Remember insurance as college students head back

Back-to-school time is a good time to review your insurance if you have a student headed back to college. Remember to talk to your Ayres Group insurance agent for advice to make sure your student’s car, electronics and other belongings are covered. Some coverage may extend from your own personal insurance policies, but individual circumstances can vary. Your agent will know how to help.

As the summer winds down, millions of college students will be heading back to dorms or apartments all across the country. If your child is among them, you probably have made sure that your student has the necessary bedding, shelving, futons and electronics for a successful year.

But have you considered whether these items will be covered if lost or stolen?

Remember to check with your insurance agent before your child returns to school to see whether your personal homeowner policy extends your homeowner contents coverage to your child’s possessions in a dorm room or apartment. Your agent can also advise you whether or not your homeowner liability coverage may also extend to your child while living away at school.

Are you planning to send your child to school with a car? Your agent may need to amend the address to reflect your child’s address at school. This is known in the insurance industry as the “garaging location,” whether or not a garage is involved. Keep in mind that distance from home may be one factor in the premium cost for your policy.

And even if your college student will not keep an auto at school, it’s important to keep your agent in the loop. The child may be rated differently, possibly resulting in a savings of premium for you. When your student is no longer a year-round member of your household, he or she does not have full-time access to the vehicles on the policy.

Sending a child off to college or university can be an exciting and challenging time for parents. Ease your mind by talking with your Ayres Group insurance agent to ensure you and your child have the proper coverage while away at school.

 

Renting a home while on vacation? Check your policy

Many families enjoy the convenience of renting a beach home or mountain cabin for a vacation getaway. But the last thing you want to think about while on vacation is being liable for damage to that rental home or to worry about your personal belongings.

Most homeowner policies provide two important coverages to consider when on vacation: personal property coverage and liability coverage. Before you rent a vacation home, check to see how your policy would respond in the event of a loss. In some cases, you may need to purchase additional coverage.

PERSONAL PROPERTY COVERAGE

A homeowner, tenant or condominium policy protects against losses to your personal belongings, up to the limit provided by the policy. This coverage generally applies if your belongings are damaged while at your own home, in your car or while on vacation.

PERSONAL LIABILITY COVERAGE

Most homeowner policies also include coverage for liability from bodily injury, property damage and personal injury (for example, false arrest, malicious prosecution, libel, slander, invasion of privacy or wrongful eviction)

Accidents happen, and you don’t want to be caught off guard if you or a family member were to break a window or damage property belonging to the owner of the vacation home. Knowing how your policy will respond ahead of time will help you better plan for the unexpected.

Most homeowner policies exclude coverage to property rented to an insured unless it was caused by water, fire, smoke or explosion. Policies generally offer coverage up to $1,000 per occurrence for damage to property of others. This limitation applies to the personal property usually kept in the vacation home that the insured does not own, for example, the furniture, appliances, linens and dishware that are available for use while renting that home.

But even if your homeowner policy excludes these coverages, there are options to secure comprehensive coverage for property damage to the rental vacation home. Many companies that manage vacation rental homes allow the customer to purchase insurance coverage with the rental contract.

Remember to review coverage options available when deciding what home to rent for vacation, and know what you are responsible for in the event of a loss.

Also, if you have a personal umbrella policy, most personal umbrella policies will provide property damage liability coverage for a loss, without a deductible. The coverage on the personal umbrella policy is not limited to water, fire, smoke or explosion. If you have a personal umbrella policy, it may not be necessary to purchase the insurance coverage through the vacation rental company.

Before your vacation getaway, contact your local Ayres Group agent to review your coverages. Then you can relax and enjoy!

Coverages described here are in the most general terms and are subject to actual policy conditions and exclusions. For actual coverage wording, conditions and exclusions, refer to the policy or contact your independent agent.

Coutesy: Cinfin.com

1945: a key year in understanding home reconstruction costs

Owners who treasure their older houses are sometimes surprised by the high estimated cost to rebuild their homes, should they have a total loss. But a little history lesson may help explain why reconstruction costs on homes built prior to 1945 can be challenging.

What happened in 1945 to make construction costs change so much?

