This Old House, Needs Some Updates

 

Staring at the same four walls for the past year may have triggered you to start thinking about making some changes. Many of us have taken the opportunity to tackle home projects this past year. In 2020, Farmers Insurance surveyed homeowners and found that 62% of those polled are planning renovation or maintenance on their homes. Of those planning renovations, only 28% said they understand their homeowner’s policy. If you have already completed or are thinking about making changes, here are a few insurance considerations.

  1. Additions
    • Your home insurance provides coverage for the home as it stands today. Increasing square footage, adding a garage or pool increase the value of your home beyond your coverage limits.
  2. Improvements
    • The most common, and costly, improvements are made when updating bathrooms or kitchens. Upgraded finishes such as countertops, cabinets and fixtures may leave a gap in coverage. This is especially important for condo unit-owners. As a unit-owner you may be responsible for any improvements made after the purchase.
  3. Faulty Work
    • Your policy most likely wont supply coverage for faulty work. For instance, if you update your electrical system and down the road it leads to a fire, there may be coverage for damage caused by the fire, but the cost to correct and replace the electrical components would be out of pocket.
    • When choosing a contractor, always request to see their certificate of insurance. Contractors should have coverage for liability, property, and workers compensation. In the event they do not have adequate insurance, you may want to consider a different contractor. If a contractor causes damage to your home, their insurance should be the primary option for recovery.

In summary, its important to ensure you have adequate coverage in place and are clear on the risks that come with home improvement. If you are planning or recently completed a renovation, please contact us to ensure your new investment is adequately protected!

Stop Leaks Before It’s Too Late

Fire might be a homeowner’s greatest fear, but some insurance company will tell you that water is the far more common cause of property damage, even if you don’t live in an area subject to flooding. And it can come from many sources: A failing water heater, a burst pipe, a broken supply line under your sink, a clogged toilet, or even a split hose connected to your washing machine.

Just as it’s essential to have a smoke detector in each of your home’s bedrooms and common areas, you’d be wise to install leak detectors in places where water damage could start: The laundry room, water heater closet, the bathroom, under your kitchen sink, and so on.

Water shut-off devices are installed by a plumber directly onto your water line, a flow-based water leak detection device monitors the flow of water throughout your home. If an unusual activity or flow of water is detected – probably caused by a leak somewhere in your plumbing or pipes – the device will alert you first and then shut off your water supply to help minimize damage.

Many insurance companies also offer a break on your home insurance if you install water leak detection systems.  A one-time investment can end up paying for itself over time.

 

 

Time For Spring Home Maintenance?

 

 

You may want to start with simple spring cleaning tasks:

  • Change and/or service your furnace filters, HVAC, smoke and CO detector batteries
  • Deep-clean your oven, dishwasher, coffee maker and outdoor grill, as well as drapes, upholstery, cabinets, floors, vents and baseboards
  • Clean your mudroom, garage and outbuildings, and, in the process, inventory items that need replacing

Check out the Chubb Insurance brochures: How to Prepare your Home and Garden for Spring and Summer infographic or their Top 10 Spring Cleaning Tasks for more ideas and tips. Also, it’s important to remember there are common household cleaning products you should never mix, such as bleach and ammonia or bleach and rubbing alcohol. Learn more.

Then tackle more involved home maintenance inventory projects.

We can all use a little help keeping track of the home maintenance projects we need to do, and now there’s software and technology that can help.

With the HomeZada app, you can manage your home and projects, keep a digital inventory of your photos, receipts, and documents, create a home maintenance schedule program, and manage remodeling projects. HomeZada generally charges $60/year, but Chubb PRS clients are eligible for a rate of $45/year. Click here to get HomeZada now.

Stay safe in the process.

Cleary Insurance wants to make sure you and your family stay safe and healthy. Only handle projects yourself that you feel you’re truly qualified to do. You may be better off leaving projects with electrical components or those at heights, for example, to professionals who have the right equipment and skillset.

 

While You Are Away, Cybercriminals Will Prey

Travel seems to be on everyone’s calendar this winter. If that’s the case for you, safety and security are likely uppermost on your minds today. So great is the concern that 72% of U.S. travelers said they would pay more for their vacation if they could ensure greater security, according to a recent survey by Travelzoo. What travelers may not realize is that cybercrime is now as much a threat, if not more, than conventional dangers.

