Zeiler Insurance Services, Inc. | Zeiler Insurance Services, Inc.
|Personal Property: 5 Reasons Why Yours May Not be Fully Covered
Why You May Want More Personal Property Coverage
Imagine you took the roof off your house, turned the whole thing upside down and started shaking. Everything that hit the dirt is what your insurance company calls “personal property” - hence Personal Property Coverage (Coverage C) on your homeowners, condo or renters policy.
In the event of a covered loss, such as a fire, theft or weather-related damage, it helps you recover, at least partially, the investment you’ve made in some of your key possessions. This includes furniture, artwork, jewelry and more.
Many consumers do not understand the restrictions and limitations of this coverage, and that can lead to potentially devastating consequences. So, let’s explore five reasons why your personal property may not be as fully covered as you think it is.
You have Actual Cash Value coverage instead of Replacement Cost coverage.
Say you purchased a brand new, top-of-the-line TV five years ago. Today, that TV is only worth a fraction of what you paid for it. Now say the TV has been stolen, and your insurance policy covers the loss. How much will you get?
With Actual Cash Value Coverage, your policy will typically pay the depreciated value, and, no, it won’t be enough to purchase another top-of-the-line model at current prices. For that, you need Replacement Cost Coverage, which typically pays the purchase price of a similar model that’s available in stores right now.
Think of it like this: Replacement Cost gets you the new; Actual Cash Value is back in with the old. Your policy will tell you which of the two coverage types applies to your personal property.
Your policy has sublimits for certain item types.
Other types of property, such as jewelry, silver, furs, firearms and collectibles, won’t settle at either Actual Cash Value or Replacement Cost if their value is above a certain threshold. You may have a $20,000 Rolex and $50,000 in Personal Property Coverage at Replacement Cost. If the watch is destroyed in a fire, your claim should be a slam dunk, right? Wrong. Your policy may only cover each piece of jewelry for $500 to $1,000 total. This is known as a “policy sublimit,” which can vary widely from item type to item type, policy to policy or state to state.
You haven’t scheduled high-value items.
When you do have an item, such as the Rolex, valued above your policy sublimits, you can “schedule” it. This designates separate coverage for the full appraised value of individual items. You can schedule as many items as you like to help offset your policy sublimits. It’s simple to do so. Just provide us with a recent appraisal and purchase that amount of coverage. We will advise you on any special requirements.
You tend to lose or drop things but don’t have Special Personal Property Coverage.
It’s important to know which losses are covered and which aren’t, as outlined by your policy. Personal property destroyed in a fire? Likely covered. Personal property that mysteriously disappeared? Likely not covered, unless you had Special Personal Property Coverage on your policy. This extends your coverage to many other different types of losses so you’re protected for a wider array of scenarios, such as dropping your new TV. Policies can vary company to company - so check with us on this as well.
You don’t have an updated home inventory.
On a standard policy, your personal property is covered at a percentage of your dwelling coverage. So, you may have $500,000 of coverage for the dwelling and $250,000 of coverage for personal property. But, is that enough? To know for sure, you need to know the value of your stuff. Having a home inventory – a list of all your stuff, the value of each piece and other details, such as model numbers – tells you how much coverage you need. If your home inventory shows you’re lacking coverage, be sure to purchase more.
POSTED APRIL 04, 2017 5:00 AM
|How Condo Insurance Differs From Home Insurance
Know What You Own Before You Buy Condo Insurance Coverage
A condominium is different from a house or an apartment - you own part of a building or a property, but not all of it. Insurance for condominium owners is different, too.
Just like homeowners and renters, people who own a condo unit want to be insured against financial loss brought about by such dangers as theft, fire and lawsuits. But, a condominium will typically be covered by two separate insurance policies that protect different parts of the whole.
The first of these two policies will be held by your condominium association, or other administrative group. It’s sometimes known as the master policy. This policy covers the structures and areas owned in common by all the unit owners. This usually includes the roof and exterior walls, stairways, recreation rooms, elevators, swimming pool and grounds.
The other policy is your individual coverage, and it needs to protect your personal property and that portion of the building that belongs to you.
What do you own?
But, which parts belong to you? Depending on the state where you live and the particular condominium you buy into, you might own - and have responsibility for insuring, if coverage is available - everything between the bare walls, floor and ceiling of your unit. This could include carpeting, floor tile, bathroom fixtures, cabinets, appliances, countertops and interior walls.
In some cases, the master policy might cover your unit’s original fixtures, making you responsible only for any alterations or modifications that you make. In still other cases, you might also be responsible for what’s inside your walls: plumbing and wiring.
If your unit comes with a patio, balcony, garage or garden area, those will also likely be your responsibility. If it includes a “limited common” area, such as a balcony or room that you share with only one or a few other units, you will probably want to insure your share of it as well, if possible.
The details of what property you own should all be spelled out in the association agreement you get at the time you purchase the condominium. You’ll want to bring that agreement along when you discuss condo insurance coverage with us as well.
What does condo insurance cover?
One feature of condominium insurance, as with homeowners insurance, is coverage for the structure – the inside of your unit, that is. A condo policy will generally cover interior structures, such as cabinets, flooring and countertops within your unit’s surrounding walls, but only as specified in your policy. For example, damage to the interior of your unit due to fire or vandalism may be covered. Damage caused by neglect may not be.
A standard policy usually provides even more protection than that. Typical condo insurance coverage, within the limits of your particular policy, may help to cover:
Loss assessments when a covered peril damages the community’s common property and your association bills you for a share of the repair costs.
