National Insurance Awareness Day, June 28th

This Friday, June 28th is National Insurance Awareness. The day was created to encourage everyone across the nation to review their insurance policies.

Below are some tips to help you observe the day:

Home:

  • Review the home value. The value of the home should be based on current construction costs, not market value. You should review the home value every 3 to 5 years.
    • Review the home credits. If you have installed an alarm or have turned your alarm service off you should update the home policy accordingly.
    • Review the deductible. The higher the deductible the lower the premium. Also a higher deductible will discourage you from filing small claims which can impact your ability to obtain coverage in the future.
    • Review the endorsements included in the policy. If you have switched insurance companies recently a coverage may have been dropped during the process.

Auto:

  • Review drivers listed on the policy. All licensed drivers residing in your home should be listed on the auto policy. Failure to do so could result in a denied claim for unlisted drivers.
    • Review ownership of the vehicle. If the loan or lease agreement has been satisfied update the policy. This will prevent delays in payment at claim time. Any change in titled ownership should also be reflected on the policy or a new policy purchased for the vehicle.
    • Review deductibles. Insurance companies continually increase the price breaks for higher deductibles. As with the home insurance a higher deductible will save you premium and discourage you from filing small claims.
    • Review usage of each vehicle. Vehicles used for Uber or Lyft services do not have coverage while being used for this purpose. Vehicles used for business purposes may also not have coverage if used for business at the time of a claim.

Schedule:

  • Update items to be listed along with values. Appraisals should be completed every 3 to 5 years to keep up with market values. Use an inventory such as Collectify to manage your collection easily.

Umbrella:

  • Update properties, vehicles, drivers, recreational vehicles, boats, etc. at each renewal. Failure to update could result in no coverage under the umbrella.
  • Make sure the underlying insurance policies for each of the above meets the minimum liability requirements to avoid a coverage gap.
  • If you do not have coverage for the underlying insurance policy for each of the above obtain it at your earliest convenience.

With the help of a Trusted Insurance Advisors they can help you review your policies at any time, not just this Friday or at renewal. A Trusted Insurance Advisor is there to help you every step of the way. Call your agent today!

Insurance for Your Investment Property

Recently I had a client purchase a new investment property. He had valid concerns regarding the coverages for that investment property. Below are coverages to consider for maintaining the profitability of your investment property.

  • Contents – Many owners of investment properties forgo coverage for contents or personal property kept at the investment property. They assume the tenant will provide all coverage for the tenant’s contents. What if the property owner has to re-carpet the home or puts new appliances in the home? These types of items can be considered contents by the insurance company. What if the property owner uses the basement or attic for storage? These are considered contents. Contents coverage is not automatically included in all investment property policies. You must request it and indicate a limit needed to cover all contents of the property owner.
  • Fair Rental Value – If the property owner is unable to rent the property due to a covered loss the property owner will not be able to generate a profit from the property. Depending on what the cost of rent is will dictate the limit for Fair Rental Value. You should aim for 6 months of rent or more after a covered loss, which can also be impacted by time of year or location of the home.
  • Water Back-Up – This is a very hot topic when it comes to home insurance but many property owners overlook it when owning an investment property. An investment property has the same exposure to water back-up as a primary home; sump pump, back-up generators, toilets, tubs, sinks, etc. To make matters worse not all insurance companies offer water back-up on investment properties. Make sure to ask for it or your insurance agent may overlook it during the quoting process.
  • Ordnance or Law – In some cases especially with older homes there may be a need for additional money for updating an investment property to meet new codes or compliance requirements, such as sprinklers, smoke detectors, elevation, safety glass, etc. Not all policies are created equal. You may have 10% of the dwelling value which may or may not be enough depending on the property. An increase in the limit may be necessary for homes that are coastal, older, located in the city, etc.
  • Loss Assessment – Some investment properties are located in communities that have a Homeowners Association (HOA). As a home owner in the community the association has the right to assess fees back to home owners. Not all investment property policies provide Loss Assessment and if they do it may not be enough. It is best to understand what the HOA can assess for and how much they can assess. Once this information is known you can adjust the insurance policy accordingly.

