If I turn in a Homeowners Claim will my my policy increase?

pissed val.JPG Whenever I go out of town my insurance brain comes with me. Nerd Alert! I cannot seem to turn it off. No matter where I go, or what I do I see risks right in front of me. I remember when I was a volleyball coach, see here I am mid game. We probably weren’t winning at this particular moment, I do not like to lose! Anyways, I was out of state for a tournament, and while I was en route to the gym I couldn’t help but stare at all of the homes that lined the freeway I was on. I wasn’t staring at these houses because they were gorgeous; I was staring at them because they reminded me of writing long memos to my customers about making repairs to their home.

These houses were bad. I mean, pretty bad! And it wasn’t just one! Several houses in a row, for a while, were in such poor maintenance I couldn’t believe they were livable or why people wanted to live there. Hey to each their own, right?! Each house had paint peeling, roof shingles lifting and or curling, the yard was completely overgrown and also covered with junk. All of these things and then some, are risks to an insurance company. Why? Because they could cause a loss of some sort! And as a homeowner, you’ll want to do everything in your power to NOT have a loss.

As we drove along my insurance brain kept writing memos to these homeowners. “Dear So and So, Please trim the tree branches that are overhanging and or touching the roof and provide photos….etcetera, etcetera.” The Insurance Companies aren’t asking for everyone to have a pristinely manicured yard, or require that you hire someone else to do that for you, but they do expect you to properly maintain your home. As a homeowner, you have a responsibility to make sure your home is well, maintained! That doesn’t mean you have to have a Stepford Wives house and yard, but it does mean a properly maintained home. What I mean by that is you are responsible for keeping everything working smoothly in order to prevent a loss. I mean everything! Make sure you are checking the interior and exterior of your house every so often to make sure that hazards are removed, repaired or replaced.

I mention in every post that insurance is to protect you from financial hardship. It also exists to cover “covered” losses that are sudden and accidental. For instance, the classic leaky pipe scenario. If you have had a leaky pipe for a few weeks this would be categorized as an existing condition and considered maintenance of your home and may not be covered. Now if you have a pipe burst then we have a different story.

rozen-pipeA few years ago this happened to a family member of mine who has a secondary residence in the mountains. This family member had been out of town during the holidays visiting relatives and had been away from their primary residence and secondary residence. A neighbor at their secondary residence went into to check on their home and boom, walked into a house full of really cold water. Not the best thing you want to deal with during the holidays, but it does happen. This photo isn’t the exact pipe, but it does show what can happen if your pipes freeze. Now, this wasn’t a situation of not properly maintaining the pipes, in this case, the pipes had frozen but my point is losses can happen and they can be costly. You’ll want to pay your deductible amount instead of replacing and repairing the whole thing, I know I would rather pay a $500 deductible than an out of pocket $12,000 water loss.

If you do have a homeowners claim, it will most likely be subject to your deductible. There are some additional endorsements that can be added on to your policy for an additional premium that would give you a zero dollar deductible, or a specific deductible for a specific incident should you have a loss. If you don’t know what an endorsement is click here for our video about homeowners endorsements. You’ll want to assess your damages and then get an estimate of the damages to make sure that the loss is over your deductible. For instance, if you have a $500 deductible and your loss will be $450 to repair you would be responsible for paying to repair that loss. If your loss is $550 you may choose to not to turn it in because you’ll still be paying the first $500 and the company will only pay $50. Homeowners losses tend to be more significant so if it is something minor you may not want to turn it into the company.

Some companies now are beginning to surcharge for home losses. It is kind of equivalent to an auto policy if you’ve ever had a ticket or accident and your rate increased at your following renewal. Every company is different and every policy is different so when I say “kind of” I mean “kind of” like that situation because the premium change amount will differ. It all depends on the loss, the policy, the insured and the company. If a company doesn’t have a surcharge you could lose a claims free discount so either way, your rate could change after you turn in a home claim. Depending on the carrier the loss could stay chargeable on your policy or remain without a loss free discount for up to 3-5 years. This is why I mentioned earlier if the loss is minor you may not want to turn the claim in.

home-maintenance-checklistThe best way you can avoid a loss is to properly maintain your home on a somewhat regular basis. But sometimes you just cannot avoid them. It’s almost like that saying about going to the dentist, or to the doctors for a check up. I’m pretty sure it’s no wives tale that if you go to the dentist twice a year for a cleaning along with daily self-hygiene you can prevent a major issue. Or “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”, Preventative Maintenance everyone!