Whatever your travel plans, you should be aware of the following safety and security issues:

A Safe-Travel Cyber Checklist

Don’t discuss travel plans on social media.  Social media is great for keeping family and friends informed about your travels, but sharing can backfire if cybercriminals find out when you are away and burgle your home. Do not post travel dates or itineraries, and warn your children not to share their own or your travel plans — and never to reveal when no one is home.

Be wary of public Wi-Fi. You should always use secure connections when going online in public places. If you have to use an unsecured connection, never check bank balances, login to credit card or other accounts, or share important personal information. This information can easily be stolen over an unsecure network. Also, turn off Bluetooth and other connectivity features when in a public area, as these features can be just as vulnerable as Wi-Fi.

Be careful getting cash and making payments. Be cautious of where you make payments or get cash, since these are the key access points for identity theft among cybercriminals. Using ATMs at a bank branch is safer than using standalone ATMs, and using a credit card for merchandise purchases is safer than using a debit card, which provides direct access to a bank account. You should be sure that your liability policy has identity theft coverage.

Turn off home computers. Many people leave their computers on as a matter of habit, but always-on computers are more susceptible to hacking.

Back up all data. Storing all sensitive files in a secure facility on the cloud is recommended, as is backing up data onto a removable storage device that can be kept in a home safe.

Change passwords. If you are taking an iPhone on your trip, we suggest you change your Apple ID password to something long and difficult to hack. Also remove credit card information associated with your Apple account and turn on the lock-screen passcode. That way, if your phone is lost or stolen, little information can be accessed. Also turn on the “Find My Phone” feature, which can help you find a misplaced or stolen device and the information stored on it.

Register for the Smart Traveler program. The State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at https://step.state.gov/ is a free service that allows citizens traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. embassy. Enrollment enables embassies to reach travelers in an emergency, as well as help family and friends contact the travelers.

Protect the home while away.  If you will be gone for any period of time you should take the following steps to protect their homes from cybercriminals:

  • Alert the home alarm provider so they will know the house is vacant; ask their alarm company if they offer an encryption tool for their home security system to make it less vulnerable to hackers.
  • Disconnect the garage door opener and lock it manually to protect from criminals who can crack the electronic code.
  • Unplug any devices or appliances connected to the internet.

 

“Prepare & Prevent, Don’t Repair & Repent”

Presented by: Jonathan Hall

When was the last time you checked your smoke alarm? How about your fire extinguisher? Where will you and your family meet when you need to evacuate? If you don’t know the answer to these questions, you are not alone. September is National Preparedness month and it’s important for all of us to take a moment to ensure what we value is safe. The best way to protect yourself is to prevent a loss from occurring.

Did you know that the US Fire Administration found in 2017 that every 24 seconds, a fire department in the United States responds to a fire somewhere in the nation? In addition, a home fire occurs every 88 seconds and half of home fire deaths happen between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. Taking steps to prepare and prevent will save your life and your property. My family and I went through our own fire safety and prevention planning this month. We found two malfunctioning fire alarms and a fire extinguisher that expired four years ago!

“Prepared, Not Scared”

The thought of needing to rely on an emergency kit or plan seems frightening, but not something I prioritize in my daily life. Having an emergency plan for any type of disaster will ensure you and your family are prepared in the case of a fire, hurricane, tornado, earthquake, or any other potential disaster.  Creating an emergency kit to keep in your home and in your car takes moments vs. what it could save you in the event it wasn’t accessible when you needed it most.
You can also create your own custom emergency plan for any weather related scenario by visiting: Connect with Weather. Ready.gov/September provides a vast amount of information on what you’ll need to plan for in the event of an emergency. They also have several characters and fun activities if you’re creating a plan with kids. I feel better prepared in the event something does happen. As Gandhi said “the future depends on what we do in the present.”

 

References

https://www.ready.gov/

https://www.usfa.fema.gov/data/statistics/

http://www.connectwithweather.com/create-your-plan

https://www.usfa.fema.gov/prevention/outreach/smoke_alarms.html

 

 

Why This New Year’s Resolution Should Be the First One You Complete

Each year, as many as 60 percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. One of the most popular is saving money, yet it’s also one of most common resolutions to fail.1 As you look ahead to the rest of the year, we’ll show you what could be the difference-maker to keep your finances in check.

