What’s one of a homeowner’s greatest enemies? Water (where it shouldn’t be).
When water enters your home, it can quickly cause a lot of damage. So, it’s important to understand which types of plumbing issues and water damage are covered by your home insurance policy.
Learn about the types of insurance for water damage as well as what is and isn’t covered:
When it comes to coverage of water damage, the key indicators that an issue is likely covered are sudden and accidental.
Coverage of water damage would fall under dwelling coverage (the structure of your home) or personal property coverage (your belongings). A deductible and coverage limits may apply to personal property coverage — review your policy or contact us with questions.
Examples of water damage that are likely covered include:
On the other hand, water damage caused by issues that are not sudden or accidental, such as delayed maintenance and neglect, will not be covered. And homeowners insurance only covers the damage caused, not the source of it. You’ll have to replace or repair pipes and appliances yourself.
Examples of water damage that isn’t covered include:
“Act of God” is a commonly used insurance term, but you may not know exactly what it means. When it comes to weather and other unpreventable events, it’s important to understand acts of God so you can protect your property by making sure you have the right insurance coverage.
Keep reading to learn what an act of God is, the types of events that qualify and how it all factors into home and auto insurance policies.
What does “act of God” mean?
Simply put, an act of God (in property and car insurance policy terms) refers to events, such as extreme weather, that are out of your control.
If it’s something you can’t prevent, it’s likely an act of God.
What types of events qualify as an act of God?
Examples of acts of God include windstorms, lightning strikes, hail storms, wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes. However, not every act of God is included in a standard insurance policy. You may need additional coverage.
Does auto insurance cover acts of God?
Car insurance will cover acts of God if you sign up for comprehensive coverage. This type of auto insurance covers natural disasters as well as other types of damage not caused by a collision. For example, if your car is vandalized or an animal runs out in front of you, comprehensive coverage can help you pay for repairs or a total loss.
What about home insurance?
A standard homeowners policy usually covers some acts of God. Flooding and earthquakes are two common exceptions. If you live in a flood zone or an area prone to earthquakes, you’ll need separate coverage for those natural disasters.
Is an act of God the same as a force majeure?
The two terms are similar; however, the term force majeure is more commonly used in business and construction contracts. It refers to unforeseeable circumstances that prevent a contract from being fulfilled.
Have questions about your insurance coverage for acts of God? Just reach out, and we’ll be happy to help.
Are you a home insurance expert or does the industry’s jargon leave you scratching your head?
Unfortunately, if you don’t understand everything that’s in your homeowners insurance policy, you could be vulnerable to expensive mistakes or unpleasant surprises later on. We’re here to help.
Keep reading for our list of 10 important, uncommon and often misunderstood home insurance terms to know about.
1. Adjuster: The claims adjuster investigates your claim, collects evidence and determines how much to pay for the property damage or total loss.
2. Declarations Page: This is the front page of your homeowner’s insurance policy. A declarations page summarizes basic information about your policy such as the policyholder, the home covered, and your coverage and premium amounts.
3. Indemnification: The compensation for your homeowners insurance claim.
4. Loss of Use: Coverage that pays additional expenses when a policyholder has to move out of their residence while repairs are made as a result of damage caused by a covered loss.
5. Negligence: A failure to take reasonable care or otherwise prevent damage to your home and property.
For example, you neglect to shovel the snow from your sidewalk and a neighbor injures themselves. Or, you don’t take a dead tree down and it falls on your property or your neighbor’s.
6. Occurrence: A single event or series of exposures that cause an injury or damage to your property. Examples include break-ins, fires, burst pipes and more.
7. Personal Umbrella Policy: An optional, additional liability coverage for your personal assets in the event of an accident on your property that exceeds the limits of your current homeowners coverage.
8. Replacement Cost: The actual cost of replacing your home and property in the event of damage or complete destruction. Replacement cost is different from the current market value of your home.
9. Scheduled Personal Property: If you have high-value personal property such as jewelry, artwork, antiques and more, this type of coverage can be added to your homeowners policy.
10. Subrogation: When someone else’s negligence leads to damage to your property (such as a neighbor’s tree falling on your roof), you can ask your insurer to settle the claim for you. Subrogation is the process of seeking payment recovery for you.
Have questions about your homeowners insurance? Just reach out, and we’ll be happy to help.
If your home is destroyed by a fire or other catastrophe, will you be able to rebuild it?
Learn what a reconstruction cost estimate is and how to calculate it for your home.
