Home Safety Tips for Summer Time

Summer puts us outside a lot for around the house activities. Yard work, hosting barbecues , going to the pool, or watching the kids play are just some of the things that cause us to step out of the front door or garage during the summer. Summertime is fun, just make sure to think about the doors, windows, and garage door safety. Even just the garage is a huge target. It can be easy for a criminal to sneak into an open garage to steal tools and other valuables. It also creates an opportunity to get into the home, grab some items quickly and then run out again without being noticed.

Criminals can tag team as well. One can distract a homeowner at the door while the other get can get  into the garage or back yard to quickly get whatever they can grab.

Just think of areas to secure when you go out this summer to keep your house safe while you are out enjoying the weather and summer activities. Teach your family to be smart about the house and property to ensure a fun and safe summer for all.

Vacation Rental Properties and Insurance Coverage

Are you renting a home while on vacation this summer? There are some things you may want to check coverage on before you go. Getting a beach home or mountain cabin can be a very convenient way to accommodate the family for vacation.  Thinking about liability can be the last thing on your mind as you gear for relaxation. Before you fully go into that mode think quickly about liability for any damages to the property and also about your personal property with you on the trip.

Most homeowners policies have provisions within in them that apply for this event, personal property coverage and liability. Before you go check your policy  to see how it would respond in some cases you may need to purchase additional coverages.

Personal property coverage extends to losses of personal belongings while in the scope of travel. This is provided up the the limit on the policy, normally this limit is not high unless you have specifically raised this limit to account for valuables in the home. You can check with you agent to make sure this limit accurately represents both what you have at home and personal belongings you travel with.

Liability coverage  covers events that result in property damage, bodily or personal injury. This included events that could occur at the rental resulting in property damage. Accidents happen, it is best to know ahead of time how your policy will respond. Be aware, that most homeowner’s properties exclude property rented to an insured. Some policies offer a $1,000 per occurrence for damage to property of others(furniture,appliances etc..) If your policy excludes these coverages, there are other options. Check with your agent for some of these  options. Also check with the vacation rental property management company to see if this insurance coverage can be purchased through them.

It is important to note that if you have a personal umbrella policy, most policies will provide property damage coverage to rental properties. If you have an Umbrella policy it may not be necessary to purchase additional coverage. Before you leave for your getaway, contact your agent to discuss you coverages and options for additional coverages for this trip.

Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/dalelafollette/

Ways to the Make Most Dangerous Room in a Home Safe

 

 

Some of you may have thought that the kitchen would be the most dangerous room with the sharp objects and fire hazards but think again….As you can see it is the bathroom. According to the CDC there are daily injuries and hospital visits that result from bathroom injuries. Some can be quite serious such as drownings, electrocutions and falls. While everyone needs to be careful during their bath routines, bathrooms can be especially hazardous for kids and the elderly.  Statistics show that kids injure themselves most around the bathtub while seniors report the most injuries while getting on or off the toilet. The CDC reports that most injuries do occur while bathing or showering due to a slip, trip and fall injuries.

Here are some things you can do to decrease the likelihood of bathroom injuries:

  • Be sure to use a nightlight both on the path into and inside of the bathroom at night.
  • Be sure to keep the tub clean so there is no slippery soap residue
  • Place grab bars and rails around the shower, bath and toilet in homes of the disabled or elderly. Also make sure these are installed properly to provide balance and support
  • Use mats that are  non-slip and secure any lose throw rugs with rubber backing
  • Anchor towel racks to the wall, they are not meant to, but often do support full body weight
  • Keep the floor dry
  • If your toilet is low, consider getting an extender or higher toilet to make it easier to get up and down
  • Adjustable shower heads can be a good idea to get it the right height to minimize movements in shower
  • Bath and shower seats are a good idea so you’ll have a place to sit down(or for ladies to shave)
  • For the elderly, install baths with a lower side or a walk- in tub
  • Also be careful of shower doors which are not meant to hold body weight and can cause injury if they come off of their tracks
  • Don’t rush, take your time. If you are in a hurry you are more likely to fall

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gramody/3000577724/

Does your Policy Cover Hail Damage?

Hail Damage and Autos:

Comprehensive coverage is required and must be purchased before the event.  This coverage is subject to a deductible, unless a zero deductible endorsement is added to the policy for additional premium. Storm damage is considered a covered event of comprehensive as most of the time these events come unexpectedly. In most cases the cost of repairs for hail damage does exceed the deductible which will be due at the time that you get your vehicle repairs.

It is possible that your vehicle can be totaled if the hail damage is extensive enough depending on the value of the vehicle.

Hail Damage and Homes:

Hail hits without warning and is often unavoidable. This is also covered under your homeowners insurance and is subject to a deductible. Hail can damage window ledges, roofs, siding as well as other property damage. It is important to note that all hail does not cause damage. Normally hail needs to be at least 3/4 inch or dime sized. You will need to let the insurance company know as soon as possible after an event, as well as have it inspected by a professional to see if the damage is hail storm related. From there the insurance company will determine if there is damage and applicable coverage to extend.

