. Exceptions could be if it is blocking your driveway or some other egress.

Why not talk with your insurance professional to go over all of your insurance policies and see if it is time to update your protections? Make sure you are covered for everything you think you are, and some things you have not thought about at all.

broncos panthers 4You’re all set with your Broncos or Panthers gear. Plates, cups and napkins have already been bought and all your Super Bowl invitations have been sent. But before you go pick up the chicken wings and hamburger rolls, be sure some other paperwork has been checked. That is, your insurance policy, specifically, your homeowners or renters policy.

Anytime you host an event where alcohol is served, there is the possibility of some liability issues arising. Slip and fall accidents become more probable. Property damage (yours) is another distinct possibility. Even thefts, inadvertent, of course, can occur. Check your policy to be sure you are covered.

There is also Social Host Liability, which underscores your responsibility to your guests. In California, the host is usually not responsible for his/her guests once they leave the party, but they do have a social responsibility to make sure everyone has a safe experience. That said, a host is 100 percent liable for what happens to an underage drinker during and after the event. A host may also be found guilty of a misdemeanor for serving “habitual or common drunkards,”

Here are some excellent suggestions posted by the Insurance Information Institute (www.iii.org) that can help you have a party memorable for the right reasons:

– Hire a professional bartender. Most bartenders are trained to recognize signs of intoxication and are better able to limit consumption by partygoers.

– Encourage guests to pick a designated driver who will refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages in order to be able to drive other guests home.

– Be a responsible host. Limit your own alcohol intake so that you will be better able to judge your guests’ sobriety.

– Offer non-alcoholic beverages and always serve food. Eating and drinking plenty of water, or other non-alcoholic beverages, can help counter the effects of alcohol.

– Do not pressure guests to drink or rush to refill their glasses when empty. And never serve alcohol to guests who are visibly intoxicated.

– Stop serving liquor toward the end of the evening. Switch to coffee, tea and soft drinks.

– If guests drink too much or seem too tired to drive, call a cab, arrange a ride with a sober guest or have them sleep at your home.

Enjoy the game while you root for your favorite team (at least for that day). Make sure your guests have a great time, but remember they are your guests. Make you party one to remember for all the right reasons.

Silhouette-question-markEveryone should be at least semi-familiar with the terms of their insurance policies. After you make a claim (and that claim is possibly denied) is too late to fully understand your coverage. While many insurance terms are used across different policies, some are unique to particular coverages.

Take homeowners insurance for example. There are a few industry/legal terms that apply to that coverage pretty much exclusively. To help you better understand your homeowners policy, here are a few core common ones:

Additional living expenses (ALE) – Reimburses the policyholder for the cost of temporary housing, food, and other essential living expenses, if the home is damaged by a covered peril that makes the home temporarily uninhabitable. Some policies cap the amount of ALE payable to 20 percent of the policy’s dwelling coverage.

Exclusion – A provision in an insurance policy that denies coverage for certain perils, people, property, or locations.

Liability coverage – Covers losses that an insured is legally liable. For homeowners insurance, liability coverage protects you against financial loss if you are sued and found legally responsible for someone else’s injury or property damage.

Loss of use – A provision in homeowners and renters insurance policies that reimburses policyholders for the additional costs (housing, food, and other essentials) of having to live elsewhere while the home is being restored following a disaster.

Peril – A specific risk or cause of loss covered by an insurance policy, such as a fire, windstorm, flood, or theft. A named-peril policy covers the policyholder only for the risks named in the policy. An all-risk policy covers all causes of loss except those specifically excluded.

Personal property – All tangible property (other than land) that is either temporary or movable in some way, such as furniture, jewelry, electronics, etc.

Replacement cost – Pays the dollar amount needed to replace the structure or damaged personal property without deducting for depreciation but limited by the policy’s maximum dollar amount.

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to sit down with your insurance professional to discuss all of your insurance policies and determine if you need any additional coverage. At the very least, you can be sure you understand everything about the policies you currently have.

beware of dog 3According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year and about 885,000 require medical attention for these injuries; about half of these are children. If your dog was the guilty party, do you know if your homeowners insurance would cover any liability? Anything not covered by your policy is your responsibility.

There are some companies that will not issue a policy to a household with a dog. Others go by a list of so-called dangerous dogs, like Pit Bulls, Staffordshire Terriers, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, Chows, Great Danes, Presa Canarios, Akitas, Alaskan Malamutes, Siberian Huskies, and Wolf-hybrids to determine whether to provide coverage. You may even be asked to sign a liability waiver.

Once your dog is labeled a biter, your premium could go up or your insurance company may decide not to renew your policy.

An analysis of homeowners insurance data by the Insurance Information Institute found that while the number of dog bite claims nationwide decreased 4.7 percent in 2014, the average cost per claim for the year was up 15 percent. The average cost paid out for dog bite claims nationwide was $32,072 in 2014, compared with $27,862 in 2013. The average cost per claim nationally has risen more than 67 percent from 2003 to 2014, due to increased medical costs as well as the size of settlements, judgments and jury awards given to plaintiffs, which are still on the upswing.

Obviously, your best resource to find out if you are covered for dog bite liability is your insurance professional. Maybe you need an umbrella policy or possibly coverage specifically written for dogs. Don’t get caught short and end up paying a big bill out-of-pocket. Set up a meeting with your agent or broker and be sure you have all the coverage you need.

for rent 2Were you planning on renting out your primary residence for a few short rental terms while you are away?  Did you know that some insurance companies may allow a homeowners policyholder (assuming they have notified the company) a short-term rental. Other companies will require an endorsement to the existing homeowners or renters insurance policy in order to provide insurance coverage.

Also, renting your home out on a consistent basis throughout the year could constitute a business. Most homeowners policies do not cover businesses conducted in the home and you would probably need to purchase a business policy — specifically either a hotel or a bed and breakfast policy. If you have a second home that you plan to rent for an extended period of time (longer than six months), you will likely need a landlord or rental dwelling policy.

Landlord policies provide property insurance coverage for any physical damage to the structure of the home caused by fire, lightning, wind, hail, ice, snow or other covered perils. It also offers coverage for any personal property you may leave on-site for maintenance or tenant use, like appliances, lawnmowers and snow blowers. The policy also includes liability coverage; if a tenant or one of their guests gets hurt on the property, it would cover legal fees, due to injury claims, and medical expenses.

These scenarios do not include renting out a room or guesthouse on your property. Those situations would likely require you to upgrade your homeowners policy with a “unit rented to others” endorsement.

Before you decide to become a landlord – or if you already are renting out property – talk to your insurance professional to see you have the right insurance policies for your situation. Don’t wait until you are hit with a claim to find out you are underinsured. Take care of it right now.