Category Archives: Home

Homeowners Claims: Water Back Up, Overflow, or Discharge?

 

 

Water back-up is one of the more confusing coverages in homeowners’ policy. It involves more than back-up, as overflow is mentioned in some of the coverages. But what is a back-up, and how is it different from an overflow or a discharge? All these things come in to play when there is a water loss, and what causes the back-up or overflow may make a difference in whether or not there is coverage.

 

First let’s look at definitions.

Back-up: An accumulation caused by a stoppage in the flow; something prevents the water from continuing down its path, so it is forced to reverse direction and go back the other way. A collapsed drain pipe can cause a back-up; water can no longer proceed down its normal course and is forced to change direction. A blockage can cause a back-up; the blockage prevents the water from going forward, and the water has to reverse itself.

 

Overflow: When the water exceeds its boundaries; the space is filled to capacity and water then spreads beyond its limits. A tub left running creates an overflow. The tub can no longer hold the water running into it, so the water overflows onto the floor and surrounding area.

 

Discharge: A flowing or issuing out; water coming from a pipe. A leaking pipe discharges water from the hole in the pipe; it is not a back-up or an overflow, it is simply water issuing from a pipe at the wrong spot.

 

Discharge or Overflow?

The standard Homeowners policy provides coverage for water damage that is the result of a discharge or overflow of a plumbing, heating, air conditioning, or household appliance if it is on the residence premises. This covers pipes that leak behind walls, floors, or ceilings; washing machines and dishwashers that overflow, toilets that overflow, or storm drains off premises that overflow due to high rains or floods. It is important to note that a sump, sump pump or related equipment, or a roof drain, gutter or downspout or similar equipment is not considered a plumbing system or household appliance. A discharge or overflow caused by a storm drain, water, steam, or sewer pipe is covered as well if it is off the premises.

 

The coverage is for repair of the damaged property–the walls, floors, tiling, and carpet, areas that got saturated and need to be repaired or replaced. Even the tear out of a wall, for example, to get to a leaking pipe is covered. What is not covered is the leaking pipe itself; a pipe leak is often caused by simple wear and tear or age of the system, and that is a maintenance item. However, even if the insured is hanging a picture and pokes a hole in a brand new home and new pipes, the damage to the pipe is not covered. The exclusion for damage to the item causing the loss is all encompassing, and has no exceptions.

 

The policy specifically excludes water that overflows from sumps, sump pumps, or related equipment or water that backs-up through sewers or drains. However, this is where a lot of losses occur; sump pumps may fail or be unable to handle the flow of water during a severe storm or flood, and sewers or drains may back-up due to a stoppage in the flow. Overflows are excluded for sumps because that is a common cause of loss; the sump cannot handle the volume of water it receives. For example, if the drain backs up and overflows because of heavy rainstorms, that is not covered under the policy.

 

To provide coverage for this occurrence there is the Water Back-up and Sump Discharge or Overflow endorsement. This provides a certain dollar amount of coverage (varies by company) for back up through a sewer or drain or overflow or discharge of a sump, sump pump or related equipment, even if the equipment suffers a mechanical breakdown. For example, the sump pump motor burns out and the basement floods; there is coverage for that damage. The coverage is for water or waterborne material, so coverage is provided for damage caused by items floating in the water. This coverage does not, however, increase the limits of liability for coverages A, B, C, or D in the homeowners policy. This takes the problem of defining back-up or overflow out of the equation of certain losses, since the endorsement provides the coverage that is excluded in the main policy itself.

 

Water, whether it be from pipes, sewers, sumps, or floods, is one of the bigger issues in homeowners policies. There is a lot of confusion surrounding what is and is not covered. Once you consider the definition of the terms, you are on your way to understanding the coverage. As always, policy language rules the day. If you have any questions or concerns about whether your homeowners policy includes the Water Back-up and Sump Discharge or Overflow endorsement, and how much coverage that provides, contact your agent for details.

