7 questions to ask your agent about homeowner insurance

When you’re shopping for homeowner insurance, remember that policies can vary widely. Some coverages may be included, and others may be available for additional premium.


Here are some questions you might want to ask your independent insurance agent:

    1. Is my home covered for full replacement cost? This is one of the key distinctions between homeowner policies, and you’ll want to know the answer. If your home is covered only for its current market value – or worse, your loan amount – you are likely underinsured and would not be able to rebuild the home to its current state in the event of a loss. Make sure the insured value takes into consideration all of your home’s features. The cost to rebuild is likely to be significantly more than the current market value or your loan amount.
    2. How much is the deductible on my policy? The deductible is the amount of a loss that you pay. If you can afford a high deductible with savings or other resources, you can usually reduce your premiums. Your agent can help you find the right balance.
    3. Does my policy include earthquake coverage? Not all policies do. If yours doesn’t, you may be able to obtain earthquake coverage for additional premium. Your agent can advise you on the need for earthquake coverage in your area. Don’t assume that you don’t need it.
    4. How much coverage do I have on the contents of my home? Contents coverage is usually a percentage of the insured value of the home. Some policies automatically provide contents coverage of 50 percent of the value of the structure, others provide 70 or 75 percent. And, you may be able to increase the amount of coverage for additional premium.
    5. Does my policy insure against water damage from sewer backups, sump overflows or water pressure from below the ground surface? Most standard policies do not provide coverage for these losses, but you may be able to obtain coverage for additional premium.
    6. Does my policy provide any coverage for disappearance of jewelry or silverware? While a policy may provide a specified limit of coverage for theft of these items, “mysterious disappearance” of these items may not be covered. Ask your agent to clarify this, and inquire if coverage is available at additional premium.
    7. Does my policy provide any liability coverage for slander, libel, defamation of character, invasion of privacy or identity theft? Some homeowner policies automatically cover these items while others require an extra premium. Know before you buy.

Ask your Ayres Group agent to help you evaluate your needs and your situation so that you have no surprises should you have a claim.

Construction zones: Expect the unexpected

Work Zone Ahead signs can frustrate drivers on the road when slow traffic affects our daily routine. But we can lose a lot more than just a few minutes if we don’t follow traffic laws for construction areas.

Construction zones can be dangerous for both drivers and workers. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, in the past five years there were 4,400 deaths and 200,000 injuries in road construction zones. Of the 4,400 deaths, 85 percent were drivers or passengers and 15 percent were construction workers.

When driving through construction zones, follow these tips to help reduce your potential for accidents and other problems:

  • Slow down. Most sites are only a short distance overall and it takes only an extra 25 seconds to cover one mile traveling at 45 mph as compared with 65 mph. Virtually all states increase penalties for speeding through highway construction zones, and many mandate jail time for injuries caused by a driver speeding in a construction zone.
  • Maintain adequate following distance. Allow adequate space for controlled speed changes and stops. Riding the tailgate of the vehicle in front of you will not get you through any sooner.
  • Expect the unexpected! Dedicate your full attention to the road. Avoid distractions – such as changing the radio station – and never use your phone while driving, especially in construction areas. Be wary of the vehicles around you that might suddenly drift, stop or change lanes. Many drivers around you will be looking at the construction activity instead of paying attention to the road.
  • Keep your headlights on. Even during daytime, keep your headlights on to enhance your visibility to workers and oncoming traffic.
  • Change lanes sooner rather than later. Vehicles merging at the last minute is a leading cause of accidents in construction zones.
  • Pay attention to the signs. The signs are there to help alert you to what is to coming. Be sure to observe these signs until after you have left the construction zone.
  • Obey the flaggers. They are there to help ensure that traffic flows safely through the site. Drivers can be cited for not properly following flaggers’ instructions.

Don’t become a statistic. Be focused and careful when traveling through construction zones because you’re not only putting your life in harm’s way, but the lives of others.


