Save your stuff, get that renters insurance

Adulthood is hard, filled with new and important things that are equally confusing. Like renters insurance. Here’s a crash course that will help navigate through its waters.

  1. It should actually be called property insurance because that’s what it covers: your stuff. Your landlord has insurance that covers the actual building and structure that you live in; renters insurance covers all you own: clothes, jewelry, furniture, electronics, bike, small appliances, and even art.
  2. Probably you think you don’t own a lot of stuff, but ask yourself if you can afford to replace everything if something destroyed all or most of it… let me remind you what your stuff means: clothes, jewelry, furniture, electronics, bike, small appliances, art, etc.
  3. Renters insurance covers your property when it’s inside AND outside of your home.
  4. Renters insurance will cover your property no matter where the loss occurs, as long as it’s a “covered” type of loss. The “covered” risks include theft, vandalism, fire damage, water damage (excluding flooding) and extreme weather events at a minimum. Stolen laptop at a coffee shop? – Renters insurance will pay. Bike vandalized while parked outside a bookstore? – Renters insurance. Camera stolen on vacation? Yup, renters insurance.
  5. Renters insurance also protects your property when it’s in your car. In the unfortunate event your car gets stolen and your computer was in it, renters insurance will cover that. In another unfortunate event if you’re in a car accident and your camera gets damaged, renters insurance has got your back.
  6. It’s not that costly. The average cost of the policy is pretty low, around $10-$20 a month. The exact amount depends on where you live, how much stuff you own, the company you use and your deductible.
  7. If you already have car insurance, check for discounts on renters insurance if you’re shopping from the same company. It’s a thing called “bundling” and it can save you a little on your monthly premiums. It might even make the cost of your car insurance go down because there are redundancies in coverage.
  8. What’s your coverage type? The best one is “replacement cost coverage” simply because it will cover the current cost to get you a new version of what you’ve lost. The other one, called “actual cash value” is cheaper, but it only covers the depreciated value of your stuff based on the condition it’s in and when you bought it.
  9. The deductible is for each claim you make. You might be used to the health insurance policy where you often have a yearly deductible, but with renters insurance things are different. So, if your laptop disappeared from your car while you were grocery shopping in March and your clothes are all ruined by a fire in August, not only have you had a terrible year, you’ll also have to pay your deductible twice. And this is why a lower deductible is usually worth paying a slightly higher premium.
  10. Usually, the default deductible is $500, but you can choose a lower one or contact your insurance representative to get it lowered. On average, the monthly premiums are raised $1 a month or $10-$12 a year for every $100 you lower the deductible.
  11. Plans have a maximum limit for each kind of item. Take jewelry, watches and computers—these are only covered up to a certain amount, usually around $1,500. Also, those who work from home with expensive equipment, there’s a limit for them, too. In these cases you can buy an addition to the plan and they’re called “floaters” or “riders”.
  12. There can be two unrelated roommates on the same policy, even if they’re not both on the lease. However, no matter whose stuff is damaged, claim checks will be made out to both roommates, so you better have a good relationship. And beware, theft by a roommate is not covered.
  13. If you live in a dorm, your parent’s homeowners will still cover your property. Because technically, you still part of your parent’s household while you’re in college.
  14. If there’s a fire and you have to leave, renters insurance will pay for hotel, food, laundry, childcare and other expenses that arise because you’re away from home.
  15. Liability coverage is included for if someone gets hurt in your home. Say your dog bites someone; your renters insurance will cover the medical costs you would be responsible for, including medical and legal fees up to a certain amount. However, if you own an “aggressive” breed, things might be different—check before you buy the policy.
  16. When lightning strikes… yup, renters insurance!
  17. Renting or subletting is NOT covered by renters insurance. Think twice before you AirBnB your rented apartment because if anything happens to your stuff during that time, you won’t be protected.
  18. Home inventory is a must with renters insurance. Either make a video with everything you own or find an app that will keep track of that for you.

A sense of community, a sense of protection

Friendships can make a neighborhood watch more efficient and effective.