  • The Federal Housing Administration mandated building codes and standardized mills for the first time in 1945. Previously, all lumber was “true dimensional,” which means a 2×4 piece of lumber was actually two inches by four inches. To create a consistent product that could be used countrywide, lumber mills created specifications and began scaling down dimensions, making post-1945 lumber smaller. So, a home built with lumber milled prior to 1945 is much more expensive to replace because today’s lumber has to be retrofitted by custom milling to match.
  • Some homes built prior to 1945 were built with post and beam construction instead of bearing wall construction. Roof weight is supported differently with post and beam construction, and partial damage to the structure (especially a weight-bearing post) may result in a need for total reconstruction.
  • Prior to urbanization, homes were often built using materials found on the property. Southern regions used hand-hewn timber, industrial regions used brick masonry and mountain regions used stone masonry and logs. These regional materials and individual design resulted in very little consistency from home to home. In the event of a loss, retrofitting these unique materials can cost up to four times more than homes of more modern construction.
  • Before 1945, doors and windows were not standardized. Older homes have larger windows that maximized the sunlight. Window panes were also smaller, had true divided sections of glass and frames made of solid wood, all of which costs more to reproduce. Doors were often solid wood as well, which can be up to 10 times more expensive to create than today’s lighter, raised-wood panel or Masonite doors made of fabricated materials.
  • In homes built before 1945, handcrafted features like crown molding, door casings and baseboards were thicker, made of solid wood and often ornate.Each piece was hand cut and carved vs. today’s milled trim. Replacing part of the trim work to match the rest of the home is expensive because it involves both specialized labor and custom materials.

These are just a few of the reasons why reconstruction costs of homes built prior to 1945 can vary so drastically. While the cost to replace individual elements can be up to 10 times the cost of the modern material equivalent, the overall average cost to rebuild a home constructed prior to 1945 is about double the cost of modern homes.

But what if a homeowner does not intend to rebuild the home with original materials? With a total loss, homeowners could rebuild with the quality and materials they choose. However, for a partial loss, the homeowner may not have that option. If the integrity and stability of the home would be compromised by rebuilding with modern materials, then original materials must be used for structural integrity, and county building inspectors would mandate replacement of heavier materials to match the original structure.

Because there is no way to determine exactly what portion or percentage of a home would be damaged in the event of a loss, it’s prudent to be prepared to rebuild the entire structure with pre-1945 materials. By providing 100 percent replacement cost coverage, the homeowner is assured that the home can be replaced completely. In the event of a partial loss, insuring 100 percent to value prevents the implementation of coinsurance penalties, which can be a costly out-of-pocket expense for the homeowner.

Courtesy: Cinfin.com

The benefits of working with an independent agent

After a lot of saving and planning, my sister and her family bought their dream home. Sadly, a storm damaged their roof, and she’s had difficulty resolving her claim. Her family did not purchase their insurance through an independent agent. I encouraged her to give her carrier the opportunity to see things through, but I also suggested that once her claim is resolved, she might consider an independent agent to help her better determine the right carrier and insurance products for her family’s needs.

My sister and her husband are busy with their jobs and kids, and it never occurred to them to research insurance options. After their recent experience, they are coming to understand that how your insurance company treats you when you have a claim matters.

My sister hadn’t considered why it’s advantageous to partner with an independent insurance agent and actually didn’t know the difference between independent and captive agents (agents who represent one company). Like many people, she hadn’t thought about the various ways of buying insurance and the differences among them. It’s easy to compare the concept to buying shoes for her kids.

Quality: My sister wants the highest quality shoes that she can afford for her children. After all, those shoes are what will protect their feet and carry them on all their daily adventures. Likewise, you want the best insurance products your money can buy to protect your belongings, and an independent agent can offer them to you. Independent agents are business owners who select the most desirable carriers, apply to represent them and sell their insurance products. So when agents represent a carrier, it’s because they believe in the carrier enough to associate their own business’ name and reputation with it.

Selection: Instead of going to a store that carried only one brand of shoes, my sister would go to a store that offered a variety of quality brands with different features and styles. Similarly, an independent agent offers a selection of products to meet clients’ needs, whether the clients’ focus is on claims service, specialized coverages or even cost. Independent agents ask questions, listen and make recommendations – maybe your child will soon be old enough to drive, you have a special collection to protect or you plan to buy a rental property. Whatever your situation, your agent has options to match you with the appropriate carrier and insurance products.

Knowledge: My sister would never guess at a size; she’d ask an informed employee for help measuring her children’s feet to make sure they got the appropriate fit. She would ask about wear and durability and get the facts from the sales person who knows the products better than anyone. In the same manner, independent agents know the benefits of each carrier and nuances of each product and can provide you with the details to help you make informed decisions. You can be confident that your independent agent has the expertise you are looking for.

Obviously, insurance is far more important and complex than shoes! But if my sister would put the effort into making sure she bought the best shoes for her children, doesn’t it make sense to apply a similar process to ensure the right protection for her home and autos?

