Buying a condo? What you need to know about insurance

Buying a condo is similar to buying a house. Your mortgage company will probably require you to buy condo insurance. But how do you know how much insurance you need?

Typically, condominium associations own and insure the outside structure of a condominium building, including the grounds and other features, such as a pool or tennis court. Most often, a condo owner is responsible for everything from the drywall in (wall coverings, floor coverings, cabinetry, etc.) The insurance term used to identify the condo unit’s interior finishes is Additions and Alterations or A&A. Similar to the cost to rebuild a home used for a homeowner policy (coverage A), the A&A covers the structural finishes and features; it does not include your furnishings or personal property.

ADD UP THE COSTS

When trying to determine the amount of coverage you need to replace the Additions and Alterations (interior finishes) of your condo, you will want to take into consideration anything attached to a wall or floor. You should include the cost of all wallcoverings (including paint), floor coverings, interior doors, trim-work, bookcases, built-in cabinetry, appliances, plumbing fixtures and electrical fixtures.

However, some condominium associations cover both the exterior and structural interior finishes of the building (A&A completed by the association at the time of purchase), with the exception of your personal property and furnishings. The bylaws or agreements of your condo association stipulate what part of the structure the association is responsible to replace in a loss and what part of the unit the condo owner is responsible to replace. Ask your attorney to review the contract before you buy.

REVIEW THE MASTER CONDO POLICY

By carefully reviewing your condo association’s master insurance policy, you will know how much you are responsible to replace and can get a good idea of how much coverage you may need. Make sure your insurance policy covers everything not covered in the association’s policy, such as improvements and alterations to your unit. You also need to value your personal items to determine how much coverage you need for contents; doing a home inventory will help you track your possessions. Don’t forget to include unique or expensive items, such as artwork or jewelry. Ask your insurance agent whether you need separate personal articles coverage to protect all your valuable items.

It is also important to review your loss assessment obligations. For example, if a fire damages part of a condominium building’s common areas, each condo owner is then assessed (charged) money to cover some of the cost of the repairs. Some condo insurance policies may provide coverage to help you recover some of your assessment.

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

Lakefront Home Insurance

Have you recently reviewed your insurance policies? Have you compared your coverage to your association’s bylaws? Are you sure you are adequately insured for property or liability claims specific to your lakefront home?

The Stillson Insurance Agency has specialists that can make sure your insurance needs are being met correctly. We pride ourselves on establishing a relationship of mutual trust and service with all of our clients.

Lakefront Insurance

We represent a carefully selected group of financially sound, reputable insurance companies. We place your insurance with top-rated carriers, offering the best coverage at competitive pricing.

Please call (269) 663-6695 to set an appointment

  • Top rated carriers
  • The Best Coverage
  • Competitive Pricing

Tips for Safe Winter Driving

Winter driving brings inherent risks. But you can put the odds in your favor with proper preparation, car maintenance, and driving techniques.

Keeping up with car maintenance year-round is important, but it carries added significance in the winter when being stranded can be inconvenient due to travel plans, as well as being downright unpleasant waiting at the side of the road. As always, try to time your routine maintenance ahead of long-distance travel. Putting off service today can turn into an expensive problem down the road.

To be prepared for challenges winter driving poses, keep these tips in mind:

Maintain a full tank of gas. Keeping a half tank or more of gas limits the moisture that can condensate in the tank, and it means you are well positioned to tough out an expected traffic jam or survive being stuck in the snow.

Care for your tires. As winter driving safety is impacted by traction, it is key to make sure your tires are in top shape. Check tire pressure monthly, topping off as necessary. (Cold winter temperatures can lower tire pressure.) Inspect your tires for tread depth, an important factor in wet and snow traction. The tread should be at least 1/8 an inch, easily gauged by using a quarter and measuring from the coin’s edge to Washington’s head. Look for uneven tread wear, which typically indicates poor wheel alignment or worn suspension components. If you do invest in new tires, be sure to have your vehicle’s alignment and suspension checked before having the tires mounted to avoid premature wear.

Accelerate slowly to reduce wheel spin. If starting from a standstill on slick snow or ice, start in second gear if you have a manual transmission or gear-selectable automatic so the vehicle is less likely to spin the tires.