You’ll want to do as best you can to keep your home in working order. My husband and I are always doing something. The list never seems to end, but at the end of the day, we get to enjoy our home; which is exactly what you should do. When I think of those homes out of state in such bad shape I can only imagine the losses that could happen, and oh yeah all the memos! Maybe the homeowners don’t care, or maybe they aren’t insured who knows. I hope I just caught all of those homes on a bad day, hey homes can have a bad hair day too right? Insurance Brain – OFF!

American Diversified Insurance Services, Inc

201 Natoma St Folsom, CA 95630

P: (916)985-7500 F: (916)985-7302 T: (916)389-1820

E: info@amerdiv.com W: www.amerdiv.com 

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The Airline lost my baggage! Will my homeowners or renters policy cover my stuff?

I don’t know why but I’m on a “stuff” kick lately! Last week I wrote about how to take a home inventory of your contents for your home or renters policymom-to-do-list.jpg. I’m still in the process of taking my own home inventory so you’ll want to stay tuned about the experience I am having. It does take some time, so unless you actually dedicate one whole day to figure out what program you are using and enter it all in an app or computer program it’ll take a day or so. My problem is I’m in the middle of packing for a trip, getting a kid ready to start high school, get dinner ready for my family of giants and trying to maintain the household all at the same time. Sound familiar to anyone? I know it is extremely important to have this list so I need to step up my game and get it done. Get with it Val!

the crewThis weekend I’ll be heading out of town for a relaxing weekend with my best friends from high school! The four of us have kept in touch through the years and have gone through; out of state moves, weddings, and babies, and have seen each other at those happy occasions.  BUT, we haven’t really gotten to spend quality time together since we were home for break in college. palm springs weather.PNGWe’ve rented a house down in Palm Springs or as my husband likes to call it Palm 39, for the weekend. Which I just checked the weather by the way, and it’s going to be 109 down there!!! Why would I leave the 107 heat we had last week to go to another town that remains in triple digits??  I’m still asking myself this, but the house we rented has a pool and AC so we will be just fine. The point is to hang out with each other and continue to build on the relationships we have made through the course of our lives. I for one am pretty excited to see my friends!

Whenever us women go out of town a great deal of planning is involved. I know for me, I have to make lists for myself of what to pack, what to buy etc but also to make sure my boys are taken care of at home with food and also that my doggies have enough food so they won’t have to go to the store for any reason.The-25-Best-Travel-Memes-22 There are other things I have to plan for such as making sure my son is able to get to and from school the days that I’m gone, and then any sporting clinics, practices, tryouts etc have to be figured out too. This week also happens to be the first week of school so I’ve got to make sure he has his books, new clothes and all of the other stuff together he needs to start school. Starting high school is expensive! As you can see from the caption, men have it much easier when it comes to prepping for a trip!

After I get out of the house, the last thing that I want to deal with is lost luggage at the airport. Who wants to deal with that? Not me! I haven’t actually had this happen to me (knock on wood) but it’s happened to numerous friends and family members. What a big stink! Just the thought of getting off the plane and then not seeing your bag circle baggage claim is terrifying to me. Not just because you don’t have your stuff but because now you are stuck not knowing where it is or when you will get it back, and now you don’t have clothes or makeup, heaven forbid!girls packing problems Not that I would need makeup in Palm Springs this weekend, it would melt right off my face! But, I would feel totally helpless. I also hate flying so any other stressor on top of hating to fly would not be good. I know some of you may say, just carry on! I have never been a good packer so I have never been able to fit all of my stuff in those little suit cases to carry on the plane. I need to have clothing options people!

girls packing.jpg Hopefully the airline will recover your bag and deliver it to you in a timely manner but some times they don’t and it’s never recovered. Did you know your homeowners or renters policy may cover the cost of your lost items. Your personal property aka “your stuff” is covered anywhere in the world. So the companies may pay for your lost items. The companies do not pay for the time or man power to recover the items but they will pay for your belongings – IF you have a homeowners or renters policy and IF those policies are active and the contents lost are within your policy limits. Again, every loss is investigated and up to the insurance company, but your contents are covered anywhere in the world and the loss would be subject to your deductible. So if your homeowners deductible is $1000 and the contents that were lost total out to $500 then you would have to replace those items yourself.