It’s easy to “check the box” and buy online. Voila – you have insurance! But partnering with an independent agent can help you make sure you have the right amount and type of insurance coverage from a carrier that he or she trusts to protect what matters most to you.

For more information contact The Ayres Group

4 ways to save on your homeowner insurance premiums

Looking for ways to save on your homeowner insurance premiums? Here are a few easy strategies that may lower your homeowner’s insurance premiums without reducing the amount of coverage.

  1. Increase your deductible
    A deductible is the portion of any covered loss that you pay before your policy provides payment. You can usually lower the cost of your insurance when you increase your deductible. You start saving right away and pay the deductible amount only if you have a covered loss. For many insureds, the premium savings over time more than makes up for the occasional, out-of-pocket expense of a deductible.
  2. Insure both your home and auto with the same insurance company
    If you package your home and auto coverage, you often receive additional savings on your home, condominium or tenants policies and on your auto insurance premiums. For even more savings, you can package your insurance for your boat, motorhome, jewelry, rental properties and more with your homeowner coverages.
  3. Improve your home security
    You may be eligible to save if you have the following protective devices:

    • Smoke detector
    • Fire and burglar alarm that rings at the police, fire or other monitoring stations
    • Sprinkler system alarm
    • Secured community
    • Temperature monitoring system
    • Backup generator
    • Automatic water shut-off system
  4. Age 50 or Retired?
    Retired people on average stay at home more and spot a loss situation like fire or water leak sooner than working people. They also have more time for maintaining their property. If you are at least 50 years old or retired, you may be eligible for a discount. For information more on the discounts offered in your state, a quote or policy service, please contact your local Ayres Group Agent for more information.

Coverages described here are in the most general terms and are subject to actual policy conditions and exclusions. For actual coverage wording, conditions and exclusions, refer to the policy or contact your independent agent.

Safety comes first when the pool is open

A refreshing pool on a hot day can be so inviting. Children of all ages enjoy splashing in the cool waters in private home-based pools, swim clubs, health clubs, country clubs and public pools.

With this fun comes great responsibility. To make sure everyone leaves the pool happy and healthy, pool owners and operators should take steps to prevent injury and drowning.

Television and movies often show drowning as a dramatic event with victims thrashing and calling for help or lifeguards springing into action for the save.

While these instances can occur, drownings often are silent and difficult to see. They can occur in shallow water or even after a person has left the pool.

Water clarity is an important component of proper life safety in the pool. A lifeguard, parent or counselor cannot see someone in need of help as easily if the water is cloudy and murky. Having lots of people in the pool also can affect water clarity, emphasizing the need for proper chemical balance and additional lifesaving staff. Lifeguards must stay alert, taking breaks in rotation while following protocols at all times.

Some signs to look for to identify a potential drowning victim in the water may include:

Head low in water with mouth at water level
Head tilted back with mouth open
Glassy or empty eyes
Failure to kick or move legs while in a vertical position in the water
Trying to swim with no headway
Remember, too, that drowning doesn’t always happen in the deep end. Shallow water blackout results when an individual holds his or her breath for too long. Younger swimmers can drown in much shallower water. A person can drown in as little as 2-3 inches of water in less than 30 seconds.

Dry or delayed drowning is another scary and potentially fatal phenomenon that can occur long after an incident in the pool. Symptoms can include:

Coughing
Chest pain
Trouble breathing
Feeling extremely tired/change in energy level or increase in irritability
A more detailed description is available at healthychildren.org.

With proper supervision and awareness, pool owners and operators can prevent a tragedy from occurring and help everyone to enjoy their time at the pool!

Courtesy: Cinfin.com

For graduates and their families: Celebrate safely

Most teens see graduation as the end of adolescence and the beginning of their next phase of life: a rite of passage into adulthood. It is a time for celebration, but both parents and graduates should consider ways to keep the celebration safe.

STUDENTS

  • Share your graduation and post-graduation party plans with your parents.
  • Make sure your cell phone is fully charged.
  • Wear a seat belt – even in the back seat.
  • Stay with a group of friends and watch out for one another.
  • Don’t drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Don’t get in a vehicle with a driver that is under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Report any illegal drug or alcohol use as well as unsafe behaviors such as threats, assaults and weapons.

