Frees Advice: Homeowners

Fall Home Maintenance Tips

While spring is a common time for many homeowners to spend some extra attention on upkeep and maintenance, autumn is just as critical a season for preparing your home to withstand the potentially harsh winter weather and temperature conditions that may await you. By making maintenance part of your annual fall routine you can identify potential problems before they arise, and help prepare your home and property for what Mother Nature has to offer.

Following are some home maintenance tips from our Risk Control professionals to help you prepare for the coming winter:

  • Have your heating system cleaned and inspected annually by a qualified technician.
  • Replace your furnace filter in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Insulate water pipes in areas exposed to freezing temperatures.
  • Check gutters for damage and confirm they’re securely attached to the house.
  • Clean gutters and downspouts to keep debris from accumulating. This is especially important during the fall season when leaves may collect in gutters.
  • Check and repair caulking around doors and windows that show signs of deterioration.
  • Have your chimney cleaned and maintained by a professional.
  • Clean the clothes dryer exhaust duct and space under and behind the dryer. Remove lint and dust that may have accumulated inside the dryer in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendation.
  • Check electrical outlets for loose-fitting plugs or receptacles. Be sure not to overload electrical outlets.
  • Keep a multi-purpose fire extinguisher accessible. Confirm that it is fully charged and ready for operation.
  • Inspect your smoke detectors. Make sure you have a smoke detector in each bedroom or sleeping area and also, a smoke detector in the hallway outside each sleeping area. You should also make sure you have at least one smoke detector on each floor of your home, including your basement. Test them monthly, and change the battery annually or as needed.

The steps you take during the fall can help protect your home and property from more potentially expensive damage and emergency repairs in the colder months to come.

Original post can be found here at the Travelers website.

Home Insurance Uncovered: Dog Bites

Woof! Woof! Ouch! More than one-third of all homeowners’ insurance liability claims are attributable to dog bites. Statistically, 61 percent of dog bites occur at the owner’s home; further, 77 percent of victims are bitten by a dog owned by a family member or family friend. Unfortunately, insurance companies are beginning to draw hard lines in the sand when it comes to dog ownership. Typically dog breeds are only considered during the initial underwriting of the homeowners policy. The companies with which we work will not cancel an existing policy because of an excluded dog breed. The following dogs tend to be problematic among most insurance companies:

  • Akita
  • Alaskan Malamute
  • American Bull Terrier
  • American Staffordshire Terrier
  • Mastiffs
  • Chow Chow
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • Pit Bull
  • Presa Canario
  • Rottweiler
  • Staffordshire Bull Terrier
  • Wolf Hybrid

While we know many of these dogs can be just as gentle as any other dog, they are typically responsible for the majority of claims, with pitbulls alone typically responsible for more than 25% of dog bite claims. If you have one of these “excluded” dogs or are thinking about buying or adopting one, please make sure to speak with your trusted insurance professional to review potential issues.

Original article can be found here.

Never Assume

As 2019 quickly comes to a close, we thought it would be good to revisit this year’s annual insurance review letter. The points addressed in the letter remain just as important as they were when we wrote this. Please come to us with any questions as we are happy to answer them before any issues arise.

Never Assume. (We all know what happens when we do…)

The insurance world is dynamic. Your life is dynamic. It is vital that you understand what coverage is available and how your coverage works. The purpose of this review is to let you know what you have and what is available. We ask that you review this and let us know what is changing in your life.

  • Never assume that there is coverage for renting a car while on vacation. Going on vacation and renting a car? Contact us to discuss the potentially uninsured exposures.
  • Never assume that the car dealer called to tell us you got a new car. Getting a new car? There are many new coverages that are available including Loan Gap and Replacement coverage we need to review.
  • Never assume your home or auto policy covers everything. For example, there are significant coverage exclusions for flood and surface water. You cannot even buy coverage for some exposures.
  • Never assume that your Uber, Lyft, VRBO, or Airbnb is covered. Do you earn money in the “sharing” economy? Call us to discuss the huge gaps in your protection.
  • Never assume your newly finished basement is protected if the sump pump fails. Renovating any aspect of your home should prompt a call to us to review the possible coverage change.
  • Never assume the level of liability protection on your home or car policy will give you enough protection in a serious loss. Have you spoken with us about an umbrella?
  • Never assume that your hair stylist, neighbor, plumber, butcher, or dentist know more about your insurance than we do. Call us if you have questions about what protection you have or what you need.
  • Never assume that your engagement ring and jewelry are properly insured. Homeowners insurance affords VERY little coverage for stolen jewelry and NONE for broken jewelry.

Thanks for taking the time to review all of this. Hopefully, it provides you with a better understanding of your
protection. We appreciate your business.

