Personal Insurance

Don’t Leave Homeowners Insurance Behind on Life’s Journey

Posted by on Nov 28, 2017 in Personal Insurance | Comments Off on Don’t Leave Homeowners Insurance Behind on Life’s Journey

Don’t Leave Homeowners Insurance Behind on Life’s Journey

Homes often mirror changes in homeowners’ lives. As families grow or careers takes new paths, homeowners adapt their spaces to accommodate such life events. When they need more space, they make additions or finish basements. And when homeowners found home-based businesses, their homes double as offices. When navigating life’s twists and turns, it’s important to remember that as our homes change, our homeowners insurance policies likely should, too. When we modify our homes’ sizes, living areas, uses, and even contents or amenities, we may need to modify policies so our homes in their current states are fully covered. Some changes that may prompt a homeowners insurance policy change include: Doing a home addition or major remodel — Home improvements like additions or major remodels can increase value, which often requires more insurance coverage. Why? A home that is worth more should be insured for a higher replacement cost. To prepare in case disaster strikes and a home requires a complete rebuild, the insurance policy should reflect the value of the home after the add-on investment or remodel. Making certain lifestyle changes — It may seem odd, but there are personal lifestyle changes that can affect homeowners insurance, including retiring and giving up smoking. Smokers are riskier to cover because of the link between cigarettes and house fires, so their homeowners insurance premiums are often higher. Retirees typically spend more time at home, which can mean less risk of unattended hazards causing house fires, less risk of burglary, and more time to maintain the property. According to the Insurance Information Institute, those who are 55 or older and retired may qualify for a 10% discount with some insurance companies. Starting an at-home business — Running a business out of your home may require significant technology or equipment investments. Don’t assume these items are covered under your homeowners insurance just because of where they’re housed. Also, if your business involves people coming to your home, are you protected if a client or customer sustains an injury? For example, if a client slips and falls on the steps while leaving your home office, will your homeowners insurance automatically cover any liability? Make appropriate adjustments to ensure protection of your business assets and all related activities. Acquiring high-value items — If you’ve acquired certain high-priced valuables like art, antiques, or jewelry since your last homeowners insurance policy review, you should review anew and make necessary modifications so they’re covered in the event of theft. If you don’t have these items listed on your policy, they are likely not protected. Purchasing high-risk items for the home — Some home additions like swimming pools or outdoor trampolines can increase the risk of injury at home. This means liability insurance must be adequate to safeguard homeowners if an accident — and potential lawsuit — occurs. If this discussion has prompted you to review your homeowners policy, you may be thinking, “But when … and how?” Simply reviewing a policy doesn’t mean your policy will change — but a thorough review may uncover some areas that are lacking in coverage and could sneak up on you later. Always review your homeowners policy in conjunction with making a major life or home change. If no obvious changes occur, experts recommend reviewing your policy annually around the same time each year. Consider a few guidelines as you sift through your policy. Know your home’s current replacement value. Don’t use the appraised value of your home since appraised values also factor in the value of the land homes sit on. Calculate using replacement costs per square foot in your area,...

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Avoid Potential Home Dehumidifier Risks

Posted by on Nov 16, 2017 in Personal Insurance | Comments Off on Avoid Potential Home Dehumidifier Risks