What is a reconstruction cost estimate?
Your reconstruction cost estimate (also known as your dwelling coverage limit) is part of your homeowner’s insurance policy. It refers to the cost of rebuilding your home and any attached structures as they were before a total loss.
The most important thing to know about a reconstruction cost estimate is that it’s not the same as your house’s current market value.
How is it calculated?
The simplest way to determine your home’s reconstruction cost estimate is to look up the average per-foot rebuilding costs (labor and materials) where you live. Multiply that per-foot cost by the square footage of your home and any attached structures.
Reconstruction Cost Estimate vs. Home Appraisal
A home appraisal looks at the real estate market in your area and comparable properties to determine a sale price for your house based on its location, condition and other relevant factors.
In contrast, a reconstruction cost estimate is solely about the price of labor and materials. If you had to build your home from the ground up, to resemble its current condition, what would it cost?
It’s important to choose the right amount of dwelling coverage, or you could be left with out-of-pocket costs for the difference between your coverage limit and the actual reconstruction cost.
What’s the difference between a reconstruction cost and a replacement cost?
The replacement cost for your home refers only to the price of labor and materials. Reconstruction cost accounts for additional costs related to rebuilding such as demolition, debris removal, and more.
Have questions about your dwelling coverage limit? Just reach out, and we’ll be happy to help.
Does your homeowner’s insurance protect against all the possible threats to your property? If you’re worried about something that isn’t covered, you may be able to add it on. An insurance add-on, also known as a rider or endorsement, is an optional addition to your policy.
It’s a good idea to review your current policy to get clear on the types of damage you’re insured against. Learn about a few popular insurance add-ons to see if any of them make sense for you:
1. Sewer Backup
Having your sewer back up into your sink, toilet or drain is no fun. In addition to the ickiness factor, the repair bill can be expensive. You need a plumber to unblock the sewer, and you’ll probably have a mess to clean up.
Adding a sewer backup rider to your homeowner’s coverage will cover the costs associated with repairing the problem, replacing damaged belongings and removing wastewater from your home.
2. Home-Based Business
Do you run a small business out of your personal residence? Instead of purchasing a commercial insurance policy, you can add a home-based business rider to your policy. This will protect the personal belongings in your office space and cover any medical bills for business visitors who are injured on your property.
3. Swimming Pool
When it comes to home pools, you should check your existing coverage to see if damage to the structure of your pool is covered. If guests injure themselves in or around your pool, it’s likely not covered by your standard homeowner’s policy. You’ll have to add injury coverage as a rider.
As with hurricanes and floods, earthquakes are a type of natural disaster that require additional coverage. An earthquake rider will cover the costs of repairs and debris removal in the wake of an earthquake. In addition to your home, earthquake coverage protects other structures on your property such as a garage, shed, deck, etc.
5. Umbrella Coverage
This is a type of personal liability insurance that protects you and your family from major claims and lawsuits. Umbrella coverage may extend to other homes you own, as well as your vehicles and any watercraft.
Have questions about insurance add-ons? Just reach out, and we’ll be happy to help.
You may be the kind of person who fires up the grill all year long at tailgating parties, or maybe you wait for a warm summer day and a backyard full of friends before you put on your apron. Either way, grilling can be one of life’s simple pleasures.
Unfortunately, where there is fun there is also the potential for safety issues. For example, did you know that leaving the grill unattended, not cleaning grease or fat build up properly, or placing the grill too close to combustible siding can cause injuries, fires and property damage?
Charcoal or Gas?
Nearly 9,000 home fires a year involve grills, according to a National Fire Protection Association report. Of all the home fires involving grills, gas-fueled grills accounted for four out of five fires, while 16% involved charcoal or other solid-fueled grills.¹ Gas and charcoal grills each have ardent advocates, who praise the convenience of gas or the flavor of charcoal. Whichever your preferred grilling method, follow these important safety considerations.
Gas Grill Safety
A leak or break was the leading factor contributing to gas grill-related fires, according to the NFPA report.
Charcoal Grill Safety
The leading cause of structure fires from use of charcoal grills was leaving or placing an object that could burn too close to the grill, according to the NFPA study.
Here are some other important tips to help you keep danger away when you are enjoying food and fun.
Choose a safe location for your grill. Keep grills on a level surface more than ten feet away from the house, garage or other structures. Keep children and pets away, as well as overhanging branches. Grills should not be used on a balcony or under an overhang. Avoid placing grills too close to combustible deck rails.