National Workzone Safety Information Clearinghouse

Federal Highway Administration Work Zone Mobility and Safety Program

In Case of a Flood-Protecting You and Your Family


Watches / warnings:

  • Flood watches are issued when rain is heavy enough to cause rivers to overflow.
  • Flood warnings describe the severity of the situation and indicate when and where the flood will begin.
  • Flash flood watches are issued when heavy rain is occurring or is expected to occur.
  • Flash flood warnings are issued when flooding is occurring suddenly. In the event of flash flooding, move immediately to high ground.
  • Educate your family and yourself about your community’s flood warnings.


  • Plan an evacuation route.
  • Develop a plan for you and your family to communicate if you are separated when a flood comes.

Protecting Your Property

  • If you are moving into a new home, apartment or business location, make sure you have adequate insurance coverage. Your bank, local officials or insurance representative can inform you if your location is at risk of flooding.
  • Flood insurance is excluded under homeowners and renters policies, but it is covered under the comprehensive section of standard automobile insurance policies and some coverage is available for floods under special commercial insurance policies.
  • Flood insurance for homeowners, renters and businesses is administered through the federal government and can be purchased from an insurance agent or company under contract with the Federal Insurance Administration (FIA), part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency(FEMA). Flood insurance is only available where the local government has adopted adequate flood plain management regulations under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Most communities participate in the program.
  • Flood insurance covers direct physical losses from floods and losses resulting from flood-related erosion caused by waves or currents of water exceeding anticipated cyclical levels and accompanied by a severe storm, flash flood, abnormal tide surge or a similar situation which results in flooding. Flood insurance also may cover mudslides.
  • Coverage for the structure and contents of the home are sold separately. Buildings are covered for replacement cost but content coverage is available on an actual cash value basis only.
  • Maintain a supply of emergency materials: plywood, plastic sheeting, nails, hammer, shovels, sandbags, flashlight, batteries, battery-operated radio, first aid kit, medication, sturdy shoes, emergency food and water, cash and credit cards.
  • Install a system to prevent flood water from backing up in sewer drains.
  • Locate switches to turn off gas, electricity and water.
  • Make an inventory of your possessions and store it off the premises. If your stuff is damaged, this list will help facilitate the claim filing process.

©Insurance Information Institute, Inc.

Contact your Ayres Group representative for information on flood insurance.

A refresher on water sport and boating safety

Water sport and boating safety

As we enter the start of summer, people will spend more time on the water skiing, boating and riding personal watercraft.

But with more people on the water comes more potential for injuries. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, nearly 80 percent of all recreational boating injuries occur from May to September.

The personal and economic costs of boating injuries are high  ̶  in 2013, the Coast Guard counted more than 4,000 accidents involving 560 deaths, 2,620 injuries and nearly $40 million in property damage.

According to the Boats U.S. trade association, 36 percent of boating fatalities involved an accident where someone went overboard, and 18 percent resulted from a collision  ̶  usually with a pier or another boat.

What are the five primary contributing factors in recreational boating accidents? Operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed and defective machinery.

Here are some boating safety tips to prevent you from being injured while on the water this summer:

  • Wear a life jacket – In 2013, the Coast Guard reported 77 percent of boating deaths were caused by drowning, and a shocking 84 percent of those victims were not wearing life jackets. Be sure to wear Coast Guard-approved life jackets. Blow-up mattresses, water wings, foam “noodles” or inner tubes are not a substitute for life jackets.
  •  Avoid alcohol – Whether boating, waterskiing or riding personal watercraft, alcohol greatly increases the risks of an accident, regardless of whether the operator or passengers are drinking. Alcohol influences balance, coordination and judgment, and its effects are magnified by the summer sun and heat.According to the Coast Guard, where the primary accident cause is known, alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in nearly 16 percent of all fatal boating accidents. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates alcohol use may be involved in nearly 70 percent of deaths associated with water recreation.
  • Use the buddy system if swimming – Make sure someone knows where you are at all times and know the water terrain. Scan swimming areas for drop-offs, and be aware of hidden obstacles in the water.
  • Watch for rip tides – Rip tides can occur along any coastline. Signs of a rip tide include discolored or foamy water that moves in a narrow channel away from the shore. If you find yourself caught in a rip tide, remember to swim parallel to shore until you’re outside the current, when you can swim back in
  • Be Aware of Dehydration – Perhaps the most unrecognized danger to water skiers and personal watercraft riders is dehydration. This is especially common when riding on salt water. Water skiing and riding personal watercraft can be a vigorous physical activity, and it is possible to lose a great deal of water without realizing it. When a person becomes dehydrated, reaction time and awareness are impaired.
  • Don’t Let Cool Summer Winds Fool You – While Frank Sinatra sang glowingly about the “Summer Wind,” there is a hidden danger. Cooling winds on the water can convince water skiers, personal watercraft riders or boaters that they are not receiving much direct sunlight. This is false, and many people sustain skin damage from sunburns.

