Category Archives: Homeowners Insurance

How To Save Money On Your Homeowners Premiums

home-insuranceI went to the supermarket last week and I couldn’t believe the prices. How do families put food on their tables and still have money left for clothing, shelter and FUN? This actually led me to think about the customers we insure and how they could benefit from knowing how to reduce costs on their homeowners insurance premiums.
That’s where our staff really excels. By listening, REALLY listening to our clients, we come to know their budgetary concerns regarding insurance and we do everything in our power to help them reduce the cost of their homeowners policy while still providing them with good coverages. How is that possible? Read on for some tips you might be able to employ:
• Increase your deductible
• Apply credit for installing burglar and / or fire alarms, smoke detectors and dead bolt locks
• Non Smoking Household Credit
• Mature or Senior Homeowner Credit
• Account Discount for having both Home and Auto with the same company

Make no mistake, these are all legitimate ways of lowering your premium without diminishing your protection and we take advantage of these discounts every day!
If, however, you are not speaking with your agent on a consistent basis, you will never know what you can do to take advantage of money saving ways to reduce premiums.

By Karen Skoler, CPCU

How Does The New York City Sidewalk Law Affect Homeowners?

sidewalklawTo paraphrase a famous movie, “Yes, Virginia there is a sidewalk law in New York City and it is enforced!”

Property owners, lessees, tenants and occupants of New York City property are all subject to the provisions of a law passed in 2003 governing sidewalks in the City of New York. So what does the law say? Previously, the concrete located between the curb and the front of most commercial and multifamily residential buildings was considered the responsibility of the City. So, if someone fell and claimed injuries, they could make a claim against the City. This law, transfers that responsibility to you! Failure to comply with the provisions of this law can result in fines, 10 days in prison or both. Also, part of the law mandates that a property owner must keep liability insurance in force to pay for injuries due to snow covered, icy, broken or defective sidewalks. Failure to keep insurance in full force and effect might result in the City paying on your behalf, but make no mistake that they will bill you for any resulting expense as part of your taxes for the next fiscal year. However, this law governs a lot more than snow removal as is commonly thought.

Did you know that the law even includes a specific time constraint for removal of ice, snow, dirt, and debris? According to the law, you have four hours after snow stops falling, or after dirt is deposited on a sidewalk or in a gutter, for removal. The law even addresses snow and ice on a sidewalk that is so frozen that it can’t be removed without actually doing damage to the pavement. In such cases, the owner, lessee, tenant or occupant is expected to put down ashes, sand, sawdust or any other material as a temporary measure to remedy the condition until weather permits sidewalks to be thoroughly cleaned. Failure to comply with the law can result in fines of, no less than, $10 and no more than $150, imprisonment of up to ten days, or both. And, that is not all! If you chose to ignore this law, the city will step in and clean your property with the understanding that they will charge you the going rate for cleaning the city streets. The ensuing charges will be sent to the City Comptroller’s office and added to your annual taxes for the next fiscal year.

The purpose of the law is to shift the responsibility for accidents from the City to the property owner. Sidewalk defects including concrete laden with snow, ice and dirt or uneven and broken sidewalks cause countless injuries every year. While the law only applies to accidents occurring on or after September 15, 2003, to date it has been a boom for the City coffers.

Owners, who don’t maintain insurance for their premises, are in violation of the law. When there is no insurance, the City Comptroller pays the uncompensated medical expenses of an injured person and then goes after the property owner for reimbursement.

According to statistics, since the law has been in force, there has been a steady decline in the number of sidewalk related injury claims filed against the City. So it pays to know what your responsibilities are. Ignorance of your responsibilities can be very expensive. One way or another you will wind up paying should you fail to comply with this law.

– Karen Skoler, CPCU

Does My Homeowner’s Insurance Cover a Stolen Cell Phone

stolen-cell-phoneDear Sherri, My son’s cell phone was stolen while he was at the park, does my Homeowner’s policy cover this? – Very Angry Mom in Queens

Dear Very Angry Mom in Queens,
I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is yes your policy does cover this since the phone is part of your contents coverage and if you have “off premises theft” coverage on your policy, the phone is covered. Now, I wish I could just stop here, but I have to also give you the bad news. The deductible on your Homeowner’s policy will apply and most people have a deductible from $250 to $2,500. Considering the fact that most people’s phone will cost less than $600, I would not put in a claim for this type of loss. Instead, I would just buy a new cell phone and take it out of your son’s allowance for the next few years and chain or superglue the new phone to his wrist! For more detailed information on covering electronics, see our guest blog on Equifax Financial
– Sherri

How Can I Lower by Auto and Homeowners Premiums?

Q: How Can I Lower by Auto and Homeowners Premiums?

A: EASY!

Does your insurance company offer the following Discounts?
• Increasing your Deductibles
• Pay In Full Discounts
• Applying Alarm Discounts
• Being Retired
• Having a College or Masters Degree
• Good Grades if you are in school
• Defensive Driving Discounts
• Driver Education Discounts

Do you have your insurance with the same company?
GUESS WHAT?
Packaging your policies together with one company can offer you the highest savings.

Will my Homeowners Policy cover my child who will be going away to college?

Q: Will my Homeowners Policy cover my child who will be going away to college?

A: MAYBE !!!!!!
You may have SOME automatic property coverage to cover your child’s stuff in their dorm room
You may need to buy additional theft coverage
Be careful of those electronics – your policy may not cover those
Better call your agent right away to be sure you have the proper coverage

Does My Homeowner’s Policy Cover Lawn Workers?