Grill outside only. Never use a grill in a garage, vehicle, tent or other enclosed space, even if ventilated, due to risk of harmful carbon monoxide buildup.
Keep the grill going on a cold day. During cool weather days, avoid wearing a scarf or other loose clothing that may catch on fire. Consumer Reports recommends shielding the grill from wind, placing it about ten feet from combustible surfaces and materials, and keeping the lid closed to retain as much heat as possible. Allow extra time for pre-heating the grill in colder weather and check temperatures of meat and fish with a meat thermometer to ensure that food is safe to eat.
Teach kids to stay safe. Make a “kid-free zone” of at least three feet around the grill and areas where hot food is prepared or carried. Children under five are especially vulnerable to burns from contact with a hot grill surface. Grill contact accounted for 37% of burns seen at emergency rooms in 2014 involving children under five.
Remember post-grilling safety. Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat buildup from the grills and in trays below the grill. If you grill with charcoal and need to dispose of the coals, soak them in water to extinguish them before disposing in a metal container. Otherwise, cover the grill tightly and close the vents, this should extinguish the coals and whatever is left will be ready for next time.
High-tech cars are here to stay. Car safety technology is evolving quickly, bringing scores of often unpronounceable abbreviations for new systems that promise to keep us safer. Can a car read a street sign? Can the family wagon's safety systems react to a sudden traffic change faster than a seasoned driver? Automakers say yes.
We're all familiar with established safety systems like Anti-Lock Braking Systems (ABS) and Traction Control. ABS dates back to the late 1920's when it was first developed for aircraft, although it wasn't until 50 years later that this now nearly ubiquitous technology reached the highway. Technology is advancing faster now than ever before, bringing inventive new safety systems to your dashboard and automobile chassis. Let's take a look under the hood of today's high tech cars to see what some of the most intriguing new technologies offer and how they can make your commute safer and less stressful.
Increased safety is the goal many of the advanced systems in cars now – and of those planned for the future. But the enhanced vehicle safety can pay dividends in other ways by helping to reduce accidents, sparing costly deductibles, while also keeping your driving record pristine. The safety features of today's high-tech cars are as exciting as they are practical, and automakers are continually innovating to meet consumer demand. When it's time to shop for a new car, ask about its ADAS features, for safety's sake
If your teenager has just gotten a driver's license, it may be hard to imagine handing over the keys to your brand new car, but that may be the smartest vehicle to choose.
However, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) say there is something worried parents can do to protect their teens — choose a safe vehicle.
Moving to a new place is certainly exciting, but it can also be stressful — and expensive. Once you factor in things like movers, packing materials, truck rentals, gas and more, the costs can creep into the hundreds, maybe even thousands of dollars, for just a single move.
Are you planning a move soon? Don't want to break the bank in the process? Fortunately, a little forethought and creativity can help in that department.
Here are five ways to help reduce your costs and keep a tight rein on your moving budget:
1. Shop Around for a Moving Company
Moving companies typically charge hundreds of dollars for their services, plus extra for things like gas, mileage and larger items like pianos and furniture. If you're going to hire a professional mover, shop around first. Get quotes from at least three different moving companies, and double-check the line-item charges. Does the quote include the truck, all protective materials, gas, mileage and larger furniture items? Does it provide insurance coverage in case of damage to any items you’ll be moving? If not, learn what adding these will cost you if they become necessary.
You can also consider local “mom and pop” moving teams or using an online service that matches freelance labor with local demand to help with everyday tasks. These come at a cost, of course, but are typically more affordable than a large moving company that has less flexible pricing.
Another great way to reduce your cost is to schedule your move for the winter or fall, if that is an option for you, as that’s when demand for professional movers is typically low. Weekdays are also a good choice, as most people move on the weekends. A moving company may be willing to give you a better deal if you move during these low-demand times, as they may be less busy and looking to fill their schedule. It may be worth exploring these options.
Pro tip: Consider doing a little research by checking out organizations online that provide consumer reviews of businesses. Before booking your movers, look at their reviews to get a sense of a company’s track record with other customers and try to verify that the company is legitimate. Note that none of these websites is a guarantee of a perfect experience, but they may help you with your decision.
2. Consider a DIY Move
Depending on how much you have to move and how heavy or cumbersome the items are, you may want to consider forgoing professional movers altogether if it looks as if your belongings can be managed without hiring help. If you have dependable family and friends that are willing and able to help with the packing, loading and transport, you might consider offering pizza or a free meal as a token of your appreciation in exchange for their help.