Avoid Potential Home Dehumidifier Risks

Dehumidifiers can mitigate moist conditions that cause condensation on windows as well as musty smells, mold, and mildew. Mold flourishes in areas above 65% humidity and can cause breathing problems, skin conditions, and other illnesses. Over time, humidity can also wreak havoc on furniture, appliances, fixtures, and structures. Thus, maintaining proper humidity levels is important for healthy, comfortable living — and a dehumidifier is often the go-to small appliance for handling it. Dehumidifier risks Like refrigerators and furnaces, dehumidifiers are designed to automatically run as needed around-the-clock without supervision. This introduces a potential hazard worse than the humidity itself: house fire. A spike in house fire incidents linked to dehumidifiers is bringing heightened awareness to dehumidifier safety, use, and maintenance. There are two risk categories related to dehumidifier-caused fires: Manufacturer risks involve defective units, which typically means bad wiring or poor construction. Though rare, these risks do arise and cause manufacturers to issue recalls. When investigated, these manufacturer-related fires have most often been linked to defective parts that overheat and ignite dehumidifiers’ plastic housings.Among the most recent major recalls was one in November 2016 in which manufacturer Gree issued a recall on dehumidifiers sold under recognizable brands like Frigidaire, General Electric, and Kenmore. These particular units caused 450 fires and $19 million in property damage.If you’re looking to purchase a new dehumidifier, you may consider starting by researching recalled brands via Saferproducts.gov. End-user risks, on the other hand, are typically attributed to incorrect use or poor maintenance. Never place a dehumidifier in a tight space as they need airflow around them. Lack of airflow can cause overheating, which can lead to a fire. Also, never block a unit’s grill area. Placing clothing or laundry items on a dehumidifier can impede airflow and lead to overheating. Dehumidifiers require simple yet regular maintenance to work well and operate safely. Depending on how much you use it, clean or replace dehumidifier filters monthly or even more frequently. Lightly vacuum grills to ensure airflow isn’t restricted by dust or lint buildup. A more thorough cleaning involves wiping fan blades and, for the types of units that have coils, removing the unit’s outer casing to wipe off the inner coils. Dehumidifiers can be professionally serviced, too, which is a good idea from time to time as it often includes motor service. A fire-free future? Fortunately, dehumidifier technology is advancing to prevent fire risk. Compressor dehumidifiers, those with coils as opposed to desiccant dehumidifiers, now come with a feature called Auto Defrost that stops the unit from working when the coils get too cold and can’t extract any moisture. If the units keep running while not extracting moisture, they can overheat and spark a fire. Automated dehumidifiers tend to cost more but offer safety and energy efficiency that older models do not. These units change settings automatically when a set humidity level is reached. The units go into sleep mode for a set period and then “wake up” for five minutes to sense whether humidity levels have changed. If not, the dehumidifiers will go back to sleep for 30 minutes and repeat this cycle until sensing enough humidity to turn back on. This means the units are never on full power long enough to overheat. The lesson with dehumidifiers is threefold. When buying dehumidifiers: Do your homework by researching recalled brands and models. Pay more for automated units that don’t run constantly. Regularly maintain your dehumidifiers by following manufacturer guidelines. A final lesson for homeowners is to review their homeowners insurance policies and understand what is covered in the event of a fire. Do not...

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Get Ahead of the Storm: Simple Steps to Winterize Your Home

Posted by on Oct 31, 2017 in Personal Insurance | Comments Off on Get Ahead of the Storm: Simple Steps to Winterize Your Home

Get Ahead of the Storm: Simple Steps to Winterize Your Home

As the hustle and bustle of the holiday season approaches, it’s easy to get caught up in party planning, shopping, gift wrapping, and home decorating … while forgetting about home winterization. But skipping some simple winter prep steps can lead to high utility bills, costly home repairs, insurance claims, and more. Get your home ready now so you can spend your time and money on the more enjoyable things winter brings. Protect your plumbing Frozen pipes can burst and lead to water damage and other expensive home repairs. Before temperatures drop below freezing, you should: Disconnect all water hoses from exterior faucets. Be sure all water is drained from the hoses, then coil and store them. Insulate exterior pipes and faucets using foam covers. Use an air compressor or hire a professional to do a “blow out” if you have an in-ground sprinkler system. This will remove standing water and prevent underground pipes from freezing and bursting. Be sure everyone in your household knows how to turn off your home’s main water source in case a pipe does burst. Quickly turning off the water can make a big difference in the amount of water damage a leaky pipe can cause. Check your heat sources Fireplaces and furnaces keep homes toasty on cold winter days, but they can be hazardous if not properly maintained. In advance of wintery weather, be sure to: Check your chimney if you have a wood-burning fireplace. Debris and birds’ nests can block chimneys, and creosote can build up inside chimneys, which can lead to fires. Properly reducing creosote buildup by hiring a certified chimney sweep can help your fireplace burn hot, clean fires. Change your furnace filter. You should perform this task every two to three months during the year, but it is especially important before peak furnace season because dirty filters can damage your furnace fan and cause utility bills to soar. Keep hot air in and your heating bill down by making sure doors and windows are properly sealed. You can best detect air leaks on a windy day when you can feel drafts along window and door perimeters. Fix window leaks using inexpensive rope caulk from a home improvement store, and easily seal doors by applying weatherstripping on the sides and bottoms. Don’t forget roofs and gutters Imagine thawing out from a winter storm and hearing a “drip, drip, drip” sound inside your home — only to realize you have a leaky roof. Roofs must be in good condition to stand up to the weight and excessive moisture that accompanies snow and ice accumulation. Avoid disaster by carefully inspecting or hiring a professional to inspect your roofing for missing shingles before winter hits. Be sure to also check areas around vent stacks and chimneys — other major sources of leaks — and have any repairs made well in advance of cold or snow. Also check gutters and downspouts and clean them thoroughly. Debris such as wet leaves and pine needles can add substantial weight inside gutters, which can lead to damage when it freezes. Know what’s covered in your insurance policy With all the home hazards the season poses, it’s good to know what your homeowners or renters insurance policy covers in advance of winter’s arrival. Homeowners and renters alike should review their policies with an experienced agent to ensure they have sufficient coverage to protect against winter dangers. Know in advance what is — and is not — covered so you can add any additional coverage that makes financial sense to protect you and your home against winter’s wrath. What if...