Personal property, such as TVs, furniture, computers and artwork, that’s stolen or damaged in a covered peril, such as a burglary.
Damage to another’s property for which you’re held responsible.
Medical payments, if a guest is injured on your property.
Temporary housing costs if you’re unable to live in your unit due to a covered loss.
Additional condo insurance coverage may also be available. It might be wise, depending upon your circumstances, to consider:
Coverage for individual items from your personal property. “Scheduling” an item on your policy designates coverage just for it, usually at the appraised value, in cases when your policy does not provide enough coverage. For example, you may have a ring worth $8,000 but your policy only covers $3,000 worth of jewelry. By scheduling the ring, you can insure its full appraised value.
Higher coverage for loss assessments.
Flood, water backup or earthquake coverages, if your unit is in a floodplain, susceptible to drain backup or in a potential earthquake zone.
How much coverage should you get?
Since there’s much less property and structure to cover with condo insurance than with homeowners, it generally costs less to insure a condo. To find out how much less, you will have to do your homework. Study your association agreement to determine exactly what parts of the structure you own and are responsible for insuring. Tally the value of your personal property, giving special attention to costly or irreplaceable items. Call all us with your association documents in hand, and explore the range of possible coverages. Then kick back and enjoy your condo. You’ve earned it.
Pay Less for Condo Insurance
A variety of factors will impact how much you pay for condominium insurance. One is how much personal property you have, and how much it’s all worth. Another is your deductible. If you choose a lower deductible, your premium may be higher – and vice versa. To save on condo insurance, you may want to consider a higher deductible, as well as insuring your car, motorcycle and other assets with the same carrier. Discuss available insurance discounts with us.
POSTED APRIL 03, 2017 5:00 AM
|Put a Stop to Internal Theft
Though you may find it hard to believe, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that 75 percent of all employees steal at least once in their lifetime, and half of those that steal do so repeatedly. And it’s not just your employees you need to worry about. If your operation has warehouses or retail locations, vendors may have the same behind-the-scenes access with little supervision. Here’s a quick guide to help prevent internal theft.
Why do people steal?
- Opportunity—When gaps in internal controls are apparent, even the most honest employees can be tempted to steal.
- Pressure—Theft is more likely when employees are feeling financial pressure in their personal lives. Stressors include drug or alcohol dependency, divorce or medical bills.
- Attitude—Some employees may think the company “owes” them something or may not see their actions as an act of theft. They may also see theft from a large organization as a relatively harmless crime since they aren’t stealing directly from an individual and they believe the organization can absorb the loss.
How can I detect or discourage theft?
- Know your employees. Order applicant background checks for positions that handle cash, and make sure they comply with federal and state regulations. For help, see Background Checks: What Employers Need to Know from the Federal Trade Commission. You have less control over vendors, but consider keeping a log of approved vendor names, payment details and visits recorded by employees. This helps your staff keep unauthorized people out of your sensitive areas and provides a reference for which accounts are cash on delivery.
- Advertise your awareness. If you have a closed-circuit television (CCTV) system, you should be spot checking recordings regularly. To let employees know you’re reviewing video (and deter theft that might occur when they think video isn’t being reviewed), find on-camera instances of employees doing good work and pay them a compliment in front of others.
- Monitor vendor activities. Consider creating a schedule to let your employees know when to expect specific vendors. When a vendor arrives, have a manager check them in and verify the inventory being delivered matches the invoice. Don’t be afraid to open boxes and look inside. You can also ask vendors to flatten boxes before they leave to ensure they are empty on the way out of your facility.
- Create a security culture. Train employees about theft and keep them on the lookout for signs of theft among other employees or vendors. Make sure they know they can report suspicious activity to supervisors without reprisal and explain how to do so.
- Provide alternatives to stealing. Consider establishing an employee assistance program to help those who are struggling with substance abuse or other problems.
- Audit regularly. Routine audits of inventory and bookkeeping can help catch fraud and theft. Pay special attention to cigarettes, lottery and phone card sales, and consider a third-party audit when theft or fraud is suspected. Review point-of-sale records for suspicious voids or returns, or cash registers staying open too long. You might also want to analyze average sales per customer (or ASPC) to determine which employees (those with lower ASPC) might be skimming money. Check out this handy guide, The ABCs of ASPC from Convenience Store Decisions.
POSTED APRIL 01, 2017 5:47 PM
|Business Insurance and Loss of Utilities
It is important for businesses to understand the need for Utility Service Inturruption Insurance. Watch the video for detail to learn why you should consider this coverage.
POSTED APRIL 01, 2017 4:12 PM
|Why Your Business Needs an Umbrella Liability Policy
Incidents like the ones we are about to share can and do happen to business owners like you. If you own a business or commercial property, you need to be prepared for what seems impossible.
- You own an apartment building with a porch that does not have railings. One of your tenants falls from it. Recovery from her injuries requires months of physical rehabilitation. A court awards her $3,000,000.
- The poorly-maintained brakes on an asphalt truck fail. The truck strikes the back of the car in front of it, causing a woman riding in the car to suffer serious hand injuries. The truck's owner settles with her for $1,500,000.
- A man dies after an air conditioner falls on him. The building owner settles with his estate for $3,900,000.
- A woman slips and falls on some tiles as she is exiting a cafe. She receives a damage award of $5,700,000.
- A child collides with an uprooted cable and loses an eye. The owner of the premises settles with her mother for $2,600,000.
Incidents like these can drive companies out of business or property owners into bankruptcy without sufficient financial protection. That is why every business and property owner should consider purchasing an umbrella liability insurance policy.