 

This article was brought to you by Property Casualty 360. Click here to find the original article.

 

Is Your Home a Target to Thieves This Holiday Season?

 

Thieves Thrive During Holiday Travel

An article from Property Casualty 360.

 

Joe Pesci's character attempts to rob a home on Christmas Eve in "Home Alone (1990)." (20th Century Fox)
Joe Pesci’s character attempts to rob a home on Christmas Eve in “Home Alone (1990).” (20th Century Fox)

 

In “Home Alone,” Kevin McCallister is left to defend his family’s home when two thugs attempt to break in on Christmas Eve, while the rest of the family is traveling overseas. While the likelihood of an eight-year-old being left home alone for the holidays is a stretch, a home robbery during holiday travel is more likely than you’d think.

 

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Statistics, the number of long-distance trips by Americans increases by 54 percent during the Thanksgiving travel period. The number rises by 23 percent during Christmas and New Year’s.

 

Burglars can take advantage of this to break into homes. According to Nationwide claims data over the past three years, there were almost 15,000 home thefts in the peak holiday travel months of November, December and January. As homeowners travel across long distances and for extended periods of time, they leave themselves more vulnerable to the occurrence of home theft.

 

Locking doors, installing a home security system, refraining from promoting your travel online, putting a hold on newspaper and mail delivery, and informing your neighborhood watch program are all good advice from Nationwide to deter a burglary. But, it’s important to recognize that even if one takes all these precautions, a theft can still occur.

 

Nationwide encourages consumers to account for their possessions before leaving on trips by creating a home inventory. Here are a few simple tips on taking inventory of your home before embarking on your holiday travels.

 

Use home inventory software. The Insurance Information Institute has a free online program that allows consumers to catalog all of their belongings. It is available here.

Move from room to room, listing items as you go. This method should be used every time you update your inventory. Don’t forget to include the items in the basement, attic, garage, and any detached structures, such as a tool or storage shed.

**Remember, the Reno Agency offers a free Home Inventory Documenting Service to all our current customers. If you would like to take advantage of this, please call us at 269.792.2232 to schedule.

Use credit card and checking account statements to confirm purchases if needed. Also, create a list of each credit card you have with the corresponding customer service number in case your purse or wallet is stolen. This way, you have the number to contact to report a stolen card(s).

Look for manuals on the items that will help with model numbers and verification of ownership.

Work with your agent to complete the inventory. If you are unsure if an item is covered by your insurance policy, call or visit with your agent.

Keep a copy of your home inventory list elsewhere. Share the list with a trusted friend or family member, keep a copy in a bank safe deposit box, or store an electronic version in the cloud using a provider such as Dropbox. Free cloud storage of up to 2GB is available through Dropbox, which allows you to access your files anywhere with internet access.

Update your coverage. Make sure you update your current inventory list with your insurance agent if you’ve recently received new gifts, or purchased new household items such as furniture, appliances, etc.

 

 

Is Your Dog On The Blacklist?

 

Blacklisted Dog Breeds Create Homeowners Insurance Dilemma

 

An Illinois investigative news team recently released their findings on an insurance trend that is upsetting dog owners across the United States. Several insurance companies are giving “blacklisted” dog owners an ultimatum: choose between their beloved dog or insuring their home. For those people who own a dog on the blacklist, this is creating quite the uproar as many of these dogs don’t have a bite history, nor have they shown any signs of aggression.

 

 

The Insurance Information Institute says that “dog owners are liable for any injuries their pets cause in the following instances:

1. If the owner knew the dog had a tendency to cause that kind of injury;
2. If a state statute makes the owner liable, whether or not the owner knew the dog  had a tendency to cause that kind of injury;
3. Or, if the injury was caused by unreasonable carelessness on the part of the owner.

 

Homeowners and renters insurance policies typically cover dog bite liability. Most policies provide $100,000 to $300,000 in liability coverage. If the claim exceeds the limit, the dog owner is personally responsible for all damages above that amount, including legal expenses.”