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Burglary Prevention and When to Leave the Lights On or Off

It seems to make sense to leave the lights on while you are out of town to deter crime. Is this really effective or just using electricity? If you are using your lights as part of home security plan there are some things to think about. Here are some instances for when to leave the lights on or off. You can also contact law enforcement if you would like to get tips in your specific area.

When to Light the house up- Both out and indoor

Outside Lights- Keeping those on when you are away seems like a good idea. But if they are on in daylight it may clue people off that nobody is home. Otherwise, people do not leave outside lights on when it is light out.

When you’re home- When you are home and awake lights not only let people know that you are home but it also allows you to see anyone lurking outside. Having a variety of interior lights on is helpful during the day when most home robberies occur.

On Vacation- Some of the same principles apply if a burglar notices the same lights on for several dates that is a clear sign that you are home.

If possible combine indoor and outdoor lights- If you have outdoors lighting in your backyard or by the front porch and garage , use those with interior lights near the front doors to give the appearance that someone is home.

Some other options:

Automated Lights- With an automated system and smart switches you can program your lights to randomly come on and off . Motion lights can also be installed and can sometimes startle burglars.

Make sure our shrubs and trees are trimmed around the house so no one can hide.

Also connect with your neighbors so they can be on the look out.

Avoid ID Theft/Fraud During Tax Season

Tax season is a favorite time of the year for hackers and identity thieves.  All of that personal and financial information flying around cyberspace  creates numerous opportunities for stealing personal information and identity theft. Also the fact that you have more personal information lying around can lend to theft that way as well.

Though the IRS has implemented some changes to mitigate the high number of accounts compromised during this season. This is still an issue to be aware of this time of year. Here are some tips on how to avoid id theft and fraud in tax season:

  • If you think you may be at risk because of a stolen credit card or activity on your credit, contact the IRS immediately.
  • Skip using public WiFi (libraries and fast food) to file your returns online.
  • Do not sign a blank return presented to you by your tax preparation company.
  • Do not leave W2’s or any key paperwork with personal information in the car, kitchen counter or anywhere that would be easily accessible to thieves.
  • You can also look at your Social Security earning statement each year. If the numbers are off, call the IRS.
  • Remember the IRS does not reach out by phone or email unless you initiate the contact. So beware of spam calls and emails posing for the IRS.

Photo Credit: ccPixs.com

Is Your Password Safe? Reasons to Consider a Password Manager

 

We all do it. Use the same passwords on multiple sites, pick easy to remember passwords and repeat the process on all of our passwords. It may seem daunting but having a password manager generate and stores different passwords, ones that are long and complicated is a huge deterant against online criminals. With Modern encryption these passwords would take a hacker between decades and into infinity to hack. Now that is password safety.

But this starts to raise all of the questions about what exactly is a password manager, where are the passwords stored, how to share passwords with a spouse and can it be used on a cell phone. Here is an explanation for those questions.

Password Managers

As previously stated most of us use weak passwords and then use them to access multiple accounts. While this is oh so convenient it leaves us susceptible to cyber crimes such as identity theft. Password Managers generate and store these crazy passwords. They also retrieve them which is important as they can be set to automatically fill in passwords on various sites and accounts. Using a Password Manager also means that you only need to keep up with one master password. The password you log into  the management system with.

Here are some options on different management systems and the costs associated. Try to stick with name brands that have been tested and are more user friendly like 1Password, Dashlane, KeePass or LastPass.  These can vary from free to a subscription fee. They are affordable options to consider.

Set up is pretty easy. You can either store the username and passwords for frequently and seldom used sites overtime manually or you can import through your browser those that are stored. It will be set up through your email and make sure the master password you will use. Also remember it should be fairly long with different character combinations.

You will want to replace all of the weak passwords you currently have. You will need to go through the various sites and reset the password. Which these management sites will do for you automatically by creating a new password within the program to transfer over.

Yes, they do have apps. Androids interface well with the password management programs and often can complete auto fill tasks when the app is open and you access one of the stored sites.Apps on iPhones are different in the since that auto fill may or may not work. This means that you may have to copy and paste between the app and site you are accessing.

You can also customize levels of access for a spouse. The two of you can store and share website passwords. You can also personalize the profiles to only include those needed.

Be careful, not to forget your master password. While LastPass does offer a hint. For the others it means that you can no longer access the vault. Which is not the end of the world, but it does mean that you will have to start the process over with each site individually changing passwords.

The only thing left to do is research the different options. If you want ease of use, one the paid subscription services could be for you. If you like a tech challenge that doesn’t cost anything, Keepass could be for you. Just know that this is the most secure personal form of protecting passwords and identity… it is worth a look.

So My Car is Totaled and I owe More than What it is Worth. What happens now?

So My Car is Totaled and I owe More than What it is Worth. What happens now?

In this scenario a couple of things can happen.  First, the insurance company will make payment to the lender for the calculated value of the vehicle. The next part is where it is important to know the terms agreed upon with your lender. If additional money is owed on the vehicle after the insurance payment is made, it is generally the responsibility of the vehicle owner to pay the difference to the lender.