An umbrella covers a business after it has used up its "primary" commercial general liability (CGL) or business automobile liability insurance. For example, suppose the owner of the asphalt truck had an auto liability insurance policy that pays up to $1,000,000 for bodily injuries and property damage in a single accident. After the insurer pays out the full amount, the truck's owner still owes $500,000. The umbrella would cover the remainder.
Sometimes, multiple claims in one policy term can use up a business's primary insurance. CGL insurance normally provides one amount of coverage (such as $1,000,000) for a single occurrence and another (such as $2,000,000) for all losses that occur during the policy's term. Suppose the owner of the property with the uprooted cable had $2,000,000 of coverage for all losses, and its insurer had already paid $1,500,000 before the accident with the child. The primary insurer would pay only $500,000. If the premises owner has an umbrella, the umbrella insurer would pay the rest, up to the amount of insurance the business bought.
Umbrellas provide $1,000,000 or more of coverage. The cost of each additional $1,000,000 coverage is a fraction of the cost for the first $1,000,000. For example, the additional cost of buying $2,000,000 instead of $1,000,000 might be 40 percent of the cost of $1,000,000; the cost of going from $2,000,000 to $3,000,000 might be 30 percent of the cost of $1,000,000; and so on.
An umbrella may also cover some losses the primary policies do not. In those situations, the business will be required to pay a stated portion of the loss (such as $10,000) before the insurer will pay.
Any business may have a catastrophic unforeseen accident. An umbrella policy will help it survive at a relatively low cost. It is a wise purchase for any business or property owner.
POSTED APRIL 01, 2017 5:00 AM
|What Kind of Business Owner Are You?
For business owners, their company is often a reflection of themselves. It’s personal. More than their larger counterparts, small businesses embody the goals, priorities and personalities of their owners. People who choose to start a business instead of working for someone else are unique. No surprise - running a business requires an enormous amount of drive and commitment.
Every business owner’s individual personality traits influence how they run their business and make decisions about the future. Business owners can play to their strengths by gaining a deeper understanding of different types of small business leaders and the management approach each type takes.
Here are the four distinct types:
- The Visionary — puts their vision and values first when making decisions about strategy, hiring employees and selecting suppliers.
- The Problem-Solver — addresses both routine problems and unexpected obstacles by designing and implementing creative solutions.
- The Director —applies a thoughtful and pragmatic process to business strategy and decisions; effective at optimizing available resources.
- The Hands-Free Owner — sets a high level course, but tends to be removed from daily decisions.
I encourage you to find out where you fall in the study from MetLife, “It’s Personal: The Four Types of Small Business Owners” where they dive into real world stories of small business owners and the method behind their leadership styles.
POSTED APRIL 01, 2017 5:00 AM
|How to Prepare Your Business for Severe Wet Weather
Rainy season is here - flooding can become a major hazard to your business. These risks shouldn’t be taken lightly, as water damage is among the most costly types of weather-related damage to clean up and repair
. According to the National Flood Insurance Program, the cost of cleaning up a 1,000-square-foot space can easily run upwards of $20,000
. Given all these potential costs and risks, it’s essential to prepare your business for severe wet weather
Know your flooding risks. Flooding can happen anywhere, but there are certain areas that are especially prone to it. Know how much risk you face so you can determine how much protection you need. If your business is near a body of water, such as a river, lake, odds of flooding are generally much higher than if you’re far from water. That said, flash flooding and other factors can cause flooding just about anywhere. In fact, about 20% of flood insurance claims come from low-to-moderate risk flood areas.
Bring your valuable assets to higher ground. Basements and other low-lying areas are most vulnerable to flooding. Consider keeping your most important and valuable assets - whether paperwork, computers or other equipment - above ground level to reduce the chance of water damage. Also consider ways to protect those assets in case of water damage through the roof or due to a pipe burst, such as by keeping them in waterproof containers or covering them with water-resistant tarps.
Now - what’s covered? Flood insurance policies cover physical damage to your property and possessions. You can use the following list as a general guide:
• The insured building and its foundation
• Electrical and plumbing systems
• Central air conditioning equipment, furnaces, and water heaters
• Refrigerators, cooking stoves, and built-in appliances such as dishwashers
• Permanently installed carpeting over unfinished flooring
• Permanently installed paneling, wallboard, bookcases, and cabinets
• Window blinds
• Detached garages (up to 10 percent of Building Property coverage) Detached buildings (other than garages) require a separate Building Property policy
• Debris removal
Personal Contents Property
• Personal belongings, such as clothing, furniture, and electronic equipment
• Portable and window air conditioners
• Portable microwave ovens and portable dishwashers
• Carpets that are not included in building coverage
• Clothing washers and dryers
• Food freezers and the food in them
• Certain valuable items such as original artwork and furs (up to $2,500)
What’s Not Covered?
• Damage caused by moisture, mildew, or mold that could have been avoided by the property owner
• Damage caused to Personal Contents in a basement is generally excluded
• Currency, precious metals, and valuable papers such as stock certificates
• Property and belongings outside of an insured building such as trees, plants, wells, septic systems, walks, decks, patios, fences, seawalls, hot tubs, and swimming pools
• Living expenses such as temporary housing
• Financial losses caused by business interruption or loss of use of insured property
• Most self-propelled vehicles such as cars, including their parts
Give me a call with questions.
POSTED MARCH 29, 2017 8:09 PM
|Signals You Don’t Know You’re Sending Your Workforce
Smart companies put a lot of effort into creating a workplace culture that supports wellbeing, innovation and creativity - a culture that enables each team member to bring their A-Game. Unfortunately, all of that effort can be undermined if company leaders fail to walk the walk. Mixed messages can cause confusion, mistrust and a lack of motivation.