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Maintain Your Sump Pump Today to Avoid Water Damage Tomorrow

Posted by on Oct 24, 2017 in Personal Insurance | Comments Off on Maintain Your Sump Pump Today to Avoid Water Damage Tomorrow

Maintain Your Sump Pump Today to Avoid Water Damage Tomorrow

Images of Florida, Houston, Puerto Rico, and other hurricane-riddled areas serve as powerful reminders that flooding can wreak devastating havoc on property. While water damage from historic weather events like hurricanes may be impossible to prevent, there are proactive measures homeowners can take to protect their homes from isolated water damage that typical seasonal rainfall or snowmelt can cause. And proper insurance coverage can add an additional layer of protection. Understanding sump systems Located in the depths of many basements, typically in inconspicuous corners, are one of the most important home safeguards against water damage: sump pumps. They’re rarely seen or heard, which makes them easy to neglect. But when sump pumps fail, the consequences can be disastrous. So, what exactly are sump pumps, what do they do, and how can you ensure yours is working appropriately? A sump pump is a small pump installed at the lowest part of a basement or crawlspace in a specially constructed hole called a sump pit. When the water table is above a home foundation, rain water or natural ground water can easily seep in and flood below-ground living and storage spaces. To mitigate flooding, perimeter drains are often installed in addition to the sump pump to funnel excess water into the sump pit. While a manual sump pump requires a user to turn it on and off, an automatic sump pump’s water sensor detects moisture, which activates the pump. In both cases, the sump pumps the water out and away from the home’s foundation. A properly running sump pump is vital to flood-free basements and crawl spaces. Homeowners must maintain both their sump pumps and pits to ensure proper functionality. Professionals recommend sump pump and pit checks at least once a year prior to your area’s wettest season, and a plumber can inspect your sump pump and perform any needed repairs. If you’re a do-it-yourself type, carefully follow the maintenance guide that came with your sump pump and consider some basic tips to keeping your sump system running smoothly. Ensure the sump pit is clear of all debris. For automatic pumps, fill the sump pit with water to make sure the pump detects the water and turns on. If your sump is manual, fill the sump pit with water and switch the pump on to ensure it works properly. Go outside to check that the pump is discharging water, and ensure the weep hole is clean and free from debris. Check that the float is operating and hasn’t burned out. Listen to the motor for any strange noises. Install a back-up sump pump and replace its battery regularly. Most sump pumps have a life span of about 10 years, but regular maintenance can extend your pump’s life. What if your sump system fails? What if, despite proper maintenance, your sump system still fails and flooding occurs? It seems logical to assume homeowners insurance would cover the cost of repairs, but that is a dangerous assumption. Sump pump failure coverage does not come standard on homeowners insurance policies. Rather, it is available as a rider or endorsement attached to the policy. Premiums are relatively inexpensive, and homeowners with sump pump failure insurance can obtain the coverage they need to repair or replace damaged property caused by water damage due to a failed sump system. Upon filing such a claim, a sump pump inspection is often required. If it’s deemed that the sump system was neglected or improperly maintained, the claim can be denied — and homeowners insurance premiums can even rise. Thus, keeping a sump system in working order is a homeowner’s...

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Risk and Reward: Understand What “Risk” Means to Auto Insurers — and Which Behaviors They Reward

Posted by on Oct 12, 2017 in Personal Insurance | Comments Off on Risk and Reward: Understand What “Risk” Means to Auto Insurers — and Which Behaviors They Reward

Risk and Reward: Understand What “Risk” Means to Auto Insurers — and Which Behaviors They Reward

