Only you can prevent apartment fires

Fall is now upon us and heating systems are turned on, fireplaces crackle and candles are lit to chase away the dark and cold hours. But the comfort of warmth and light can come with a price. According to the National Fire Protection Association, in 2012 97,000 fires were reported in apartment buildings alone, claiming the lives of 380 civilians, injuring 4,050 and causing $1.9 billion in property damage.

While renter’s insurance provides you with a safety net should the worst happen, it’s still safer to prevent. In observation of National Fire Prevention Week, running Oct. 5 through 11, here are a few tips to keep yourself, your loved ones and your property safe.

fire in apartment complex

  • Did you know that “Working Smoke Alarms Save Lives” is this year’s National Fire Prevention Week theme? Check if your fire and carbon monoxide alarms are functional and operating. Be on the lookout and replace batteries in time.
  • If your apartment has a sprinkler system, ask your property manager when they were last inspected.
  • Check if your heating system works properly. If it makes weird sounds or you smell something out of place, shut it down (if it’s no danger to you) and contact your landlord and the appropriate authorities.
  • If you use alternative heating sources, such as space heaters, make sure they are always three feet away from anything that can burn. Always turn them off when you leave the room or go to bed. Always plug them directly into an outlet, never use an extension cord.
  • Make sure the insulation is intact on all your chords, appliances, light fixtures and any other gadget that runs on electricity. Short circuits are one of the most common fire sources.
  • Always use light bulbs with the correct wattage.
  • Never use extension cords for large appliances such as refrigerators or washing machines.
  • If your apartment has a real fireplace, make sure the chimney has been recently cleaned.
  • Always place candles in stable holders, far from flammables and never leave them unsupervised. If you have pets, be especially careful or simply switch to flameless candles.
  • Did you know that pets start around 1,000 fires every year? According to the Chicago Metropolitan Veterinary Center, it’s true. Put candles and chords out of their reach and remove or lock stove knobs. Although Pet Damage Coverage can help you pay for the damage, prevention is still easier.
  • Fall is also the time to celebrate one of America’s favorite holidays: Thanksgiving.  It is also the day with the highest number of residential fires in the entire year.
  • In fact, according to the Unites States Consumer Product Safety Commission, the number of cooking fires triples on Thanksgiving Day. So remember your basics: don’t cook when you are tired or distracted, never wear loose-fitting or flammable clothing (i.e. high in polyesters), keep your cooking surface clean and uncluttered,  never leave cooking unattended and always make sure all sources of fire and heat have been turned off and put out before sitting down for dinner.

Welcome fall into your apartment

Fall has officially arrived with its many unique joys: pumpkin patches, football, Halloween candy, scarves, Thanksgiving and burning fireplaces.  Here are a few tips on how to welcome fall in your apartment.

Whether you bought that giant flat screen to enjoy football season or to be thoroughly scared by all the goriness of the new season of The Walking Dead, be sure to update your renter’s insurance.  Should anything happen to your home theater system, renter’s insurance will help replacing it so you don’t miss one moment of Darryl and his awesome crossbow skills.

Take a few hours to thoroughly inspect your apartment. Do you have a window that doesn’t close properly? You could be providing an unwanted visitor with easy access to your belongings. Has the insulation around it worn away? Rain could get in and before you know it, cause damage not only to the apartment but your personal property as well. Put in a maintenance request with your community and have it fixed before anything happens. You should also check if the heating system works properly, whether you have any leaking pipes and in what shape your fireplace is. While renter’s insurance has your back in case of misfortune, prevention is still safer. If you own any extra sources of heat, i.e. space heaters, check if they’re compliant with your community’s regulations and if they work properly and safely. Never, ever improvise when it comes to heating.

With the decreasing hours of light comes the temptation to light up all the candles you own. By all means, go for it, just be sure to place them in stable holders, far from flammable materials, never leave them unattended and never fall asleep with them still burning. Be extra careful if you own pets, especially cats. They might accidentally knock them over, while investigating the mysterious source of light. Consider buying flameless candles.

If you’re a true fall fanatic, you’ll be doing some redecorating to bring the most awesome season into your apartment. Acorns, dried leaves, flowers and plants, pine cones, pumpkins and even a smaller hay bale (hello rustic new couch!) could find their way into your apartment.  Before bringing anything home though, be sure they’re not poisonous for your pet or small enough to be swallowed and cause internal damage. Be careful how you decorate with them as well. While those bright red maple leaves you strung from your chandelier look extra stylish, Captain Meowington might be tempted to pull them down. Along with your chandelier.  And even though you have Pet Damage Coverage, you really don’t need the hassle of getting them replaced.

