Archive for July 2013

Shopping Tips for Property Insurance   Leave a comment

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The most important tip: Think rebuilding cost, not real estate value, when insuring your home. If your home is severely damaged or destroyed, it may cost more to rebuild it than its current sales price.

Shopping Tips For Property Insurance
 
  1. Insure for the rebuilding cost, not the real estate value.
    Real estate goes up and down, while building costs may not fluctuate as widely. You can check in your area for the price range per square foot of new construction or use one of the online building estimator tools. (Suggestion: Type how to estimate building costs in the search field.) You’ll want to purchase enough insurance to completely rebuild your home.
  2. Accurately estimate your home’s contents by doing a home inventory. 
    Remember to include your furniture, electronics, appliances and other contents so you can replace all your belongings if you suffer a major loss. Many people underestimate how much they own, and the Insurance Information Institute has free software to help you create an accurate home inventory. And, having an accurate inventory will help you settle claims promptly. The free software is available at http://www.knowyourstuff.org.
  3.  Don’t select an insurer on price alone. 
    Check the company’s reputation for service by asking people you know for recommendations. You’ll want to send your business to a company that is known for answering questions promptly and handling claims properly and fairly. You should also check on the company’s financial rating by checking with ratings organization. This information is often available on the company’s Website as well.
  4. To save money, take the highest deductible you can afford.
    The higher the deductible, the lower your premium. Since most people file a claim only every eight to 10 years, you will save money over time and preserve your insurance for when it’s really needed.
  5. Ask about policy exclusions, available discounts and additional coverage. Make sure you understand what is covered and what is not. Homeowner insurance policies do not cover flood damage. Some have exclusions for sinkhole coverage, and you may want to include this protection for an additional premium. There is also additional coverage you may wish to purchase to rebuild your home to the current building code, since new construction must comply with stronger codes. You earn discounts for security systems, some upgrades, wind-resistant shutters, and other improvements and safety features.
Another tip: Read your current policy before you have a conversation with your agent so you understand your coverage and make the best insurance decisions for your situation.
 
“Our blogs are for general education and information only and may not represent your unique needs. Coverages will vary. Please contact your insurance agent to verify your specific policy terms and conditions.”
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Posted July 31, 2013 by leecountyinsurance in Uncategorized

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Top 10 most common homeowners insurance claims and simple ways you can avoid costly problems   Leave a comment

hose bursting1

What can you do?

Insurance adjusters have ranked the most common, yet preventable, homeowners claims. Five of them – that’s half the list – are plumbing related. This is a busy time for everyone and the last thing you need is an unexpected plumbing breakdown. Unless you enjoy the excitement of a flooded laundry room or having a toilet take a one-way trip through the floor, the answer lies in smart preventative maintenance.

Top ten homeowners claims to avoid
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1. Burst washing machine hose – Plastic or rubber washing machine hoses eventually leak and even burst. Three bad combinations here: The machine jars and jumps; the lines get hot and cold repeatedly; laundry rooms are typically located in low-traffic areas, meaning it may go unnoticed a while. Damage is often extensive and expensive, which is why it’s ranked #1.
Precaution: Plastic hoses should be replaced at least every three years, and frequently inspected for leaks. Stainless hoses look substantially stronger and in many cases are but there are alos some that are not much better than the “cheapie” model.

2. Slow leaks around tub/shower grout and edges – Grout and caulking decay over time, and cracks can develop. Water seeps into walls and floors little by little, causing tub and shower pans to corrode or to actually sink due to softening wood supports. The problem greatly accelerates as more water intrudes, leading to major repairs in plumbing, carpentry, tile work and more. Insurance rarely covers these expenses.
Precaution: Make sure that all water from the shower or bath stays there. This means securing shower doors and tightly closing curtains. Also, frequently inspect and repair seals. A little time now can save thousands of dollars later. On a preventive maintenance trip.

3. Toilet seal leaks – If your toilet wobbles it could mean that the seal is worn, or that it was improperly installed. Since the seal prevents sewage gases and other wastes from leaking into your home, this is not just a costly repair—it’s a health issue. We’re not talking “maybe” here; sewer gases are a health risk and not to be taken lightly. Get this fixed.
Precaution: Periodically check the base of the toilet for water. If a leak is present, have it repaired immediately.

