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New Year Update

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New Year Update

As humans, people, consumers, etc… We love to constantly update our life status, as well as be up-to-date on the latest and greatest. It can be the newest cell phones, techno-gadgets, movies, and fashion – whatever. We like to appear to our social universe as being interesting, exciting, fresh, and new. It is a competition of who can post and update first or who can get the newest ‘it’ item. Nobody wants to finish last or be left behind. It is all about the update!

Do you know what else needs to be updated?
Your insurance policies.

The start of the year is always a good time to review all of your polices and make any necessary changes. However, it is almost entering the third month of the year – have no fear! There is still plenty of time to update, but don’t procrastinate.
I know a woman that updates her policies almost a dozen times per year. She is always reviewing coverage to ensure that it matches with her current coverage needs and lifestyle. Marriage, divorce, children, pets, change of job, business ownership, and health – all of these events create a change in insurance policies. She consistently updates, because she knows that as life goes through changes, the amount and type of coverage for each policy must also change.

Have you made any major purchases? Save your receipts and educate yourself on inflation and exchange rates (for items purchased overseas) and how those might affect the value of your items and the replacement value as well. On the other side, be aware of insured items that have potentially depreciated. You don’t want to be paying a ton of extra money for being over-insured.
Did you do any major home renovations? Added solar panels? Updated your security system? Yes – you need to update!

Don’t get discourage or confused and feel like you have to go at this alone. Yes, there is plenty of information you can find on the internet, but our recommendation is to contact your agent and allow them to assist. Updating isn’t a difficult process, but it is an important one that deserve a lot of attention to detail. The right changes can save you money – now and in the future.

NOW might be a good time to review and update all your policies and make sure everything is still in alignment with your lifestyle. Then you can be the first among your friends to brag and update your social status!

Update NOW!
Update NOW!

Flood/water damage

Flood/water damage

Severe weather, flooding, and interior water leaks each pose their own risks. Underst anding the different ways water damage can occur helps you take the right steps to protect your property, which includes purchasing the right insurance coverage.

Underst anding causes of water damage.

While fire may be a common concern among homeowners, Travelers claim data suggests that homes could be as much as 10 times more likely to be damaged by water than by fire.

  • More

    Water damage to property can come from many sources with weather-related moisture or flooding being one significant source: leaking roofs, blocked gutters and downspouts leading to foundation and siding damage, ice dams; flooding from heavy rains, flash floods, dam and levee failures, snowmelt and spring thaws, tidal storm surges and mudflows. New construction development of buildings, roads or bridges can often alter the potential and flow of floods. Being located within a flood zone can put individuals at risk, but being outside an established zone does not mean homeowners are safe: flooding is always a possibility due to causes such as heavy rains, snowmelt and spring thaws.

    Water damage also can come from non-weather related sources within the home, including leaky baseboard heating, plugged air conditioning unit condensation drains, furnaces/boilers, water heaters, washing machines, and leaky plumbing. Homeowners may also have wet basements resulting from water entering through cracks in foundations, improper l andscape grading, downspouts placed too close to the foundation or from seepage through floor drains and sewer pipes, among other reasons.

    In all cases, water can cause major damage to your property, valuables and equipment. In severe damage, such as from flooding, it may mean the need to rebuild or move to another location.

Protect your property through prepare and prevent measures.

In addition to purchasing the right insurance coverage, no matter the source of damage-causing water (weather-related or not) there are a number of things you can do to help minimize or prevent water damage to your property.

Protect your property with the right flood insurance.

The average cost for homeowner flood loss is $48,000, according to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). While floods can cause major destruction, the damage caused by floods is not covered by st andard homeowners insurance policies. However, flood insurance is offered by the NFIP and available through Travelers.

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    A flood insurance policy provides specialized coverage to help you protect your home and condo from rising waters. Costs vary depending on how much insurance is purchased, what it covers, and the property’s flood risk. In general, flood policies can provide coverage for your home’s structure, furnace, water heater, furniture, appliances, clothing, rugs (with certain limitations for basement areas) and certain expenses you incur to protect your home from imminent flood damage and clean up costs. Generally, there is a 30-day waiting period from date of purchase before your policy goes into effect. That means now is the best time to buy flood insurance.

