Helpful Tips


Here are some helpful insurance tips. Click on any of the links below to jump to that particular section on this page.

Help Us to Help You

HELP US HELP YOU KEEP DOWN THE COST OF YOUR INSURANCE AND PROTECT THE INSURABILITY OF YOUR HOME

These tips can help you avoid cancellation of your homeowners or business owners policy.
  • Pay premiums promptly. Use the Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) method if available.
  • Have at least a $500 or $1,000 All Other Perils (AOP) deductible and enjoy savings in your premium.
  • Maintain a good credit history. Order a credit report occasionally to check your history. Remember, you can obtain a free credit report once a year from the three reporting credit agencies.
These credit agencies are:
Equifax 1-800-685-1111 www.equifax.com
Experian 1-888-397-3742 www.experian.com
Trans Union 1-800-916-8800 www.transunion.com
  • Obtain a copy of your CLUE report. You can order online at www.choicepoint.com. This Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange database contains information filed by a homeowner on a property.
  • Do NOT use your policy as a maintenance policy. Do NOT report small or careless and preventable claims.
  • Maintain your property in good repair. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
  • Be careful in the selection of pets. Some dogs with a history of biting such as Rotwiellers, Pit Bulls, and some Terriers will cause your home to be uninsurable.
  • Do NOT have a trampoline in your yard. This will cause your home to be uninsurable.
  • If you have a swimming pool in your yard, make sure it is properly fenced with a self locking gate. Ask your agent for the exact guidelines.
  • Keep in touch with your agent at least once a year to review your coverage and to ensure your property continues to meet the insuring guidelines of the insurance company.
  • Prevent water damage claims, safeguard against fires, and prevent break-ins and thefts.

Water Damage

  • The rubber hoses on your clothes washing machine and dish washer should be replaced by stainless steel hoses that can be purchased at a local home improvement store. You can do this yourself with a wrench. The cost is about $20.00
  • If your air conditioner unit is inside your home, you must be sure to keep the drain line open. It should be cleaned once a year.
  • Overflowing toilets are a source of water damage claims. Everyone in your home should know how to close the valve behind the toilet to shut off the water. Show your children. Valves that are not used often can become stuck and hard to turn. Close and open the valve occasionally to keep it loose. If it becomes stuck, a substance like WD40 will loosen it.
  • Hot water heaters can burst with no warning. It is best to replace a hot water heater at least every 10 years. Any sign of rust is a sure indication that trouble is close at hand!
  • Although more expensive, tank less hot water heaters eliminate most water damage issues associated with hot water heaters. They also help save electricity by only heating the water when it is needed.
  • If your home does not have an outside shutoff valve, call a plumber and have one installed. Without such a valve, you have no way of shutting off the water to your house in event of a water leak or burst pipe.
  • If your home has a shutoff valve, make sure everyone in the household knows where it is and how it works. Show your children.
  • When you leave your home for any extended time, even overnight, shut off the water to the house by closing the shutoff valve. Do NOT do this if your home has a residential fire sprinkler system. In absence of a shutoff valve, at least close off the water supply to toilets, sinks, tubs, and washing machines. Each of these usually has an individual cut off valve.
  • Clean your gutters and down spouts of leaves, etc. on a regular basis.
  • Never operate any household appliance (washing machine, dish washer, etc.) while you are away from home.
Go to www.safeco.com/drip for additional information.


Freezing Pipes

  • Your home or place of business should have a cutoff valve so that the water to the building can be cut off. Close this valve and then drain the water from the pipes inside by opening all valves and allowing the water to drain out. Once the water is drained, close the valves in anticipation of the water being turned on once the cold weather has passed. If you drain the pipes, be sure you cut off the power to the hot water heater to prevent the heating elements from burning up.
  • Pipes can freeze in a building even with the heat left on! It is best to drain the pipes when the temperature is forecast to drop below the low 20s. Remember pipes on the North side of the house will freeze first.
  • If you do not have a shut off valve, leave the heat on in the building and open all cabinet doors where pipes are located. This will allow the heat to enter these spaces. Such cabinets are under the sinks in the kitchen and bathrooms.
  • Outside pipes or inside pipes likely to freeze (attic, crawl spaces) should be wrapped with insulation such as foam jacketing or approved heat tap insulation. If the products are unavailable, the common newspaper makes an excellent insulation. Keep the paper thick and tie it tightly around the pipes with cord.
  • Exposed pipes under a house with an open foundation (like a beach house) will freeze quickly. These pipes must be wrapped or drained. The water to all secondary residences should be shut off when the home is not in use.
FROZEN AND BROKEN WATER PIPES CAN BE PREVENTED!