Must-Do Resolution: Evaluate your Homeowner’s Insurance

Your home is one of your largest assets, and not protecting it properly could be financially devastating. So if you’re looking to safeguard your finances over the long-term, here are a few things to look for in your homeowner’s insurance policy:

  1. Does it pay actual cash value or replacement value?
    If your policy pays actual cash value for a loss, you’ll receive enough money to pay what the home or item was worth when you bought it, with depreciation factored in. If you want to replace your home with items of the same quality, you’ll need a policy that pays replacement value.
  2. Are your home improvements reflected?
    If you’ve made recent improvements to your home, such as updating the kitchen or adding a bonus room, make sure those are reflected in your policy. That way, if your home is damaged or destroyed, you’ll be able to replace that new addition too.
  3. Does it cover temporary housing?
    If you experience a loss and are unable to live in your home while it’s being repaired or rebuilt, you’ll need a place to stay. Make sure your policy covers a temporary residence in your neighborhood or school district, and other out-of-pocket living expenses.
  4. Does it cover special losses, like floods or hurricane damage?
    Did you know that water damage makes up 45% of all interior property damage, happening more often than fire or burglary2? In the wake of wildfires, hurricanes, and floods, you may look back and wish you’d been more prepared. Now is the time to make sure you’re covered for whatever Mother Nature sends your way. Take an inventory of your home, assemble a disaster preparedness kit, and talk to your agent about the types of coverage you need.

Want additional tips for in sticking with your financial wellness resolutions? Check out this article.

 

1 https://www.inc.com/peter-economy/10-top-new-years-resolutions-for-success-happiness-in-2019.html

2 https://www.chubb.com/us-en/individuals-families/water/

12 Safety Tips for Recreational Boaters

As the weather warms up, many recreational boaters head to lake, river, or the ocean to fish, waterski, cruise, and relax onboard a boat, yacht or other personal watercraft. With nearly 12 million registered recreational boats in the U.S.*, it’s no wonder the waterways are a popular place to go. Before you head out with friends and family, take note of a few important safety tips.1. Make sure everyone wears a life jacket.
Victims drowned in approximately 80% of fatal boating accidents. Of those, 83% were not wearing a life jacket. Insist that your crew and guests all wear a life jacket that fits them well. This can help them stay afloat in rough waters, protect them against hypothermia, and in some cases, can keep their head above water.

 2. Use the right kind of life jackets for the situation.
Boats 16 feet and longer must be equipped with one Type I, II, III, or V personal floatation device (PFD) plus one Type IV throwable device. Boats that are 16 feet or less must have one Type I, II, III or V PFD for each person aboard. All boats must be equipped with one Type I, II, III, or V personal floatation device for each person aboard.  Boats 16 feet and longer must also be equipped with a Type IV throwable device. All PFDs should be in good condition and have a Coast Guard Approval Number.

  • Type I PFDs are often called off-shore life jackets. They provide the most buoyancy and are effective in all waters, especially open, rough, or remote waters where rescue may be delayed. They are designed to turn most unconscious wearers to a face-up position in the water.
  • Type II PFDs are near-shore buoyancy vests. They are intended for calm, inland water or waters where there is a good chance of quick rescue.
  • Type III PFDs are also called floatation aids. They are good for calm, inland water, similar to Type II.
  • Type IV PFDs are designed to be thrown to a person in the water and grasped and held by the user until rescued.
  • Type V PFDs are special use devices. They may be carried instead of other PFDs if used in accordance with the approved conditions designated on the label. They may be inflatable vests, deck suits, work vests, board sailing vests or hybrid PFDs.

3. Never drink alcohol and go boating.
Alcohol use is a leading contributor to fatal boating accidents, causing approximately 15% of the deaths each year. Stay sharp when you’re on the water by leaving the alcohol on dry land.

 4. Recreational boaters should take a boating safety course.
Only 13% of the boating deaths occurred on vessels where the operator had received a nationally approved boating safety education certificate. You may even qualify for a reduced insurance rate if you complete a safety course. Contact your local Coast Guard Auxiliary, U.S. Power Squadron chapter or visit uscgboating.org for details.

5. Put down the cell phone.
One of the top five contributing factors to boating accidents is inattention. Just like distracted driving on our highways, talking, texting, and other use of cell phones while boating is a growing problem on the water. Don’t contribute to this problem. Keep your eyes on the water ahead and around you.

 6. Drive at a safe speed and follow all boating safety and navigational rules.
Excessive speed and improper lookout are two of the top contributing factors to boating accidents. Make sure you understand the local rules and laws of the waterway and follow them closely. Take note of visibility, traffic density, and proximity to navigational hazards such as shoals, rocks, or floating objects.

