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After a disaster, you most likely want to fix your damaged home as soon as possible. However, did you know this is also a prime time for fraudulent contractors to scam you out of money? To help protect your home and your wallet, here are five tips to keep in mind when you’re hiring help for your home project.
1. Be Cautious of Door-to-Door Contractors
Be leery of any contractor who approaches you unsolicited. They may tell you they just completed a job in your neighborhood, have materials left over from another job or that they’re running a “one day only” deal — whatever the story, don’t buy it. A reputable contractor should have enough business from advertising and referrals to help keep them busy without knocking on doors, so make sure to reach out to contractors you find through respected sources.
2. Find a Reputable Contractor
You can find dependable contractors in online listings, referrals from friends and family or organizations like the National Association of General Contractors. You can also search on the BBB website to learn more about the contractor and check for a history of complaints.
Also, be sure to ask your contractor for proof of liability insurance, licensing, bonding and any references. A trustworthy contractor will typically have these handy and be more than happy to share them with you.
3. Consider Multiple Bids
You may want to consider getting multiple bids on all of your contractor jobs to help ensure potential quotes are consistent and fair. And when it comes to price, the lowest may not be the best. If one bid is dramatically lower than the rest, you may want to get more information from that contractor to see if there are any extra charges that may get added later on and ultimately make that contractor more expensive.
4. Don’t Pay the Full Amount Up Front
It’s unconventional to pay for 100 percent of the work up front. If your contractor suddenly insists on payment up front, it’s a red flag. Once paid, you may never see that contractor — or your money — again.
Make sure you receive a contract with details of the work to be performed and the costs involved.. Typical payment terms are about 10 percent up front and the rest upon completion of the work. Also, it’s best to avoid paying in cash — instead, use a credit card or check so you have a paper trail.
5. Educate Seniors on Scams
Scammers have learned to target the elderly. Make sure your older family members are familiar with the common red flags. Also, if you’re older and living alone, it’s a good idea to run any home improvement projects by people you trust.
With a little research, you may be able to avoid a potential home improvement scam and find a contractor you can trust.

Trees and Insurance

We recently received a question to our agency in regards to how a homeowners insurance and fallen trees, which we thought would be a good topic to share with the rest of our valued clients.
If a tree falls and hits your home or other insured structure like a detached garage, most standard homeowners insurance policies will provide coverage for the damage the tree does to the structure and any contents within in.
In fact, it doesn’t even matter if you own the tree – if it lands on your home, you can file a claim with your homeowners insurance company.  This is important to note because in large windstorms, trees, shrubs, and branches may become projectiles that can do significant damage to your home or other insured structure.
Additionally, if a tree hits your house, there is also coverage for the cost of removing the tree from your property (usually $500 or $1,000).  If the fallen tree didn’t hit a structure, though, there typically isn’t any insurance coverage provided.
Most standard homeowners insurance policies will also provide coverage for damage to trees and shrubs due to fire, lightning, explosion, and even theft and vandalism.   The coverage is usually limited a certain amount like $500 per tree or shrub and the total loss amount cannot exceed more than 5 percent of the total insurance limit you have on your policy.
If you have any questions on how your homeowners insurance policy will respond in the event of claim related to a tree, please don’t hesitate to contact our office.

 
Home-Claims
When real disaster occurs, insurance provides a vital and necessary lifeline that helps policyholders regain their footing and start life over.
And thankfully most of the time, home insurance claims are fairly routine affairs involving some sort of property damage (typically storm related). Weird, off-the-wall home insurance claims simply don’t seem to happen that often.
When strange home insurance claims do happen, though, they are truly bizarre. Below we have included the stories from the top five strangest home insurance claims we’ve ever come across.
Also, please remember that you can always contact our office for any home insurance claim you encounter—no matter how strange it may be. Our office will be glad to assist.
Claim 1: But the floor was made of wood. A woman turned her hardwood floor into a bowling alley to practice her game. She quickly found that her grand idea couldn’t spare her floors from being damaged. The owner filed a loss report with her insurance company claiming that the floor’s damage was not the result of the heavy bowling ball, but due to the hardwood not being hard enough. Like a gutter ball, zero was the result of her claim.
Claim 2: New York man claimed that while cooking dinner, several pans on his wood stove ignited. While trying to extinguish the fire, he threw the first pan out the door, where it (conveniently) happened to land in the backseat of his convertible. While trying to throw out the second pan outside, he tripped and the pan landed on his sofa. His house and car burned to the ground. But where there’s smoke, there’s fire – suspicious of his story, law enforcement conducted an investigation and charged him with insurance fraud. He was left with no home, car, insurance money, and five years of probation.
Claim 3: The owner of a rental property visited the home to inspect it after renting it to some college kids for a few weeks. Not expecting much more than maybe some empty beer cans and some trash, the owner was stunned when he opened the door to his home and sand poured out. The renters decided to create an indoor beach and filled the house with sand and water. Insurance covered the claim but the moral of this story is: be careful who you rent to!
Claim 4: Dogs can do some amazing things, but painting is not one of them. One homeowner left a can of paint open on her floor while redoing her walls. Her dog stuck his tail in the can and then proceeded to drip, shake, and wag paint throughout the entire house. Her insurance company paid the claim, and her dog paid with a much-needed bath and well-deserved time out.

Claim 5: One “fishy” claim came from a man participating in a competitive billiards-type game of snooker. After taking a wild shot, the ball soared off the billiard table straight into an expensive fish tank. All fish were saved and his claim was paid.