    If you have any questions regarding homeowners insurance or flood insurance, contact your agent or company representative.

Prepare & Prevent: Weather-related sources of floodwater damage

Before

  • Know your flood zone risk. Evaluate your flood risk.
  • Have your furnace, water heater and other permanent equipment elevated above the expected flood levels of your area.
  • Inspect sump pumps and drains regularly to ensure proper operation.
  • If you own a generator, have a licensed electrician provide a transfer switch to your sump pump so you can operate it in the event of flooding.
  • To help prevent sewage backup, have a licensed plumber install an interior or exterior backflow valve.
  • Keep s andbags on h and to help divert unusually high water away from your foundation.
  • In snowy climates, flag drains to avoid plowing snow on top of them.
  • Learn the flood alert signals of your community.
  • Collect emergency building materials if you live in a frequently flooded area. These include plywood, plastic sheeting, lumber, nails, shovels and s andbags.
  • Plan and practice an evacuation route. Designate a place for family members to meet in the event they become separated.
  • Review with all family members how to shut off utilities in an emergency.
  • Plan a kit with important documents, including insurance documents, medications and critical items in the event you need to leave your home.

During

  • Listen to a battery-operated radio or television for the latest storm information. If advised to evacuate, shut off all utilities and evacuate immediately.
  • Move to high ground, avoid rising waters and do not walk or drive through any floodwaters.
  • Stay away from downed power lines and electrical wires.

After

  • Listen to the radio and do not return home until authorities indicate it is safe to do so.
  • Be watchful of snakes that may have found their way into your home.
  • Throw away all food that has come in contact with floodwaters.
  • Remove st anding water as quickly as possible, including from your basement. If your basement is flooded, pump out the water gradually. Remove about 1/3 per day to avoid structural damage.
  • Properly dry or remove soaked carpets, padding and upholstery within 24-48 hours after a flood to prevent mold growth. Discard anything that cannot be properly dried.
  • Wash and disinfect all areas that have been flooded. This includes walls, floors, closets, shelves, as well as heating and air-conditioning systems.
  • Do not energize electrical or electronic equipment that may have suffered water damage without first having a qualified electrician inspect and/or test it.
  • Promptly report the loss to Travelers using the toll-free claim reporting number.

More on tips for wet basements.
Floodsmart Tips

Prepare & Prevent: Weather-related sources of water damage

You can minimize or help prevent water damage from sources from within the home through home maintenance steps, including:

  • Keep drains, gutters and downspouts clear of leaves and other debris.
  • Maintain your roof to prevent water from seeping into your home.
  • Move downspouts minimally three feet away from the base of your home.
  • Inspect and repair foundation wall cracks.
  • Grade your l andscape away from your building so water is directed away from the basement.

Prepare & Prevent: Non-weather, interior sources of water damage

You can minimize or help prevent water damage from sources from within the home through home maintenance steps, including:

  • Inspect washing machine hoses annually and replace every three–five years–or immediately, if there are any signs of cracking or bulging.
  • Inspect plumbing around water heaters, showers, tubs, toilets, sinks, and dishwashers annually and repair if there are any signs of leaks or corrosion. When possible, install water heaters in an area with floor drains to minimize damage if leaks should occur.
  • Inspect refrigerator icemaker connections, usually located behind the refrigerator, annually and replace hoses if they appear cracked or corroded.
  • Check air conditioning drain lines yearly and clean if clogged.

The storm is over – now what do you do?

 

 

The storm is over –
now what do you do?

After it is confirmed by authorities that the storm has passed and it is safe to go outdoors, you can begin to assess any potential damage. If you have property damage, you should report your claim as soon as possible. The more information you can provide when you report the loss, the better we can begin our response. However, if you have missing information but have sustained damage, please report your claim in any event.