Do you need to be concerned about cold temperatures during the Lowcountry winter? Here are the record low temperatures (in degrees Fahrenheit) for the Lowcountry area.
Charleston Isle of Palms Summerville Walterboro Moncks Corner
November 17º (1950) 22º (1970) 12º(1970) 11º (1970) 18º (1950)
December 14º (1962) 12º (1962) 9º (1983) 5º (1963) 11º (1962)
January 10º (1985) 9º (1985) 5º (1985) 0º (1985) 8º (1985)
February 16º (1958) 12º (1973) 4º (1973) 9º (1973) 12º (1973)
March 22º (1980) 21º (1980) 19º (1998) 15º (1980) 18º (1980)
Remember such temperatures can lead to freezing and breaking of water pipes in homes and businesses unless precautions are taken!


Fire Prevention

  • Install smoke alarms on each floor of your home and near the kitchen. And test the batteries at least twice a year, changing them as necessary.
  • Have a fire extinguisher on each floor and another one in the kitchen.
  • Never leave an open flame unattended. This means the kitchen stove, the outside grill, the fireplace, candles.
  • Clean the dryer vent regularly. Most dryers have a lint accumulation between the back wall of the dryer and the drum.
  • Make sure your electrical wiring is up to code. Homes over 30 years old were not designed to handle today's rising electrical demands. Have an electrician inspect your home.
  • Do not use frayed extension cords. Do not overload an electrical outlet.
  • Be sure you know where shut off valves to all gas appliances are located and where the main gas shut off valve is outside your house.
  • Know how many amps your home is wired for. Modern homes need 150 to 200 amp service. Lights that dim, circuit breakers that trip, the smell of burning metal or plastic - these are trouble signs! Take action.
  • Remove all potential fire hazards from the building and store combustible material outside the main building.
  • Make sure all windows open easily in the event an emergency escape becomes necessary.
  • Teach your children fire evacuation procedures. Stage a fire drill. Make sure they know how to exit the house. Have them actually open a window and remove the screen. Have them crawl on hands and knees in a darkened house and locate the exits.
  • Evacuation plans and other safety tips can be found at the National Fire Protection Association's website... www.firepreventionweek.com
EMERGENCY TIPS FOR FIRE DAMAGE

After a fire (with smoke and water) in your home:
  • Contact a professional cleaning service vendor like:
  • For clothes and other washables , contact a professional cleaner such as Lyerly's Cleaners
  • Limit movement in the home to prevent soot particles from spreading to undamaged areas.
  • Place clean towels and old linen on rugs, carpet, and upholstery.
  • Coat chrome faucets, trim, and appliances with petroleum jelly or oil.
  • Change HVAC filter.
  • Tape double layers of cheese cloth over air vents before running the HVAC.
  • Drying will be faster when the room temperature is above 70°F (degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Dehumidifiers will remove air moisture and allow drying to occur more rapidly.
  • Air movement is important to drying. Utilize fans.
  • Remove excess water by mopping and blotting.
  • Place aluminum foil or wood blocks between furniture legs and wet carpet.

Burglary Protection

  • Make sure all door and window locks work. Dead bolt locks are the best for doors as are key locks for windows.
  • Keep your doors locked even when you are home. Most home burglaries occur between 8AM and 5PM. One skilled home burglar said he did his best work during the evening meal hour. While the family was eating dinner, he was working in the master bedroom!
  • Consider installing perimeter motion activated flood lights outside your building. Evaluate as to whether existing lighting is bright and focused to illuminate potential entry areas.
  • Install a central station fire and burglar alarm system. Display the security system decals on your windows and doors. The system should have a loud siren, sensors on all exterior doors, and motion sensors in the master bedroom and family/living rooms. Be sure to let your agent know you installed the alarm system as most companies will give you a premium discount.
  • Bushes and shrubs close to the building should be kept cut low to the ground so intruders cannot use them for cover.
  • If you have house keys hidden outside, remove them. The thieves know all the good hiding places!
When you are away on vacation:
  • Put lights, TV, etc. on timers. Set the timers to turn on at different times each day.
  • Have your mailed stopped or have your neighbor clean out your mailbox each day.
  • Have your newspaper stopped or have your neighbor pick it up each morning.
  • Ask your neighbor or friend to park their car in your driveway. Or leave your car visible and have someone change its position each day.
  • Leave the same message as always on your answering machine. Do NOT change it to say "We are on vacation and will call you when we return.
  • Leave your itinerary with a neighbor or friend so you can be contacted in an emergency. Or make sure your neighbor has your cell phone number.
  • Have grass cut while you are away to make the house appear inhabited.