Reduce your speed and drive smoothly. In slippery conditions, tires lose their grip more easily, affecting all aspects of your driving: braking, turning, and accelerating. Keeping the speeds down will give you more time to react to slippage or a possible collision, and it will lessen the damage should things go wrong.

Allow longer braking distances. Plan on starting your braking sooner than you normally would in dry conditions to give yourself extra room, and use more gentle pressure on the brake pedal.

Don’t lock your wheels when braking. Locked wheels can make the vehicle slide or skid. If you have an older vehicle without an antilock braking system (ABS), you may need to gently apply the brakes repeatedly in a pulsing motion to avoid having them lock up the wheels. If your vehicle has ABS, simply depress the brake pedal firmly and hold it down. The shuddering sounds and pedal feeling is expected (don’t lift off the brake); the system is doing its job.

Perform one action at a time when accelerating, braking, and turning. Asking a vehicle to do two things at once–such as braking and turning, or accelerating and turning—can reduce your control. When taking a turn on a slippery surface, for instance, reduce speed sufficiently, and slowly apply the brakes while the vehicle is still going straight.

Avoid sudden actions when cornering. A sudden maneuver—such as hard braking, a quick turn of the steering wheel, sudden acceleration, or shifting a manual transmission—can upset a vehicle’s dynamics when it’s taking a turn. Rapidly transferring the weight from one end or corner to another can throw a car off balance. In slick conditions, this can cause it to more easily go out of control.

Beware bridges and overpasses. These can freeze before the roads.

Be ready to correct for a slide. Should the rear end of the vehicle begin to slide during a turn, gently let off on the accelerator and turn the steering wheel in the direction of the slide. This will help straighten it out. Electronic stability control will also help keep control in a slide situation. But remember, safety systems may bend the laws of physics, but they can’t overcome stupid. If you’re turning and the vehicle keeps moving straight ahead, you may be tempted to turn even more. However, it is better to slow down and turn back straight for moment until you can regain traction and then make your turn.

Don’t let four- or all-wheel-drive give you a false sense of security. 4WD and AWD systems only provide extra traction when accelerating. They provide no advantage when braking or cornering. Everyone has four-wheel brakes…

Be extra wary of other motorists. They may not be driving as cautiously as you, so leave extra space, avoid distractions, and be predictable, signaling clearly ahead of any turns or lane changes. If you feel you’re being ‘pushed’ by someone wanting to go faster, pull over and let them go.

Don’t pass snow plows. The road is likely more treacherous in front of the trucks, and the added speed needed to complete the pass can risk sliding. Instead, hang back and let the trucks do their job. Don’t follow too close, as there is a high risk of windshield-threatening pebbles being thrown up from sanding machines.

What to Do If You’re Stuck

Try to shovel a path out. With the front wheels straight, rock the car by shifting between drive and reverse and applying light throttle. Shift directions the moment the wheels start spinning. Spread sand in your tracks. Once freed, keep going until you reach firm footing.

If the car isn’t moving, don’t spin the wheels; they’ll just dig deeper into the snow. You may need to jack up the car to put a traction aid under the drive wheels, but make sure the jack is on firm ground. You can use sand, cat litter, twigs, weeds, planks, even your car’s floor mats or trunk liner. Make sure others stand clear before you apply power.

A checklist for safe snowmobiling

Whether it’s to enjoy the thrill of the ride or the beauty of nature, to go places unreachable by other means or just to spend time with family and friends, millions of people enjoy the outdoors on snowmobiles.

The International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association (ISMA), representing the four North American snowmobile makers, reports 1.3 million registered snowmobiles in the United States. Snowmobile-related activities account for $26 billion in economic activity annually, including accessories, supplies, gasoline and tourism. While some use their machines for work, about 80 percent use them for leisure activities.

Snowmobiles are generally registered and regulated by individual states, and no central system compiles reports on snowmobile accidents, injuries or fatalities. Of those tracked by several states, most are the result of collisions with trees or other fixed objects with excessive speed or alcohol impairment as the most common contributing factors.

ISMA promotes safe snowmobiling through its Safe Rider program, and cites dozens of ways to protect yourself and those around you.