 

If you have a dog whose breed is on the blacklist, it means insurance companies have the right to raise your homeowners insurance rates, force you to sign a release of liability waiver that excludes fido from your homeowners policy, or worse yet, they can refuse to insure your home altogether.

 

These blacklisted dog breeds include, but can vary by company:

– Rottweiler
– Pit Bull
– Doberman
– German Shepherd
– Akita
– Chow Chow
– Wolf Hybrid
– Presa/Dogo Canarios

 

If you are the owner of one of these dog breeds, check with your insurance company to see whether you are covered. If they find a problem, the best thing to do is to shop around. Not all insurance companies are alike. Some insurance companies will even cater to these blacklisted dog breed households, but at a premium.

 

All the insurance companies represented at the Reno Agency only look at the dog’s bite history. No specific breed can be excluded based on the Michigan Essential Insurance Act. According to the Michigan Insurance Coalition, “the Essential Insurance Act requires insurers to accept most applicants for automobile or home insurance, and it restricts the number and type of classifications insurers can use in order to develop rates.”

 

Check out this infographic presented by State Farm highlighting dog bite statistics. It’s important to remember that all dogs have the potential to bite if aggravated, even the cute and cuddly.

Dog bite vertical

 

Swimming Pools and Trampolines Increase Your Liability Risk

 

If you are one of the many American homes that own a swimming pool or trampoline, your house is probably one of the favorite hang out spots for the neighborhood kids. That being said, you also increase the likelihood that you will have to file a claim due to injuries sustained from swimming pools and/or trampolines, especially if they lack necessary safety precautions.

 

It’s important to notify your insurance agent if you have added a swimming pool or trampoline to your property. Failing to do so allows the insurance company the right to deny claims you submit resulting from these items because they were not informed of them in the first place.

 

If you add a swimming pool to your property, insurance companies shouldn’t cancel your policy or raise your rate, but they will want to see that safety precautions are in place, such as a fence, a locking gate, or an alarm.

 

Some insurance carriers will not insure you if you have a trampoline on your property. So if you are looking to purchase a trampoline, check with your agent first to see if this will cause an issue with your insurance company. You may be asked to add safety precautions to meet the company’s requirements, or you may need to change insurance companies altogether.

 

To reduce your liability risk if you own a swimming pool, you should:

 

–       Add an outdoor swimming pool barrier. This is a physical obstacle that surrounds a pool or spa so that access to the water is limited. A successful barrier prevents a child from getting over, under or through it to gain access to the pool or spa. Barriers commonly include a fence, wall or gate.

**Fence gates should open out from the pool and should be self-closing and self-latching. The gate should have no opening greater than ½ inch within 18 inches of the latch release mechanism. This prevents a young child from reaching through the gate and releasing the latch.

–       Add an alarm to doors, gates, windows and pools or spas to alert adults when unsupervised children enter the area of the pool or spa. Make sure the alarm sound is unique from other sounds in the house, such as the telephone, doorbell and smoke alarms.

–       Add a pool or spa safety cover. This is a manual or motorized barrier that can be placed over the water’s surface, and is easily opened or closed. A cover should withstand the weight of two adults and a child to allow a rescue if an individual falls onto the cover.

 

To reduce your liability risk if you own a trampoline, you should:

–       Discuss the importance of trampoline safety with your kids, and tell them about the risks of not using it properly.

–       Keep an eye on children and inexperienced jumpers while they are on the trampoline.

–       Instruct jumpers on how to safely enter and exit the trampoline.

–       Do not allow children or pets underneath the trampoline while someone is jumping.

–       Keep the trampoline free from foreign objects and pets. Any new object introduced to the trampoline is another potential hazard that can result in injury.

–       Do not allow roughhousing or flips as this behavior can result in injury.

–       For maximum safety, only allow one jumper at a time.

–       Do not allow children under the age of 6 years to use a full-size trampoline.