These actions in the workplace can speak louder than words:
Taking Time Off Isn’t Really Encouraged
Taking a break from work is important for employee physical and mental wellbeing. It can enhance productivity and reduce stress, which allows everyone to do their best work, including managers.
Even if your business has a robust time off policy in place, bosses who rarely take personal time or postpone vacations can send their employees the message that current work projects and obligations always take precedence over time off.
How can this be fixed? Work together as a team to build coverage and back-up support so colleagues can be accountable for each other. That way, one person’s absence won’t cause a delay on projects and deliverables. Regularly encourage workers to use the days that they are entitled to, and lead by example.
An employee doesn’t necessarily have to plan an extended vacation to take time off - here are five creative and cost-effective ways to use PTO.
You’re Not Creating a Work/Life Blend
Occasional overtime work or meetings outside of normal work hours can be unavoidable, especially if you work with people in different time zones. If you know a certain project or deliverable may need more attention or work outside of normal business hours, than be more flexible during office hours.
A Collaborative Environment Isn’t Really Thriving
Are you quick to shut team members down when they introduce new ideas, or reprimand them when their plans fail?
If you value creative collaboration, encourage your employees to take risks by being less judgmental and more receptive to new ideas. How you respond sends a strong message. Being overly critical without offering constructive feedback is likely to discourage others from speaking up.
Set aside time for employees to express their creativity by scheduling brainstorming sessions or creating a suggestion box. If an idea is implemented, consider a reward for your employee’s contribution to the team, either through verbal recognition or something more tangible, like a financial incentive.
You’re Not Really Available to Your Employees
Is your office door closed all day? If you’re too busy for regular meetings, and you fail to keep employees in the loop on major business decisions, you’re likely discouraging an open dialogue with your team.
A true open door policy speaks volumes. It not only tells people that they’re welcome to stop by and chat, it shows them that you mean it.
It’s also important to make time to talk to each and every employee, either at regular staff meetings or by scheduling one-on-one’s as often as you can. Remind employees to ask questions, and answer them as promptly and openly as you can.
When it comes to employee retention, your company culture can set you apart. Make your company values known to your team, and ensure each action you take as a leader supports the culture you want to create.
POSTED MARCH 29, 2017 7:17 PM
|Tips for Safer Telecommuting Habits from a Telecommuter
Tips for Safer Telecommuting Habits from a Telecommuter
EMC Risk Improvement Consultant Laurie Hoskins is among the 3.7 million employees who frequently work from home. According to a recent Gallup study, regular telecommuting has grown 103% since 2005. That represents a loss control challenge for employers who are responsible for the safety of employees regardless of where they work. “Basically, employers need to train their off-site employees to be their own risk manager,” comments Hoskins, who shares her experience as both a telecommuter and a loss control professional.
Be an Equal Ergonomic Employer
You won’t find Hoskins sitting in a couch or easy chair with a computer in her lap. Technology has not only made telecommuting possible, but also a hazardous job. “With the amount of time the average worker spends using the computer, cases of cumulative trauma disorders (CTD) are on the rise,” warns Hoskins. To reduce these types of injuries, employers need to invest in training to make employees more aware of ergonomic guidelines. These tips are a good starting point.
- Office chairs should allow for the following adjustments: chair height, seat back angle and height, seat pan depth and armrests. The following adjustments should be considered: operator’s feet are firmly on the floor when sitting back in chair; 90°–110° angle in knees, hips and elbows; there should be a few inches of space between edge of seat and knees; lumbar support should fit into the small of the worker’s back; arms should be relaxed and forearms parallel with floor. If the work surface is too high, raise the chair, lower the workstation or add a footrest.
- An external keyboard and mouse should be used when working with a laptop or tablet.
- Keyboard trays and monitor risers should be used as needed, so fingers are relaxed, wrists are straight and the top of the monitor is at eye level.
- Monitors should be at least an arm’s length away.
- Lighting should be arranged to reduce reflections or glare from computer monitors.
- Train employees to improvise when on the road. For example, Hoskins recommends using an ironing board as a work surface in a hotel room because it can be easily adjusted to the proper height for the keyboard, mouse or monitor.
Going Beyond Chairs, Desks and Good Posture
Desks and chairs that facilitate good posture and reduce repetitive muscle strain are only part of the challenge telecommuters face. The Federal Emergency Management Agency shares the following safe and healthy telecommuting tips with its employees:
- Fidgeting is actually beneficial. Mayo Clinic researchers in 2005 concluded the more you move—even tapping your feet under a desk—the less likely it is that you will gain weight. Small movements have major lifestyle impacts.
- When telecommuting, use the time saved from commuting to exercise. Whether it’s a brisk walk around the neighborhood, a run or going to the gym, a little exercise has physical and psychological benefits during the workday.
- Computer cords and telephone chargers can become a tangled mess and cause trip hazards. Avoid this risk by ensuring there is no path between your workstation and your outlet.
"A home office should offer the same level of safety as the employee would enjoy in a traditional office setting," adds Hoskins. To that end, she recommends the following best practices for telecommuters:
- Home office smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors should be installed and checked on a regular basis.
- Telecommuters should have clear access to a functioning fire extinguisher and a well-stocked first aid kit.
- Telecommuters should take the time to have a written emergency plan that includes emergency contact numbers posted near the phone and periodic contact time scheduled with coworkers.