Follow precautions so you can avoid the emergency room and spend more time outside enjoying the water this summer.


U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “Water-Related Injuries” (2014)

U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Office of the United States Coast Guard 2013

– See more at: http://blog.cinfin.com/2015/05/14/water-sport-boating-safety/#sthash.qRXGv7Z9.dpuf

The insurance side of house flipping

It’s a classic TV reality show scenario: A young, ambitious couple purchases a foreclosed property and flips it for a huge profit. This quick cash flow seems too good to be true…and usually i

The thrill of flipping a home often overshadows the harsh reality that profitable house-flipping opportunities are few and far between. I can honestly speak from experience. My wife and I were one of these young, ambitious couples that decided to dabble in the exciting world of house flipping. Although the experience was rewarding and challenging at the same time, we learned some valuable lessons. Potential house flippers should consider some insurance coverage issues before making a commitment:
  • Contemplate the cost of insurance when purchasing a home. If the house does not sell within a few months, insurance is a continuing expense that needs to be included in your budget.
  • Make sure you do your research when selecting an insurance company and policy. Your local independent agent can help you. Some insurance policies provide additional coverages you may need. Consider choosing one that provides limited coverage for water damage and fungi, wet or dry rot or bacteria. These issues often go unnoticed until after a remodeling project begins.
  • Discuss with your agent insurance to value – the need to insure the home for its reconstruction cost. Just because you purchased a home for a certain price does not mean that the home can be replaced for that amount. There can be a huge discrepancy between market and replacement cost values. Your agent can also recommend builders’ risk coverage for the remodeling cost of the project.
  • Consider the cost of building materials going into the refurbished home. Your insurance agent can add an installation floater – coverage for movable property – to your policy to insure construction materials in transit and at the jobsite.
  • Allow plenty of time to purchase insurance rather than waiting until the last minute. Contact your agent and consider an insurance company that will provide coverage for a house undergoing renovation. Some companies may consider this a vacant home and deny or limit coverage for vandalism, theft or other perils.
  • Before you allow contractors to start work on your investment, first confirm that they are insured. The safest bet is to request a copy of each contractor’s general liability policy declarations page. Make sure that the policy has at least a $1 million per occurrence and general aggregate limit.
– Cincinnati Insurance Companies

The top 5 reasons to promptly report a claim

Your insurance policy is merely a promise until you have a claim, but many people hesitate to report a claim to their insurer. Here are five reasons why you should promptly report a claim if you have an incident.

      Coverage is contingent on prompt reporting. Your policy defines specified conditions and requirements for coverage, and one of them is usually your duty to report a loss just as soon as practical after the loss occurs.
      Early investigation is vital in determining liability and damages. Obtaining key evidence, scope of damages and interviewing all parties while information is clear assures your claim is accurately assessed and given every consideration.
      Prompt reporting is vital when subrogation is needed to pursue a claim against the responsible party. Subrogation enables an insurance company, after paying a loss to its insured, to recover the amount of the loss from another who is legally liable for it. Prompt claim reporting makes it easier to determine facts, obtain expert reports and collect evidence early on, leading to a higher likelihood that the not-at-fault policyholder can recover the deductible. It also helps keep claim costs – and therefore insurance costs – low.
      By reporting your claim early, immediate remediation can prevent further damage. This ultimately lowers claim costs and helps keep premiums low.
      The insurance company has an opportunity on claims involving injury or damage to people other than the policyholder (third parties) to negotiate an early economical settlement. Late reporting could allow key evidence to be lost or destroyed, leading to a not-so-positive outcome for all parties involved. (The Ohio Insurance Institute’s glossary defines third-party coverage and first-party coverage.)

