As we’re now in the middle of winter, we know that a variety of problems can arise during these months due to the weather.   The importance of maintaining your home during these months can protect you from potentially large insurance claims.

For example, did you roof damage accounts for almost 50% of all homeowners claims?  As the largest single surface and the first line of defense in protecting your, it’s vital that you regularly inspect it.  States with snow are especially at risk because of the weight of rain and snow upon the structure.

  1. Do a visual inspection of your roof to look for maintenance issues or things that could make it more susceptible to hail or wind or other damage—like missing or damaged shingles or tiles on sloped roofs. Or if it’s a flat roof, look for surface bubbles in the membrane material or missing gravel.
  2. Look at flashing along the roof to make sure it’s in place and in good condition. The flashing is where you transition between vertical places and the horizontal roof—things like around skylights, vents or chimneys. Anywhere where you have a change in roof elevation, you’ve got flashing there and that’s a typical source or place for water to penetrate into the roof covering.
  3. Take a walk around the home and look for overhanging trees and branches. Trim trees back and remove dead branches—things that have the potential to fall when you get high winds or heavy snowfall to keep from damaging your roof.
  4. Check downspouts and gutters to make sure that after the leaves fall the gutters get cleaned out—anything with the potential to freeze and exacerbate the problem with ice damage. Keep the drainage of the water off the roof and not clogged in the gutters.
  5. Consider impact-rated roofing in parts of the country more susceptible to hail storms. If agents have customers already in the market for or considering replacing their roof, in certain areas of the country, we would suggest they at least consider it.

To find out more about preventing winter-related claims in your home, please contact our office to find out more.

When looking for ways to save on home insurance, many homeowners think of smoke detectors or a home alarm system.  Insurance companies, though, offer a variety of additional premium discounts that can help you save up to 25 percent on your insurance premiums.

For individuals who are willing to be more cautious and actively avoid potential claims to their home, they have a much better chance of saving significant money on their premiums.

Over the next two weeks, we are going to share a list of 10 “hidden” insurance discounts that can be applied to your premiums to help reduce them.

If you have a question or would like to find out more about saving on your own premiums, please give us a call.

Renovated Home

Homeowners insurance differs from auto insurance in that the cheapest rates typically go to the newest model.  Why?   A newer home doesn’t have maintenance issues like cracking pipes, malfunctioning furnaces, aging electrical panels and wiring, and leaking roofs, which can lead to very costly claims for insurance companies.

In addition to that, newer homes have usually been recently inspected by a professional and any detected problems were required to be fixed.   This can also apply to home renovations as well.  If you are considering a renovation on your home, speak to your agent as he or she may have suggestions on construction tweaks to help maximize your insurance savings.

New home or renovation credit: up to 25 percent.

Gated Community

Living in a gated community not brings a level of comfort and security to you the homeowner, but some insurance companies are willing to offer credits for the decreased risk as well.

It should make sense that your homeowners insurance premiums are always dependent upon the location of your home.  There are some parts of every town that pose more risk than others of vandalism and theft.

However, that doesn’t mean that living rurally brings lower insurance costs.  Your proximity to a paid fire department in a safe neighborhood will typically bring the lowest premiums.

Gated Community Credit: 5 to 20 percent.

Impact-Resistant Roofing

Roof claims are one of the biggest concerns for any insurance company.  Because of the beating it takes from wind, rain, hail, snow, and even the sun, once it is comprised, the resulting damage to the rest of the home raises dramatically.

A number of companies have released impact-resistant roofing materials in the past few years, and insurance companies have been willing to offer discounts based upon the materials’ sturdiness and ability to resist the elements.

Impact-resistant roofing credit: 5 percent to 10 percent.

New Wiring

Did you know that old, outdated wiring causes twice as many house fires as electrical appliances?  In fact, according to the U.S. Fire Administration, faulty wiring causes almost 70,000 home fires, 500 deaths, and almost $1 billion in damages every year.