The Good News and Bad News About Telecommuting
The advantages associated with telecommuting are too great to ignore. Employees have greater flexibility and higher job satisfaction while employers improve retention, reduce absenteeism, improve their recruiting efforts and save on office space requirements. But accidents and injuries that can reduce productivity and increase insurance costs can happen in any work environment. “Remember, you’re responsible for the safety of workers wherever they work,” concludes Hoskins.
POSTED MARCH 29, 2017 5:00 AM
|Roofing Scams: When to Be Wary
Contractors Promise Free Roof Replacements in Storm-Hit Areas
One day following a particularly nasty hailstorm, you receive a knock on your front door. It’s roofing contractors, and they can replace your roof at no cost to you – it’s covered by your insurance.
Suspicious? You should be.
Roofing contractors (the not-so-reputable kind) spring into action following a storm, coaxing homeowners into okaying work that may or may not be needed and may or may not be covered by their insurance. So, despite how genuine the contractors may seem, it’s smart to remain wary until you work out a few key details. These scenarios and tips should help you sort out any confusion.
Contractors: Want to Take a Quick Look at Your Roof
You: Should Decline
The problem with this scenario is, if you let dishonest contractors onto your roof, they might do more than just look for damage. They might go so far as to cause damage. Why? They want a reason to replace your roof. There’s money in it for them, remember? So, if they don’t see a valid reason, they may attempt to create one.
When an adjuster comes out to take a look, they will likely know the difference between actual storm damage and artificial damage. And, since you only have coverage for the former, according to the terms of your policy, you may have to pay out-of-pocket to repair the latter. So, leave the initial roof inspection to us or to someone you know and trust.
Contractors: Insist on Starting Work Right Away
You: Should Research, Not Rush
So, the contractors want to begin work right away and handle the insurance details later. All you need to do is sign. Not so fast. You haven’t been in touch with us, you don’t know anything about the roofers and you likely haven’t had a chance to read the fine print – all red flags.
This is when you stop and ask for the roofers’ business card and references and tell them you may be in touch. Then contact us, we can recommend a reputable roofing contractor in your area. If you wish, look into the other contractors’ reputation online, such as with the Better Business Bureau or other online review sources.
Contractors: Say Your Insurance Company Will Pay the Entire Cost of a New Roof
You: Need to Hear This From Us, Not a Contractor
Sure, a contractor may say you’re entitled to a new roof because a storm went through the area or because your neighbor’s getting a new roof. However, a random contractor doesn’t know the specifics of your homeowners insurance policy. That’s why it’s important to start with us when facing the need for potential roof repairs or a potential roof replacement following a storm. This allows you to understand whether or not you have coverage for the scenario at hand. It also helps you know how much you may need to pay out of your own pocket, such as your deductible. And, isn’t that nice to know upfront?
Contractors: Want You to Assign Your Insurance Benefits to Them
You: Should Be Very Cautious
Say you assign your insurance benefits to roofing contractors, who claim this will make the whole process quicker and easier. The problem here is that you may end up being scammed. The contractor may pocket the insurance money and skip town before finishing your roof repairs.
The bottom line is this: Rushing into roof repairs or a roof replacement may leave you on the line for some or all of the costs. So, be wary of contractors going door-to-door in your neighborhood, and contact us at once if you suspect you have roof damage following a storm.
If you still find yourself hiring or interacting with a roofer, here are some tips:
5 Tips for Dealing With a Roofing Contractor
- Ask for the contractor’s license number (if your state licenses roofers) and insurance information. Also write down the person’s license plate number and, if possible, driver’s license number.
- If you allow unfamiliar contractors to inspect your roof, be sure to supervise them. However, it’s best not to let them onto your roof at all.
- Be especially wary of contractors who say replacing your roof won’t cost a thing. They may even claim they’ll pay your deductible for you.
- Never sign a contract with blanks. Get everything in writing: Cost, scope of work, time frame, guarantees, payment schedule and other expectations. And, read every contract carefully, paying particular attention to any “assignment of benefits” language.
- Don’t pay in full or sign a certificate of completion until the work is done and you’re satisfied with the outcome.
Finally, one last warning: Contractors may try to pull similar scams with windows, siding or driveways following a storm, so be wary.
We know it can all seem a little daunting. We just want you to be aware of some scenarios you may encounter so you can protect yourself. Because, while not all roofing companies engage in disreputable behavior, some of them certainly do.
So, remember, get in touch with us first to deal with storm damage. Doing so may just help you avoid unsavory characters and contract conditions.
POSTED MARCH 22, 2017 7:20 PM
|Leasing Commercial Property
What You Need to Know Before You Lease Commercial Property for Your Small Business
Renting space for your small business involves more than finding the perfect location at a price you can afford. Why? You’ll also need to sign a lease, a complex document that typically favors the landlord—and your success can hinge on its provisions.
But the terms of a lease are usually flexible, and with a little know-how, you can negotiate terms that work for both yourself and landlord.
Things to Know Before You Negotiate Your Commercial Property Lease - These are key areas to consider before you sign on the dotted line:
Most commercial leases are quoted on a Rentable Square Foot (RSF) basis. This includes the square footage of your private premises, or Usable Square Footage (USF), plus a pro rata share of the building’s common areas (if shared with other tenants) such as lobbies, staircases, corridors and restrooms. RSF versus USF space is an important distinction to understand, as there will be a difference between the square footage you actually use and the square footage for which you are charged.
When evaluating different properties, measure the USF for yourself or ask the landlord for the dimensions. This will allow you to accurately determine and compare the size and costs of the premises your business will potentially occupy.