Smart Home Technology Savings

Smart home technology offers ease and convenience, allowing you to do things like turn lights on and off automatically while you’re on vacation or see who’s at your front door while you’re at work. But you may not know it also can help protect your home and reduce home insurance costs.

How? In addition to helping to make life easier and give you greater peace of mind, smart home technology can help you protect your home and your possessions from fires, theft and other types of damage.

Why Use Smart Home Technology in Your Home?

Nearly six out of 10 consumers say they would buy a smart home device that could detect a problem, alert them to an issue or prevent damage in the home.1 If you’re trying to decide if smart home technology is right for you, it may be helpful to know more about what kinds of smart home technology are available today and why some homeowners find them useful.

If you’re building a new home or planning a major renovation to your current living space, it is possible to have a contractor install an entire smart home system. However, many homeowners begin with one or a few pieces of smart technology to serve a specific function or get a feel for how smart home tech works. Here are some of the most common smart home technologies that may help you protect your home:1

Smart Water Damage Prevention: Some smart home devices will detect and alert a homeowner to leaks from sources such as burst pipes, overflowing bathtubs and malfunctioning dishwashers. In some cases, a homeowner might not notice leaks from these sources until extensive damage has been done.

smart leak detector uses sensors to detect changes in flow in your water pipes or the accumulation of water and alert the homeowner to help stop the leak as quickly as possible. Some smart leak detectors will even shut off the water immediately. This can be helpful in protecting your home because property damage caused by nonweather events, such as burst pipes, is a leading cause of loss in the home.

Smart Fire Detection: Traditional smoke detectors save lives and they work well when you’re home to hear the alarm, whether you’ve just burned a casserole, or your home is actually on fire. A smart smoke detector works similarly to a traditional one, with one big difference: a smart smoke detector can send an alert to your smartphone when the alarm goes off, so you’re notified even when you are away from home. This notification may help you to notify the local fire department sooner than if you had to wait until neighbors noticed smoke or flames.

Fire and lightning damage are an expensive cause of property damage for homeowners. A device that alerts you when you’re away may help you minimize the amount of damage. Fires can be especially devastating for homeowners, resulting in the loss of home and possessions and requiring you to find lodging during rebuilding.2 A homeowners insurance policy with alternative living expenses (ALE) coverage may help to pay for a hotel or other place to stay.

Smart Home Security: Traditional home security systems can alert authorities in case of a break-in, but smart security technology lets you keep an eye on your home from afar. There are various smart home technologies that are meant to help with home security. You can buy a smart home security system that has multiple components. Some smart home security systems include window sensors, motion detectors and sirens. Systems vary, and some allow you to connect to an alarm company while others do not.

You do have the option to start small instead of installing an entire system. A smart door lock will allow you to open and close your front door using your phone. A smart home security camera will allow you to monitor different areas of your home while you’re away. And a smart doorbell will let you see who’s at your front door by checking your smartphone. When you consider that theft is among the top five most common losses for homeowners, smart home technology may be a helpful layer of security to add to your home.

Travelers Insurance allows you to customize your coverage to fit your unique needs. We focus on understanding you, so you’ll feel right at home working with us.

Risks of Smart Home Technology

Smart home technology may sound like a clever way to protect your home and belongings, but homeowners should also be aware of the downside. First, smart home technology may be vulnerable to hacking. This means that the technology that’s intended to protect you could provide an opening for a criminal to gain access to your home.

Second, smart home technology, like any other type of technology, may malfunction. For example, your living room lights may fail to turn off due to network connectivity issues. You’ll want to make sure you have good equipment for your wireless network, like a high-grade wireless router, but be aware that technical difficulties may occur from time to time.

For these reasons, it’s important to do extensive research before you purchase smart home technology. Take the time to do your own research to learn more about the challenges and research another example of the benefits of smart home technology. There are many consumer resources available to help you learn more about the potential benefits and risks of the technology.

Can You Get a Smart Home Insurance Discount?

Home insurers have long offered discounts to homeowners who use tools and services that keep their homes safer and more secure. For example, insurance companies often offer discounts for home security systems that discourage or prevent home break-ins.

Some insurance companies offer discounts specifically for certain types of smart home technology. For example, Travelers offers a protective device discount that includes smart home technology that alerts you to events such as a burglary or fire.

Depending on what state you live in, Travelers also offers a Smart Home Insurance Solution that includes great home insurance, a smart home device kit and savings on Travelers insurance. Travelers Home Central Skill for Alexa also can help you stay on top of routine maintenance, which can help prevent unforeseen issues from turning into a safety concern.

Original article can be found here.