SAFETY TIPS

  • Ensure your snowmobile is in proper mechanical operating condition before going on a ride. Check gas, oil, belt condition and carbides under the skis before each ride.
  • Dress for the conditions! Layering clothing, including a windproof outer layer, is the best way to stay warm on cold days. Fingers and toes typically get cold first, so be sure to wear warm gloves (mitts with liners are best) and insulated boots.
  • Wear a safety-certified helmet in the right size. You should have a clear face shield on the helmet or a pair of goggles to protect your eyes from the sun and wind.
  • Avoid riding alone, especially at night. If you do, make sure you tell others the route you will be taking so they will know where to look if you are overdue.
  • Stay on the marked route when riding trails on private property. Hidden objects, such as fences, tree stumps and stretched wire, may be concealed by snow.
  • Slow down! Speed is a contributing factor in nearly all fatal snowmobiling accidents. Drivers should proceed at a pace that allows ample reaction time for any situation.
  • Stay RIGHT when riding on trails, especially on corners or when cresting hills to avoid colliding with other snowmobiles coming from the opposite direction.
  • Carry a first-aid kit. At a minimum, it should include a flashlight, knife, duct tape, compass, map, tow rope and waterproof matches.
  • Carry a fully-charged cell phone; it can be a terrific asset if trouble arises, but keep in mind that cell phones have limited service range in remote areas.
  • Use caution when crossing roads — come to a complete stop, make sure no traffic is approaching from either direction, then cross at a right angle to traffic.
  • Don’t drink and ride! Drinking alcohol before snowmobiling or during your ride slows your reactions, impairs your judgment and is a leading contributor to snowmobiling deaths.
  • Stay next to the markers if a trail crosses waterways. Ice conditions are never guaranteed, as rapidly changing weather and moving water affect the thickness and strength of ice.

This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article. See your local Ayres Group Agent agent for insurance coverage and advice.

Courtesy: Cincinnati Insurance

Now that you have the keys — what does that mean?

All your hard work paid off and now you finally have your driver’s license. Hours in the car with Dad gripping his seat and days spent in driver’s ed were worth it because the keys are now in your hands. I remember the feelings of freedom, independence and excitement when I received my license. But with the look in my dad’s eyes as he handed the keys to me, I knew driving came with added responsibility.Here are things to keep in mind to make sure your driving experience is safe and fun.

STAY SAFE ON THE ROAD

Your choices when driving may affect yourself and others.

  • Never use alcohol or drugs when you know you will be getting behind the wheel of a car.
  • Make sure every passenger in your car is using a seatbelt. Follow any restrictions your state may have on the number of passengers allowed depending on the driver’s age.
  • Be aware of other drivers around you, and drive defensively by anticipating the actions of other drivers.
  • Concentrate on your driving and keep distractions to a minimum. Turn the radio down, don’t use your phone while driving and never text and drive.
  • Learn what to do in an event of an accident or breakdown. Know who to call and what resources you need. Program emergency numbers and contacts into your phone.
  • Keep your registration and proof of insurance information in the car.

BEING SAFE SAVES MONEY

Driving responsibly increases your safety and the safety of other motorists. Follow these guidelines to keep your insurance premiums as low as possible:

  • Obey all traffic laws. Getting a ticket may increase the amount of your insurance payments.
  • Avoid situations that may lead to accidents. Involvement in just one accident could increase your cost of insurance.
  • Consider choosing higher physical damage coverage deductibles.
  • Drive a standard vehicle. Sports cars and high-performance vehicles may be cool, but those vehicles mean higher insurance costs.

CREATE A WRITTEN AGREEMENT WITH YOUR PARENTS

All the above tips may seem like common sense, but they are important to remember and to be reminded of often. One way to have a great driving experience is to create a written agreement with your parents and establish rules. A written agreement can help keep you and your parents on the same page.

  • How many passengers are permitted in your car?
  • Can you listen to the radio?
  • Do you need to be home by a certain time?
  • You can download a sample contract from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Getting your driver’s license is exciting! But to keep the keys and be a responsible driver, develop good driving habits that will stay with you forever. Have fun and stay safe!