PARENTS

  • Discuss your child’s plans for graduation and post-graduation celebrations.
  • Know who your child will be with and talk to their parents to coordinate plans.
  • Make sure your phone and your child’s cell phones are fully charged.
  • Provide your child with alternate adults to call in case they feel unsafe – no questions asked.
  • Wait up for your child to make sure they return safely.
  • Talk about drugs and alcohol with your child and set expectations.
  • Report any illegal drug or alcohol use as well as unsafe behaviors such as threats, assaults and weapons.

PARTY HOSTS

Graduation parties require special planning because of the unusual mix of ages and relationships. Some families find a brunch works well, as alcohol would not be expected at this time of day. Many parents have decided to serve no alcohol at parties given for teenagers even if adults attend them. Consider these tips when hosting a graduation party:

  • An adult should be present throughout the party.
  • Alcohol or other drugs should NOT be served or available.
  • Anyone who leaves the party should not be allowed to return – this will discourage people from leaving with the intent to drink or use drugs and then return to the party.
  • Encourage small parties, limiting attendance to 10-15 teens per adult present. Go over party plans and house rules with your teen prior to the party so all expectations are understood.
  • Plan to have plenty of food and non-alcoholic drinks available.

Congratulations to graduates – and their parents – on reaching this milestone.

Courtesy: Cinfin.com

Controlling Risks for Property Owners

Losses that occur on property you own can affect your livelihood and that of your tenants. They also can affect your insurance rates and eligibility. Without the proper controls in place, you could be saddled with the responsibility of owing for injury or damages that you did not cause.

RECOGNIZE THE RISKS

When you understand the risks you face as a property owner and lessor, you can better manage them. Consider these scenarios:

Natural perils – A tornado sweeps through town, damaging your building and your tenants’ contents.

Fire – A grease fire starts in a restaurant at one end of your building. Before it is extinguished, fire damages multiple units and tenant contents.

Third-party injury or illness – A patron slips and falls in the parking lot, spraining her ankle.

Change in occupancy – A restaurant replaces a retail store in one of your units. As a property owner, you want to determine if the current sprinkler system is able to handle the demands of a restaurant.

Change in tenant operations – A retail craft store expands its operations to include pottery making. With this expansion, your tenant adds kilns to heat-treat ceramic projects.

Vacancy – Your unoccupied building is vandalized, resulting in damaged property.

REVIEW THE RESPONSIBILITIES

A well-designed lease agreement can assist owners in transferring responsibility for payment due to bodily injury or property damage to the legally responsible party.  Consult with legal counsel when evaluating your current lease or other formal contract.  When consulting with your attorney, consider whether your agreement:

  • is signed by all tenants
  • contains appropriate anti-subrogation wording and indemnification–hold harmless provisions favorable to you and acceptable under your state’s laws
  • authorizes you to develop, change and enforce rules and regulations for the premises
  • defines which areas you control and which the tenant controls
  • defines the maintenance obligations of all parties while specifying the scope of the operations and the steps you will take if the tenant defaults on these obligations
  • grants you the right to inspect the leased premises for conformance with the lease provisions concerning maintenance and to point out to the tenant any obvious hazards
  • requires the tenant to obtain permission before performing any building alterations
  • contains provisions regarding use of hazardous substances, dispensing of liquor and other activities that increase the risk of loss
  • requires service contractors who come on your premises to provide certificates of insurance verifying adequate limits of insurance and appropriate state licenses, where applicable
  • requires tenants to obtain specified liability insurance on behalf of the owner, with you listed as an additional insured on a primary basis. Make sure you obtain proof that the tenant has acquired and maintains all required insurance.

Consult with legal counsel to familiarize yourself with state laws before you lease space to bars, restaurants or stores that sell liquor.

While it is your duty to live up to your obligations as a property owner, it is also wise to make your tenants take responsibility for their actions and premises upkeep.

Contact your Ayres Group agent whenever a new tenant moves into the building, a current tenant changes its operations or part of the building becomes vacant for 30 days.

Source Cincinnati Insurance

Personal Property inventory – Learn the benefits of having a personal property inventory list

If your possessions are stolen or destroyed, your insurance company will ask you to provide a record of them. Learn the benefits of having a personal property inventory list below.

Details Will Be Important At Claim Time

Do you know the brand name and serial number of your stereo? Would you recall off the top of your head when and how much you paid for your digital camera? Without a list in front of you for reference, the details of your valuables may be forgotten – which creates more frustration in an already stressful time, and can cost you money in the long run.

That’s why it’s important to have a personal property inventory created ahead of time – before an unfortunate incident.

What Is A Personal Property Inventory?