If you are planning on taking some items that are higher in value you may want to make sure they are specifically listed or “scheduled” on your policy. A homeowners policy or renters policy has set limits built into your policy for jewelry as a whole which typically start at $1500 for all of the jewelry you own. If your wedding ring or a watch (for you men reading this) is $5,000 and you do not have the ring or watch listed to it’s value and your ring or watch is lost or stolen at the airport then the company will only pay out $1,500 and again it is subject to your deductible. If that $5,000 ring or watch was listed to value then many companies would replace the lost or stolen item without a deductible.

knowlege is powerPrepare yourself as much as possible, and when you do that you’ll have a lot more peace of mind when you travel. I know I do! Knowledge is Power! If you have an upcoming trip and have questions about scheduling items to value, or changing your deductible give us a call. Remember if you are scheduling a specific item there will be required documents from the company such as photos, and a current appraisal or receipt if you just purchased the item. Give yourself enough time before you leave if you are adding additional coverage.  If you have questions about a situation like this it is always a good idea to give us a call and talk about it.

The more you know, the better protected you’ll feel. You’ll have the peace of mind knowing you are protected. NEVER ASSUME! The insurance is in place to protect you from financial hardship. So if you are a constant traveler or just a weekend traveler and have worried about lost or stolen luggage give us a call and talk to us about it. You may find you’d like to lower your deductible or increase your deductible, or you may end up deciding you shouldn’t take specific items on your trip. For me, this weekend includes hanging out by the pool with my best friends so I’m just packing swim suits, sunscreen and maybe a giant flamingo floatie I got on amazon for the pool! Why not!?

American Diversified Insurance Services, Inc

A: 201 Natoma St Folsom, CA 95630

P: (916)985-7500 F: (916)985-7302 T: (916)389-1820

E: info@amerdiv.com W: www.amerdiv.com

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Do you really need to take an inventory of your stuff?

home_inventory1This summer is the first summer in our new home. That means we have a new neighborhood and new neighbors. Any time you move you never know how the neighbors will be. Luckily we have met several of our neighbors and we cannot complain at all! Not only do we have great neighbors but our little community does all kinds of cool stuff together throughout the year!

One of the events is a community wide garage sale. Apparently this garage sale has been held every June for over 20 years. Each house (and there are about 200 homes in our community) is invited to participate, and from what we were told there have been lines of cars coming in and out of our neighborhood with shoppers.

AWESOME! Now, since we had moved in a few months prior we had accumulated quite a bit of stuff and this was the perfect opportunity to get rid of it. For weeks before the sale my husband and I went through everything. We had piles of stuff for the garage sale, piles to take to Goodwill and then piles to just dump! The night before the garage sale we stayed up late organizing our things and pricing them in anticipation of the huge lines of cars and shoppers we were told would arrive.

garage sale photo The next morning we were up at the crack of dawn setting up. By 7:30 we were ready for business. About an hour later we started to get a steady flow of people, but nothing had been sold. As we sat there just looking at our things we couldn’t help but wonder what is wrong with our stuff? Customers would walk up and down our driveway with their hands behind their back just looking and walking out of our yard. We didn’t have typical junk items at our sale. Our stuff ranged from snowboards, to art and fashion an electric fireplace and more. Yes they were all gently used but in great condition. These items were things we no longer had room for, couldn’t fit into or we simply wanted to change out decorations in our bedroom, family or living room. We had expensive art work that is still in style but was too girly for my husband, the snowboard was perfectly fine but our 14 year  old “man child” had grown out of it after one season. Yes I may be biased that our stuff wasn’t junk, but it really wasn’t. It was still sell-able.

So then we started to wonder if our items were priced too high. price markdownWe took off all of the price tags and just told everyone to make us an offer on items they wanted. I had a clothes rack set up with a bunch of nice dresses and expensive jeans that I didn’t want (or couldn’t fit into) anymore. They weren’t terribly worn and when I bought them new they were worth a pretty penny. I knew I wouldn’t get full or even half price and totally low balled the figure myself but I had a lady offer my .50 for my $120 pair of jeans. I looked at her and said no, and I thought I would rather give it away to someone who needs it for free than take .50 for it. I was blown away after that, and after about three hours we had barely sold anything.

At the end of the day we had only made $46.00, and as we thought we had a horrible day our neighbor across the street only made $43.00. So we didn’t feel as terrible. Our neighbor had told us that this particular year was the worst turn out he had ever seen and no one was buying anything. For the amount of work we did I am not in a rush to participate next year. mean girlsI was annoyed that after all this work, no one wanted our stuff it wasn’t even about making money. It made me feel like my style and taste was terrible and I live in a house of junk. I felt violated almost like I was being personally attacked, and took it personally a little. It was that feeling of the “mean girls” back in high school for making fun of your outfit. I did feel better after hearing my neighbor’s story but still, so much work for nothing…OUCH!

