Renter’s insurance has your back on vacation

Ah, summer, the golden months when all we want to think about is vacation. The summer escape, whether it’s a mountain cabin, a beach bungalow, or some city condo, is the sweetest relief.

Some of us travel light, using the occasion to satisfy shopping pleasure. Others consider heavy bags to be the sign of a happy vacation. Yet all that stuff we take with us – laptop, camera, sports equipment, musical instruments, jewelry – is not only heavy, but also valuable. What happens if these items are damaged or stolen while staying at a hotel or a vacation rental? For peace of mind, first determine whether or your luggage with its contents will be covered by your insurance policy in event of loss due to fire, theft, or some other unfortunate events.

Your renters or homeowners insurance most probably has “off-premise” coverage. In other words, your personal possessions will still be covered outside your home – regardless if it happens to have your property stolen from your car or your vacation rental. Furthermore, you will also be covered for the common perils such as fire, theft, vandalism, and hurricanes. However, if you put your bike on the roof of your car, don’t secure it properly and it falls down, most probably you won’t get a new bicycle under insurance coverage.

The Insurance Information Institute advises to check on the off-premises coverage as some policies limit it to 10 percent of the amount of coverage you have for your personal possessions. Specifically, if you have $100,000 worth of coverage for your personal items, you’d get only $10,000 for off-premises coverage. Check with your agent before you start your vacation. If your off-premise coverage is too low, you may want to consider raising your policy limits.

Depending on where you spend your vacation, be selective with the items you take with you. On the beach or on some mountain, you won’t need all that expensive jewelry or tech. Make an inventory of the things that make it in your luggage and keep it documented and detailed in case you have to make a claim for damage or loss. If you must travel with valuable items, consider adding a floater to your renter’s policy. This endorsement will cover the cost of specific higher-value items, whether at home or on vacation.

 

 

Apartments with criminal pasts

Perhaps one of the most terrifying nightmares in the life of a renter is to unknowingly rent an apartment with a criminal past.

There are some obvious signs signaling that something is wrong with the place; the most striking of them is the price – below market. Any time you find an apartment with a price that’s too good to be true, it most certainly has something terrible to hide.

Picking the perfect place has many factors to be considered; most renters focus on size, location, price, amenities when choosing an apartment, but omit one essential aspect: its criminal record. It might sound as a scene from the movies, but reality sometimes beats the movies.

There was the case of young renters moved into their new apartment and shortly after experienced sickness, including nausea and vomiting, serious breathing problems and terrible migraines, forcing several hospital visits before they moved out after three months. It was only afterwards that they discovered that the apartment beneath theirs had once been a meth lab.

Perhaps you’ve watched Breaking Bad and noticed that cooking meth requires little hardware and is pretty easy to conceal. There have been hundreds of cases such as this one, seriously affecting the health of tenants who have moved in next. Meth contamination is invisible and the clean-up process is expensive; unfortunately there are plenty unethical landlords who simply skip the cost and keep quiet.

Renters who, unknowingly move into apartments where drug dealing/cooking or prostitution took place, enter an unsettling and dangerous zone. Unwanted visitors looking for the previous tenant will compromise privacy and safety in the new home. What is worse is the fact that many landlords avoid to warn the future tenants before they move in, so it’s up to the tenants to conduct their own research.

In many states the law doesn’t require landlords to warn potential tenants of criminal activity in their apartment or complex. Therefore, if your apartment or a neighboring one has been a nest for criminal activity, you might not be told, even if you ask. But if you are willing to do the research, there are ways to track such mishaps.

First, use Google, Bing, Yahoo or any other search engine and type in the exact address of the apartment. The address may have appeared in a news story or police blotter. You can also research police reports for the unit and the area to see if your potential apartment or nearby ones have experienced criminal activity. Consider break-ins close to the apartment, drug related activity, sex offenders in the proximity – all these are indicators of danger for new tenants.

Another option is to use CrimeReports and type in your exact address, if the results come up clear, then probably your apartment has a safe past. If you also wish to find out whether someone has died in that respective unit (either by natural or violent causes), you can pay DiedInHouse to bring you that answer.

A simple and inexpensive way to find out if the apartment you’re eyeing has a criminal past is to ask the neighbors. Knock on a few doors and ask of any unusual or illegal activities as well as of recent tragedies around the area/complex. Ask them if they feel safe, if they’ve noticed strangers or non-tenants hanging around as this may be a clue for drug or prostitution activity. However, be careful how you ask, be friendly and casual so that your future neighbors won’t feel accused of doing something against the law.