Renters insurance is a safety net used to support clients when the unthinkable happens. Yet for the renter and the insurer, prevention is the truest safeguard.

neighborhood

The key to preventions lies in creating a safe environment in which to live. To do so, it is important to build a sense of community with your neighbors. Tight-knit communities look out for each other, care for one another’s well-being, and they are ultimately safer places to live for everyone involved. Being on friendly terms with your neighbors is an unofficial yet effective form of neighborhood watch:

  • When you are familiar with your neighbors and they are familiar with you, both parties will be more readily able to recognize guests and relatives, minimizing the chances that a stranger can enter either property undetected.
  • Friends look out for each other, naturally. It isn’t too much to ask a friend to keep an eye out for your home while you’re away, though it may seem uncomfortable to ask that favor of a stranger.
  • Have you heard the saying that it takes a village to raise a child? That still rings true today. Parents can join forces to supervise children when they are out and about in different parts of the neighborhood, increasing vigilance and minimizing a delayed response to dangerous situations or events.
  • Many home care tasks are easier and safer when completed with the assistance of a friend; repairing planks on a deck, removing hazardous overhanging limbs, and other routine maintenance can help to make your rental a safer place for you and your guests.
  • When neighbors have a general idea of your routine activities and lifestyle, it is easier to identify suspicious activity in around your rental. This can be as simple as knowing that you don’t own a grill, so a sign of smoke on your property is a red flag.

Whether you are new to the community or you’ve lived there for a while, it is never too late to forge meaningful and mutually beneficial relationships with your neighbors.

Own a pet? Renters insurance is your true companion

If dogs are a man’s best friend then renters insurance is the tie that binds.

Pets. We can spend hours watching YouTube videos of our furry, winged, and scaled companions doing some pretty amazing things. In addition to the love that they provide, many of us would admit that we like having pets around because they’re so lively and entertaining. Their curiosity and energy create some of the highlights of our days.

man holding his dog

Pets are also a major responsibility. Their maintenance and wellbeing are just part of the equation. Caring for your pets (and your guests in the presence of your pets) entails having reliable coverage with renters insurance. Resident Shield policies prepare you for the unexpected.

Under personal liability protection, policy holders receive a maximum of $100,000 of coverage in cases of personal liability claims. When your guest trips over the dog bowl and lands face first on the floor, we have  you covered. The provision also allows up to $25,000 in retribution for dog bites, which could help you and your roommates survive the early years of puppy training and house breaking.  If your guests are injured in any way while in your rental, Resident Shield furnishes up to $10,000 per incident and $500 per person in coverage.

Ideally, you won’t need any of that, right? A few helpful pointers can prevent accidents in your rental.

  • Never underestimate dog training. Dogs that can remain focused and poised under pressure are less likely to react adversely to guests and hectic situations in the home.
  • Have you pet spayed or neutered. Male pets are often more aggressive when they are ready to mate. Females tend to be more skittish, which may make them unpredictable.
  • Create a safe place for pet. When the house is crowded with guests, it’s a good idea to have a safe place for your pet such as a designated room. High-stress situations may cause your pet to act erratically, reacting instinctively when afraid or confused. That could be dangerous to your pet and guests.
  • Advise potential guests and roommates that you have a pet. A simple warning could prevent the onset of allergic reactions and respiratory problems.
  • Add additional security features to cages, aquariums, and other holding containers when guests are present, particularly if your pet has a tendency to escape.

 

 

 

Smart tips for subletting

In case you need to leave town but don’t want to lose the apartment you’re currently living in, you might be a great candidate for subletting. But before you leap in, it’s advisable that you get the full picture of the risks you might face and what you could do to minimize them.

  • Receive permission. If you’re a renter and wish to sublet you place without talking to your landlord first, you could be in violation of the terms of your lease. Yes, that means you could be evicted. Review your lease and talk to your landlord before subletting. The best scenario is the one where you get your landlord’s permission in writing.

