How to Save this Winter

Winter w989ad8ef451085222ce7d6bf03cb2537[1].jpgeather is not something that hits the Palmetto State often. But when ice, snow and wind do show up and you’re home is not prepared, it can have devastating consequences not just to your home, but also to your wallet.

Fortunately, The Insurance Information Institute has given some great tips on things you can do to avoid the expense and inconvenience of winter damage.

Prepping the outside of your home:

  • Clean out the gutters. Remove leaves, sticks and other debris from gutters, so melting snow and ice can flow freely. This can prevent ice damming, which is what happens when water is unable to drain through the gutters and instead seeps into the house causing water to drip from the ceiling and walls.
  • Install gutter guards. Gutter guards prevent debris from entering the gutter and interfering with the flow of water away from the house and into the ground.
  • Trim trees and remove dead branches. Ice, snow and, wind could cause weak trees or branches to break free and damage your home or car, or injure someone walking by your property.
  • Repair steps and handrails. Broken stairs and banisters can become lethal when covered with snow and ice.
  • Use caulking to seal cracks and wall openings to prevent cold air and moisture from entering your home. Caulk and install weather stripping around windows and doors to prevent warm air from leaking out and cold air from blowing in.

Prepping the inside of your home:

  • Frigid temperatures, snow and ice can wreak havoc on water pipes and tax heating systems. Ensure all your home’s internal systems are “go” for winter safety and efficiency.
  • Add extra insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. If too much heat escapes through the attic, it can cause snow or ice to melt on the roof. Water then can refreeze, leading to more ice build-up—and may even lead to ice dams that can damage your roof.
  • Well-insulated basements and crawl spaces will also help protect pipes. Consider insulating garages and other unfinished areas to keep pipes from freezing.
  • Provide a reliable back-up power source. In the event of a power outage, continuous power will keep you warm and help to prevent frozen pipes, or a frozen battery operated sump-pump. Consider purchasing a portable power generator to ensure safety—and be sure to follow all guidelines for safe operation.
  • Have your heating system serviced. Furnaces, boilers and chimneys should be serviced at least once a year to prevent fire and smoke damage.
  • Check pipes closely for the presence of cracks and leaks. Have any compromised pipe repaired immediately.
  • Protect pipes in attics and crawl spaces with insulation or plug-in heating cable. Be sure to purchase UL®-listed models of heating cables with built-in thermostats; these will turn on the heat on when it is needed. When using the cables, always follow manufacturers instructions closely.
  • Install an emergency pressure release valve in your plumbing system. This will protect the system against increased pressure caused by freezing pipes and can help prevent your pipes from bursting.
  • Move combustible items away from near any heat sources that you’ll likely be using. This includes fireplaces, wood stoves and space heaters.
  • Install or check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Not only do residential fires increase in the winter, but so does carbon monoxide poisoning—so regularly check that your detectors are in working condition.
  • Know where your pipes are located and learn how to shut the water off. If your pipes freeze, speed is critical. The quicker you shut off water or direct your plumber to the problem, the better your chance of preventing major damage.
  • Hire a licensed contractor to look for structural damage. If damage is found, have all necessary repairs performed as soon as possible.
  • Take steps to prevent flooding. Your licensed contractor can also advise you about measures to prevent flooding from melted snow and ice runoff. Plastic coatings for internal basement walls, sump pumps and other improvements can prevent water damage to your home and belongings.
  • Consider insuring yourself for a sewer backup. Flooding related to melting snow can overburden sewer systems. Raw sewage backed up into the drains in your home can cause thousands of dollars in damage to floors, walls, furniture and electrical systems. Sewer backup is not covered under standard homeowners insurance or renters insurance policies, nor is it covered by flood insurance but can be purchased as either a separate product, or an endorsement.
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Start Your Year with a Plan to be Safe

make-a-plan[1].pngThe new year is a fresh start, a symbolic one at least! The beginning of the year is always a great time to look back on the past 12 months and review how life went. It is also a great time to sit down and plan out how to have a successful and safe future.