4. Refrigerator water-supply line leaks – The small water line that goes from your refrigerator—called a capillary line—can easily become kinked. Plastic lines also become brittle from use, which leads to leaks. These leaks are rarely noticed but can cause extensive damage to the walls, floor, and cabinets around the refrigerator.
Precaution: If lines become brittle, replace them as soon as possible. Be sure to check metal lines for crimps or kinks that can cause the line to form a leak.

5. Roof leaks – Weather, age, wear and tear — these conditions adversely affect your roof’s condition. Signs of a leaking roof include spots or stains that appear on the ceiling, or curled, upturned shingles around the edges of your home.
Precaution: Don’t try to stretch the life of your roof past its time. But to ensure a longer life, make sure that gutters are cleaned regularly. Also check for loose or missing shingles, especially after storms with high winds. Home owners insurance does not cover wear and tear. If your roof is leaking because it is old it is your responsibility to maintain and replace the roof as necessary. Most insurance companies in Florida allow up to 15 years on a shingle roof. Tile roofs are generally acceptable up to 20. Many companies now are settling roof claims on a depreciated basis based on the age of the roof.

6. Chimney/fireplace fires – It’s easy to think that starting a fire in the fireplace is as simple as throwing a few longs and matches together and watching it burn. Before your next family weenie roast, you should know that dirty or plugged chimneys regularly cause home fires.
Precaution: Practice fire safety: keep flammable items clear of the fireplace; be sure that children are supervised at all times; keep matches and flame accelerants in a safe, secured place. Before you start a fire, clean any excessive amounts of soot and ashes from the chimney. Also, maintain a regular chimney-cleaning schedule.

7. Hot water tank leaks – When was the last time you thought about your hot water tank? Probably not any time in the recent past unless you had a problem or repair. Since hot water tanks develop leaks and rust as they age, this “out of sight, out of mind” mentality can lead to major home damage. Sometimes, you begin to notice that you run out of hot water more quickly, indicating poor performance or maybe sediment in the tank. Both indicate a service or replacement need.
Precaution: Periodically check for water damage in the flooring around your hot water heater. If your water heater was installed more than five years ago, a qualified technician should check it at least annually. It may only need cleaning and servicing.

8. Electrical cord fires – Do you have a lot of “gadgets” and appliances plugged in throughout your home? Hiding those unseemly cords with throw rugs? Bad idea. Electrical cord fires result primarily from overloaded circuits, cords under throw rugs, and baseboard heaters.
Precaution: Minimize the number of appliances in use or plugged in at the same time. This will keep your circuits operating within their safe capacity. Also, route cords around throw rugs to reduce the likelihood of fire. Make sure all furniture is a safe distance from heaters, and that they are properly ventilated.

9. Unattended cooking or candle fires – Candlelight flickering shadows on the wall is relaxing, beautiful, soothing. Standing on the curb watching the flames flicker throughout your home is, um, something less than calming. Contained fires can become ‘uncontained’ quickly and violently. It’s from one thing: Lack of attention.
Precaution: Be aware of your candles or cooking fires at all times. Is a candle burning too closely to a flammable object? Is it in a non-flammable holder? Periodically monitor all candle and cooking fires and always practice fire safety.

10. Garage door opener theft – You want your home to comfortable, safe, and secure. You may lock your doors, but sly criminals often snatch garage door openers, gaining access to garages and homes.
Precaution: If you’re not parking your car in the garage, take the garage door opener out of the car. This one, simple measure substantially increases your home security. Thieves cannot gain access to your home easily, making break-ins more difficult and therefore less likely.

“Our blogs are for general education and information only and may not represent your unique needs. Coverages will vary. Please contact your insurance agent to verify your specific policy terms and conditions.”

Lightning Safety Week – Surge Protection for Your Home   Leave a comment

lightning

At the first clap of thunder, seeking shelter indoors to avoid being struck by lightning is a priority. But it’s also important that what’s inside the structure is protected as well. According to the Lightning Protection Institute (LPI), a single bolt of lightning can carry over 30 million volts of electricity. A strike from a powerful charge like that could trigger a power surge that could damage expensive electronic equipment inside your home – or worse – spark a devastating fire.