–       Use padding that completely covers the springs, hooks and the frame. Or, purchase a spring-less trampoline.

–       Use trampoline net enclosures to prevent injuries from falling off the trampoline.

–       Do not use a ladder with the trampoline. This encourages small children to use the trampoline unsupervised.

 

The Reno Agency recommends anyone who owns a swimming pool or trampoline to purchase a Personal Liability Umbrella Policy (PLUP). This policy will extend additional liability protection to you in the event a claim exceeds your liability limits on your homeowners insurance.

 

Not only do PLUP’s extend coverage to your homeowners insurance, but also to your auto insurance, boatowners insurance, rental dwelling insurance, etc. Depending on your insurance company, adding this valuable coverage may provide you with a discount on your other insurance policies.

 

PLUP’s are purchased in increments of $1 million, so talk with your agent, or call the Reno Agency at 269.792.2232, to determine what amount is appropriate for you.

Don’t Get Burned By Insurance Claims This Summer

Grange Insurance Logo

Grange Insurance offers tips to have fun and stay safe

School is out for the summer, and for many, that means vacations, cookouts and pool parties. Summer is fun, but its activities can also lead to unnecessary and expensive claims if families do not take the right precautions.

Columbus, Ohio-based Grange Insurance offers tips to help families have fun, stay safe and avoid claims that could become financial inconveniences.

 

1. Prepare your house for ‘vacation mode.’   Security Alarm

Families should prepare their homes for ‘vacation mode’ if they’re planning to be gone for an extended period of time.

“Turn off the valve on the washing machine, check the back-up battery on the sump pump and put high-end electronics on a storm surge protector in case bad weather should occur that might lead to flooding or fires in the home while homeowners are away,” advises Ken Kozek, vice president of claims for Grange Insurance.

Kozek also advises families leaving town to have a trusted neighbor check the home periodically, alert the local police to increase neighbor check the home periodically, alert the local police to increase neighborhood watch, put lights on a timer, and stop mail and newspaper delivery.

 

2. Don’t be a target for theft.   Theft

Homes are a target for theft when homeowners are away, but thefts can occur just as easily when homeowners are home.

“Summer is open-window season for houses and cars and open-door season for the garage, so be mindful of your personal belongings,” adds Kozek. “If you’re going to leave windows or doors open, keep things like wallets, cell phones, golf clubs and jewelry out of sight.”

 

3. Be safe around water.   Swimming Pool

“Swimming is a great summer activity, but water can also be very dangerous if you’re not careful,” said Kozek. “Families should take precautions when it comes to activities that include water and keep an eye on kids at all times to avoid drowning.”

Kozek also advises families with pools to install a fence around the premise to prevent unwanted swimmers who, if injured, could become a liability for the homeowner.

“Homeowners should also consider installing motion-activated alarms around the pool that will sound an alert if someone falls in,” adds Kozek.

 

4. Don’t play with fire.   Fireworks

Fireworks are enjoyable and fun to watch, but they can also lead to serious injury, especially to children. They’re also a leading cause of summer house fires. Grange Insurance urges families to stay safe and leave fireworks to the professionals this summer.

 

5. Know your coverage options when you’re away from home.   summer_vacation

Grange Insurance encourages families to contact their independent agent before renting cars, boats or vacation homes this summer.

“Families should be aware of what their coverage options are before they leave for vacation,” said Kozek. “Additional coverage might be needed when renting cars, boats or homes, but in some cases, current auto and homeowner policies might provide all the coverage that is needed. Your independent agent is a great resource to help make sure you’re covered for any situation, and they can help you save money by avoiding potentially unnecessary rental charges too.”

 

For more information about staying safe and saving money this summer, visit www.grangeinsurance.com or call the Reno Agency today at 269.792.2232.

 

About Grange

Grange Insurance, with $2 billion in assets and more than $1 billion in annual revenue, is an insurance provider founded in 1935 and based in Columbus, Ohio. Through its network of independent agents, Grange offers auto, home, life and business insurance protection. The company and its affiliates serve policyholders in Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin. For more information, visit www.grangeinsurance.com.