  • Consider the risks. So, your landlord gave you permission to sublet. However, this does not put you in the clear. Subletting your home can also mean theft and serious damage that you’ll be responsible for. Think hard about this one as there are plenty of horror stories out there about sublets gone awfully wrong.
  • Search among non-strangers first. Reach out to your family, friends, work/school colleagues. However, even if someone in your close circle wants to sublet from you, it’s still wise to follow the same steps you would take to make your home ready for a stranger. This means that if priceless piece of furniture you own gets damaged by a good friend or relative, you’ll have to deal with all the broken pieces—of the furniture and your relationship with that person. Save yourself the trouble and take away anything that would upset you seeing scratched, dinged or broken and place them somewhere safe. Better safe than sorry, right?
  • Limit your pool of potential renters. Try reaching out to a local university that needs to house visiting professors, for example. See what you can find in your community.
  • Put on the landlord coat. Don’t be soft just because you’re offering a short-term rental. You need to be just as careful as a landlord looking for a long-term tenant: ask for a security deposit, check references and have them sign the rental agreement.
  • Document your place. Take photos of your home before you sublet it and get a move-in checklist signed. The checklist should contain details about the condition of your place when they move in and when you walk-through the apartment at the end of their stay, hopefully you won’t have any arguments over damages.
  • Keep an eye out, even from afar. If possible, have a trusted person available to regularly check on your home and be available to your renter, if anything goes wrong while you are away. You can either pay this person, or take them out for a fabulous dinner when you return.
  • Create a reference notebook. It should contain information such as your home’s little quirks, the Wi-Fi password, and day of trash pickup. This is also the perfect place to include the contact info for someone local the renter can reach if anything is wrong, as well as restaurant recommendations, markets and entertainment activities.
  • Be at peace with your decision. Review everything from options to risks before committing to subletting your home. There are, of course, guidelines you can set, but if the idea makes you nervous, don’t do it.

Leasing terminology for apartment renters

Some of our readers are preparing this year to rent a new apartment, maybe even their first. The To Do list is extensive and takes a lot of time to complete, but it’s as important to make sure the terms of the apartment lease are clearly understood.

Typically, most lease documents are clear and without unexpected surprises, but just for your peace of mind, make sure you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into and what restrictions you might obey to as a resident of your new apartment.

We recommend you double check the following before signing your lease:

Start and end date of tenancy—also known as the periodic tenancy, means to check that your move in and move out dates correspond with the time frame expected/requested.

Rental price and deposit amount—check to see that the dollar amounts match up to what you’ve discussed with the leasing agent.

Contingencies for post-lease continuance—simply put, in some apartments you’ll be able to rent month to month after you have completed your first year of residency; in others you will be asked to sign another year-long lease or a shorter term lease, such as six months.

Terms of anticipated increases—most likely this won’t pertain to your first year of tenancy because you agree to rent the apartment at the monthly price stated in the agreement. However, read thoroughly to make sure there aren’t any situations or causes in which the landlord has the right to raise the rent. Look for a standard second-year increase in the lease agreement.

Reasons for termination—this section has to be detailed and very specific. Be on the lookout for vague loopholes under which a landlord could evict you for some cause or without violation of the lease terms.

Move-out penalties—in the event that you need to leave the apartment before the lease is up, will you be subjected to an additional fee?

Tenant-responsible repairs—in the lease is should be clear who is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the residence, and it should not be the tenant.

Renters Insurance—there are apartment complexes that mandate renters insurance. It’s a wise thing to have because it offers you protection, but it may be required by your lease as well.

Policies about subletting or visitors—before you move in and start having guests over, make sure you know what rules you’ve agreed to abide by.

Easy ways to save money at home

Saving money for rainy days is something we all do in one way or another, but some of the best money saving hacks are closer than we’d think. Here’s a list.

Watch your electronics—according to the Consumer Technology Association, the typical American household is equipped with 24 consumer electronics. These appliances can easily become energy vampires as they draw energy even in standby mode—on average $100 per year per household. The easiest way to fix this problem is to plug your devices into power strips and switch them off at the end of the day.

Low-flow water faucets—by simply replacing your sink faucets with low-flow models you can cut your water bill by 25 to 60 percent. If you want to, you can save even more water and money by installing low-flow shower heads, too.