Once you’ve cleared the air and signed the lease to your new home, get renter’s insurance. Safety first, right?

Hurricane updates from the Insurance Information Institute

The Atlantic hurricane season started on June 1st and will end on November 30th, reminds the Insurance Information Institute. Hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst. Go over the steps you should take to get through the stormy season prepared.

The Insurance Information Institute has available English and Spanish-language experts, who can talk to you about the economics of insuring against natural disasters, provide you with tips and updated news, and even give historical perspective on Hurricane Katrina, the calamity which made landfall in August ten years ago. You can find the list with spokespeople here.

If you haven’t yet reviewed your insurance yet, be advised that wind damage from both tropical storms and hurricanes is covered under standard renters, homeowners, and business insurance policies. However, flood damage resulting from storm surge caused by hurricanes is excluded under the standard policies. Still, flood coverage is available from FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program. Furthermore, damage to cars from tropical storms and hurricanes is covered under the optional comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy – this includes wind damage, flooding, and even falling objects such as trees.

For those living in threatened areas like Dr. Tim Reinhold, director of Engineering and vice president at Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety has identified five steps homeowners can take to make homes more hurricane-resistant: (1) Shutter all openings, (2) Protect gable end vents, (3) Secure loose roof shingles, (4) Seal openings, cracks and holes, and (5) Strengthen doors. Talk to your landlord and check that your rental is strong enough to get you safe through the stormy season. Maybe even show him the video below.

The folks at Resident Shield wish you a safe summer and an uneventful hurricane season.

Renting from private parties (vs. property management companies)

What if your dream apartment belongs to an individual instead of a company? How does the procedure differ from renting from an individual as opposed to renting from a company? It’s a compromise: give the 24/7 maintenance, the workout room, and the community gathering spaces for a more personable, friendly, and flexible process.

Flexibility is the main benefit. Working one-on-one allows you to develop a relationship with the landlord and the option to negotiate the policies or whatever situation you might find yourself in. Whether it’s pet related or rent payment date, individual landlords might be willing to work with you. It may also save you money in some places: since you can negotiate, you may do so with the rent amount, or work out some trade situation.

Since they own the property, they have vested interest in the property’s condition, thus he may allow you to improve the living space, indoor or outdoor, for a discount on rent. If the two of you get along well, he will want to keep you as a tenant for as long as possible and probably enable you the possibility to avoid rent increases at renewal or even get a discount for signing a longer term contract.

Of course, there are also risks and many of them are unknown as every experience will vary, depending on who you are renting from and the terms you have agreed upon. A great risk is visible when you don’t have a contract/lease in your renting transaction. If the landlord doesn’t insist on having one, be very careful, investigate. It is as much in your protection as it is in his.

Make sure that the landlord actually owns the apartment as he might be renting it, in which case, check to make sure he has the right to sublet. And as in any case, sign a contract that you know you can follow through – contracts work the same with individuals as they do with companies.

Questions for the landlord:

  • What is the monthly rate? What utilities will you be paying for and how much?
  • How much is the deposit, if there is any?
  • What are your responsibilities?
  • What amenities are available to you – WiFi, laundry facility, maintenance?
  • How will the two of you manage situation in case of emergencies or if something breaks, are there any emergency expenses?
  • How long will the space be available to you?
  • Are they planning on selling the property?
  • Is he the owner of the property?
  • Are there any personal policies – noise or visitors related?
  • Are you the first renter or has someone else leased the apartment before you? – you might be able to find out more about the location, or about doing business with the landlord.
  • How much will the landlord be involved in your life? Will you see them every day or will they give you privacy?
  • What situations will make the landlord require access to your apartment?
  • Ask for a copy of the contract to take home and read it fully before signing it.

At all times make sure everything is clearly written down. Be aware of your move-in and move-out responsibilities. Don’t just look at the place, but try it out: operate the cabinets, test the faucets, flip the switches, turn on the air conditioner and heater; mainly check the little details to be functional. Of course, make sure any broken things are replaced or fixed before you sign the contract. Additionally, document the space: take pictures, write details, and have the landlord sign it. To make sure you really did your homework, research tenant rights in your area.

Regardless if you rent from a company or an individual, renter’s insurance should always be part of your plans. Remember the great benefits such a small amount of money will bring.

Roadtripping – and moving – with furry friends

With summer in full force, traveling and vacation are on the brain.  You might feel the urge to just throw some clothes and sunscreen in bag and hit the open road for the weekend, but if you’re planning on taking your pet with you, there’s a couple of things you need to do beforehand.