Lightning Protection

  • Install surge protectors to all your major electronic equipment, particularly computers, televisions, home stereo/theatre systems, and any other expensive items you may have. Here are few examples of surge protector manufacturers you can use:
  • Unplug your major electronic items when a thunderstorm or lightning storm approaches.
  • If you will be away from your home for more than a few days during lightning season, unplug your major electronic items.
  • Install a lightning protection system compliant with national codes.
And for more information about lightning, here is a link to the National Weather Service's (NOAA) page on Lightning Safety.


Omnibus Coastal Property Insurance Reform Act of 2007

In an effort to ease the burden of the cost of property insurance in coastal areas of South Carolina, the SC State legislature passed the Omnibus Coastal Property Insurance Reform Act of 2007. The following is a brief synopsis of some of the important features of the bill as they relate to home owners along the coast of South Carolina.

What is the Catastrophe Savings Account established by this Act?

A Catastrophe Savings Account is an account that is established by an insurance policyholder in SC to cover the insurance deductible for the taxpayer’s legal residence.

The insurance deductible can be for hurricane, flood, or any catastrophic wind event.

This account may also be established by an individual to cover self-insured losses for the taxpayer’s legal residence. The insurance deductible can be for hurricane, flood, or any catastrophic wind event.

The account must be labeled a Catastrophe Savings Account. You may have only one such account and shall specify that the purpose of the account is to cover the amount of insurance deductibles and other uninsured portions of risks of loss from hurricane, flood, or any catastrophe wind event.

The Catastrophe Savings Account is a regular savings account or money market account.

How much can be put into this Catastrophe Savings Account?

$2,000 if your qualified deductible is $1,000 or less, or the lesser of $15,000 or twice the amount of your qualified deductible, or if you choose not to insure your legal residence, up to $250,000 but not exceeding the value of your legal residence.

What is a “qualified deductible”?

A qualified deductible is the deductible on your homeowners policy for your legal residence. The Act does not specify whether this means to All Other Perils deductible or any wind/hail or named storm or hurricane deductible.

What benefit do I get from this Catastrophe Savings Account?

You are allowed a state tax deduction for amounts contributed to the Catastrophe Savings Account. The interest earned by the Catastrophe Savings Account is exempt from SC income tax.

What is the tax credit allowed by the Act?

You are allowed a credit against your SC income tax for costs you incur to retrofit your legal residence to make it more resistant to loss due to hurricane, flood, or other catastrophic windstorm events. Normal ordinary repairs do not qualify. The SC Department of Insurance will promulgate qualifying fortifications.

How much is the tax credit?

The credit for any one year is the lesser of 25% of the cost incurred, or $1,000. There is an additional credit for SC sales or use taxes paid on “tangible personal property” used to retrofit your home. The maximum credit is $1,500.

Is there a credit available for my insurance premiums?

You may claim a credit against SC income tax for “excess” insurance premium paid on your legal residence. “Excess premium” is the amount by which your premium exceeds 5% of your adjusted gross income. The credit may not exceed $1,250.

Are any grants available for retrofitting homes?

Yes, a $5,000 grant is available for low income homeowners as long as your legal residence is valued at less than $150,000. More information can be obtained at our website. You can also click on this link to SC Safe Home.

Where can I view the entire Act?

You can find the link here.- Coastal Property Reform Act 2007.





                                           

 

 

 

“Top 10 Reasons to Purchase the Rental Car Damage Waiver”

 

Abstract:  Although most damage waiver fees are considered outrageous, the insured is best advised to purchase the waiver for short-term rentals. This is not only in the best interest of the insured, but also the agent since an inadequately covered loss may result in the loss of an account or worse, an E&O claim.

 

 

Although most collision damage waiver (CDW) or loss damage waiver (LDW) fees are considered by many to be outrageous if not unconscionable, consumers are best advised to purchase the CDW/LDW when renting an auto. These waivers may protect you against thousands of dollars in charges not coverage by your auto policy. Since your auto policy will likely cover things the rental agreement waiver won’t, having both is advisable. With that said, here are ten reasons to purchase the CDW/LDW:

1.  Loss Valuation
The value of a rental car, according to virtually all rental agreements, is determined solely at the discretion of the rental company and may be significantly different from the "actual cash value without betterment" basis used by most auto policies.

2.  Loss Settlement
If there is a disagreement on the value of the damage, your auto insurer may invoke the “appraisal” clause in your auto policy which can have a cost to you associated with it. In addition, most auto policies grant the insurance company the right to inspect and appraise damaged property before it is repaired or disposed of. Since the rental company may not wait for this, the insurance company might legally deny the claim or limit the coverage.