While insurance and home safety planning may not be at the tip top of your New Year’s resolution list, you should spend some time making sure you are ready for the coming year. Taking a few moments to plan can enable you to protect your property from suffering a loss, help you be prepared for an unexpected medical expense and to make sure you have your items properly and sufficiently insured.

Be Smart, Plan.

Do you and your loved ones have a plan in place for an emergency in the case of a house fire? A flood? Have you done your home inventory yet? How about an emergency kit?

All these things should be reviewed with your family regularly so everyone is prepared. If you haven’t gotten these things together, the new year is a great time to start practicing these habits and review them with loved ones. It is also a good idea to download the SCEMD’s Emergency Manager Mobile App to help keep you informed, safe and all of your important information together.

Reading back through your insurance policies to make sure you know what is covered and what is not is also a good idea. It helps to be prepared and know what you may need help covering.  Talk to your agent to see if there is anything that should be updated, revised or newly considered. A good option is getting a Catastrophe Saving Account. This account is much like a health savings account, but covers out of pocket costs from a natural disaster using state income tax-free dollars.

For your property, mitigate issues by being prepared. Coastal properties should be built to code and retrofitted wherever possible. If your property is close to any body of water or in a low lining area you should strongly consider flood insurance, as flood damage is not included in regular homeowner’s insurance. When South Carolina was impacted by Hurricane Florence, most of the damage was due to flooding. Many homeowners are shocked to find out that flood insurance is not a part of their homeowners policy. The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) typically write flood insurance policies. Please keep in mind there is a 30-day waiting period before your coverage goes into effect – so the sooner you plan ahead the better.  If you live in a hurricane prone area, don’t wait for the announcement of a hurricane by the National Weather Service to buy supplies or come up with an evacuation plan. Have your supplies ready to board-up and seal the house against the storm and be ready to put your evacuation plan into practice.

You can learn more about storm readiness in the SCDOI’s Home Preparedness Guide for Sever Weather, located on our website.

 

You’ve bought the ring…now what?

will+you+marry+me+christmas+ornament+marriage+proposal+engagement+ring+box[1].jpgThe holiday’s are a special time of year for many. And for some, it is the perfect time to pop the “Will you marry me” question. For others it is simply a time to give a bit more lavishly. Weather it is a holiday gift, or any other special occasion you should consider insuring your new, expensive purchase. Insurance should factor when buying valuable gifts like jewelry, vehicles and major electronics. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) offers these considerations for insuring these gifts.

Know Your Coverage
Most homeowners and renter’s insurance includes limited coverage for jewelry. Most policies will protect against theft, but you may need additional coverage to protect your jewelry against damage or loss. Check with your insurance agent to better understand the scope of your policy.
If it’s not enough to cover the items you want to protect, consider purchasing a separate policy or adding an endorsement to your existing policy.
Obtain an Appraisal
An item’s dollar value has the most influence on your premium and deductible, which is why an accurate appraisal is important. Plan on providing your receipt and a recent appraisal.

Purchasing a Vehicle as a Gift

If you’re buying a new car, SUV or truck as a gift, make sure the recipient updates their insurance. If you share an auto insurance policy with the person receiving the new gift, the process can be easy. Simply add the car to your shared policy and transfer the title.
Updating Your Home Inventory
Remember to add any expensive or sizable gifts to your home inventory. If you need to start a home inventory, we encourage you to use the NAIC myHOME Scr.APP.book application (Apple Play or Google Play) or the Insure U checklist. Include as many details as you can, take photos of each item and take videos of rooms in your house. Most home insurance policies have standard limits for big-ticket items like electronics, art, jewelry or sporting equipment. You may need special coverage.

More Information
If you have questions about expensive gifts and insurance, please contact your state insurance department. For more information about your insurance needs and tips for choosing the coverage that is best for you, visit Insure U.

SCCIA Conference 2018

Director Ray Farmer addresses attendees at the SCCIA conference, Wednesday, December 12, 2018. Gov. Henry McMaster met with attendees and addressed the gathering, as well.