Commercial leases generally fall into one of three major categories based on how the building’s operating expenses are passed on to tenants:
- Gross or full-service lease. You pay a flat monthly rate from which the landlord pays all operating expenses, including utilities, property taxes and maintenance. This is a simple and convenient option for tenants. Just make sure you understand the extent of expenses included with the lease. For instance, are cleaning services provided? Is heating and air conditioning available 24/7? Is there a limit on electricity use, and if so, how will you be charged for excess? All such terms should be spelled out in the lease, so there are no surprises down the road.
- Net lease. In a net lease, taxes, insurance and building maintenance are shared between the landlord and the tenants in one of three ways. With a single net lease, you will pay monthly rent as well as the property taxes, while the landlord pays the rest. With a double net lease, you will pay for insurance along with the taxes and rent. With a triple net lease, you will pay for taxes, insurance and building maintenance costs in addition to the base rent. If you share the building with other tenants, the expenses you assume are pro-rated based on your share of the building’s square footage.
- Modified gross lease. This type of lease is a cross between a net lease and a gross lease. Usually, you will have a gross lease but will be responsible for certain agreed-upon expenses, such as cleaning services, electricity or minor repairs. The landlord will assume payment for the rest.
Before signing a lease, be sure you understand the type of lease, who will pay for what, and the potential extent of the costs you agree to assume. Ask to see examples of the expenses you will be expected to pay, and negotiate caps to minimize unexpected expenditures.
Most landlords prefer long-term leases of five to ten years, or longer, to keep vacancies to a minimum. You may get the best deal with a long-term lease, but it can become a costly liability if you go out of business or outgrow the space before the term is up. A one-to-two year lease with an option to renew offers the flexibility your small businesses may need—until you’re confident of its success and stability.
Try to work out a cap on any increases in rent that the landlord may expect, whether annually or upon the renewal of your lease, in order to keep the space affordable.
If you need to terminate your lease for any reason, ask to include provisions that allow you to do so as painlessly as possible, including:
- The right to transfer or “assign” your lease if you sell your business. This allows your business’s new owner to stay in the same space.
- The ability to sublet all or a portion of your space if you are unable to afford the rent or need to move to a larger space.
Also, consider negotiating any penalties in advance should you need to terminate the lease before the term is up.
Nearby tenants can have a significant impact on your business, and can be terms for negotiation. If your business depends on a nearby business to bring foot traffic, a co-tenancy clause will allow you to break the lease if that tenant leaves and isn’t replaced within a certain amount of time.
And if you’d rather not have your landlord rent nearby space to a business that competes with yours, ask for an exclusive use clause.
If you need to alter the space to suit the needs of your business, negotiate inclusion of “build-out” provisions in the lease that specify:
- The improvements that will be made
- Which party will pay for the improvements (in longer-term leases, the landlord may pick up the cost)
- Who will own the improvements (normally, the landlord does)
- If the tenant (you) will need to return the space to its original condition when the lease expires
A real estate broker can help you find commercial property and work through the complexities of a lease. Keep in mind, though, that the landlord normally pays the broker’s commission. This means that while there is no cost to you, you could benefit from the unbiased perspective of a lawyer experienced in commercial real estate.
A commercial lease is a legal, binding document. By understanding the terms and evaluating them carefully, you’ll be prepared to negotiate an agreement that not only meets your office space needs but protects your business interests over time.
POSTED MARCH 22, 2017 5:00 AM
|U.S. News Names 2017 Best Vehicles For The Money
U.S. News reviews new vehicles each year to name several that offer the best value for the price. The news agency looks at trucks, minivans, SUVs and cars. To win an award, a vehicle must be the best combination of price and quality. With 20 different categories for winners, U.S. News provides a comprehensive look at which cars fit specific sets of needs of American drivers.
Car ranking information is used to determine quality. For about a decade, thousands of Americans have relied on this annual report from U.S. News to make a buying decision. This is because U.S. News uses the analyses of several testing agencies and other automotive organizations in addition to their own.
U.S. News works with pricing specialists at TrueCar to determine purchase prices across the nation. However, purchase price is not the only consideration. How well a vehicle holds its value is another important issue, and the average cost of repairs and upkeep for a vehicle also play a vital role in determining overall value. For example, some vehicles may cost more to fuel or may require more frequent repairs on average.
2017 Winning Cars And Trucks As it has done for several years, the Toyota Prius won the award for the best hybrid car. For the best subcompact car category, the Honda Fit won the award. The best compact car was the Kia Soul, and the Audi A4 took the award for the best luxury small car. For large cars, the Chevy Impala was given the top award. The best midsize car was the Hyundai Sonata, and the best luxury midsize car was the Lexus ES. As a few automotive experts predicted, the FIAT 124 Spider took the top award for sports cars. For trucks, the Ford F-150 won the best large truck award. The Chevy Colorado was named best compact truck.
2017 Winning SUVs And Minivans The best three-row SUV was the Kia Sorento, and the best two-row SUV was the Nissan Murano. For compact SUVs, the Honda CR-V took the top award again. The Honda HR-V was named the best subcompact SUV. As many people expected, the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid won the award of best hybrid SUV. The Ford Expedition was the best large SUV, and the best luxury compact SUV was the Lexus NX. While the Lexus RX350 took the award for best two-row luxury SUV, the Acura MDX was named best three-row luxury SUV. The Chrysler Pacifica was given the best minivan award.