7. Check the weather forecast and be prepared for it to change.
A calm day can quickly turn ugly on the water. There were 41 deaths in 2016 attributed to weather conditions. Keep an eye out for changing weather conditions and stay on top of the forecast while boating.

 8. Take action before a storm hits.
Storm and hurricane forecasts and warnings are issued by the National Hurricane Center. Boaters can get information from VHF marine radios, commercial radios and television stations and newspapers. As a boater, you need to be aware of the types of advisories and take action before a storm hits. Warnings range from small craft advisories, with winds of 18 knots or less, up to hurricane warnings with winds of 74 miles per hour (64 knots) or greater.

 9. Register for a free Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number and have a VHF radio equipped with Digital Selective Calling (DSC) installed and connected to your GPS.
When in coastal and inshore waters, these preparations can help take the search out of search and rescue. DSC allows the VHF radio to transfer information digitally, and to instantly send a digital distress alert, which includes your exact position, to the Coast Guard upon activation of the emergency button. Part of the alert is the MMSI number, which will identify your vessel automatically.

10. Use a carbon monoxide detector.
All internal combustion engines emit carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas that can make you sick in seconds and kill in minutes. Remember, you cannot see, smell, or taste CO, so know the symptoms (similar to seasickness or alcohol intoxication).

11. File a float plan.
The U.S. Coast Guard recommends that you always tell a friend or family member where you plan to go and when you’ll be back. That way, the proper officials can be notified if you don’t return when expected.

 12. Get a free Vessel Safety Check.
Boats are complex machines and need regular maintenance to stay running smoothly and safely. The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadron offer Vessel Safety Checks at no cost, so let their certified vessel examiners check your boat’s equipment and provide you with safety information before you go out on the water. Check with your marina or yacht club to find one in your area.

If you would like additional boating safety tips please click here.

Little Drips Make for Big Waste

Presented by: Alyssa Tkach

Every homeowner can attest to the importance of protecting their home. Although many are aware of the potential destruction of disasters such as fires and storms, there is less knowledge overall about the significance of home water leaks. In fact, according to Bloomberg’s article, “The Hidden Property Danger Lurking in Your Home,” almost half of all property damage losses in 2015 were due to water leaks. 1 in 50 homes have water leaks or frozen pipes each year.

Water leaks, if left unattended, can be very costly, so it is absolutely crucial for homeowners to stop them before they occurs. CHUBB lists several ways to reduce the risk of water damage in the home:

  1. If you’re leaving for an extended period of time, ask someone to stay in or check on the home periodically.
  2. Routinely check the home’s appliances for potential leaks.
  3. Inspect water supply lines.
  4. Turn off the main water supply when you leave for an extended period of time.
  5. Clear out your home’s gutters regularly.
  6. Inspect your home’s roof regularly.
  7. When you are planning to leave, set your flow-based water shut off device to “away.”
  8. Regularly replace the batteries in your water leak sensor device.
  9. Always inspect your sump pump, and keep a battery-powered backup.
  10. Schedule annual maintenance for your backup generator, and routinely ensure that it’s in working order.

Many people install anti-water damage devices within their home to help prevent a water disaster. Bloomberg’s article, “The Property Damage You’re Most Likely to Suffer,” lists three main types of devices that homeowners can choose from:

  1. Device sensors: installed near water-using appliances, these devices are triggered by water near them, and they will sound an alarm.
  2. Centralized system: attached to the home’s main water line, these devices monitor the amount of water flowing into the home, triggering the main water shut-off valve if necessary.
  3. Combination system: this system can sense when water is near it as well as control the home’s water shut-off valve.

Additionally, sump pumps can be a beneficial addition to any home. They are designed to drain excess water to another point far away from the home, preventing foundation damage.

Homeowners who take the steps to install a device, or simply just inspect their water supply regularly, have a much higher chance of stopping a leak in its tracks. Don’t let water damage your home—be proactive and stay aware!