Mowing the lawnDear Sherri, I hired my daughter’s boyfriend to mow the lawn once a week. If he gets hurt while mowing my lawn, do I have liability coverage on my Homeowner’s policy? – Long Island Worrier

Dear Long Island Worrier, As that famous Reggae song says, “Don’t worry, be happy!” because in New York, a part-time worker (Such as this, a babysitter, a person to shovel the snow, etc.) that works in your home less than 40 hours a week and is engaged in casual employment would be covered under your Homeowner’s policy. The only problem I foresee is that when your daughter breaks up with this boyfriend, your lawn is going to suffer. Either way, you should always call your insurance agent so you can be sure you do not need a separate workers compensation policy.

– Sherri

Is My Child Covered Under My Homeowner’s Policy When They Are Away At College?

Girl-playing-violin-piano-and-violin-30905103-800-600Dear Sherri, My daughter will be leaving for college soon and will be residing at the school campus dorm. When she leaves, she will be taking her violin with her, which is valued at $15,000. Since it is now scheduled on my Homeowner’s policy, do I need to do anything else or will it still be covered? Thank you, Strung Up Empty Nester

Dear Strung Up Empty Nester, Congratulations on getting your kids out of the house! Now you have a few years to party before they come back. Concerning the violin, if this item is already scheduled on your policy, the violin will be covered. The first thing you should do is contact your agent and advise them of the new location for the violin at your daughter’s dorm. You will probably be asked some questions, such as where the violin will be kept when she is not using it and if the violin will be in a secured, locked area such as a closet or locked dorm room when not in use. Other than that, forget about the violin and start thinking about the accordion. I hear Paris has some wonderful accordions.
For more information about scheduled items, liability, contents, and information if your child is taking their vehicle to school, see our Guest Equifax blog, “Kids Away At College: Is Insurance Review on your Check list?”

– Sherri

What Coverage Do I Need For An Above Ground Swimming Pool?

abovegroundpoolDear Sherri, I have decided to take the plunge and install an above ground swimming pool. Do I need to contact my insurance company? – Sincerely, The Plunger

Dear Plunger, Did you NOT watch my Ask Sherri video about Homeowner’s policies and swimming pools? I almost drowned because of that video :). Anyway, the answer is yes, you should definitely call your agent. Installing a pool can bring up many questions, such as; do you need to fence the entire yard or just the pool? Is there a diving board? If so, some companies have special guidelines and recommendations. Some companies will require that you increase your personal liability limits to $1 million due to the increased risk. Also if you already have an umbrella policy, adding a pool can also affect that policy, since you might also have to increase your umbrella limit. These are just a few of the things that will need to be worked out so that you are properly covered.
This is why it is so important to communicate with your agent whenever you have an insurance question or concern. I’m a strong proponent of contacting your agent at least at renewal time to review your coverage, discuss any changes, and confirm you are getting all the coverage you need, such as flood, in-home business, or a personal articles floater just to name a few. I know you are busy, but you don’t want to find out about a missing coverage when you have a claim, so do it at renewal time! Good Luck, and don’t swallow too much water!

– Sherri

Business Activities Are Not Covered Under Homeowner Policies

home businessIn today’s challenging economic climate, with companies cutting back on their workforce, we find that many of our clients who have been affected by this have become very creative and resourceful. To put it succinctly, they are starting their own businesses right out of their homes to supplement their income so their bills can get paid. Garages, playrooms and even bedrooms are being converted into office space in order to run these business activities. We are finding these same clients are not aware that all Homeowner, Renters, Co-op or Condo policies contain an actual exclusion for any liability arising out of business activities of any kind. Not only is Liability excluded; but, additionally there is also very limited, if any, coverage for business property in the home as well.

The term “Business Activities” is not always so clear cut. The courts are full of instances where they have had to rule on the exact meaning of the term. There are specific features to a business activity:
(1) the hope that it will produce income; and
(2) the insured’s continuous participation in the activity constituting the business.
With reference to the desire to make money, that isn’t always applicable to the definition of the business since there are a great number of businesses that don’t get off the ground and others which never make any profit despite every effort made on the part of the entrepreneur to make it a success.

Remember, failure is not the inability to succeed; rather it really is the inability to try.

Here are some examples of In-Home Business Activities:
• Consultants – Attorney’s, Accountants, Organizers, Engineers, Architects, etc
• Whole Sale & Retail Sales: Cosmetics, Tuperware, Toys, Real Estate, Cookies, Bread, Home Renovations, Childcare, etc
• Manufacturing: Hand Crafted Jewelry, Baby clothes, Accessories, Clothing, Plaques, Furniture, Editing, Publishing, etc

The sole intent of a Homeowner’s policy is to provide coverage for all actions arising out of personal activities. There are, however, In-Home Business Endorsements which may be available to add as a rider to your existing Homeowner’s policies for only SOME of the business Activities listed above.

If you are lucky enough to have your small business grow to the point where you need to start hiring employees and /or purchasing extensive computer equipment, inventory and business furniture then you need to STOP RIGHT HERE! This is the time to call your insurance agent immediately as you may need a Businessowner’s Policy !

As the number of in-home business ventures explodes along with the need for supplemental income, we strongly suggest that you check your present Homeowners, Renter, Co-op or Condo policy for any limitations.

Speaking to your insurance agent on, at the very least, an annual basis to discuss changes in your occupation, or any other changes in your life or to your home for that matter, is vital to having all property and assets insured the way you want and need them to be insured. After all, that is what your agent is for—to assist you in covering your exposures to loss whether you recognize the need or not.

– Karen Skoler, CPCU