If you have larger items, consider renting a small rental truck for a few hours. Get the smallest size possible and be sure to fill up the fuel tank before you return the vehicle. (It may cost you more if you leave the rental truck in need of gas that the moving company must take care of itself.
Pro tip: Plan so that you're not moving during rush hour. Heavy stop-and-go traffic can drive up your fuel costs as well as delay your move.
3. Only Move What You Need
It's important to pare down your belongings before a move. That means donating, selling or throwing away any items you no longer use, need or plan to use in the future.
For one, this reduces your load and, subsequently, your costs to move it. Additionally, if you’re motivated to sell some of your unwanted items, you can put those extra funds toward your moving costs — or use it toward the cost of furniture or decor for your new place.
Here are some options for downsizing your household before you move:
Offloading some belongings will also make unpacking easier (not to mention faster).
Pro tip: Measure your furniture and make sure it will fit in your new home, as well as through necessary access points. If it won't fit, sell it and consider using the funds for replacement furniture once you're in your new place.
4. Get Creative with Your Packing
Buying boxes, bubble wrap, tape and packing peanuts can get expensive. Instead of purchasing these items, take a more creative approach and use things you already have. Sheets, towels, blankets and cloth napkins all work great as packing materials, and they all need to be packed up anyway, so why not use them? You can also use your own duffel bags, luggage, purses and backpacks rather than cardboard boxes.
Once you run out of these items, try one of these resources for free or low-cost boxes:
Pro tip: Start saving the plastic and paper bags from your shopping trips. These make good packing materials and can even be used to help protect fragile items.
5. Track and Deduct Your Expenses
If you're a member of the military (or someone in your household is) you may be able to deduct your moving expenses1 on your annual tax returns. To qualify, you'll need to be moving due to a permanent change of station.
If you're eligible, you'll be able to deduct the costs of moving, storage, travel, lodging and other expenses you incur due to the move.
Pro tip: Keep a detailed record of your moving costs if you qualify for this deduction. Save all your receipts and invoices and keep them somewhere safe until tax season rolls around.
Are you moving to a new place? Don't forget to update your homeowners insurance policy. Use your move as an opportunity to ensure all your belongings, valuables and new property are protected. Contact your insurance agent to learn more about home insurance coverage and how it can safeguard your new home and family.
Did you ever leave for work without turning down the heat on a blustery winter day? Or head out for a day trip in the middle of summer without dialing down the air conditioning for your dog? A smart thermostat can help you heat and cool your home more efficiently, monitor your energy consumption and let you control your home’s heating and AC systems from your smartphone, wherever you may be. These devices can help protect your home from damage caused by frozen pipes by alerting you if your home is getting dangerously cold. But there are also some important safety considerations.
How Smart Thermostats Work
Unlike traditional and programmable thermostats, many smart thermostats learn and adapt based on temperature, humidity and your family’s behavior, including when you and your family are likely to be home, awake and asleep. Your smartphone acts as a remote control for your heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, allowing you to change the temperature from wherever you have a signal. Another benefit includes automated notifications if the temperature in your home rises or falls above or below a set threshold. For homeowners who travel frequently or who own a second home, these devices offer the ability to remotely monitor their property.
Key Considerations for Using Your Smart Thermostat
During cold temperatures, with a more traditional thermostat, you turn down the temperature when you leave your home and dial it back up when you return. With a smart thermostat app controlled by your phone, you are able, and might be more motivated, to turn down your system to a low temperature to conserve energy from wherever you may be. But be wary as turning the thermostat down too low could result in frozen pipes, Travelers Risk Control professionals warn. Be sure to keep the temperature at 55°F or higher to help keep the interior of the floor and wall cavities, where water piping can be located, above freezing temperatures.
As part of the Internet of Things, smart thermostats are also subject to hacking and privacy concerns. You may think there is less of a safety concern than with smart locks or other security-related smart devices, as there is less incentive for hackers to target these devices. However, smart thermostats can provide details about your daily comings and goings, which a thief could find insightful.
A prudent step would be for homeowners to make sure their devices are hard-wired to the Internet, rather than relying on a Wi-Fi connection. Choose a strong password and evaluate any specific safety concerns before you decide to buy a smart thermostat. As with any smart device, make sure it is compatible with your other devices or hub because not all devices communicate well with each other. The packaging for these smart devices may not offer detailed installation instructions, so you may want to consult a professional to help install them properly.