Now go throw some marshmallows into a cup of hot chocolate and enjoy the smell of your pumpkin spice candles while you cheer for your favorite football team – go New Orleans Saints!

Fire safety for college living

As a freshly-minted college student living, there are plenty of things you are now responsible for for the first time in your life, such doing laundry often enough to have clean socks and fire safety. Fire safety may sound a bit gloomy, but according to the U.S. Fire Administration since 2000, 86 fatal fires claiming 123 lives have occurred in Greek, on- and off-campus housing, with over 80 percent of incidents occurring in off-campus housing.  In order to ensure a safe college experience, here are a few fire safety tips:

  • Only cook where it’s allowed, such as the kitchen or the special BBQ area set up by your community.
  • Make sure your cooking area is clean and clear of flammables. Don’t leave oven mitts or kitchen towels on top of lids that are still on the fire.
  • Check that appliances work properly and don’t have damaged cords or plugs that can short circuit. Don’t leave them plugged in when you’re not using them.
  • Don’t wander off when you’re cooking. You risk losing track of time. If you’re nearby, even if something lights up, you can put it out immediately
  • Educate yourself on the proper way of dealing with fires, especially small, common kitchen fires. For example if oil lights up, do not pour water over it. Turn off your stove and cover the pot with a lid. The lack of oxygen will starve the fire. If something blazes up in the microwave, unplug the unit and keep the door closed.
  • Keep candles in stable holders and away from flammables (ie. polyester curtains, paper, etc.).
  • Never leave candles unattended. Consider using flameless candles, especially since many student housing communities prohibit traditional candles.
  • Although college life relies heavily on improvisation at times, always be safe. Do not overload outlets, and avoid using extension cords as much as possible. Avoid them altogether with large appliances such as refrigerators.
  • Keep all light fixtures away from flammables. Make sure lamp shades are not made from flammable materials and don’t try improvise one by putting colored scarves on light bulbs.
  • Make sure cigarettes have always been properly put out in deep, wide ashtrays. Avoid smoking inside and when you’re tired or have had alcohol.
  • You never know who shows up at college party and what they do. When guests leave, check that all cigarettes and butts have been properly disposed of. Check under cushions and furniture, inside trashcans.
  • Post fire prevention tips/rules in visible and high traffic areas of your apartment, dorm room and in community areas, especially before social gatherings, so people know what rules to adhere to
  • Familiarize yourself with the building’s layout and at least two exits, as well as the proper way to report a fire to emergency units
  • While prevention is the safest way to go, always have a back-up plan. Renter’s insurance is a great way to give yourself that extra peace of mind. Accidents do happen, and the last thing you need to worry about in case of a fire, is how you’ll be able to pay for all your lost electronics and books.

Tips for new renters

As a renter, it can be hard to know what to expect from the experience before move-in. You may pick a home based on location, unit condition, size and other tangibles, but the day-to-day routine of life in your new home won’t be full established until you’ve been on the premises for at least a month. Neighbors, a landlord living on site, diligent property management, even next door pets or birds outside can have an impact on your new life.  Make your rental experience a great one by planning it with care.

1. Research the neighborhood you’re about to move into, even before you look at the property. Find out how safe it is to live in the area or in the apartment complex and go as far as to research the laws of the area to find out what safety measures the landlords must provide. At the meeting with the landlord bring up the safety subject and assure that the measures and obligations are included in the lease.

2. Read the lease carefully before you sign it. Regardless of how much in a hurry you are or how incredibly good the offer sounds verbally, read the fine print details – how much you have to pay and when, how repairs are being handled, the terms of the security deposit, what may be deducted from it and when it will be returned to you post your tenancy.

3. Get it in writing. Every promise, every approval, has value only when you have it under the form or a written agreement – if your landlord allows your pet in the building and later denies it, having a written agreement will come in handy.

4. Mind your privacy. Check to see how and when your landlord and the maintenance staff may enter your rental. If they show up unannounced, you’ll know what your rights are.