South Carolina has long been considered one of the top 5 mature domiciles in the Western Hemisphere. Since captive enabling legislation was passed in 2000, we have focused on developing the infrastructure, resources, and staffing to provide our captive owners with a robust and thriving captive marketplace. The result is a well-rounded domicile that can address your captive needs whether they be large or small, simple or complex.

To learn more, click.

How to Avoid a Christmas Tree Fire

It’s the holidays, and might mean festive decorations throughout your home. Real Christmas trees are a beautiful tradition, but they can also be dangerous and deadly. Real trees must b94567e68-6d65-4e62-8eda-191c66ab1aa8-DSC_8889_digital[1].jpge properly cared for, or you may end up with a costly insurance claim at best, and at worst? Loss of your home and the lives of those you love.

Here is how you can help prevent your Christmas tree from catching on fire this holiday season. 

  • When choosing a tree, look for one that is fresh and has green needles that don’t fall out.
  • Brownish needles mean the tree is dried out and more prone to catch fire.
  • Water your tree daily to prevent it from drying out.
  • Check the manufacturer’s labels to ensure you use only lights and decorations that are flame-retardant. Look for a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories, Intertek or the Canadian Standards Association, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
  • Check holiday lights for frayed wires or excessive wear.
  • Don’t connect more than three strands of mini-string sets and a maximum of 50 bulbs for screw-in bulbs.
  • Keep your tree at least 3 feet away from any heat source, such as a fireplace, radiator, candles or lights.
  • Make sure your tree is not blocking an exit. In case there is a fire, you want a way to get out.
  • Always turn off lights on a tree before going to bed or leaving your home.
  • Get rid of a tree when its needles start dropping. It means the tree is drying out.
  • Check that your smoke alarm is working properly.

Pet Insurance…is it worth its bark?

Do you have a loved dog or cat…or some other house pet that you want to get insurance for? If so, you’re not alone. U.S. pet owners spent more than $1 billion on insurance for their pets last year. That is a jump of 23% in money spent on covering pets. It is estimated that 1.8 million dogs and cats are covered by insurance now, according to the North American Pet Health Insurance Association.

Often times, owners are promised affordable, lifetime health care for their pet, but that may not always be the case.
“A two-month Consumers’ Checkbook investigation found that most accident and illness plans end up being neither affordable nor lifelong, according to an article published by the Washington Post. (For Checkbook’s full pet insurance report, as well as ratings of local veterinarians, visit here.)

Here are some important takeaways from the Washington Post article: (read the full Washington Post article here)

Price hikes: Most buyers sign up for insurance when their pets are young and monthly premiums are lowest. But four or five years later, the premiums most companies charge start to rise — purely because the pets get older. Sooner or later, the price may become unaffordable.

Costs can outweigh benefits: In a study done by Checkbook, insurance was a worse deal when the cat or dog were lucky to have only low to moderate health problems, and a better deal when they suffered lots of medical problems. But the problem with spending so much to insure against disaster is that the odds of calamity are fairly long. Every six seconds a pet owner faces a vet bill of $1,000 or more, according to PetInsuranceQuotes.com, an online marketplace. Pet insurers also cite this statistic. That sounds scary, but in a country of 185 million cats and dogs, that’s about a 3 percent chance over a year.

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Tips for buying pet insurance:

  • Before buying, learn how your premium will increase as your pet ages by using the insurer’s online quote engine. First, get a monthly premium quote using your pet’s age; then get quotes for the 10 or 12 ensuing years. Multiply each age’s monthly premium by 12; then add up all the resulting annual premiums to estimate what insurance will cost over that period.
    Understand what’s not covered. A leading complaint to regulators is claims being rejected for conditions or treatments not covered by the policy. No policy covers preexisting conditions, and some conditions that are covered may be considered preexisting if they develop up to a year after you enroll. If your pet is ill or injured, the diagnostic exam is often not covered by many plans, even though the treatment is covered. Follow-up exams for that covered condition are often not covered, either. Those $50 to $100 exam fees amount to a hidden added deductible.
  • Avoid claim rejection for a preexisting condition by insuring your pet when it’s a puppy or kitten — before it has a chance to develop a preexisting condition (but don’t forget the caveat above). You can typically enroll when your pet is 6 to 8 weeks of age.
  • Forget add-ons for wellness, preventive and elective care. When Checkbook added up the lifetime costs of Woof’s routine care, about $2,400, and used that information to compare Nationwide’s Major Medical illness and injury plan with its Whole Pet with Wellness plan, it found that adding wellness coverage was a poor deal. Total lifetime Whole Pet premiums for the dog were much higher — almost $11,400 more — almost five times the dog’s lifetime wellness costs.
  • Consider accident-only policies, which cover injuries but not illness and can be considerably less expensive. ASPCA would charge Woof $35 a month for its accident-only plan, a price that doesn’t increase with age.
  • You must pay premiums every month, but you may or may not have to pay deductibles and co-pays, depending on your pet’s health. So it may be worth it to cut your premium costs by increasing your deductible, reducing the percent reimbursed, and choosing an annual limit of only $5,000 or $10,000 instead of unlimited. These are standard insurance cost-reduction tactics, but be aware that they shift more of the risk of future vet bills to you.

 

 

Let’s Get Back to the Basics: What is covered by standard homeowners insurance?

Are you a potential or new homeowner? If you fall into either one of these categories, do you know what your homeowners insurance will cover? This post gives you the basics of what homeowners coverage provides.

Homeowners insurance gives you financial protection against damages against your house, loss due to disasters, theft and accidents. There are four standard areas covered by your regular homeowners policy. The four areas that are covered are: your home’s physical structure; personal belongings; liability protection; and coverage for additional living expenses.

Let’s Break Them Down! 

#1 Coverage for the structure of your home
Your policy should pay to repair or rebuild your home if it is damaged or destroyed by fire, hurricane, hail, lightning or other disasters listed in your policy (read your policy carefully before signing up!). Detached structures such as a garage, tool shed or gazebo are covered in some policies as well – again check with your agent and read your policy carefully.
It is important to note: a standard policy will not pay for damage caused by a flood, earthquake or routine wear and tear.
When purchasing coverage for the structure of your home, remember this simple guideline: Purchase enough coverage to rebuild your home.

#2 Coverage for your personal belongings
This covers things inside your home like furniture, clothes, sports equipment and other personal items that are stolen or destroyed by fire, hurricane or other insured disasters. The coverage is generally 50 to 70 percent of the insurance you have on the structure of the house.
You should conduct a home inventory to see if this is enough coverage for you. 
Note: Personal belongings coverage includes items stored off-premises—this means you are covered anywhere in the world. Some companies limit the amount to 10 percent of the amount of insurance you have for your possessions- again check and read carefully before signing your policy! Remember that expensive items like jewelry, furs, art, collectibles and silverware are covered, but there are usually dollar limits if they are stolen. You may wish to purchase additional insurance to cover those items fully.

#3 Liability protection
Liability is legal protection for you in case of lawsuits for bodily injury or property damage that you or family members cause to other people. It also pays for damage caused by your pets. Example: if a child or pet of yours ruins someone’s property, you are covered.
The liability portion of your policy pays for both the cost of defending you in court and any court awards—up to the limit stated in your policy documents- so again, check your policy.

Liability protection also provides no-fault medical coverage for someone injured in your home. But please note, it does not pay the medical bills for your own family or your pet.

#4 Additional living expenses (ALE)
Additional living expenses pays any additional costs of living away from home if you cannot live there due to damage from a an insured disaster. This coverage takes care of hotel bills, restaurant meals and other costs, over and above your usual living expenses, incurred while your home is being rebuilt.
ALE does have limits, however, and some have time limits – talk to your agent and understand what, if any, restrictions there are in your ALE portion.