New wiring, installed correctly, is much safer and less likely to cause any type of outage, shortage, or fire.

New wiring credit: 10 percent

Non-Smoker Credit

Even though the number of smokers nationwide is in decline, did you know that smoking remains the No. 1 cause of home fire fatalities in the United States?  According to the U.S. Fire Administration, every year smoking causes approximately 20,000 residential fires and over $325 million in residential property loss.

While not allowed in every state, there is a discount available for expressing to your agent and underwriter during the application process that your home is smokeless.

Nonsmoker credit: 5 percent to 15 percent.

We are often asked about what coverage is specifically provided by the liability portion of a homeowners insurance policy.   We want to spend this post explaining what the coverage is and how it helps protect you.  (Please keep in mind that every policy is different and that you should always refer to your specific policy to find out what coverage is provided.)

Medical Bills

In the even that a visitor is injured within your home or on your property, your homeowners insurance policy will typically pay for the reasonable medical bills to the injured part.   Even if the person has health benefits, you could sill be held responsible if the injury is deemed as being caused by your negligence.

Pain and Suffering

After the medical bills are taken care, some people experience lasting pain and suffering as a result of the injury.  Your homeowners insurance policy will typically cover all or a portion of this as well.

Loss of Wages

If an injured part cannot return to work for an extended period of time, you could be held liable for the person’s lost wages.

Death Benefits

Nobody wants to think about the possibility of someone dying in his or her home, but it’s something that you can’t exclude. The average home liability policy also can cover death benefits to the family of someone who meets an untimely end as the result of an accident in your house or on your property.

Legal Costs

One of the biggest benefits to the liability portion of your homeowners insurance policy is the coverage for attorney’s costs.  One of the biggest expenses associated with an claim is the cost of hiring an attorney to defend you.  When you buy home liability insurance, your insurance company often will cover the cost of hiring an attorney and any other associated legal fees.

Coverage Away From Home

Believe it or not, your personal liability coverage will also protect for bodily injury and property damage you cause away from your residence.  (With some exclusions like auto or business.)

What is Loss of Use insurance coverage? 
Loss of use pays to maintain your standard of living while your residence is being repaired or rebuilt in the event of a covered claim. In most cases, loss of use covers the excess of what you normally spend for certain things. For instance, let’s say your home is being repaired for water damage. You’re unable to cook, so you’ve been dining at the hotel restaurant. You normally spend $300 a week in groceries, but your tab at the restaurant was $600. Your loss of use coverage would take care of the difference—$300. Typically, there is no deductible on loss of use coverage.
Examples of loss of use/additional living expenses:

  • Temporary housing (hotel or rental home)
  • Additional fuel costs
  • Utilities
  • Food (groceries, restaurants, cooking supplies)
  • Storage
  • Moving costs

Coverage limits for loss of use: 
On a homeowners policy
Loss of use is often restricted to 10%—20% of your dwelling coverage, which is the amount on your policy to repair/rebuild your home. For example, if you have $200,000 for dwelling coverage, then you would be covered up to $20,000—$40,000 on a loss of use claim.
On a condominium policy
Limits for loss of use on condo insurance work similarly to a homeowners policy. Some condo insurers will combine your dwelling coverage and personal property coverages. For example, if you have a $60,000 limit for your dwelling and a $30,000 limit for personal property, then you’ll get 20% ($18,000) of the combined $90,000.
On a renters policy
Depending on your insurance company, it can be a flat amount (between $3,000 and $5,000) or a percentage of your personal property coverage.
Loss of use coverage on a rental property
Landlords are eligible for reimbursement of lost rental income through their loss of use coverage on a rental property. As always, this applies to covered loss only, up to the policy’s limits. A covered loss just means something your insurance company pays for or “covers.”