  1. Stay inside and make sure everyone is safe.

Stay tuned to the radio or television until an official “all clear” is given (if you were evacuated, return home only after authorities advise it is safe to do so.)

  1. Avoid downed power lines.

Never touch anything in contact with power lines, including water or water puddles that may be near the downed power lines.

  1. Protect property from further damage.

Board up broken windows to protect against v andalism or additional weather damage. Arrange for reasonable temporary repairs.

  1. Keep accurate expense records.

Save bills and materials receipts from your temporary repairs. (Do not make permanent repairs until the insurance adjuster has reviewed the damage.) Also, keep accurate records of other expenses incurred.

  1. Separate and inventory the damaged property.

Write a list of any damaged contents. Include the item description, name of the manufacturer, the br and name, age, the place and date of purchase, if known. Use any photographs, videotapes or personal property inventories you may already have to help.

Winterize your home and property

Winterize your home and property

Ice, snow and wind can have devastating consequences on your home. The time to winterize is when the leaves begin to turn and not when the snow begins to fall.

Homeowners should take the following precautions:

  • Maintain gutters

    Remove leaves, acorns, sticks and other debris from gutters so melting snow and ice can flow freely. You may also consider installing gutter guards. Available in most hardware and home stores, gutter guards are screens that prevent debris from entering the gutter and direct the flow of water away from the house and into the ground.

  • Trim trees and remove dead branches

    Ice, snow and wind can cause weak trees or branches to break, damaging your home or car or injuring someone walking on your property.

  • Check insulation

    Add extra insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. If too much heat escapes through the attic it can cause snow or ice to melt on the roof. The water re-freezes causing more snow and ice to build up. This can result in a collapsed roof, and can contribute to ice damming. Ideally, the attic should be five to ten degrees warmer than the outside air. Well-insulated basements and crawl spaces will also help protect pipes from freezing.

  • Maintain pipes

    Wrap pipes with heating tape and insulate unfinished rooms such as garages that frequently have exposed pipes. Also, check for cracks and leaks. Have minor pipe damage fixed immediately to prevent much costlier repairs in the future.

  • Keep the house warm

    The temperature in your house should be at least 65 degrees. The temperature inside the walls where the pipes are located is substantially colder than the walls themselves. A temperature lower than 65 degrees will not keep the pipes from freezing.

  • Check heating systems

    The proper use and maintenance of furnaces, fireplaces and wood-burning stoves can prevent fire and smoke damage. Have furnaces, boilers and chimneys serviced at least once a year. Make sure that smoke and fire alarms are working properly and consider installing a carbon monoxide detector.

  • Maintain steps and h andrails

    Broken stairs and banisters can become dangerous when covered with snow and ice. Make repairs now to prevent someone from falling and seriously being injured.

  • Get to know your plumbing

    Learn how to shut the water off and know where your pipes are located. If your pipes freeze, time is of the essence. The quicker you can shut off the water or direct your plumber to the problem, the better chance you have to prevent the pipes from bursting.

  • Hire a licensed contractor

    Have a professional survey your home for any structural damage. If damage is discovered, have it repaired immediately so further damage will not occur during the winter. Also, find out about ways to prevent water damage due to snow-related flooding. Plastic coatings for internal basement walls, sump-pumps and other methods can prevent damage to your home and belongings.

  • Plan for being away

    If you are not going to be in your home this winter for an extended period of time, have the water system drained by a professional to keep pipes from freezing or bursting. Also, have someone check on your home on a regular basis. If there is a problem, it can be fixed quickly, thus lessening any damage. Activity at your home will also reduce the likelihood that it will be burglarized.

    Damage to homes caused by flooding is usually excluded from most st andard homeowner policies. Flood insurance is available from the National Flood Insurance Program ( http://www.fema.gov/business/nfip ). Ask your insurance professional about flood insurance, as well as specific advice about winter-proofing your home.

Finding the Best Homeowner’s Insurance

Buying homeowners insurance can be confusing. If you are in the market to protect your home and possessions, you may want to do some research before committing to a policy or one specific insurance company. Ask questions and find an agent you trust that works with a company that has a good reputation for keeping their clients happy.