  • Especially if you’re a new pet and/or car owner, take your pet on a few shorter trips to see how he reacts. If he’s struggling with anxiety or car sickness, it might be best to leave him behind with a pet sitter.
  • Take his health into consideration. Your pet might have no temperamental or anxiety issues with long road trips, but young, old, injured or sick pets handle travel poorly. Generally it’s best to leave them at home with a caretaker.
  • If you’re planning on taking a road trip with your pet, make sure they’re restrained, for both your sakes. Unrestrained pets in cars cause thousands of accidents every year by distracting their owners or acting up. Furthermore, should your car be involved in an accident whether by your fault or not, a restrained pet has a higher chance of survival and a lower chance for injury. Whether you use a crate, pet car seat or pet seat belt, make sure it provides adequate security, but also comfort.
  • If you opt for a pet crate for travel, make sure your animal can stand up in it and turn around. Also buy it several weeks in advance, to give your furry friend time to get accustomed to it. If he’s got a favorite blanket or pillow, put it in the crate with him, along with a chew toy or two.
  • While you might be able to drive for hours upon hours without stopping, your pet isn’t. The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends stopping every two-three hours so your pet can go to the bathroom, get some exercise, eat and drink.
  • Be prepared. Have current photo of your pet on hand, should he get lost. Also bring his medical records (or copies) with you in case of emergencies. Make sure you have evidence of your pet’s vaccination on hand as well.
  • Before you take off, exercise and play with your animal. Not only will that make him feel loved and secure, but it will also tire him out, increasing the chances of him sleeping through the trip.
  • Check well in advance if your destination is pet friendly. Not all hotels allow pets to check in and many heavy weight and breed restrictions.
  • Whether you go on vacation with your pet or leave him in the acre of a pet sitter, make sure your renters insurance is up to date. Should your dog sitter slip and fall at your residence or a storm hurl a branch through your window into your TV, Resident Shield has your back, so you (and your four-legged companion) can enjoy a carefree and fun vacation.

7 reasons why Millennials need renters insurance

As you’ve probably noticed in your group of friends, most Millennials rent, rather than own their home. There are many benefits to renting, but not needing insurance isn’t one of them.  While you don’t need homeowner’s insurance, you most definitely need renters insurance. Here are some of the essential reasons why:

  • Your landlord’s insurance doesn’t cover you. The insurance policy your landlord or property management company has only covers the structure itself. It does not extend to the valuables or furnishings you own.
  • It’s the only way you can protect your possession. You can and should all precautions against fire or theft and any other unwanted events, but no matter what you do, you can never be 100 percent safe. That is the nature of accidents. But with renters insurance, such as Resident Shield, you are protected against financial disaster should any of the following happen: fire, windstorm, theft, vandalism, smoke and lightning – even earthquakes if you live in California.
  • It protects you from liability. Say a potted plant from your balcony falls on a pedestrian. This makes you liable for the injury. Or you throw a party and a guest slips, falls and hurts himself.  Renters insurance will help you cover medical and legal fees in case you get sued. Resident Shield for example offers up to $100,000 of coverage against personal liability claims such as slip and fall injuries.
  • It protects you from animal liability. Which is quite handy should bite somebody or damage something in your unit or the community. Moreover, having renters insurance with animal liability coverage can help you secure a better apartment or even a unit in a community that isn’t very open to pets.
  • It will cover your living expenses after a claim. Should an unfortunate event make it impossible for you to reside in your rented unit, renters insurance will cover your living expenses for the duration of your displacement.
  • It’s cheap. Overwhelmingly people without renters insurance assume it to be very costly. That however is quite untrue. On average a policy will clock in at $300 yearly. In fact, Resident Shield will cover you for as little as 50 cents a day. A steal, especially when you factor in that in case of a claim, Resident Shield insure full replacement value for your personal property and that of your neighbors.

Peace of mind. Being in your twenties is stressful enough as you start out in adult life, especially financially. Renters insurance, at minimal cost and hassle, gives you peace of mind, knowing that should an unfortunate event happen, your finances won’t suffer

Moving this summer?

Ah, summer. Long days, daiquiris, pool parties and moving trucks? Yup, that’s right. Over half of residential moves take place between May 1 and September 1. With that in mind, we’ve thought of 11 useful packing tips in advance of your big summer move.