The Future of Insurance – Pt. III

“The only constant is change.” – Heraclitus
The future of insurance will be greatly affected by everything, and in my opinion, nothing. Insurance deals with the sudden and accidental loss both in your car and in your home. There are emerging technologies that will make for a “smart” house or they tout “accident avoidance.” It is important to recognize that it isn’t called a “brilliant” or “genius” house. Maybe they should call it “Just smart enough.” The auto technology is called “accident avoidance,” not accident prevention or elimination.
When losses occur, there can be two sides to claims. The first is when property gets damaged. There are new water meters that register how much water you use and when you use it throughout the day. If you spring a leak and extra water starts flowing the water meter shuts off the water in the house until you identify what is happening. Basically, you do not come home to an indoor pool. This is terrific and reduces water claims, but technology will never reduce lightning, wind, or hurricanes. Will the new technology reduce the cost of your insurance? Maybe. Will the cost of adding this new technology to homes increase the cost of home ownership? That’s almost a guarantee.
Self-driving cars. Back-up cameras. Accident avoidance radar. These are all wonderful innovations. They will REDUCE the likelihood of a claim, but not eliminate it. Trees will still fall on cars. Deer will continue to run into the sides of vehicles and no technology in the world can stop that. In spite of all of these advances, the frequency and severity of claims is on the rise. The cost of all of this technology has increased the average cost of an American made car to just over $28,000. Technology and safety features drive some of this increased cost, but the accidents just keep occurring. The costs of repairs of these increasingly advanced technological vehicles will continue to climb and continue to drive up the cost of insurance. The collision and other than collision costs will be directly affected.
 Even when “self-driving cars” do show up on the road, we will not escape being liable for things that happen with the cars. This is the other side of the coin when it comes to losses. These are the liability claims that will continue to occur with people texting while they are driving, or walking out into traffic while they are on their phones. All of those nifty words like reduction, avoidance, and prevention never translate to ELIMINATE. Until then, expect the cost of your insurance to continue to be subject to rising due to the amount of money that is paid in claims.

Crime Prevention Month: Home Safety

Every 13 seconds, a burglary occurs somewhere in the U.S., adding up to approximately 2.5 million burglaries each year, according to Two-thirds of those crimes are home break-ins, and if it were not for home security systems, that figure could be significantly higher — a study from UNC Charlotte found that 83% of convicted burglars said they checked for an alarm system before attempting a break-in, and 60% said they would change their mind if a system was found.

October is Crime Prevention Month, making it the perfect time for homeowners to evaluate their homes’ security and amp up measures. Here are six tips on how to keep homes safe and prevent a break-in:

  1. Change Locks: When moving into a new home, change the locks on all exterior doors.
  2. Use Alarm Systems: A home is three times more likely to be broken into if it doesn’t have an alarm system, says Alarm and security systems are a powerful deterrent against criminals, and many can even notify law enforcement in the event of a break-in.
  3. Keep A Clean Yard: Overgrown trees, brushes and hedges can be an ideal hiding spot for intruders. Keep shrubbery trimmed and maintained to avoid having anyone take advantage of unkempt landscaping.
  4. Don’t Advertise An Absence: An empty home is an easy target for a burglar. Adding timers to interior lights to give the impression someone is home can put off criminals. Also, when leaving on vacation, ask a neighbor to collect mail and/or newspapers and avoid posting plans publicly on social media.
  5. Keep Doors & Windows Locked: Although this might seem like an obvious tip, making sure all entryways are locked and secure is one the easiest ways to prevent a crime. This includes using a dowel or small plank of wood to prevent sliding doors from being opened from the outside.
  6. Install Motion Sensors: Flood lights connected to motion sensors can be enough to scare away potential criminals, as most won’t risk getting caught if they believe they can be seen.

Original article can be found here. Many insurance companies offer discounts for home security systems. If you have one, or are interested in learning about the associated savings, please contact us.

The Future of Insurance – Pt. I

It’s 1984 and little has changed in the insurance world. We still use manual typewriters. Insurance policies have $50 deductibles for home insurance and replacement cost protection for houses and contents doesn’t exist yet. Fast forward 35 years and the insurance world is entirely different. The fax machine has come and gone. Regular mail is almost a thing of the past and if it cannot be done on an app, one had better be in the design phase to correct that immediately.

The speed at which things used to get done was, by today’s standards, unbearably slow. Insurance is complex though. It is more complicated now, more than ever before. When I first started, if it wasn’t wind, fire, or lightning, there was a pretty good chance there was no coverage. Now? ID Theft is an increasingly important protection. You can buy coverage for a broken utility line. You can even get a car from Volvo on a subscription basis that has the insurance built right into the subscription. All of society’s changes create the expectation that everything can and should be done faster, yet all of these changes make the process of review and buying insurance more complicated than ever before.

In a series of upcoming blogs, we will address the ever changing landscape of available coverages. We will spend some time reviewing the concept of an insurance score, and I will discuss how technology, like the smart house, the internet of things, and accident avoidance tech will change everything… and nothing.