Light bulbs need upgrading too—replacing your old light bulbs with some that have earned the ENERGY STAR certification could save up to 80 percent of your electric bill. Yes, it’s true that they cost more than traditional bulbs, but they last three to 25 times longer and use power more efficiently.

Proper sealing—as much as one third of a home’s total heat is lost through drafty windows and doors. EPA estimates that adding proper insulation can save an average of 15 percent on heating and cooling costs. There are several ways to go about it: insulated window shades, weather-strips, plastic film kits, or caulk.

Curtains and blinds can cut cooling costs by 45 percent. Use highly reflective ones during the summer months and window treatments to trap heat in during the cold months. The conventional draperies can reduce heat loss from a warm room up to 10 percent.

Hot water heater needs insulation, too—as do the pipes around it. By doing so, you will be able to trap in up to 40 percent more heat, thus saving as much as 9 percent on your bill.

Bottled water—as you’ve probably noticed, bottled water is one of the biggest money spenders out there. But there are water filters if drinking from the tap is not an option for you and installing one could help you save up to $177 a year.

A programmable thermostat is a very good investment, especially if you’re working long hours or are away from home a lot during the week. The device will allow you to adjust heat and cooling settings according to a pre-set schedule. How much money you’ll save depends on your utility costs, the type of heating or cooling system in your home, as well as the size and average temperature of your place, but on average, you could save $130 to $145 on your utility bills a year.

Renters insurance might sound as adding an extra expense to your already too burdened bank account, but in fact it’s an absolute must. It provides coverage for personal possessions against damage due to fire, smoke, lightning, theft, vandalism, explosion, windstorm, water, and other disasters listed in your policy. The possessions include furniture, clothing, electronics, appliances, kitchen utensils and bed linens. It also offers liability coverage, which protects against lawsuits for bodily injury or property damage caused by you or your family members, as well as no-fault medical coverage in case a visitor is injured on your property. Furthermore, it includes additional living expenses such as hotel bills, restaurant meals and other daily expenses—in case your home becomes uninhabitable due to a covered hazard.

Millennials, the force disrupting insurance

Millennials are currently the largest force disrupting insurance. The young adults from ages 18 to 34 are empowered, connected, and lead the charge for change and insurance companies have to find new ways to serve them.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, millennials account for up to a third of the U.S. population. Commensurate with their size is their estimated purchasing power:

TechCrunch reports that millennials will spend more than $200 billion in 2017 and Ad Age says they’ll spend $10 trillion throughout their lifetime. No wonder their expectations will define how the world works, including what insurance looks like in the future.

Pleasing millennials is not an easy task; legacy insurance products aren’t attractive to them and the old ways of selling insurance won’t do the trick, either. Millennials’ households look completely different from those of Baby Boomers, so insurance products need to change.

According to Pew Research Center, only about a quarter of millennials are married; back in the day, Baby Boomers were already married at the age millennials are now. The gap between these generations is so wide, that the millennial household was called (among other names) “Four Buddies and a Dog.”

Selling life insurance to millennials means that the millennials are pregnant, already have kids or are buying a house. Car insurance? Millennials don’t really want to own cars. Yes, they need access to cars and places to live, but many of them don’t want to or can’t afford to own them.

TechCrunch notices that even though 85 percent of non-millennials never use rideshare companies (like Uber), approximately a third of millennials use them with high frequency, including daily. Furthermore, they are also car sharing—almost one third of millennials are willing to rent a car on a short-term basis (like Zipcar) versus only 3 percent of non-millennials.

Goldman Sachs reports that 60 percent of millennials would rather rent things (cars, homes) than own them. As a result, insurers need to shift their focus to offering more renter’s insurance and it’s known that millennials are under-insured, thus there is room to grow.

According to Towers Watson, 88 percent of millennials prefer usage-based insurance (UBI) to coverage based on conventional elements such as age and gender. This generation is comfortable with technology knowing their personal business, and more so, they are willing to trade personal information for a price discount.

Insurance companies discovered that millennials don’t purchase their policies from local agents. Could be that they think that the insurance industry is behind the times. Where would they rather shop for insurance? Online. According to surveys, “comparison websites” are the most powerful influencer in their insurance buying decisions, followed by some time spent researching for the best insurers online.