Let the insurance professionals do the work for you. You are paying a premium and deserve to have a complete policy review, inspection and investigation to determine if you have coverage.

When in doubt, ask your agent or insurance company for advice on whether to submit a claim. Always report it promptly (even as a “record only”) so you adhere to your policy conditions and duties.

Homeowners Coverage Changes

Homeowners claims have been an issue with most of our carriers due to the increase in the severity and frequency of storms over the past several years.
Some companies have implemented several measures to offset the high cost of claims from these storms. One of these measures is to amend coverage the
companies offer. Some of these changes are important to be aware of:
Roof claims are being settled on ACV vs RC basis: If your roof is 15 years old or older and a loss occurs, you will be paid based on actual cash value vs the cost to replace your roof. The insurance company will take into consideration the age and condition of the roof and depreciate the cost to actually replace it.
Reduction in Water Back-Up Coverage: Most of our companies automatically provide some coverage for losses that are caused by or result from water that  backs up through sewers or drains. The limit that they offer may have been reduced on your renewal policy. There are limitations to most coverages on your Homeowners Policy and needs sometimes change. It is important that you review your Homeowners policy to make sure you have adequate coverage. Some companies are offering new roof discounts or the actual cash value endorsement on the roofs can be removed if you have
recently put on a new roof. The water back up coverage limit can be increased and most insured’s with a finished basement should be aware
of this limit and more than likely will require additional coverage. Please note that these types of changes can only be made upon the renewal of your policy. Please contact our office if you have any questions regarding your policy or would like to make changes in your current coverage.

Helping avoid large audits

General Liability and Workers Compensation premiums for business owners are based on the actual sales and payroll for a policy period. Sometimesour clients have a better year than anticipated or have an increase in hiring staff. Here are a few tips to avoid any large audit premiums:

  • Notify our agency if there are noticeable increases in sales or payroll. We can adjust the policy at any time to reflect these increases avoiding a large
    audit bill.
  • Obtain certificates or state-approved exemption forms from all your subcontractors. These will be required at the time of the audit.
    Any subcontractors that you do not maintain these forms on will be considered as employees, therefore, will increase the amount of payroll you will be charged for.
  • Sales & Clerical payroll cannot be split between different class codes. For example, if you have an employee
    that works in the office and also helps in stocking shelves, our company will take the higher of the two class
    codes, which in this case is a store class and charge the entire payroll under that class.

Snow can be hazardous to your health

Snow can be a beautiful thing…until you have to shovel it.

Every year, hospitals treat patients with back injuries, muscle strains and even heart attacks caused by shoveling snow. While the risk is probably low for most healthy people, those who are older, out of shape or who have pre-existing medical conditions such as heart problems or asthma may need to be cautious and should consult their doctors before exerting themselves.

Here are some things to keep in mind as you arm yourself to battle winter.


Protect your heart and your back

  • Follow any restrictions your doctor recommends. The combination of physical exertion and severe cold temperatures can increase the workload on your heart.
  • Warm up your muscles before you shovel, just as an athlete would warm up before physical exertion.
  • Move more, light shovel loads rather than fewer, heavy loads and, where possible, push the snow instead of lifting it.
  • Keep ahead of the snow. It’s less stressful to remove 2 or 3 inches at a time rather than wait to remove a 6-inch snowfall all at once.
  • Follow guidelines to avoid cold stress and stay alert to symptoms of hypothermia: drop in body temperature, shivering, slurred speech or confusion.
  • Dress appropriately for the weather, with footwear that won’t slip. Dress in layers for ventilation and insulation, with a top layer that repels water. Don’t overdress.
  • Use a lightweight, strong shovel with a handle long enough to prevent you from bending.
  • Pace yourself; take frequent breaks.
  • Stop and drink water to prevent dehydration.