Ultimately the plan for owning an investment property is to generate a profit or a return on your investment. Without the appropriate insurance you could lose money due to unexpected issues.  A full assessment at the beginning of your endeavor reduces the chances of problems down the road. Talk to your independent insurance agent today about your investment property insurance needs.

Why is my credit score used when buying insurance?

This is a common question with clients and it is never an easy conversation. Like many of my clients my gut goes sour when I need to discuss or request information regarding credit reporting. There are a few things to know.

  • State of Maryland has approved the use of credit as a rating factor for auto insurance. Credit is not used for home insurance in Maryland. Almost all insurance companies doing business in Maryland will want to obtain a credit report in order to provide an auto insurance quote. There is only 1 or 2 insurance companies in Maryland that do not.
  • Your insurance agent will never see a credit score or credit report when quoting your auto insurance. For this reason your insurance agent will also not be able to provide specifics about what was contained in the report, and will direct you back to the insurance company quoted to obtain more information.
  • Your insurance agent will not know specifically how your credit impacted your auto quote. Insurance companies have rating structures based on hundreds of rating factors. As information is entered into an insurance company’s quoting system the rate changes. Credit score is only one factor for rating.
  • The process of obtaining your credit report will not impact your credit score. Unlike when you are applying for a loan or line of credit, we are not looking to confirm if you are a good applicant. For this reason you can not be turned down for auto insurance based solely on your credit score.

While the thought of your credit score being run for an auto insurance quote has you sick to your stomach, your insurance agent is doing their best to meet your insurance needs. Your insurance agent will not pry into your financial situation but will guide you on the best auto quote for you. Maintain an open dialogue with your insurance agent and voice your concerns to help settle your nerves.

Call your independent insurance agent for more information on the auto insurance quote process.

Do you need Rental Reimbursement on your auto insurance?

The short and sweet answer is yes but I am not the short and sweet type when it comes to insurance. So let’s dig a little deeper.

Many individuals dont think they need it and many times forgo it to save money. Honestly this coverage is only about $30 to $40 per vehicle annually, if not less. That’s not alot when you consider it’s an annual cost and what it means for you.

Recently I had a client find out the hard way how important Rental Reimbursement is. Another vehicle hit my client’s vehicle while parked and unoccupied. Initially the client attempted to have the claim handled by the responsible party’s  company. However the adjustor was indicating the vehicle was a total loss and that decision made the client uncomfortable. Add on the client had paid extra money for Replacement Cost coverage on the totaled vehicle on their own auto insurance policy. The client attempted to go back to their own insurance for Replacement Cost coverage but it was determined they had no Rental Reimbursement on their own auto policy. The claim process would start over with the client’s own insurance company and leave them out of pocket for another rental vehicle.

In the end the client settled with the responsible party’s insurance company to reduce the amount of stress and move on ultimately.

Had the client opted for Rental Reimbursement when the policy was purchased the client would have had a completely different result.

Yes, you can shave off a few dollars on your auto insurance by not including Rental Reimbursement but it can have a severe impact at the time of a claim.

So purchase Rental Reimbursement for all of your vehicles. I recommend a limit of $40 per day based on the average cost of a small rental vehicle. You can certainly bump it up if you will need more rental vehicle, such as a mini van or SUV.

An independent agent can help you pick the right limit and find a competitive auto insurance policy for you.

Why you should shop your insurance.

Previously I gave reasons why you should not shop your insurance. My goal is not to discourage people from shopping their insurance but to help people be smart about managing their insurance. There below are valid reasons for shopping your account.

  • Major lifestyle changes are a valid reason. Marriage, divorce, a child getting licensed, a child moving out, starting a new business, retirement, etc. Your current insurance company may not have the most competitive pricing once these changes are applied to your account.
  • Purchasing a new home, condo, etc. Selling your home and renting. Again the current insurance company may not be the most competitive based on your new home situation.
  • Change in net-worth or value of your assets. If your net-worth has increased significantly the current insurance company many not be providing you the broad coverage you now need. They may also not be able to provide you the coverage or policy limits your financial advisor, attorney, or accountant are now recommending.
  • Change in the coverages desired. If you now want full glass coverage or GAP coverage or Agreed Value on your vehicle you may need to change insurance company. If you need workers compensation insurance you may need to change insurance companies. If you sit on boards or volunteer your time to associations or committees you may need a different insurance company.
  • Bad claim experience. If you find that your insurance company was uncooperative, lacking in communication, difficult to work with or any other reason and your insurance agent could not help you work through it there is no reason you should torture yourself again in the future.