A 2014 Gallup poll discovered that millennials are twice as likely to buy their policies online instead of from a local agent. The days of selling insurance door to door are long gone.

It’s obvious that millennial needs and behaviors are different from their predecessors. It’s unfortunate that insurers have been slow to adapt to their demands. This led to new competitors rushing in to make a bid for the industry. Investment money goes to insurance-tech—“since 2010, investors have funneled more than $2 billion in venture capital into the insurance-tech industry,” reports TechCrunch. In other words, these investors are betting big bucks on the idea that a star-up will rob legacy insurers of the millennial business. A possible solution? Either be very afraid, or jump in and buy them.

Tips for successfully filing personal liability claims

When the unthinkable happens, it pays to be prepared.

You never imagined a day like this would come. Without warning, the unthinkable happens. A guest or roommate sustains injuries while in your home. In the bustle of the action, it is important to remain composed and take proper measures to document the event. Preparedness and documentation rest at the center of every successfully filed personal liability claim.

 

Insurance Not Risk

To prepare your file, consider the following:

What happened? Take a moment to create an accurate and detailed description of events. This may involve compiling the insights of multiple guests at the scene of the incident. Even the smallest details may be pertinent to your claim so it is better to be too thorough than too vague.

Who was involved? Collect detailed information of those involved in the accident, most importantly the contact information of the injured parties. It may be necessary to contact these individuals throughout the process of your filing.

Where did it occur? Depending on the location of the event, your personal renters insurance may cover damages. In other instances, the coverage may be provided by the landlord’s insurance. To settle any ambiguity, be as specific as possible about the location of the incident.

How was it handled? Some emergencies simply can’t wait. In those cases, it may be necessary to have the problem resolved before you are able to complete a claim. It is important to keep record of how the problem was handled. Did you call a taxi or ambulance? Which hospital was the injured party taken to? Did the incident make the rental uninhabitable for any duration of time, forcing you to stay in a hotel? It is vital to keep all receipts as they will determine your reimbursement. Insist upon receiving receipts when none are offered.

Take photographs. Use photographs as part of your documentation package. Images from a camera phone suffice as well as any. It may be helpful to add captions or descriptions for each of the photos to help processors understand what they are seeing in each image. Do not alter photos.

Your Resident Shield renters insurance representative is here to assist you every step of the way. Simply contact us to have your questions answered.

Spring allergy remedies

Most people look forward to the arrival of sunny spring, following the cough, flu and cold season. Yet, along with all that sunshine come the pollens and molds, a real threat to those of us suffering of seasonal allergies.

In the northern parts of the U.S., the earliest pollen triggers come from trees. In the Midwest, Elm trees begin to pollinate as early as February or March when the temperatures start to rise. Cottonwoods, Birch, Maple and Oak follow in March, April and May. In May, grass pollen jumps into the mix, and ragweed follows in mid-August. You can learn a lot more about pollen and molds by visiting the American Academy of Allergy Asthma & Immunology.

People who suffer of seasonal allergies have a well-deserved break over the winter months. Before they can really enjoy the beautiful spring and summer weather, they have to deal with nasal itching, runny nose, stuffy nose, a lot of sneezing, and itchy and watery eyes. Or else.

Start early and visit your doctor. He’ll know that starting your medications before the pollens and molds kick in. Non-drowsy antihistamines are preferred. Lately, prescription nasal sprays have become important players in managing nasal allergies, just remember to start 1-2 weeks before the beginning of the pollen season.

Doors & windows – entryways for allergens. As tempting as it might be to keep the windows open, that’s how you let in pollens and molds. No, the screens don’t keep them out. One way you could get rid of the stuffy air in your home is to run the A/C earlier.

Car windows too. And the sunroof. When in your car, if you can adjust your vent to recirculate inter-compartment air, do it.

Outdoor activities need proper timing. Early and mi-morning hours have the highest pollen counts, so steer away from these hours.

Take your antihistamines. If you must go out, take your antihistamine at least two hours before doing so. Furthermore, consider wearing a dust mask and glasses while working. As soon as you’re done, remove your clothing and take a shower immediately after going back in the house because you don’t want to spread pollen all over the place.