Winning Trends Toyota took the most awards for 2017. Toyota and Lexus performance ratings outshine many competitors. Also, the maintenance costs are lower on average. Kia has become more popular in recent years and shined with several of its 2017 models. The South Korean brand beat tough competitors such as Honda and Hyundai for the awards with its low prices and generous feature packages. Some vehicles were new to the winner's circle this year. While consumers may have been surprised to see the Pacifica and the Spider top the list, several experts were not shocked when they saw the great performance, plentiful features and affordable price tags.
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POSTED MARCH 22, 2017 5:00 AM
|Does Your Insurance Cover Hail Damage To Your Car?
5 Things to Know About Hail Damage and Insurance Coverage
Leaky roofs. Dinged-up paint jobs. Busted windows. Hailstorms cause extensive property damage throughout the U.S. each year, especially once hail reaches quarter size (1 inch) or larger, according to the National Severe Storms Laboratory.
If severe hail falls in your area and damages your home or vehicle, will your insurance cover the repairs? It all depends on the coverage you selected. Here are five things to know about hail damage and insurance coverage:
- You need comprehensive on your auto policy if you want hail damage covered.
Park outside? Live in an area that gets a bad hailstorm at least once a year? If you don’t have comprehensive coverage on your auto insurance policy, you don’t have coverage for hail damage. Comprehensive provides coverage for your own vehicle for incidents other than collisions. This includes covered instances of hail, as well as fire, vandalism, theft and more. Keep in mind that not every auto policy includes comprehensive coverage, especially if you only purchased the minimum amount of insurance your state requires.
- Comprehensive also gives you auto glass coverage.
During a hailstorm, it’s just as likely for your windshield to get cracked as it is for your paint job to get dinged. With comprehensive on your auto insurance policy, you should have coverage for glass repairs or replacements, as outlined by your policy.
- Most homeowners policies cover hail damage.
You likely don’t need to do anything special to add hail coverage to your homeowners policy, but check with us if you’re not sure. Your homeowners coverage may help with hail damage to your roof, siding, windows, fencing and other structures, up to your policy limits.
- Your home deductible might be higher for hail damage.
You know that, for any covered home repairs, you’re responsible for paying your deductible. And, your insurance covers the rest, up to your policy limits. Just know that you may have a higher deductible for certain incidents. This sometimes includes hail. Check your policy so you’re aware of your hail deductible.
- A full roof replacement is never guaranteed.
Your neighbor is getting a brand new roof due to hail damage, so you’ll probably get one too, right? Not necessarily. Not only can hail damage vary widely, even within a small radius, but the original condition of your roof may factor into the decision. A roof that was poorly maintained prior to a hailstorm may not have any coverage after a hailstorm. This is because your insurance covers sudden, unforeseen damage rather than everyday wear and tear. However, if you regularly maintain your roof, and it’s damaged by hail, it may be repaired or replaced, according to your coverage.
Remember that, for any insurance claim, the company you are insured with will likely need to inspect the damage before repairs can begin. This is especially true for roofing claims, so be wary of contractors who pressure you to authorize repairs before you’ve determined if you’re eligible for any coverage. This is one sign of an untrustworthy contractor who may be involved in roofing scams.
For questions about your own coverage as it relates to hail damage or other incidents, give us a call. You can adjust your coverage at any time to better fit your needs.
POSTED MARCH 17, 2017 4:13 PM
|Summer is near and so are the storms!
Do you hear that?
It’s the sound of people everywhere rejoicing that summer is almost here. While warmer weather may bring joy to millions in the area, Mother Nature may have other plans - RAIN!
Water can damage your home in different ways and a standard homeowners insurance policy DOES NOT cover damages from flooding. A separate flood policy is needed to cover losses to your property caused by flooding, and provides coverage for things such as:
- Structural damage
- Furnace, water heater, and air conditioner
- Flood debris cleanup
- Floor surfaces (carpeting and tile)
You can also purchase a flood insurance policy to cover the contents of your home, such as furniture, collectibles, clothing, jewelry and artwork. For a more detailed look at flood insurance, Click Here
: A Guide to Flood Insurance.
Flood insurance means you’ll be reimbursed for all of your covered losses. Plus, unlike federal aid, it never has to be repaid. As long as your community participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), you’re eligible to purchase flood insurance.
In general, a policy does not take effect until 30 days after you purchase flood insurance. So, if the weather forecast announces a flood alert for your area and you want to purchase coverage, it’s already too late. You will not be insured if you buy a policy a few days before a flood. However, if your lender requires flood insurance in connection with the making, increasing, extending or renewing of your loan, there is no waiting period.
If you have questions or concerns on this issue, do not hesitate to call Zeiler Insurance and speak to one of our customer service representatives. Customer or not, we can review your insurance and see if you are being protected appropriately for the right price.
POSTED MARCH 16, 2017 5:00 AM
|Travelers' Early Severity Predictor: A way to predict who'll become a drug addict in your ...
Allen, 25, works in a Trenton, New Jersey, auto body shop alongside a middle-aged man who’s straining to lift bumpers and fenders. Allen’s co-worker came back after a hip replacement because he feared that he would be fired. Allen knows this guy will turn to “street meds” to ease his pain.
Dr. Adam Seidner knows the same thing -- from his sky-high view as global medical director at Travelers Insurance (TRV). Armed with “big data” on 1.5 million injuries and disabilities, Seidner believes he can predict who’s at risk of becoming an addict -- and how best to treat them. That has led Travelers to develop a system to profile not actual painkiller addicts, but potential ones.
If Seidner is right, it could help address a problem that’s now a plague. Some 2 million Americans are hooked on highly potent prescription drugs like fentanyl, while another 500,000 are “in the clutches of heroin.” In recent years, more Americans have died annually from overdoses, 33,000 of them, than from car accidents - a list that includes celebrities such as Prince and Michael Jackson.