 

Need insurance for a new driver?, contact your local Ayres Group Agent

 

Courtesy: Cincinnati Insurance

Health care facilities: Finding the right place

There may come a time to suggest that a relative or other loved one consider moving  into housing for seniors, such as an independent retirement facility, assisted living or a nursing home. These difficult conversations can come when a family is in crisis or stressed due to the loved one’s condition. In a perfect world, we would have those conversations early, long before the crisis point. But for a variety of reasons, that often is not the case.

It’s best to do some homework to find the right place for your loved one. First, know the differences in the types of facilities available and the services they offer. While some states use different terminology, most facilities are of three types:

  • Nursing homes provide skilled nursing care 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Assisted living facilities offer assistance with some activities of daily living (ADLs), such as grooming, bathing, meal preparation and taking medications.
  • Independent retirement homes are senior living apartments, condominiums or cottages, often with an alert system to let a main desk know if there is a problem in the resident’s home.

Typically, states inspect and license nursing homes and assisted living facilities. When doing your homework, ask for a copy of the state inspection. Any reputable facility should be glad to share this.

A good resource for researching nursing homes is Medicare’s website. It has a nursing home locator and uses a star rating system to give an idea of the quality of a facility.

No one specific website helps in finding assisted living or independent retirement facilities. One place to start is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration on Aging, which offers an Eldercare Locator to connect you to services in your community. The AOA’s Administration on Community Living offers a checklist of things to look for in an assisted living facility.

Once you have identified some facilities, a tour is an absolute must. On the tour, take note of the general cleanliness of the facility. Also, meet the staff and get a sense for the general “vibe.” Is the staff helpful and engaged? Are there activities to stimulate thought and expression?

Although moving  into an elder care facility can be a difficult decision for the individual, and a stressful time for a family, taking advantage of  the many resources available to help in doing the research may aid in finding that right “fit.”

For insurance advice for seniors or for any stage of life, contact your local Ayres Group Agent

 

Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company

Ho! Ho! Ho! Santa reviews his insurance policies

Santa is a busy man this time of year, making toys and preparing his sleigh for the big day. Like many business owners, he relies on his local Ayres Group Agent. Santa has the policies he needs to cover his workshop, employees and their products. Do you?

Read Santa’s insurance list, then contact your local Ayres Group Agent to help you check yours.

 

santa-small-infographic

Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company

Maintaining a safe following distance

How close are you to that vehicle in front of you as you drive down the road? Would you have enough time to slow down if the other vehicle suddenly braked? Your answers depend on many factors.

You may have learned in drivers’ education class to allow for one car length between you and another vehicle for every ten miles of speed you are traveling. This is great advice for private passenger vehicles and light trucks, but it can be difficult to calculate.

Three second rule
An easier rule of thumb for a following distance is the three-second rule. Pick a fixed object on or near the road, such as a road sign or lane stripe. Once the lead vehicle passes the object, start counting one-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, one-thousand-three. If you reach that fixed object before you’ve said one-thousand-three, you are following too closely.

Driving commercial vehicles
Commercial vehicles like large trucks take longer to stop and should have an even farther following distance. If you’re driving a larger vehicle and your speed is less than 40 mph, the rule of seconds suggests that you allow at least one second for each 10 feet of your vehicle length. For speeds of more than 40 mph, add another second to the total time.

Likewise, the next time you pass a large truck and get in front of it, ask yourself if you’re giving the trucker enough space to stop in an emergency. You may still be able to stop suddenly, but will the trucker be able to stop before he or she strikes the back of your vehicle? If you’ve encroached in their following distance, the odds may not be in your favor.

The suggested distances apply during favorable weather and road conditions. Driving through rain, fog, heavy traffic, or on poor pavement will require even more time to stop in an emergency.

Tailgating
Tailgating can be seen as aggressive behavior by other drivers and can lead to road rage incidents. Saving a few seconds during your trip isn’t worth increasing your chances of being involved in a collision. Even a minor fender-bender will be an inconvenience to all of the parties involved, and the repairs could be expensive and time consuming. An incident involving a fatality is life-altering to many people, including loved ones. Being late to an appointment beats not making it there at all. If someone is tailgating you, focus on maintaining your proper speed so you remain in control of your vehicle.

Driving is a privilege, not a right. Driving safely is everyone’s responsibility, and maintaining an adequate following distance helps to ensure everyone’s safety.