Continue to Part II

Prevent Water Damage at Home

If the rubber hose on your washing machine fails, it can cause significant damage to your home. If that leak goes undetected in the basement or another room that you might not regularly visit, the accumulated water can cause potentially catastrophic damage, from moldy walls to warped floorboards. The smart technology in water sensor systems can help quickly alert homeowners of potential leaks and prevent the need for costly and time-consuming repairs.

Water damage is a leading cause of loss in the home. Today, smart technology is helping consumers manage their personal risks. In addition to potentially preventing serious damage, water sensors can also help a homeowner avoid the loss of personal possessions and the hassle of coordinating repairs to your home.


How Do Water Sensors Work?

A water sensor can detect the presence of water, often by measuring the electrical conductivity of the water present and completing a circuit to send a signal. For installations that are not monitored by a professional alarm monitoring company, the sensor and its control module can send out a notification to the homeowner through an app that can be read on a smartphone. If you will be out of town, you can add family members, friends or other caretakers to receive notifications of a leak, so they can quickly prevent further damage.

Some water sensor systems can be programmed to shut off the water to the house to prevent a small leak from becoming a large one. If your home is heated by an older steam heating system, or if it’s protected by an automatic fire sprinkler system, check with a qualified professional before installing a sensor activated water shut off device.


Where Should Water Sensors Be Placed?

In addition to washing machines, failing hot water heaters, leaking dishwashers, damaged supply lines to automatic ice makers and overflowing toilets are some areas where water damage inside the home can occur, often without advanced warning. Performing regular maintenance and checking for rusty, corroded or damaged water supply lines and other potential problems before you have a leak is one of the best ways to help prevent water damage.

You might want to install water sensors in areas near:

  • Washing machines.
  • Dishwashers.
  • Refrigerators with ice makers and water dispensers.
  • Hot water heaters.
  • Sinks.
  • Toilets.
  • Furnaces connected to water systems, including hot air system humidifiers.

Water sensors and their control modules are available at most home improvement stores. Note that some devices only work once, then need to be replaced, while others are more durable. Also, if you are not comfortable installing them yourself, contact an experienced professional to install them and help ensure that you receive notifications of potential leaks.

Original article can be found here.

Roof & Siding Matching

This additional homeowners endorsement, available with Travelers and Hanover, can cover the cost of replacing undamaged siding when it can’t be matched. Contact us to add this important coverage to your homeowners policy.


Preventing Frozen Pipes

Frozen pipes can present an invisible threat – one that you might not recognize until the weather starts to warm. By then, the water damage can be significant and costly. Fortunately, keeping your home warmer, at a consistent temperature, and better insulated can help protect your pipes from freezing this winter.

Which Pipes Are Most at Risk?

Pipes that are most exposed to the elements, including those outdoors and along the exterior walls of your home, may need extra protection during winter months. These include the following:

  • Outdoor hose hookups and faucets.
  • Swimming pool supply lines.
  • Lawn sprinkler lines.
  • Water pipes in unheated, interior locations such as basements, crawl spaces, attics, garages and kitchen and bathroom cabinets.
  • Pipes running against exterior walls with little or no insulation.

How to Help Prevent Frozen Pipes

Before winter:

  • Check your home for areas where water pipes are located in unheated or poorly insulated areas. Be sure to check your basement, attic, crawl space, garage and within cabinets containing plumbing. Hot and cold water pipes should both be insulated.
  • Products such as pipe sleeves or UL-listed heat tape or heat cable can help insulate or heat exposed water pipes.

During winter:

  • Close inside valves supplying water to outdoor faucets and hookups.
  • Open outdoor faucets to allow residual water to drain; be sure to keep them open during the cold weather months, while the water supply is turned off.
  • Keep garage doors closed to help protect water pipes located in the garage.
  • Open the doors on cabinets where plumbing is located. This can help allow warmer air to circulate around the pipes.
  • For pipes that are at risk of freezing (both hot and cold water pipes), let water drip from faucets.
  • Keep the heat in your home set at a minimum of 55 degrees.

Why is a Frozen Pipe a Concern?

When water begins to freeze, it expands. This can cause both plastic and metal pipes to burst, possibly leading to significant water damage to your home.

  • Since water expands when it freezes, it puts unwanted pressure on pipes.
  • As water freezes, the force exerted from the expansion can cause a pipe to burst, regardless of the strength of the material.
  • You may not know you have a burst pipe as the water has turned to ice. Once the temperature starts to warm and thawing begins, leaking and flooding can occur.

What Do You Do if You Have a Frozen Pipe?

  • If you have a leak, turn the water off immediately to prevent water damage and call a licensed plumber to make repairs. If your home is heated by an older steam heating system, consult with your heating professional to determine if it is safe to continue to run the heating system with the water supply turned off for your particular heating system.

The original article can be found here.