Links used:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/sponsors/chubb/the-hidden-property-damage-danger-lurking-in-your-home/?adv=13632&prx_t=0foCAnKMSAYikPA

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/sponsors/features/chubb/the-property-damage-youre-most-likely-to-suffer/?adv=13632&prx_t=z_oCAmKMSAYikPA

https://www2.chubb.com/_global-assets/documents/chubb_waterdefensetips.pdf

 

Separation, Divorce and Personal Insurance Considerations

Presented by Christopher F. Hawthorne, CPCU, CIC

 

During the period of a separation and divorce, several issues arise in terms of one’s insurance program.  Unfortunately, the untangling and restructuring of an existing insurance program can be very confusing and is often overlooked.  As an insurance program is rebuilt in what can be a hostile environment it is important to concentrate on coverage, control and accuracy issues.

The following attempts to highlight issues pertaining to personal insurance coverage involved during separation and post-divorce.  For insurance purposes, the work begins when someone leaves the primary residence with no intention of returning in short order (one or two weeks). It is helpful to remember that insurance policies are name and location specific legal contracts. While not flexible, they can be molded to fit your needs if care is taken throughout the process.

HOMEOWNERS, CONDO OR RENTERS

SEPARATION: When a spouse leaves the primary residence, if they have an ownership interests, the departing spouse should check with the agent periodically to make sure coverage is kept in force.  This will help protect what may be the most valuable financial asset in the relationship.

Once a new residence is established for the relocated spouse, a tenant’s policy should be purchased to protect this spouse’s personal liability and personal property.  The language in a homeowner’s policy states that liability protection is excluded for an additional premise rented to an insured.  Therefore, the relocated spouse will need a tenant’s policy for protection. The cost of a renter’s policy(HO4) is minimal, often less than $200 per year.

At same time the homeowner’s policy limits personal property coverage to 10% of the current homeowner’s policy for additional premises occupied by an insured.  If the new residence exceeds the 10% value, the new residence should be insured by the new tenant’s policy. Additionally, the departed spouse if depending on the existing homeowner’s policy may not want a loss payment issued in both names. A renter’s policy will solve this problem as well.

POST – DIVORCE: Once the divorce is finalized and the deed changed, the stationary spouse should have the homeowner policy changed to remove the departed spouse’s name. Also, pay attention to scheduled property as the ownership may have changed and coverage may no longer be needed.

PERSONAL AUTO

SEPARATION: This is a very tricky area as autos are titled and until the autos are retitled, liability for both owners is in play. The safest move is to:

1) Change garaging address of an auto if the moving spouse changes towns.
2) Add all drivers to the current auto policy (including new significant others/household members in either household) as traumatic as this might be.
Note: If there are young drivers involved, while determining financial considerations for post-divorce, remember to address which parent will act as the primary auto policy for the young driver. This can be quite expensive and should be determined before the divorce is finalized.

POST – DIVORCE: The autos should be retitled.  Once retitled, the drivers listed may be limited to the drivers and household member of each individual.

UMBRELLA

SEPARATION: As with the auto, all new locations, drivers and autos should be added to the current umbrella.

POST – DIVORCE: A new umbrella should be purchased for the moving spouse and then exposures may be limited to only those locations, drivers and auto of the individual.

GROUP PLANS

SEPARATION: Contact the plan administrator to discuss the situation to see if any changes must be made. A departing spouse may be moving out of the Group Health territory and changes could be required.

POST – DIVORCE: The group or plan administrator at the spouse’s place of employment should be notified of any new addresses and any change in beneficiaries.  The administrator will then notify the various plans of the needed changes.

Note: Having a divorce decree that is clear on who will be responsible for providing and paying for group health coverage will be quite helpful. The divorce decree should also address if the providing ex-spouse gets remarried. Will the ex-spouse providing coverage be expected to also insure both the ex-spouse and the new spouse as well as children? The group health carriers and employers will look to the divorce decree for instruction.

LIFE & DISABILITY

SEPARATION: Agents should be notified of new addresses and any change in beneficiary requests.  If divorce decree calls for mandatory life insurance, consider having ownership of life insurance be held by each ex-spouse to insure control of payments and benefits.

POST – DIVORCE: Finalize any changes in beneficiaries as needed.

SUMMARY

Just as it took a team to build the financial structure pre-separation and divorce it will take a team to navigate what can be a perilous period in terms of both parties’ financial well-being.  As stated earlier, insurance policies are not very flexible and if not address appropriately, a person might discover they do not have the needed protection.

Finally, it may be a good idea for each spouse to obtain their own advisors rather than rely on the ones that were in place before the separation. There is an inherent conflict of interest in this situation and each spouse should have an advisor that is looking out for their individual interests alone.