5. Understand which repairs are your responsibility and which are your landlord’s. The landlord typically has to provide a habitable environment – adequate heat, water and electricity, safe structure, as well as replacement or repairs the items that are damaged through normal wear and tear.

6. Get renter’s insurance. Not only it is the smart thing to do, but it might also be required by your lease. Remember, if your apartment is broken into or if someone is injured while on your property, your landlord’s insurance won’t cover the damages.

 

Chalk it up with back to school decor

With back-to-school in full force, what better way to relive the nostalgia of school, without actually having to go back? By doing some swift and easy décor upgrades in your apartment with chalkboards. There’s three ways to go about this: with actual chalkboards, with chalkboard paint or chalkboard contact paper. Decide what works best for you and unleash your creativity.

  • Set up small chalkboards throughout your home to write inspirational messages on and use as decoration. Chalkboards come in many different shapes, sizes and colors. And so do chalks, which are not only available in a myriad of colors, but also forms: from classic chalks to liquid chalk and chalk pens, you can pick and choose according to your preference and crafty project.
  • Smaller chalkboards are an easy way to keep track of things in your home. For example, a small chalkboard artfully set up on the kitchen counter can list the week’s menu. A slightly larger one, hung on a wall can list the day’s or week’s chores assigned to different family members. Once the chore is completed it can be wiped off.
  • If the refrigerator is your own purchase or on the off chance your landlord will allow you to do so, consider painting the refrigerator door with chalk paint. Other than then gaining a super stylish black fridge, you now have the added bonus of directly writing reminders and running a grocery list on it.
  • If you’re into canning or simply keep spices and dry goods in mason jars, paint strips of chalkboard on them. You’ll save mountains of sticky tags and be able to update the contents in a jiffy.
  • A fun, multipurpose project for families with kids is converting a table to a chalkboard art space. Pick up an old table from your nearest thrift store and stick some chalkboard contact paper on the tabletop. This can become extremely useful in areas with extended periods of inclement weather or during sleepovers. Kids can play battleships directly on the table or design their own toy care racecourse. Bonus point: chalkboard paper is easy to install and replace.
  • You can give the chalkboard paper treatment to cheap placemats as well. Not only is it fun for kids to draw on them after dinner, but it makes seating arrangements so easy when you have company over
  • Painting strips on planters or pots takes care of remembering what flowers or herbs are growing on your balcony.
  • A large chalkboard in a high-traffic area, say near the entry is also a great way to make visitors feel welcome. Just ask them to sign or write a message on the board when arriving to your party (after you bought or updated your renter’s insurance of course).

Nine back-to-school shopping tips

It’s that time of year again – for parents across the US, back-to-school stress might be on the brain.  Here are a few shopping tips on how to tackle one of the most stressful activities of the start of the school year.

  • Sit down with your kids and make an inventory of their belongings. Sort through outgrown clothes, see which can be passed down to younger siblings or donated, which are too worn and make a list of items that need replacing.
  • Not everything needs to be replaced just because it’s a new school year. Shop smart when it comes to items that can have a longer life, such as backpacks and instrument cases. Take children’s passing whims into account as well. For example, Jimmy’s backpack doesn’t necessarily have to feature the comic book hero of the moment, because six months from now, he might be over it and the $50 backpack.

  • Set a fix budget and stick to it. Explain to kids, especially younger ones, what is needed and essential and what is a whim – i.e. store brand pencils and notebooks are as efficient as the ones featuring the boy band of the moment. This will help avoid in-store melt downs and impulse purchases.
  • If you and your partner have a busy work schedule during the week and the kids aren’t old enough to safely handle doing laundry, buy a generous stock of everyday basic items such as socks, to avoid those dreaded mornings that start with “Mom!/Dad!I don’t have any clean…”
  • Check if your state has a sales tax holiday. If it does, schedule your shopping outing accordingly and you might save significantly on supplies, clothing and footwear.
  • Although modified and year-round schools are increasing in popularity, 86 percent of US students still attend classes within the traditional school year system. That means hordes of anxious parents with kids in town flocking to the mall. Avoid the swarms by shopping online or hitting the stores early. The latter also ensures you get dibs on all the best choices.
  • Check with the school for classroom supply lists. If you know what extra-curricular activities your kids will attend, ask about supplies and equipment. While you might not manage to buy exactly everything, you at least won’t have to scour the city for a flute or a quality lacrosse stick.
  • Save all your receipts. Last-minute changes can happen and it’s good to have all your bases covered.  Also, should something unfortunate happen to your apartment, receipts can be very useful when filing a renter’s insurance claim.
  • Look over your renter’s insurance policy and update if necessary. Update your record of possessions, especially if you’ve purchased big ticket items such as computers, laptops, musical instruments, sports gear and bikes.