Ultimately you should not shop your insurance frequently or even every year. You will lose out on valuable coverages, benefits, features, etc. Your program should be reviewed annually but only shopped every 3 to 5 years. If you feel your need your program shopped talk to your insurance agent about why you should or should not shop your insurance program. Your agent will have a good sense what you can do with your current program and if having your program shopped is warranted.

 

What is water back-up coverage?

Recently I had a conversation with a client regarding water back-up. They recently purchased home insurance and in reviewing their home policy I noted that they only had $5,000 for water back-up.

The standard home policy does not provide coverage for water back-up. In fact you will see an exclusion for water back-up. Water back-up is considering water that backs up into your home from a drainage system. It could be a sump pump that fails. It could be a toilet that overflows. It could be a shower drain that backflows. It could be a hot water heater that breaks. The easy way to think about it is water back-up is any drainage system to your home that could back-up or overflow.

Water back-up is not flooding. Flooding is water from the outside your home coming in through the foundations, windows, doors, etc.

Why is water back-up so important? It is one of the top causes of homeowner claims across the country. Every homeowner will experience at least one water back-up loss in their lifetime. 

Secondly, the average water back-up claim is $20,000. Think about it… you clean up the free flowing water, you need water mitigation to dry out the floors, the walls, and the room to reduce the chance of mold. You may need to replace the flooring and the walls. And possiby some furnishings. And you may still have mold after all.

In some cases a water back-up loss could mean a total loss of your home. Think of sewage back flowing into your home.

Kind of scary stuff.

So what do I recommend? I recommend full water back-up coverage. This doesn’t mean up to the total value of the stuff in your basement or the basic limit for water back-up. Water back-up should be up to the dwelling, other structures, personal property, and loss of use policy limits.

Yes, water back-up can be expensive but is it more expensive then the cost of the average water back-up loss? Water back-up coverage has gotten more expensive of the years because of the frequency of such claims and the average cost of a claim.

If your insurance company doesn’t provide full water back-up coverage as we insurance professionals call it then find another insurance company. This applies to rental and investment properties.

Have your insurance agent review your policy today to determine if and how much water back-up coverage you have.

Diamonds Are A Girl’s Bestfriend!

It is that time of year where many of my client’s will give or receive a very sparkly gift from Santa.

I can’t deny that I get a little excited when a client calls to provide the specifics on their new diamond encrusted whatever.

That being said, now is also the time to start talking about insurance for those beautiful items.

I recommend everyone have at least some type of jewelry schedule or jewelry insurance. It should be a given when talking about homeowners insurance.

There are two ways to do a jewelry schedule, a blanket or an agreed value. Blanket requires less effort but agreed value will provide more definitive coverage.

If you are unsure which direction you should go you need to look at your jewelry collection.

Go home and pull out all of your jewelry pieces and lay them out on the bed. Decide which is your most inexpensive piece? Which is the most expensive piece? What items do you wear regularly? Do you keep any of the items in a safe? Knowing what you have will help you decide what is more important.

You can even do a combination of blanket and agreed value. The one thing I don’t recommend is no jewelry schedule.

Keep in mind that if you have no jewelry schedule, coverage will be found under your homeowners insurance. The missing item would be subject to the policy deductible. The minimum deductible with most insurance companies is $1,000. Also, you have to account for any limitation in the homeowners policy for lost or misplaced jewelry. The policy may limit coverage to $2,500 or $5,000, less the policy deductible. That can really hurt when your heirloom engagement ring disappears.

Before you go and buy your next piece of jewelry go get some type jewelry insurance in place. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

Pamela