Hot Off the Grange Insurance Press: Putting Together the Pieces of your Insurance Policy Puzzle

Grange Insurance Hi Res Version

Grange Insurance shares steps to reading insurance policies

Columbus, Ohio – According to Punxsutawney Phil, spring is just around the corner. For those of you who live in colder climates, this might be a welcome change. However, this also means that the sometimes volatile weather is right around the corner, making now a good time to review your insurance policy to make sure you have the coverage you need as we approach storm season.

Similar to putting together a 1,000-piece puzzle, reading an insurance policy can seem daunting at first glance. This can make it hard to determine what you’re looking at and how much coverage you have. To cut through the clutter, Grange Insurance offers five tips to quickly understand the pieces of your insurance policy puzzle:

Start with the Declarations Page

The Declarations Page is typically the first page of an insurance policy, but policy holders might also receive this as a standalone document. “The Declarations Page is like the four corners of your puzzle, and it serves as a roadmap for your policy,” says Larry Tamasovich, manager of policy forms and compliance, Grange Insurance.

The Declarations Page includes a list of form numbers that apply to your policy, and it provides basic information such as name and address of the insurance agency, what is insured, for how much, under what circumstances, and for how long. It might also include additions to the policy beyond basic coverage.

Assemble your Policy

Once you’ve reviewed the Declarations Page, you can begin piecing it together. The first step is to identify the policy form numbers on your Declarations Page and match them up with the form numbers of your policy. You should also look for the edition dates of the policy forms shown on the Declarations Page and compare them to the edition dates of the forms received for your policy. This will help you determine if you have a complete, up-to-date policy. If you’re missing anything, contact your independent insurance agent or insurance company.

Identify your Coverage

With the Declarations Page and policy in-hand, you have the proper forms to start filling in the middle pieces of your policy puzzle. Each policy is typically broken out into broad coverage sections identified by titles that include an insuring agreement and an exclusions section. The policy itself should have an index page to make it easier to identify sections within the policy. To identify your coverage, follow these four steps:

1.  Turn to the section in your policy that you want to review, such as homeowners property protection.
2.  Refer to the insuring agreement section to see your broad coverage.
3.  Turn back to your Declarations Page to verify if that coverage applies to your specific policy, what your limit and/or premium is, and if you have a deductible.
4.  Once you’ve determined that this coverage applies to you, refer back to your policy and read the exclusions page for that section to get an understanding of what is not included.

“For example, maybe you’re concerned your basement might flood during the upcoming rainy season,” said Tamasovich. “The insuring agreement will tell you what is covered in your house, but the exclusions section might tell you that floods are not covered unless you have a separate flood policy. If flooding is truly a concern, this would be a red flag to contact your agent about a flood policy to make sure that you have the proper coverage in place to fully protect your home.”

Refer to the Definitions Section

Insurance policies can be loaded with legal language and industry jargon, and that can make the meat of your policy hard to digest at times. Every policy should include a Definitions Section. If ay any time you are unsure of what the policy is stating, refer to the Definitions Section to see if you can find an explanation.

Call your Agent

Even after these steps, your insurance policy may still be overwhelming, says Tamasovich. At that point, it may be time to call your independent agent.

“We’re coming up on the most volatile time of the year in terms of weather, making now a good time to get your ducks in a row before bad weather hits,” said Tamasovich. “If ay any time you’re unsure of what you’re reading or what your coverage is, call your agent. He or she can help explain what’s in your policy, and more importantly, help make sure that you’re appropriately protected for the future.”

For more information about insurance policies and the types of insurance available to you, visit www.GrangeInsurance.com or call your independent agent today.

 

About Grange

Grange Insurance, with $2 billion in assets and in excess of $1 billion in annual revenue, is an insurance provider based in Columbus, Ohio. Through its network of independent agents, Grange offers auto, home, life, and business insurance protection. Established in 1935, the company and its affiliates serve policyholders in Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and Wisconsin. For more information, visit www.GrangeInsurance.com.