3.  Loss Payment
The rental agreement may require immediate reimbursement for damages and it is not uncommon for the rental company to charge the renter’s credit card. This can create a significant debt, "max" out the card's credit limit (perhaps shortening a vacation or business trip), result in litigation, etc.

4.  Loss Damage Waivers (LDW)
At one time, renters were responsible only for collision damage to rental cars so you could buy a Collision Damage Waiver. Today most rental agreements make the renter responsible for ANY "loss" other than normal wear and tear regardless of fault and offer a Loss Damage Waiver. Typically you must have physical damage coverage on your auto policy for damage waivers to apply at all. Even so, you may be responsible for losses not covered by your auto policy. Similarly, your auto policy may cover losses not covered by the LDW such as operation by drivers not listed on the rental agreement. Thus, there is a need for both policies and waivers.

5.  Indirect Losses
Rental car agreements usually make you responsible not only for damage to the car, but also for the loss of rental income while the vehicle is being repaired or replaced, even if the rental company has unused autos sitting on the lot. We have heard of assessments as high as $2,000 for such charges. Many auto policies cover some loss of income but it is usually limited in amount and may be further restricted if the rental company refuses to share their fleet utilization log with the insurer in order to determine a fair loss of income. In addition, if damage is extensive enough, most rental companies will charge for the “diminished value” of the auto, something usually not covered by auto policies. We have seen documented charges of $5,000 and $8,000, and heard of one that was allegedly $15,000 on an upscale SUV rental.

6.  Administrative Expenses
The rental contract may make the renter liable for various "administrative" or loss-related expenses such as towing (e.g., one insured was charged for a 230-mile tow), storage, appraisal, claims adjustment, etc. None of these expenses are typically covered by auto policies.

7.  Other Insurance
Most auto policies provide excess coverage over other sources of recovery for damages to rental vehicles—damage waivers, travel policies, credit card coverages, etc. Other policies, credit cards, etc. might say that they are excess over your auto policy. The potential controversy over who pays what is obvious and can result in litigation. Often this is governed by state law which is likely to be unknown at the time of rental. While it is unlikely, we have heard of insurance companies refusing to pay for damage to nonowned autos if there is primary insurance coverage on them.

8.  Excluded Vehicles & Territories
Most personal auto policies only cover damage to motor vehicles that are private passenger autos, pickup trucks, and vans. In other words, vehicles such as motorcycle and motorhome rentals are typically not covered. Most auto insurance coverage is limited to the U.S., its territories and possessions, Puerto Rico, and Canada, which could present a problem for some rentals. In addition, if the insured is renting a trailer (U-Haul, camper trailer, etc.), auto coverage is typically limited to only $500 - $1,500. The insured usually has no choice but to rely on the rental company's damage waiver for coverage under these circumstances.

9.  Excluded Uses & Drivers
Some auto policies do not cover business use of nonowned autos and some do only if it is a private passenger auto. Some policies have driver exclusion endorsements. For such business use or operation by excluded drivers, the only source of recovery might be the rental company LDW. Similarly, the auto policy may cover some drivers not automatically covered by the LDW. A related exposure involves valet parking. Most auto policies will cover you if a rental vehicle is damaged by a hotel or restaurant valet, but you wouldn’t have coverage under most LDWs because the valet is not an authorized operator. So, again, having both auto insurance and the damage waiver may be beneficial in certain circumstances.

10.  Additional and/or Future Costs
An auto policy will almost certainly include a deductible in the range of $100-$500 or more that you will have to pay. Perhaps more important, payment for damage to a rental car may result in a significant premium increase (if not nonrenewal) via claim surcharges or loss of credits.

Recommended Reading:
There are two excellent related articles on this subject from the Denver Post that consumers will find very enlightening:

·       

“Read Before You Rent”
 

http://www.denverpost.com/travel/ci_8625501



·       

“Comparison of Rental Car Policies”
 

http://www.denverpost.com/travel/ci_8651913

 

 

Copyright 1999-2008 by the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America, Inc. All rights reserved.
Original article copyrighted 1998 by the Independent Insurance Agents of Tennessee, Inc. Used with permission.

 

For guidelines on reprinting this article, go to http://www.iiaba.net/VU/Lib/ArticleReprints.htm. In general, IIABA member agencies may reproduce this article for free dissemination to their customers in print or on their web sites as long as the copyright notice above is retained on the copy and the article wording is not modified.

 

 

NOTE: Policy coverages and circumstances can change at any time, so the information in this article may not be accurate at the time of reprinting or subsequently to that time. IIABA does not assume and has no responsibility for liability or damage which may result from the use of any of this information. The most current, up to date version of this article can be found at IIABA’s Virtual University at http://www.iiaba.net/VU.