The good news is that we did clean out our home and organize it so the Goodwill will be getting a hefty lot from our household! Keywords, “will be” the piles of unsold garage sale items still sit in our garage two months later, I guess I should work on that, but it has been way too hot to hang out in the garage and clean it! I did end up $46.00 richer than I was the day before. So it wasn’t a total loss.

Home Inventory importanceNow that my house is a little less cluttered it is a great time to take an inventory of the items we own. Why would I need to take an inventory of my personal belongings? Well because should you ever have a loss either by natural disaster, fire, theft, vandalism, poor renovations, old pipes, etc and your belongings are stolen or damaged the insurance company will want a list of those items to help repair or replace whatever was stolen or damaged. How many of us can actually say we have a home inventory list? Or what about those receipts or appraisals for higher value items? Confession – I don’t even have an inventory list yet. What I do have are appraisals for some jewelry items for my husband and I but that is about it.

If we were to have a fire and our home was damaged the insurance company will ask us what we had in our home to try and replace the items as best as possible. If I don’t have a list I can tell you at that moment after a loss my brain, or anyone else’s brain, probably won’t be working clearly to write out a detailed list for my adjuster. You also want to make those lists and total the amount of coverage you’ll need for all of the items in your home. Even if you are not a homeowner, your renters policy will still provide you personal property so you’ll want to make sure as a renter that you do have a renters policy and figure out if you have enough personal property coverage.

I am talking about going through everything people, each room from top to bottom and even in your drawers and closets. Think of it this way, if you took your house and dumped it upside down everything will fall out. This is all of your personal property. Document everything, and take photos. You can even make a video and just walk around your house with your smartphone or video camera and walk through each room and go through the closets. The more information you have the better your insurance company will be able to pay out your claim.

There are also many apps, free and paid, that you can download on your phone to help organize your inventory. If you don’t have a smartphone you can create an excel spreadsheet or just write out on a piethe cloudce of paper each room and list out each item, the approximate purchase date and the value. When you have completed your inventory you’ll want to store it in a safe place, and possibly save it on your computer, or store it in a safety deposit box at the bank. If you have an emergency kit place a copy of your home inventory inside the emergency kit so if there is an emergency the inventory will be there. Or put in in the cloud, whatever that is.

You will also want to call your agent and check your coverage options. Some companies will only pay the Actual Cash Value for those items otherwise known as ACV, but many companies will provide Replacement Cost of your personal property and may charge a small additional premium for it. But that additional premium is well worth it if you have a loss down the road.

Example: you have a couch that is 10 years old or even 5 years old and your home has a total loss from a fire like this one. total loss house Your policy is ACV so you will get what your 10 year old or 5 year old couch is worth with depreciation which probably wouldn’t be anything. This would be equivalent to garage sale or Craig’s List prices. Versus if you have replacement cost the company would look at what it would cost to purchase a new couch just like it.

Make sure that with your higher value items you save your receipts and if applicable get updated appraisals every couple of years. If you have some items that are of higher value you will want to ask your agent about specifically listing them on your home or renters policy. This is most common with jewelry and artwork and called “Scheduling” in the insurance world. We have had many customers schedule artwork, rugs, oriental carpets, signed sports memorabilia etc. This is also something you want to do if you have a collection. Our agency does work with a company that insures only collections. That is all they do so they know everything there is to know about insuring collections. Your collections may not be covered or only partially covered under your homeowners policies so you will want to check the conditions of your policy to find out.

Take a look at your garage too! If you are into cycling, bikes can get pricey so make sure you ask your agent to see if you can schedule your bike or any other expensive piece of sporting or exercise equipment. The bottom line is you want to make sure you are covered in case something were to happen. Remember, insurance exists to protect you against financial hardship. So, take an inventory and put it in a safe place so if heaven forbid, something happened you are prepared. Stay tuned for my next post about how I will complete my home inventory and find out which smartphone app I used! It’ll most likely be a free one, cause I hate spending money on apps!

American Diversified Insurance Services, Inc.

A: 201 Natoma St Folsom, CA 95630

P: (916)985-7500 F: (916)985-7302 T: (916)389-1820

E: info@amerdiv.com W: www.amerdiv.com

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