Just as there are many types of vehicles on the roadways, there also are a variety of drivers behind wheels. And how insurers perceive drivers plays a major role in determining what those drivers pay for auto insurance. What does an auto insurer consider when determining drivers’ policies and rates? In a nutshell, risk. Insurance carriers put drivers into one of three categories — preferred, standard, or high risk — based on their risk assessments. Preferred-risk drivers get the best rates, high-risk drivers pay the highest rates, and standard-risk drivers fall somewhere in the middle. While definitions for each category and the formulas used to classify drivers vary by state and insurance company, some common factors considered for classification include: Age — The preferred-risk category is generally reserved for drivers older than 25. Drivers ages 16 to 25 are often considered high-risk. Driving record — Preferred-risk drivers have squeaky-clean driving records with no tickets and minimal not-at-fault claims. Standard-risk drivers have only one or two minor traffic violations and no more than one at-fault accident. High-risk drivers include those with major traffic violations or a combination of at-fault accidents and traffic tickets. Prior insurance coverage — Insurance companies care about drivers’ industry histories. Preferred-risk drivers have not only had insurance history for the past six months but their liability limits on prior policies were 100,000/300,000 or higher. This means if a driver causes an accident, liability insurance pays up to $100,000 per person but not more than $300,000 per accident. Standard-risk drivers also have six months of prior coverage but may have minimal liability coverage, which insurance companies view more negatively. Those with no insurance coverage for the six months prior are considered high-risk. Credit score — Many insurance companies evaluate drivers’ credit scores and tie them to their driver risk assessments. Why? Insurers see a correlation between credit scores and the likelihood drivers will file auto insurance claims. Higher credit scores are generally associated with standard- and preferred-risk drivers while poor credit scores can signal “high risk” to insurers. What exactly matters on a driver’s record? Since “good driver” is a very subjective term, insurance companies often use Motor Vehicle Reports (MVRs) to more closely analyze drivers’ histories. MVRs are snapshots of drivers’ traffic violation histories, including traffic citations, accident reports, vehicular crimes, driving under the influence (DUI) convictions, and record of points in states that use points systems. They also include information about drivers’ license statuses, like suspensions and revocations, as well as any special endorsements or restrictions. Generally speaking, insurers look at the most recent five years of activity on MVRs, but this varies by state and insurance company. Also, infractions like DUIs may stay on MVRs longer. It’s a good idea to obtain a copy of your MVR before shopping for insurance. This lets you know what potential carriers will see on your record and gives you a chance to correct any inaccuracies before obtaining insurance quotes. Are there specific things drivers can do for better auto insurance rates? There are a few ways drivers can boost their “good driver” images in hopes of lowering their auto insurance rates. For younger drivers, typically those under 21, driver education courses can translate to insurance discounts with many providers. For more experienced drivers, a “defensive driving discount” may be available for successfully completing a defensive driving course that often covers traffic laws, driving in adverse weather, drug and alcohol awareness, and specific defensive-driving techniques. Discounts vary by state and insurance company. And in some cases, just being a consistently good driver over time without accidents or violations can garner a “safe driver...

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Protect Yourself: Renter’s Insurance Could Save You from Potential Disaster

Posted by on Jun 27, 2017 in Personal Insurance | Comments Off on Protect Yourself: Renter’s Insurance Could Save You from Potential Disaster

Protect Yourself: Renter’s Insurance Could Save You from Potential Disaster

Imagine the horror of coming home to find your belongings destroyed or stolen. Then you find out your landlord’s insurance won’t cover your losses. Most people know the legal requirements relating to car, health, and homeowner’s insurance but often do not consider optional coverage, such as renter’s insurance. Did you know 95% of homeowners insure their dwellings, but only 41% of renters carry similar coverage? Renters may assume their landlords’ insurance covers their belongings, might not know renter’s coverage is available, or think the odds of something happening to them are low. Renter’s insurance works a lot like homeowner’s insurance except it’s typically less expensive to purchase. While carrying rental insurance is not required by law, many property owners, landlords, and property management companies require renters to purchase liability coverage. “It’ll never happen to me.” People often tend to think catastrophes won’t happen to them, but this mindset can lead to potentially devastating effects. While landlords are responsible for maintaining buildings, they aren’t responsible for tenants’ possessions. For instance, if a fire, storm, theft, or vandalism were to occur, your landlord would be accountable for any damage or loss to your building — but you wouldn’t be reimbursed for your possessions. Renter’s insurance protects you While some can get by only owning a futon and a microwave, most people possess electronics, clothing, furniture, and other valuables that are expensive to replace. Even if you don’t own much, renter’s insurance can protect you if: Your dwelling is declared uninhabitable due to damage and you need help covering living expenses. Someone is injured in your home due to your negligence. Your dog bites an invited or uninvited visitor. You accidentally leave the water in your bathtub running and flood surrounding apartments. Keep in mind, aside from actual replacement costs, you could also be responsible for medical bills or be named as a defendant in a lawsuit should the worst happen in your rental property. What to look for in a policy Even on top of rent, utilities, and other necessities, most people find renter’s insurance to be affordable. On average, renter’s coverage costs about $12-$30 a month. When shopping for insurance, you’ll want to: Compare lower premiums with higher deductibles to higher premiums with lower deductibles. Understand the actual cash value (ACV) of your belongings versus their replacement cost value (RCV). Look at any additional property you might want to cover in your policy, such as jewelry, furs, or fine art. Consider adding coverage not included in standard policies, such as flood or earthquake insurance. Bundle your renter’s insurance with your car, franchise, or other insurance policies as many agencies offer multi-policy discounts. When considering whether renter’s insurance is right for you, the big question you’ll want to ask yourself is, “Can I afford big losses or legal expenses?” Most people can’t. Contact a Concklin Insurance expert today to learn more about renter’s insurance and see how you can find the coverage you need at a price you can...

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