As part of Lightning Safety Week (June 23-29), the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) advises homeowners to take precautions to reduce the chances of lightning-related loss and disruption from power surges.

To reduce the risk of damage from a lightning strike, homeowners should consider investing in a whole-house surge protector, which offers protection against electrical surges or spikes. Many utility companies provide and install whole-building surge protection systems. If this is unavailable in your area, consider hiring a licensed electrician to install the protector.

There also are relatively inexpensive ways to prevent significant damage from a power surge. Below, learn how to keep expensive electronics from being damaged or destroyed by a sudden spike in voltage. Find additional lightning protection guidance for both businesses and homes at disastersafety.org/lightning.

PREVENTING POWER SURGE DAMAGE TO YOUR HOME

1. Unplugging electronic equipment when there is lightning in the area is the most reliable means of protecting that equipment from a power
surge.

2. Know the important difference between a surge suppressor and a power strip. A power strip plugs into your wall outlet and allows you to
plug in multiple electronic devices. However, a power strip does not protect equipment from being damaged by a spike in electrical power.
Like a power strip, a surge protector also gives the user the ability to plug in multiple electronic devices, but it also protects your
electronic devices from sudden power spikes.

3. Connect telephone, cable/satellite TV and network lines to a surge suppressor.

4. Make sure the surge suppressor has an indicator light so you know it is working properly.

5. Ensure the surge suppressor has been tested to UL 1449, which should be indicated on the packaging.

6. Purchase a surge suppressor with a Joule rating of over 1,000. The Joule rating typically ranges from 200 up to several thousand the
higher the number the better.

7. Look for a surge suppressor with a clamping voltage rating (voltage at which the protector will conduct the electricity to ground)
between 330 v, which is typical, to 400 v.

8. Purchase a surge suppressor with a response time of less than 1 nanosecond.

9. Avoid cutting corners. You don’t want to protect a $1,000 television or computer system with a $10 surge protector. For $25 and up, you
can provide much better protection.

10. Consider hiring a licensed electrician or home/building inspector to review the power, telephone, electrical and cable/satellite TV
connections in your home. Have them check that you have adequate grounding of the power line connection and your power distribution
panel. All of the utilities should enter the structure within 10 feet of the electrical service entrance ground wire and be bonded to
that grounding point.

Make Sure You’re Covered for Sewer Backups   Leave a comment

sewer backup
A Little Insurance and Preventive Action Offer a Lot of Protection Against Sewer Related Damage

If you’re a homeowner, here’s one of the worst nightmares you can experience. Torrential downpours deluge your property and neighborhood with rainwater, overwhelming your home’s sewer system or your sump pump’s ability to handle the water runoff. The next thing you know, you have raw sewage backing up into your home’s drains, overflowing toilets and tubs or flooding your basement. A backed up sewer can do a real number on your home, causing thousands of dollars in damage to floors, walls, furniture carpeting and electrical systems, as well as pose a major health hazard.

No problem. You’ve got insurance, right? Not so fast. According to the Insurance Information Institute, most sewer system backups are not covered under a typical homeowners insurance policy, nor are they covered by flood insurance.

Uh-oh.

For homes that have been severely damaged by sewer backups and are uninhabitable, your basic homeowners policy may include Loss of Use coverage, which provides reimbursement for lodging, food and other living expenses you may incur if you have to vacate your home. Loss of Use coverage also reimburses you for the lost rental income if you rent out part of the house. but that’s about all you’re going to get with your average homeowner’s policy.

For most consumers, coverage for sewer-related problems must be purchased either as a separate product or as an addition to a homeowners policy. Fortunately, sewer backup coverage is available from most insurance companies for a nominal cost. We recommend that consumers in our rain-prone region of Florida err on the side of caution and purchase this additional insurance. You can typically purchase sewer backup insurance for an additional premium of $50-$75 per year; a small price to pay for significant piece of mind and protection.