However, there is another type of insurance that can come into play for this scenario should you have it. That is Gap insurance. This can be offered through a lender or insurance provider. This type of coverage also known as  guaranteed auto protection insurance  protects you from having to pay the difference between what is owed to the lender and the amount paid by the insurance company in the event there is total loss. This type of coverage is generally purchased around the time that the vehicle is bought.

Gap coverage can often be added to the collision portion of your insurance policy. It is generally purchased on newer vehicles where the above scenario is most likely to play out. Be sure to do your research as often the coverage offered by dealerships is overpriced. While lenders and credit unions can offer this for less than dealerships, you can do even better by adding this through your auto insurance company. It can be included when the new auto is added to the policy and it is an affordable option. After all, you just bought a new vehicle, you don’t want to over pay on the gap insurance. As your agent we will be happy to discuss this with you.

 

 

Resolve to Review your Insurance Coverage this New Year

Around this time when you are reviewing budget and goals, make sure to review your personal insurance needs. Having the right coverages is important and what you need can be different at various stages of life. It is a balance, you want to be paying a competitive rate but you also want to make sure that you have the right insurance coverages should you need them.

Homeowner’s Insurance

  • Have any additions or improvements been made to your home? If you remodeled a kitchen, bathroom or possibly finished a basement this can increase the amount insurance needed on your home to reflect this.
    • This can also apply outside as well. If you add a pool, fence or detached buildings this can also affect property values.
  • Made any big purchases? Jewelry, art, heirloom furniture etc…. those items would need to be scheduled on your policy to be covered appropriately. Limits included on the policy are often not adequate on large value items.
  • Let your agent know about any resident changes such as a pet or if there is a room mate situation.
  • On the flip side, to save a little cash, think about loss prevention. Did you add an alarm, whole-house generator, or an in home safe? Some insurance carriers offer discounts for this. Don’t forget the indirect component either. If a fire department recently put a hydrant closer to your home that can make a difference also.

Auto Insurance

  • New teen driver don’t forget to price this out. Is it cheaper on a separate policy or on the parent’s? Also, ask about carrier discounts. If your teen takes a driver course or has good grades they can qualify for a discount.
  • Think about the age of your vehicle, if it has some age and wear (generally around 10 years old, depending on level of care), you may consider dropping the comprehensive and collision from the policy and just maintain liability on that vehicle. Something you can discuss with your agent.
  • Discuss adequate limits with your agent. State minimum limits are often not large enough to cover certain losses.

Life Insurance

  •  Life events such as the birth of a child, marriages, job loss and other family status changes may mean you want to now get one or change the terms. Of course, the sooner the better on a life insurance policy for the pocketbook. But if any of the above changes occur don’t forget about this coverage, it is very important for your family. Discuss the life insurance options with your agent to see what is best for your and your family.
  • If you have a change in income you may want to adjust. You may need to replace more income if your salary goes up significantly. On the converse you may need to lower the limit to keep the policy if you experience a job loss or decrease in pay.

Remember that your insurance agent needs to know about these life changes discussed above as they effect coverage types needed.

Photo Credit: www.ccPixs.com

Things to Know about Ridesharing and Insurance: More and More Options

Uber and Lyft drivers have unique needs when it comes to car insurance. In addition to traditional personal liability and full coverage to cover property damage, drivers using their cars to make money have other things to consider.

While carpooling and transporting passengers is certainly covered on your personal policy, ridesharing uses such as picking up passengers for a fee calls for different coverage types. This is considered business use and as such in a different category then your personal policy. So the first coverage gap is exposed.

What does Uber and Lyft insurance cover? This one you will have to do a little research on depending who you are driving for. Some cover from when the app is turned on, however, many cover from when a fare is accepted to the rider being dropped off and the ticket is closed. Some contain an additional coverage gap and only cover when the fare is picked up to when they are at the destination. This creates a gap for when you drive to pick up the fare for business use in your vehicle. Furthermore, with some you must file the claim with your insurance carrier  first before theirs would respond.

The summary of all of the above discussion and potential coverage gaps is that is you are driving for a ridesharing company you need to have the correct coverage. A simple personal auto policy on the vehicle used for ridesharing is not adequate.

There are a few options to go about getting the correct coverage:

  • A commercial auto policy for the vehicle being used for ridesharing purposes. However, this option can be the more pricey option. However, this still may be the best option depending on the discussion above regarding certain gaps in coverage that could exist for the ridesharing company you are working with.
  • More and more insurance companies are offering endorsements to your personal auto policy at economic prices for the vehicle. WTM now has access to several carriers who have this option including Safeco and Foremost Insurance.
  • Be sure to discuss with your agent which of these options will be right depending on your situation.

What does and should the endorsements include?

  • The endorsement applies to auto for which this endorsement is listed.
  • The endorsement is extension of coverages on the policy and applies during such times as when the insured is available to accept requests in the vehicle and ends when the insured driver and covered auto are in a prearranged ride or fare. (Prearranged ride refers to when the driver accepts the request and ends when the rider departs from the personal auto)

Please contact your WTM agent if you have more questions about this or obtaining this coverage.