10 “Safe and Sound” questions to ask at your apartment

So you’re renting a new apartment or home. Congratulations! You’ve probably already covered the basics with your leasing agent or property manager, but these 10 questions you may not have thought of. Ask them, and take appropriate action based on the responses, to make sure you’ll be safe and secure in your new home.

couple in  front of one-family house

 

  1. What phone number should I call, after 911, in case there is an emergency situation in or on the property of my new apartment?
  2. What is the emergency evacuation plan created for my new apartment complex? Where is the nearest hospital?
  3. Where is the neighborhood’s nearest emergency shelter facility?
  4. Where are the nearest industrial size fire extinguishers located in proximity to my unit?
  5. Does my property management company carry a mandated umbrella renters insurance policy for my complex that I can pay into? (If not, be sure to purchase your own individual renters insurance policy.)
  6. Is there storage available for the apartment that’s not attached to my unit? How is it secured and can I change the lock code or combination to a personal, secure preference? (Be sure to include the contents of your on-site storage in any renters insurance cost estimate.)
  7. Does my new complex have emergency contact information on file for me – in case something happened to you, or to your apartment, would they be able to reach you if you were at work or traveling, or contact another person who could reach you?
  8. Am I storing my most important and valuable possessions in a safe deposit box? Some items, like birth certificates, passports, heirloom jewelry, savings bonds and other vital documents, are not recommended to be stored in the home.
  9. If I do have extremely valuable items in my apartment, are they stored in a secure fireproof safe? A small safe can be a storage alternative that will protect your belongings in case of fire or flood.
  10. Have I updated my renters insurance policy from my old apartment? Don’t forget to do this each and every time you move, or your policy may lapse.

Congratulations, and may yours be a safe and happy home.

Transferring renter’s insurance to your new apartment

Moving to a new location doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll need a new insurance policy or provider. With Resident Shield, it’s easy to transfer your coverage to your new home.

couple moving

Within the State

Moving into a new apartment is hectic enough without worrying about your renters insurance. (You just want to make sure that the rental truck delivers all of your possessions promptly and intact!)  To make life easier, Resident Shield has created a convenient system for transferring your policy to your new apartment. Simply give us a call at 1-800-566-1186. A specialist will note your new address and you’re done! Resident Shield will send a proof of insurance document to the new management office on your behalf.

It’s common to buy new items when moving to a new apartment. When you call, notify the representative of any recent purchases such as appliances, entertainment equipment, furniture, etc. These could increase the estimated value of your possessions. You’ll want to make sure that they’re covered, too.

Out of State

Renters that relocate out of state can follow the same procedure. Give us a call with your new address and any additions and we will handle the rest. Keep in mind, however, that premiums are different from state to state. You may experience an increase or decrease in your premium once you move, though your coverage remains the same.

New roommate

If your change in location has also resulted in a new roommate, let us know immediately. Up to two adults roommates (including spouses) can be placed on your policy as insured persons. It is important to keep this information up to date to ensure proper coverage.

Roommates can be a financial lifeline

Renting has become the lifestyle of choice for many young adults. Some people turn to renting to escape the financial hurdles associated to homeownership, others simply prefer sharing space because it’s more cost-efficient and sustainable. No matter the reason, the fact is the number of people living with a roommate/housemate or romantic partner is on the rise in the U.S., according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) .

U.S. Census Bureau data shows that one out of every eight homes in the U.S. is now inhabited by two or more people who are not related to each other – an increase of over 5 percent from 2000 to 2010. In order to fully enjoy the benefits of cohabiting, there are some common issues that need to be addressed and clarified before hopping on board.

It is true that renting offers much more flexibility and allows roommates to share everything from monthly expenses on rent and utilities to internet and cable services, and even grocery trips. But it also entails a certain degree of responsibility, particularly when it comes to protecting personal belongings. One way to avoid unnecessary trouble and ensure a happy co-existence is to acquire renters insurance.