A personal property inventory is a complete list of all your household goods and personal belongings. A complete inventory includes the following information about each item on your inventory list:

  • The room in the house where it’s located
  • Item description and quantity
  • Purchase date
  • Place of purchase
  • Original cost
  • Estimated current value
  • Serial and model number
  • An accompanying videotape or still photographs of each item
  • Receipts and current appraisals for the most valuable items
  • How Does An Inventory Help You?

No one is fully prepared for a loss, but you can take steps to reduce the stress in the aftermath. A personal property inventory in place before a claim ensures that your claim is filed promptly and completely, which means that you’ll get it settled quickly and accurately, and get your life back to normal.

You can also use an inventory to determine if you have adequate coverage for your possessions. Many people find out after a loss that they were not sufficiently covered, and should have purchased higher coverage amounts or replacement cost coverage. A good rule of thumb is to add up how much it would cost to replace your belongings, and then compare it to your policy’s personal property limit. This is an indicator of whether or not you need to purchase additional coverage.

It’s also a good idea to check the claim settlement methods on your policy. If you’ve purchased replacement cost coverage, your settlement allows you to buy new items to replace the damaged or stolen ones. If you have actual cash value coverage, you receive what your items are worth at the time of the loss – taking into account depreciation.

More Helpful Tips

Be complete with your inventory. An effective way to do an inventory is to split the area of your house and take one room at a time. Start outside and take views of each side of your house, including the landscaping. Make sure to include all items in a storage shed or garage, like children’s bikes and sporting goods.

Move inside the home and cover one room at a time. You might want to start with artwork or wall hangings and then move onto the floor. Remember to include all high-valued items like antiques, collectibles, silverware and jewelry.

Electronics are a key part of any personal property inventory. TVs, stereos and personal computers should be included, as well as clothing, CDs, tapes, furniture and items inside china cabinets and storage bins.

As you videotape each item, it’s important that you verbally state when each item was purchased, its value, any special features and the model and serial number. If you choose to photograph these items instead of videotaping them, write all pertinent information on the backs of the pictures.

When The Inventory Is Complete

Once you’ve completed the inventory, copy everything including paper lists, videotapes, receipts, computer printouts, appraisals and photos. Store one set in a secure place in your home, and store the other off the premises in a safe deposit box or with a friend or relative.

Update your inventory every four to six months to ensure that the information is accurate and reflects all items in the home. Save all the receipts for newly purchased items, and make sure to update your inventory as soon as you make a major purchase and delete the items you no longer have.

For more information on personal property insurance, contact your Ayres Group Representative.

 

Your personal umbrella policy: Increased policy limits…and more

Accidents involving common, everyday activities may result in a worst-case scenario. Being held legally liable for injury to another person or damage to their property could exhaust your home or personal auto policy liability limits, and cause financial ruin to your family. A personal umbrella policy works hand in hand with your existing underlying insurance, adding a layer of liability limits to protect you in today’s litigious society.

A personal umbrella liability policy offers vital coverage benefits, and for a relatively inexpensive premium compared to the amount of coverage purchased. Talk to your local independent agent to find out how a personal umbrella allows you to obtain:

  • protection for claims for losses not covered by an underlying policy
  • worldwide coverage
  • rental car, special events and liquor liability coverage
  • coverage for libel, slander, defamation or invasion of privacy
  • coverage for loss of earnings while settling a claim

Review your insurance plan regularly, and seek your agent’s coverage recommendation.

An umbrella liability policy may be especially appropriate when you have certain exposures:

  • Is there a potential hazard in your backyard? Swimming pools, trampolines and other meant-to-be-fun gear can cause serious injuries.
  • Do you own a pet? When left unattended or without adequate safety controls, some pets become scared and aggressive. You could be held liable if your pet bites a neighbor or passer-by.
  • Are there any young drivers in the family? Inexperienced drivers are at higher risk of being involved in auto accidents.
  • Do you own a boat? Lawsuits can result from all sorts of water-related accidents, such as skiers being towed from your boat or from another boat. Improper and unsafe personal watercraft use accounts for most watercraft liability accidents.
  • Do you have adequate auto insurance liability limits? Most standard auto policies insure you, your resident family members and those who use your car with permission. The possibility of a serious loss – and the need for umbrella coverage – is there.

These are just a few situations where you could be held responsible for claims for loss that exceed the liability limits provided by your personal auto or homeowner policy. A personal umbrella liability policy protects your financial assets and can make the difference in your ability to meet your responsibility to reimburse others for their injury or damage.

Your Ayres Group Agent can help you review coverage options to meet your needs. Contact them today!

Source: Cincinnati Insurance