So what’s Seidner’s solution? First, get rid of the addiction fiction claiming that people choose to become junkies. “Perhaps 5 percent of addicts do it for the euphoria,” said Seidner, who spent years detoxing prisoners. “Most take opioids to relieve suffering from chronic pain.”
And that’s scary because it puts an estimated 50 million Americans who suffer from chronic pain in the cross-hairs of potential addiction. They come to doctors’ offices complaining of bad backs, repetitive stress, falls, strains and “soft tissue” injuries. Ever since the 1980s, about nine times out of 10, doctors have traditionally prescribed the most effective remedy for pain: drugstore opioids. They range from the mild, like codeine, to the strong, such as OxyContin (oxycodone) and Percocet (a combination of acetaminophen and oxycodone).
Although opioids curb the pain, they don’t cure the patient. And they have a will of their own. Within a month, these drugs invade the patient’s mind, which then tells the body to “feel” pain, whether it’s real or not, and thus creates a dependency. Patients then demand the opioid -- in stronger and stronger doses -- and if they can’t get it legally or through their medical plan, they may steal prescription pads, use drugs like Imodium that mimic some of opioids’ effects and ultimately move on to street sources, where a $10 bag of heroin is both cheaper and stronger than a $200 prescription.
After years of trying to “just say ‘no’” to an epidemic that kills 46 people a day in the U.S., the medical profession, along with federal and state governments, recognized the danger. “I will not willingly watch another 1,600 of our citizens die,” former presidential candidate and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told his state legislature this year.
On Jan. 19, the mayor of Everett, Washington, also asked the city council to authorize a lawsuit against Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, alleging that it knew the painkiller was being diverted to the illicit market and didn’t do enough to stop it. But stopping the deadly flow of painkillers is a difficult process. As one doctor in Princeton, New Jersey, who asked not to be identified, said: ”What do you do when a patient comes to you in pain?” Physicians still write more than 200 million opioid prescriptions a year.
The latest data from Maryland, Ohio and New England, where the opioid crisis is most intense, shows an increase in fatalities. Drug companies have promoted medications like fentanyl, a synthetic opioid that can be as much as 50 times more potent that heroin. “It’s like pushing on one side of a balloon,” said Travelers’ Seidner. “It just bulges out the other.”
Travelers has a big dog in this fight. It’s the largest workers’ compensation insurer in a $45 billion business that helps companies manage medical benefits for employees injured on the job. It handles a quarter-million of these claims each year. The longer an employee stays off the job and runs up medical bills, the more the insurer loses. The average claim now runs $40,000 over three years. But with caps on temporary disability now declared unconstitutional in some states, claims could last for decades.
That’s where Travelers’ addict-prediction model comes in, because the first step is to identify a potential addict. To do that, Seidner has assembled “statisticians and brainiacs” to predict which injuries will turn into chronic pain cases and push the patient down the “slippery slope” to opioid dependency.
Travelers developed a program called Early Severity Predictor, which looks at four areas:
Pharmaceutical frequency - What drugs are the patients using and how much. Are they also popping pills on the side?
Co-morbidity - Are they suffering from other conditions, like diabetes or osteoporosis? Do they smoke?
Muscular health - Are they in good condition?
Mental health - Are they angry with their employers? Do they fear going back to work and facing the same injury?
Other factors - Sex, socioeconomic status, education and the nature of the injury: shoulder, knee or slipped disk.
A typical person with a chronic injury who might become dependent could be a middle-aged white male factory worker with a bad back. Identifying the potential addict is only part of the problem. Getting rid of the chronic pain and the potential addiction is the other.
Once such a patient is identified, Travelers can begin to harness resources. It starts by talking to the patient’s doctor. In many states, doctors are under no obligation to talk to the insurer, but nearly seven in 10 will. This is probably because the insurer covers treatments like physical therapy, sports medicine, stimulation devices, yoga, stretching and psychology. “We embrace all modalities, but we don’t do traditional psychoanalysis,” said Seidner. “Instead, we use therapy that will change behavior.”
Seidner and his team have analyzed 20,000 cases of opioid addiction since 2015, identified 9,000 at-risk patients and worked with 2,500 of them. Since then, about 1,400 no longer demonstrate any significant use of opioids, and medical expenses have fallen by 50 percent. Much of that reduction has come from reduced use of opioids, which used to constitute 50 percent of all the prescription drugs that workers comp paid for, according to Travelers Vice President Rich Ives. Now it’s only 23 percent. Vice President Loretta Worters of the Insurance Information Institute, which represents the industry, concurred that “Travelers Early Severity Predictor is certainly helping.”
Let’s be clear. Travelers will only help the companies that pay its premiums and the people employed by those companies. But its strategy, including how to predict drug addiction, provides a roadmap for governments, doctors or anyone with a chronic injury who wants to escape the curse of opioid dependency. In some instances, it’s as easy as looking in a mirror. If you’re taking drugs for a bad back, consider stretching. If you hate your job, try to find another one before you’re reinjured. If you’re depressed, seek help. Opioids will only make things worse. And when you take an opioid of any kind, the addiction clock is ticking. If taken longer than a month, you may already be addicted and not even know it.
Finally, when you see a doctor for pain, ask whether another treatment beside opioids might work - before he or she pulls out the prescription pad. “Probably 80 percent of the time it’s a bad idea to prescribe opioids,” Seidner said. “We need to address the pain, but how we do it is the important thing.”
POSTED MARCH 15, 2017 3:17 PM