  1. Start packing early, so you don’t get overwhelmed the day before the movers show up. Start at least a month in advance, by sorting out seasonal decorations, winter gear and clothing, kitchenware and dinnerware that seldom gets used
  2. After you’ve packed away everything you won’t be using in the following 5 weeks or so, start going room by room, marking all the boxes by which room they go in. This way you know exactly where to look for your bathrobe, without having to go through your grandmother’s antique silverware and your ski gloves.
  3. Don’t forget to clearly and visibly mark boxes with fragile contents
  4. Mercilessly sort through your possessions when packing. Maybe it’s time to give away that fondue set since it’s never left the box. And those PC games you haven’t played since 2007? Donate them. It’s easy to get attached to things, but every item you don’t need or use is another item you’re not only paying to have shipped, but your also wasting time on packing and unpacking. So have a yard sale, gift and donate every item that you don’t need, use or like. Recycle or throw away unsalvageable clothing and broken things.
  5. While you’re decluttering, keep an up to date list of things. Cross reference that with you renters insurance policy. Remove from it items you’re tossing and add things you’ve accumulated since you’ve last updated the policy. And don’t forget to notify your renters insurance provider of your move so you stay protected.
  6. When packing take into account the possible climate differences between your current home and your future location as well as freak weather patterns. Nobody wants weeks of pouring rain in July, but it can happen. Pack accordingly.
  7. Throw out cleaning products and open containers of food.
  8. Stop buying groceries a few weeks ahead. Stop buying fresh produce a wekk ahead of your move. Eat only the things you already have in your pantry and fridge to minimize waste. Besides, it’s not like you’ll move your frozen peas, right?
  9. Even if your move takes only a day, pack a suitcase with about a week’s worth of clothes, toiletries and various necessities.
  10. If you own pets, keep their medication on hand as well if they’re taking any. Keep plenty of food and snacks, as well as their favorite toy and blankie on hand for the move. Moving can be even more stressful to animals, than to people with all the sounds, movement and new people and foreign surroundings. Do everything you can to make them feel safe and keep their stress levels down.

 

Get your apartment ready for the summer

As snow, gloves and wool coats fade into distant memory, replaced by the joys of shorts, loafers and silk dresses, welcome summer into your apartment, not just your wardrobe.

  • Get some blackout shades, or, if you can sew them yourself, more kudos to you! Blackout shades not only allow you to Netflix all the seasons of Mad Men during the weekend, but they’re also a nifty way to save on you electrical bill. Draw them in when you leave for work in the morning or in any rooms you’re not using. By keeping the sun out, they very efficiently keep temperatures down in your home, cutting down on AC time. If you’re worried they cast a dreary gloom in your home, opt for some warm tones as deep reds, glowing oranges or vibrant greens in thick textures that will keep light out and boost the ambiance.
  • Invest in a quality blender, juicer and if you’re ready to splurge a margarita machine as well, to liven up parties at your community’s pool. Professional tumblers, glasses and a cocktail bible are also a must.
  • Whatever new appliances or gadgets you buy, be sure to add them to your renters insurance. Summer months are a boon for wind and lightning damage, so be responsible and safeguard your belongings against potential damage.
  • If you haven’t gotten around it yet, do a deep cleaning of your apartment. A fresh and clean home is essential to enjoy the balmy weather.
  • Install mosquito nets, so you can throw your windows open during the night and cut down on AC time.
  • Start an herb garden on your window sill and a hyper-local container garden on your balcony if you have the space. You’d be surprised how little space you need to grow tomatoes or cucumbers in your apartment.
  • Buy potted plants to liven up your living room, bathroom and bedroom. If your apartment doesn’t get a lot of sunshine, there are many plants native to the rainforest that do well in little to no direct sunlight. If you lack the green thumb, get some cacti or succulents that need little to no attention, besides the very occasional watering. If even that’s too daunting, swing by your neighborhood farmer’s market and regularly buy locally-grown, fresh-cut flowers.
  • Get new scented candles, incense sticks and air fresheners. Spiced pumpkin and cinnamon clash with the warm weather and long hours of sunshine.
  • Pack away your quilts and blankets. Keep light afghans on hand for the late evenings you plan on spending on your patio or balcony.
  • If you do have a sizeable patio in your home, consider picking up a porch swing or a couple of swinging chairs for a timeless enjoyment of the outdoors.
  • A cool and eco-friendly feature to live up your apartment for the summer is to liberally strew solar lights around. Just leave them on a balcony or window sill with enough sunlight hours to charge them and put them wherever you need want them for the evening.

Consume with care – celebrating World Environment Day

“Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care,”  is this year’s World Environment Day slogan. World Environment Day (WED) is the United Nation’s main vehicle for encouraging global awareness and action for the environment and is globally celebrated on June 5 since 1972. In honor of WED 2015, we take a peek at a few hassle-free ways to cut down on waste and irresponsible consumption.