What Causes Sewer Backups

Most homeowners probably don’t realize that they are responsible for the maintenance and repair of their main sewer line — the pipeline that runs between their house and the municipality’s sewer main, usually located underneath the street. The main sewer line is owned and maintained by the property owner, including any part of the line that extends into the street or public right of way.

Over time, these main sewer lines can easily deteriorate, crack, collapse or become obstructed. You may not have a clue that this kind of damage is occurring. But one severe rainstorm may be all it takes to bring the problem to a head.

Some of the more common causes of damaged sewer lines and sewer line backups are:

Aging Sewer Systems: More than half of nation’s sewer lines are 30+ years old or connected to aging municipal sewage systems. After decades of wear, tear and obstruction, the sewer line and system no longer have the capability to withstand heavy demands and so they back up and overflow.

Combined Pipelines: Some newer sewage and drainage systems combine storm water and raw sewage into the same pipeline. During intense rain storms, these combined systems are exposed to more volume and debris than they can handle. With nowhere else to go, the outgoing water and sewer backs up into basements and other low lying drains.

Tree Root Infiltration: Shrubs and trees seeking moisture can make their way into cracks or through joints in your sewer line, causing extensive blockage and damage. Tree roots can travel a long way; the damage may occur from a tree on your property, a neighbor’s tree or a tree on public property. Samples of the tree roots can be obtained to identify which party is responsible for cleanup and repair.

Blocked Municipal Lines: Many times the problem has nothing to do with your property, but with a blockage in a your municipality’s sanitary main running under your street. If the blockage is not detected in time, sewage from the main can back up not only into your home but your neighbors, as well.

Usually this kind of backup happens slowly, giving you plenty of time to call a licensed plumbing company or your agent to find out who they suggest. If water and sewage back into your basement at a rapid rate, don’t delay; call your municipality’s public works office or sewer department and report the problem immediately.

How You Can Prevent Sewer Line Backups

There are several preventive measures homeowners can take to minimize the occurrence sewer line backups.

Proper Disposal of Grease and Food: Grease, fats, gravies, sauces and cooking oils should never go down your kitchen drain but should be poured into a heat-resistant container and disposed of in the garbage. Once in your drain, these substances will cool off and solidify either in the drain or in the main sewer, eventually building up to a massive clog. Food particles should never go down the drain unless run through a garbage disposal first.

Proper Disposal of Paper Products Properly: Toilet paper and human waste is the only thing that should go down your toilet. Diapers, paper towels, feminine products and food should never be flushed; these products do not deteriorate and can easily clog your main sewer line. Even facial tissue should be avoided; it does not dissolve as easily as bathroom tissue does.

Replace Your Pipes: One way to prevent collapsed sewer lines or tree root infiltration is to replace your old clay or metal sewer lines with today’s newer plastic or PVC pipe. If you have continuing problems with tree roots in your sewer line, you may have to have the roots cut or your line cleared periodically.

Install a Backwater Prevention Valve: These fixtures are installed into a sewer line in the basement of your home to prevent sewer backups. They allow sewage to go out, but not to come back in.

What to Do If You Experience a Sewer Backup

Sewer backups can produce a host of nightmares for homeowners, including disease, mold formation, destruction of valuables, foundation damage and electrical malfunctions. Prompt cleanup is necessary to restore sanitary conditions and prevent further damage. If you experience a sewer backup situation, at a minimum, your cleanup should include:

Wet-vacuuming of all floodwater
Mopping floors and wiping walls with soap, water and disinfectant
Flushing and disinfecting plumbing fixtures
Steam cleaning or removing wet carpets or drapes
Repairing/removing damaged wall and floor covering
Cleanup of ductwork

How to File a Sewer Backup Claim

Contact your insurance agent as soon as possible after your sewer backup has occurred. For insurance purposes, it’s a good idea to take before and after photos of the affected areas of your home or basement and itemize any property losses. Save all receipts related to repair, cleaning or damages related to your sewer backup. Do not dispose of any damaged items until an adjuster has seen them. You cannot recover money once the items are gone or repaired unless the adjuster has seen them first.

“Our blogs are for general education and information only and may not represent your unique needs. Coverages will vary. Please contact your insurance agent to verify your specific policy terms and conditions.”