Keep your nose clean. Nasal saline can be used two or three times a day to rinse your nasal passages. Many people (me included) have found that sinus drainage and congestion is greatly reduced by these nasal rinses with saline.

Recently I’ve acquired a Himalayan salt lamp and placed it in my bedroom; it is pretty, but it has amazing health benefits. I’ll explain:

The air in that room is cleaner as the Himalayan salt lamp has this incredible ability to filter the air, removing dust, cigarette smoke, pollen and other contaminants of the air. They attract water molecules and any foreign particles they are carrying and absorb it—it’s a process called hygroscopy. When the lamp is turned on, the heat coming from it releases the water back into the air, but keeps all the particles trapped inside the lamp.

Your allergy symptoms will be reduced as the Himalayan salt lamps filter microscopic particles in the air, including pollen, dust, pet dander, mold and mildew. You’ll get sick less often is you breathe cleaner air.

Those suffering of allergies or asthma, have the quality of sleep decreased. Every molecule is made up of atoms and every atom is made up of three types of particles: protons (positive charge), electrons (negative charge) and neutrons (no charge). Positive ions in the air are those making it difficult to sleep, and they are all around us. The Himalayan lamps release negative ions which will neutralize the positive ions. Now you can understand why I’ve chosen to place it in my bedroom. If you’re the type who needs complete darkness to sleep, turn it on for a few hours during the day and turn it off before going to bed.

You’ll breathe easier, too. The Himalayan salt is known for its ability to clear you airways—there are even Himalayan pink salt inhales. Moreover, you might experience fewer headaches as the salt lamps help enhance your mood, relax you and improve the blood and oxygen supply to your brain and other organs. It will improve your concentration, and also help you distress.

Studies have shown that being outside energizes the body because there are a lot more negative ions there. So there you go, plenty of reasons to remedy your allergy/asthma issues.

Renters pay more for auto insurance, study finds

In case you were wondering, there is an invisible link between homeownership and car insurance. According to Consumer Federation of America’s new analysis of premium quotes from major auto insurance companies, consumers pay about 7 percent more, on average, for car insurance premiums if they rent their home rather than own it, regardless of their stellar driving records.

The report shows that renters paid an average of $112 more a year for auto insurance when compared to drivers who owned their homes. At some insurance companies, the basic liability insurance rate for renters was 47 percent more than it was for homeowners.

The report reflects that insurers’ evaluation of homeowner status hurts lower- and moderate-income people. Renters had a median income of $27,800 in 2013, compared with $63,400 for homeowners, according to Federal Reserve statistics.

“To raise people’s auto insurance premium because they can’t afford to buy their homes unfairly discriminates against lower-income drivers,” said Robert Hunter, insurance director for the consumer federation. “A good driver is a good driver, whether she rents or owns her home.”

Jim Lynch, chief actuary for the Insurance Information Institute, didn’t dispute CFA’s findings, but said that different rates are “justified by underlying data” that shows homeowners are “more responsible” than renters and that renters are more likely to have accidents than owners, so the difference in rates are the result of “an actuarially justifiable variable.” One of the examples he gave was related to the fact that renters park in crowded surface lots, where the likelihood of accidents is higher than in homeowner’s driveways.

“It would be difficult to go to a homeowner and say, ‘We’re going to charge you the same rate because somebody else says that’s the way it ought to be.’ If I were that homeowner, I would say, ‘That’s not fair.’ But that’s how fairness operates in the insurance (industry),” Lynch said.

Knowing all this, how can one get the best rate on auto insurance?

Consumer advocates and insurance industry representatives agree that rates vary widely by insurer. So whatever you do, seek quotes from several companies. Moreover, remember that companies often offer discounts if a consumer buys more than one type of policy. Typically, a discount is given if a customer buys homeowner’s and auto coverage from the same insurer. Many companies also offer such “multi-line” discounts to customers purchasing renters insurance; just remember to ask if any discounts are available, such as those offered to good students or to people (especially those over 55) who take special driving classes.