Your home is your castle and your possessions represent not only your past, but your present as well. You have worked hard to be able to live in the fashion you have become accustomed to, so it is in your best interest to make sure things can be replaced if a tragedy or accident occurs. When buying a policy make sure you know what it will cover. Some policies may focus more on the replacement value of a house or specific possession instead of its actual cost. Knowing the difference between these two amounts will affect how much you will want to ensure the property for and how the much the premium for the policy will be. For example, a 2 story, 4 bedroom home may be valued at only $65,000, but to build the exact same home at today’s prices, the replacement value may exceed $100,000. It will be up to you what you decide to insure the property for. If you would replace your home with a smaller one that would cost less to build then insure the property for its actual value. If you want a house similar to what you have now, bit the bullet and insure for the replacement value.

Many homeowner policies cover a variety of things including roof and fire damage, theft and various forms of liability. Liability can be anything from your dog biting the mail man to you cat Skippy tripping the neighbor lady as she walked to the front door to trade the daily dose of gossip. Most insurance policies have liability clauses that cover all types of accidents that occur on your property.

A family’s possessions can also be replaced if an itemized list of valuables is included within the policy. The contents of the home that have considerable value, such jewelry and works of art, should be listed in great detail within the body of the policy.

One of the biggest areas of confusion when purchasing a homeowner’s policy is the phrase “Act of God”. Many policies claim that “acts of God” are not covered. This can include damage to due ice and wind or other natural disasters. In recent years, people have discovered that water damage caused by flooding can sometimes be a gray area when it comes to insurance. Most companies offer a “Flood Insurance” rider that is attached to the policy and covers several types of water damage.

Never buy insurance without reading the fine print. Know what you are signing up for and what a policy will cover. Making sure you have the answers to help you make an informed decision is the best way to cover your assets in this type of situation.

Renters Insurance – A Must Have for Renters

Are you currently renting an apartment? If this is the case, and you don’t have renters insurance, you are making a very big mistake. Not only is it a “must-have” in terms of insurance, it is quite inexpensive.

The Basics of Renters Insurance

Simplicity is one strength of renters insurance. As opposed to the complications of insuring a house – as well as the cost – insuring your apartment property is rather straightforward. Here are some common areas of coverage with renters insurance:

  • Personal property
  • Personal liability coverage
  • Relocation assistance (if you are forced to live somewhere else, permanently/temporarily)
  • Others, such as off-premise coverage and identify theft coverage, even

Note that you can choose to add on increased coverage, to give you even more protection. Even with some of the following, as we will find out, the price is still quite reasonable:

  • Replacement Cost Coverage: Your three-year old big-screen TV isn’t worth $900 anymore, but you do want a new big-screen TV.
  • Scheduled Personal Property: If the st andard limits for jewelry, fine arts  and furniture isn’t enough, for instance, you can add to it here.
  • Business Coverage: If you can run a business from your apartment, you’re probably not covered unless you add protection.

Benefits of Renters Insurance

Are you protected from theft, fire, or your neighbor’s leaky faucet? If you don’t have renter’s insurance, you could be in for an unfortunate surprise.

The necessity of renters insurance is thus seen in these instances. And note that while your l andlord should have insurance, it will certainly not protect you in many instances. In other words, living without renters insurance is rather dangerous.

It is all-the-more imperative due to its cost. When you compare it to home and auto insurance, for instance, renters insurance is a mere speck in the insurance world. The facts certainly prove this.

According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the average premium runs as little as $15 – $30 a month. It is not common for a policy to run slightly less or more than $200. Even additions such as increased jewelry protection and identify theft coverage would l and a policy in the $300 – $400 range for a year (source).

Imagine the scenarios that could occur. Certainly, if you are a renter, renters insurance becomes an important policy to purchase. It could be the only thing that st ands between you and financial security for your items and your “home.”

Karl Susman, Susman Insurance Agency

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