 

New Home Inventory Documenting Service to Reno Agency Homeowners Insurance Customers

Based on the photos of what we’ve seen on the news of the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, the late season hurricane that affected numerous residents along the east coast, it has been made very clear how devastating a major homeowners claim can be. As a result, The Reno Agency is stepping up by offering a free service to all of our new and existing Homeowners Insurance customers. This service includes visiting your home to video tape the inside of your entire house, which we will then save that video on our cloud-based servers.

“Cloud-based” technology is a term that refers to applications, services or resources that are made available to users on demand via the Internet from a cloud computing provider’s servers. (Source: webopedia.com)

By The Reno Agency utilizing this technology, it will ensure that when you are in shock about how your home looks after a disaster, we will have a video to send to your claims representative of what your home looked like prior to any damage.

To our existing clients, please call us at 269.792.2232 to schedule your appointment.

To those of you who are not currently with The Reno Agency for your insurance, but would like a proposal comparing your company to our companies, please call us at 269.792.2232 (toll free at 877.774.7366), or email a copy of your current declarations page to mike@renoagency.com.

Fire Protection Tips for Businesses and Residents

As the weather gets colder, it’s likely that we’ll turn up our heat and brace ourselves for the winter ahead. But because the use of heating systems increases during the cold weather months, so does the frequency of residential and business fires. In fact, more than 50,000 heating fires in residential buildings occur each year in the United States, a majority of which happen from November through March, according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

It is important that business owners and homeowners alike prepare their employees and families for potential fires, and practice important prevention habits. Grange Insurance, a Columbus, Ohio-based insurance company, offers advice on how to play it safe when it comes to fire.

1. Make sure you’re covered.

Homeowners, renters and business owners should ensure they have the proper insurance coverage in place in case of a fire. Most policies cover fire damage to residences or businesses, as well as personal belongings, but may have some limitations. In addition, most commercial insurance will protect business owners from liability if an employee is injured or loss of life occurs during a fire.

“Review your policy to ensure your personal property is covered, especially expensive items such as machinery or jewelry. It’s also important to understand whether or not your policy provides additional living expense coverage, which can help pay for you to stay in a hotel or temporary housing while your home is rebuilt or repaired,” said Ken Kozek, Vice President of Claims at Grange Insurance. “If you do not already have a homeowner, condo or renter’s policy in place, consider investing in one. As a business owner, it is imperative that you have a proper policy to protect against liability and property damage or loss.”

2. Practice makes perfect.

It only takes minutes for a house or business to become engulfed in flames, making a planned escape route a necessity. Plan an escape route and post it where everyone can easily find it. Practice your route at least twice per year at different times during the day, especially with children or people with disabilities.

Designate a meeting spot a safe distance from your home or business, such as a tree across the street, so you can assure everyone made it out safely. Alert the fire

department if someone is missing or if pets are trapped so they can perform a rescue safely.

3. Fire-proof your home or business.

Stop the fire before it starts by eliminating potential hazards in your home or business. Equip yourself with fire extinguishers, regularly tested smoke alarms and sprinklers. Keep curtains, towels or any items that can easily catch fire at least three feet from heaters. Business owners should also consider posting “No Smoking” signs around machinery and flammable materials to alert employees of potential danger.

It is also important to protect important papers including birth certificates, property inventory and proof of its value, such as receipts, titles and appraisals.

“In the case of a fire, business owners may be required to show proof of property value to ensure full coverage from their insurance policy,” said Kozek. “Make copies of all your important documents, and keep the originals in a bank safe deposit box outside of your business.”

4. Memorize emergency contact information.

Make sure that everyone in your home knows how to dial 9-1-1. Business owners and families should also post emergency phone numbers in a central place such as on the refrigerator or in the break room so they are easily accessible.