“Generally speaking, young people have very fluid living situations that can quickly change as career, educational or romantic opportunities develop,” said Jeanne M. Salvatore, the I.I.I.’s consumer spokesperson and senior vice president of Public Affairs, in a written statement. “So a college grad, for instance, who moves into a house with a bunch of friends, should consider getting his or her own renter’s insurance policy in order to financially protect themselves.”

Standard renters’ insurance policies provide insurance protection for personal belongings such as furniture, clothing, electronic equipment, or jewelry, in case of a wide array of misfortunes including fire, windstorm, lightning, theft, or vandalism.

Rental insurance policies also provide coverage for liability protection and the cost of additional living expenses should you be forced to temporarily move out of your apartment due to a covered loss, such as fire breaking out at your apartment complex.

One of the many perks of sharing living space is that you and your roomie may purchase a renters insurance policy together. As a general rule, your partner and up to three additional adults (over 18 yrs.) can be covered under one policy, according to ResidentShield.com.  Nominal additional premium amounts may apply.

Most people tend to overlook important business such as renter’s insurance because they mistakenly believe their personal property is protected under the landlord’s insurance policy. Well, know that typically that’s not the case. The landlord’s insurance covers only the structure and the common areas of the apartment building not the tenants’ belongings inside. So the only thing standing between you and an unfortunate event robbing you of your dearest possessions is renter’s insurance.

Add green value to your home with smart improvements

There has been much talk lately about green living and what it takes to be green. Environmental groups are constantly working on making our communities and ecosystems sustainable and economically productive, yet to be fully effective their efforts need to be continued by each and every one of us.

As apartment dwellers, we have a multitude of options available to play our part in the quest for sustainable living. Whether you are a homeowner or a renter, hunting for new digs, or making home improvements, we’ve collected a few tips to help you live green and create a healthy home environment.

#Surround yourself with greenery. Aside from enhancing home decor, houseplants can do tons of good to your place. According to the Wall Street Journal, “a growing body of global research is showing plants can reduce dust particles and contaminants, such as formaldehyde and benzene, which come from cigarette smoke, paint, furniture, building materials, and other sources.”

Naturally, vegetation options for the indoors come in a wide variety of shapes and foliage. Plants like English ivy, orchids, mother-in-law’s tongue, peace lily, asparagus fern, flamingo flowers and even fig or rubber trees, can instantly brighten any interior while cleaning the air of toxins and releasing oxygen.

#Go green with daily chores. Steer away from toxic or polluting home products and look for healthier alternatives to your cleaning habits. For example, you can easily use white vinegar to clean both fabric and leather furniture pieces such as sofas and loveseats. White vinegar contains acetic acid which can help you get rid of hard-to-remove stains, eliminate foul smells and sanitize at the same time. Also, you can utilize coffee grounds as mulch for acid-loving plants such as roses, azaleas, hydrangeas and camellias. The natural acidity and nutrients found in the coffee grounds will help your plants thrive.

#Be smart and cash-savvy. When buying new products for your home, look for EPA’s Energy Star label to help you make the most energy-efficient decision. You can find the Energy Star label on more than 60 kinds of products, including appliances, lighting, heating and cooling equipment, electronics, and office equipment. According to EPA, products in your home that have earned the Energy Star label can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by about 130,000 pounds over their lifetime, and save you $11,000 on energy bills.

Additionally, consider replacing your five most frequently used light bulbs with Energy Star qualified products, and you will reduce carbon pollution while saving $75 a year on energy bills.

#Save resources. Pay extra care to your water and energy consumption habits and strive to conserve natural resources. Just by turning off the tap while you brush your teeth in the morning and before bedtime, you can save up to 8 gallons of water! That adds up to more than 200 gallons a month, EPA research shows.

#Trim expenses. Plan your monthly budget carefully and strive not to overspend. Instead focus on buying quality items and services that pay for themselves in the long run. One of the most sensible expenses associated with renting is acquiring renters insurance which, for about 43cents/day, protects against personal property loss.

A standard renter’s policy provides coverage on a ‘named perils’ basis which includes loss due to fire, lightening, windstorm, explosion, smoke, glass breakage, theft, hail, and more. It protects the policy holder against having to shell out thousands of dollars to replace stolen possessions, such as electronics or jewelry, or settle liability claims in the event of accidental physical injury or damage to property brought about by the insured.

Get a free instant renters insurance quote based on your location and personal details.