Ride sharing may create insurance gaps

Drivers and riders who participate in ride-share alternatives to taxi services may be subject to significant insurance gaps. If you participate in ride-share services as a driver or if you use these increasingly popular services, make sure you have appropriate insurance coverage.

Ride-share programs on the surface sound like a win-win situation: if you need a ride, you can download an app to your mobile device to find and arrange transportation in a driver’s personal vehicle. A simple swipe of your credit card pays the driver. So, instead of hailing a taxi cab  ̶  which can sometimes be hard to do  ̶  you can quickly get where you need to go and the driver is paid for his or her time and distance traveled.

Ride-share drivers, passengers, other drivers on the road and even pedestrians could all be affected by the insurance protection provided by the network companies that coordinate the ride-share relationship. Some ride-share network companies advertise that they have insurance policies that can protect drivers and their passengers. But there is no standard policy, and without a policy in hand, it becomes difficult to know which specific circumstances trigger coverage or what situations might be excluded.

Additionally, the insurance coverage provided by the ride sharing company may apply only while a passenger is actually in the vehicle. The policy may not provide coverage when the vehicle is on the way to pick up a passenger or after a passenger is dropped off. To complicate matters even further, protection provided by the primary insurer of the driver’s vehicle may exclude coverage while a passenger is in the vehicle or even while the ride-sharing app is turned on or enabled, whether or not a passenger is in the vehicle. This could result in a significant coverage gap for the driver in the event of a loss.

If you or a driver in your family is interested in providing transportation services through a ride-share service, check with your insurance agent first to learn about uninsured liability you may be assuming and what, if any, coverage is provided by your personal auto policy. Personal auto policies were not designed to cover exposures such as ride-sharing, and livery is typically excluded. Ride-share drivers cannot assume that their personal auto insurance will provide protection for anyone injured or any property damaged in an accident, even if they provide transportation-for-hire only on a part-time or incidental basis.

Riders planning to use ride-share services also should consider the risks. If you are injured while using one of these services, will your medical expenses be covered? Would you be compensated for the time lost from work that your injury might cause? Ask to see proof of insurance before using a ride-share service.

The ride-share industry is changing rapidly, and states are gearing up to provide more oversight and regulation. Until they do, consider carefully the risks you take on as a rider or driver.

 

Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company
blog.cinfin.com

Coverage for your collector vehicle: Agreed value

Certain strokes of engineering border on artwork: an idea that manifests itself in the creation of something truly beautiful.

Imagine yourself behind the wheel of one of those beautiful pieces of machinery, zooming through a twisting, scenic, back country road usually reserved for a postcard. Sunlight reflects off the mirror-like finish, and the engine purrs sweetly, tuned ever so carefully down to the most minute detail.

You open your garage door and admire it, ready to climb in and escape for a while. But one large question lurks in the back of your mind: how do I make sure my investment is properly insured?

Unlike a regular passenger vehicle that you drive every day and that depreciates over time, a collector car is an investment. In more cases than not, it appreciates in value. Properly insuring the vehicle to an acceptable value is essential.

Your insurance company should be able to insure the vehicle on an agreed value basis, where you and the insurance company agree in advance that in the event of a covered total loss, the agreed value is the amount you will receive for the vehicle. Depending on the value of the vehicle, the company may require that the vehicle be professionally appraised prior to insuring it. Having an appraisal regardless of value can set your mind at ease as well as give your insurer confidence there will be no difference of opinion on the value of your treasured vehicle.

Adding a collector car to an existing auto policy also adds an element of simplicity to the insurance process. Instead of dealing with multiple policies with multiple carriers, you’ll have one policy and one carrier. The same liability coverages should apply to your collector car as they would to your everyday vehicle. In addition, the collector vehicle could also earn an additional credit from a multi-car discount.

When choosing a company to insure your collector vehicle, make sure the company can offer you agreed value as well as an option to insure the car on the same policy as your everyday vehicles. These two aspects of insuring a collector vehicle are sometimes overlooked, but are the most important considerations. Your Ayres Group agent can advise you.

By streamlining the process, you spend more time enjoying your vehicle and less time worrying about how to insure it.

Courtesy of The Cincinnati Insurance Company
blog.cinfin.com