-          Don’t buy stuff you don’t need. This may sound like a no-brainer, but we overwhelmingly buy things we don’t need/already have just because it’s on sale or has a catchy slogan. Impulse shopping hurts not only the planet, but your bottom line as well. While a $10 YOLO shirt and a $5 flower tiara might not break the bank, $15 a month can actually cover your renters insurance premium. That’s right, Resident Shield offers you coverage for as little as 50 cents a day. Sure, you can’t wear your renters insurance to Coachella, but neither can you wear last year’s flower crowns – they’re way too 2012.

-          Choose quality over pricing. Whenever you can, spend the extra bucks on a higher-priced item if it will last longer than the dollar store version. For example, trendy fast-fashion clothing is of an inferior quality and you’ll end up with unwearable items after no more than a couple of wears and washes. At the same time a more expensive brand might hold up for years and years of wear, saving you big bucks in the long run.

-          Mend and repair. If your phone breaks down, take it to a repair shop. They might be able to fix it for a fraction of the cost of a new phone. Obviously you won’t have the latest generation smartphone to show off, but you don’t really need it, do you? The same applies to apparel: hunt down a good cobbler in your area and take your shoes and handbags in for repairs. This is especially worth it for mid-to high-priced items. Learn a few basic sewing skills and prolong the life of your carefully curated closet. Check the brand’s website for free or special rate repairs as well. Some outdoor gear companies, for example, offer repair services to customers.

-          Learn how to cook and do it as often as possible. Take-out is incredibly wasteful. All those disposable cups, cutlery and pizza boxes add up really quickly, choking up landfills. Cook your own lunch and brownbag it. While it does require investing some time, you do cut down on waste and save money.

-          Consuming with care doesn’t mean pinching on gifts for your loved ones. Gift experiences instead of stuff, such as candle making classes instead of scented candles, concert tickets instead of an album, a day at the spa instead of cosmetics. Instead of fancy wine glasses, give tickets to a winetasting. Instead of cosmetics and perfume, send your friend to a spa. Not only are experiences a greener gift option, but years from now, chances are your friends will forget the stuff, but remember the experiences.

Get ready to save on bills this summer

Polar vortexes, snow-ins and mittens are finally behind us and we’re all itching for our summer shorts and grills.  With fabulous vacations, weekend football tournaments and updated summer wardrobes on the horizon, here si ways you can save money for the most unforgettable summer ever.

  1. Don’t forget about insulation. We know how much energy improper insulation can waste. But just because it’s summer and your heating bills aren’t stacking up, it doesn’t mean you don’t need to keep an eye out for energy wastes. With the truly melting temperatures some parts of the country get in the summer months, make sure all your windows and doors close properly. Any nooks and cracks that allow heat to creep into your apartment are only making your AC work in overdrive and cost quickly rise.
  2.  If you’re apartment gets plenty of sunshine (we’re all jealous, by the way), consider getting some black-out shades. They’re an easy and inexpensive way to save a lot on electricity, especially if you’re gone most of the day. Pull them in areas that get morning and midday sun and turn your AC down for some unexpectedly simple savings on your electrical bill.
  3. While we all agree that air-conditioning is basically the best thing since sliced bread, as the old adage goes, too much of a good thing can hurt. This is especially true for over-exposure to air conditioning, which can cause everything from mild headaches to allergies and sinus complications that require surgery –yikes! Only run you AC, when it’s truly necessary. If the temperatures aren’t quite wilting, skip the AC altogether or just turn on a fan in the room you’re in. If possible, skip the AC and fans during the night and throw your windows open for the night air to cool you r apartment down.
  4.  Ignore your dryer, as its one of the most power-hungry appliances in your house. Opt for air drying on your patio, balcony or even on fold-down rack in a corner of your living room. Not only does it save big bucks on your bills, but air-drying doesn’t damage your clothes at all, unlike a dryer.  As an added bonus air drying gives your clothes a freshness unmatched by any fabric softener.
  5. You know all those advantages of air-drying clothing? The same applies to you hair. In the hot summer months even the longest hair takes very little time to dry on its own, so skip that hair dryer for healthier locks and lower bills.
  6. Let’s not forget about the biggest money-saver of them all – renters insurance. While it adds some extra costs, which clock in at a meager 50 cents per day, renters insurance can save your bank account in the long term. With thunder storms, high winds, and vacation break-ins, Resident Shield has your back, giving you full replacement value for your personal property and that of your neighbors.