As a homeowner, it can be easy to overlook important home maintenance, but with winter approaching, there’s one task in particular you’ll want to complete. And that’s getting your furnace in tip-top shape.
That bulky metal box in your basement (or crawl space, attic, or even hall closet, depending on where you live) is what produces the warm air that keeps your house cozy, making it possibly the most important piece of winter equipment in your home.
The good news is that furnace maintenance is relatively easy: a combination of simple do-it-yourself tasks and an annual tune-up by a professional. Here’s how to get it done.
Furnace Tasks You Can Do
Inspect the air filters. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program suggests doing a monthly check of your furnace’s air filter and replacing it when it looks dirty. Frequent changes prevent the accumulation of dirt and debris, which can reduce efficiency and lead to equipment failure. Changing the filter is especially important if you’re new to the home—who knows what dust and grime others left behind? Tip: To make sure you’re buying the right filter, check your existing one; the size is usually printed on the side.
Maintain a carbon monoxide detector. A failing furnace can leak carbon monoxide, so you’ll want to keep a battery-operated or battery-backup carbon monoxide detector in your basement (and every level of your home), according to the National Fire Protection Organization, placing it at least 15 feet away from the furnace to avoid a false alarm. Tip: Change detector batteries in the spring and fall, on daylight saving day, when you change your clocks.
Keep vents clean and clear. Before you turn on your system for the season, remove all the heating vent covers from the floors and ceilings around your home, and vacuum out the ducts. Dust, pet dander, and all those toy soldier pieces that seemingly go missing can collect there, causing your furnace to work harder. Tip: When cleaning ceiling vents spread a sheet on the floor and wearing goggles to shield your eyes from falling dust.
Tasks Best Left to the Professionals
Annual tune-up. A pre-season checkup by a professional is an absolute must to help prevent costly problems down the road. A heating contractor will make sure that your thermostat is working accurately and that your system is cycling on and off properly, and will typically go through a series of checks and tasks, including:
  •          Tightening loose electrical connections
  •          Oiling all the moving parts
  •          Inspecting all gas connections

Did you know there are specific times when we highly recommend reviewing your homeowners insurance policy?  There may be changes in your life or to your home that leave your current coverage or policy inadequate for your protection needs.  Please remember that as your agent, we are here to provide assistance and guidance in assessing your policy.  If you have any questions at all, please feel free to reach out to our office. 1. Policy Renewal When your policy comes up for renewal each, we recommend reviewing the policy for any changes to the coverages or premiums.   Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Has the company made any changes in coverage since last year?
  • Does my policy now include a separate deductible for risks like hail?
  • Should I raise the deductible to save money?
  • Am I taking advantage of all available discounts?
  • Do I need to raise the amount of coverage for liability, personal possessions or the structure?
  • If I don’t have one, do I need flood, earthquake or an umbrella policy?

2. Major Improvements If you have made any major improvements, make sure you have the proper limits to cover the improvements.  Also, if you have make any large personal purchases for items like jewelry or high-priced electronics, you may also want to consider adding a personal floater to your policy.  A personal floater will provide more coverage and higher limits for those types of items. If you have made major improvements to your home, such as adding a new room, enclosing a porch or expanding a kitchen or bathroom, you risk being underinsured if you don’t report the increase in square footage to your insurance company. Don’t forget about new structures outside of your home. If you have built a gazebo, a new shed for your tools or installed a pool or hot tub, you should notify your insurance company as well. 3. You have made your home safer If you have installed a state-of-the art fire/burglar alarm system or upgraded your heating, plumbing or electrical system, make sure that your insurance company knows about these improvements. You may qualify for additional discounts. 4. Major lifestyle changes Marriage, divorce, or adult children who move back into the family home, can all affect your homeowners insurance. When people move in or move out, they take their belongings with them. And you may need additional coverage if there is a sizable increase in the value of the belongings in your home. Starting a home-based business can also trigger changes in your coverage. You will need to get additional coverage for business liability and equipment. If the business is your primary source of income, you may need a Businessowners Package Policy (BOP).  You can find out more about insuring a home-based business here.