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.

Why you should know what you own

Moving to a new apartment? You’ve happened upon the perfect occasion to take an inventory of your stuff.

You might ask: Why would I want to do that? Well, the answer is simple. If your apartment burned down tomorrow, would you be able to replace everything you owned? Would you even know what you owned?

And how about renters insurance? In order to receive an estimate for a low-cost renters insurance policy, which would cover replacing all of your possessions in the event that your apartment was damaged in a fire or other emergency, you will need to document what you currently own.

The best way to inventory your stuff is to go room by room while you are in the moving process. Keep a list of furnishings, electronics, appliances, and other possessions (you won’t need to catalog every book, CD or item of clothing you have, but make a general note of their collective volume.) Save the list in a secure location, like a cloud or hard drive outside of your apartment, and keep a copy in your safe deposit box.

It’s also a good idea to take photographs of your things so you could show an insurance adjustor what brands/type of items you own. This can also be especially useful if anything is ever stolen from your apartment and you need make a police report (as well as file an insurance claim.)

Some apartment complexes require you to have renters insurance, so find out before you move. And even if a policy is not mandated, it’s an important thing to have to protect yourself. The only renters who regret renters insurance are those who don’t have it!

How much renters insurance coverage do you need?

If you have decided to get renters insurance, the next step is to determine exactly how much coverage you need. Everyone has different needs: property value is important, but you also need to find a premium amount that you are comfortable paying. Here are some tips to help find the right amount of coverage for you.

Begin by taking a closer look at your coverage needs. You should ask yourself three important questions:

1.    How much is my personal property worth?
2.    How much of it could I afford to repurchase if it was destroyed in a fire or stolen?
3.    What is my exposure if a liability lawsuit was filed against me?

Take an inventory of your possessions and note their value. Coverage is typically limited for certain items – money, watercraft, jewelry, firearms, etc. – depending on the policy. Total the value of your possessions to get a rough idea of the coverage you require.

Renters insurance policies come in a range of coverage limits, usually in $10,000 increments. If you want full coverage, choose coverage that equals or slightly exceeds the value of your personal property. If you don’t want to cover all of your belongings, or simply want a lower premium and are willing to accept the risk involved, select a lesser coverage amount. Talk with an insurance professional to learn your full range of options.

One other consideration is a policy that reimburses actual cash value (ACV) for losses, or provides full replacement costs. The former pays you only the current value of the lost item: for example, you may only receive a fraction of the cost for a television you purchased several years ago. Policies that specify replacement cost reimburse you the full amount needed to purchase a comparable item. Replacement cost policies are slightly more expensive, but may very well be worth the extra cost if most of your possessions are prone to depreciation.

Renters insurance typically covers liability as well, a fact that is often forgotten because most buyers are focused on personal property values. If you have a significant net worth that might be attractive to an aggrieved party in a potential liability lawsuit, this coverage may come in handy. You should discuss your need for liability coverage with your insurance specialist.

Get started with a review of your need for renters insurance – it’s not very expensive and we have already examined 10 ways to lower the cost of renters insurance even further. Once you have a handle on your situation, you can talk with an insurance professional and explore your coverage options.

 

Renting (and moving) gets easier

When it comes to moving, searching, applying and signing a lease on a new place should probably be considered the fun part. As soon as you’ve been approved to pick up your keys, a giant To Do List looms over your head like a thundercloud, raining down tasks and responsibilities. You suddenly need cable! And internet! Utility billing must be arranged! There’s so much to do and it can seem overwhelming.

So imagine a world in which selecting your service providers, changing your address, and protecting your belongings with a renters insurance policy was something that happened immediately, virtually and seamlessly right after you’d signed your lease. No stress. No To Do List. The cloud disappears and becomes a rainbow dancing above your head.

Sound too good to be true? Think again, and read on.

WhiteFence is an online service that helps you compare household service providers in your area. While visiting only one website, you’re able to quickly see what options exist for Internet, phone, TV, electricity, natural gas, home security, insurance and tech support in your new neighborhood.  Simply input your address and the available companies are displayed. It’s then easy to transfer an existing account from your old apartment, or set up a new one. So when it’s time to make your next move, don’t stress. Just check out WhiteFence – and don’t forget to transfer or purchase a renters insurance policy while you’re there. You’ll be glad you did when something unexpected takes place.

Who needs renters insurance? Do you?

Renters insurance can be beneficial for all types of renters. But there are some common misconceptions by groups of apartment renters who may not realize they need coverage.

The safe assumption to depend on is that if you are an apartment renter, you should carry a policy covering the contents of your apartment. Here are a few groups of renters who may not realize they should be insured.

Insurance Word Cloud

Students – College students living in university-owned or off-campus housing for 9 months of each year are considered apartment renters, even if their college provides the living situation. Because theft can be common in college communities, college students should always carry renters insurance. Though parents may think their offspring are covered by their homeowners insurance policy while they are at college, that policy is likely to cover only about 25 percent of the costs if something were to happen to a students’ possessions. Despite having just a carload of stuff at school, the high cost of replacing electronics – computers, TVs, gaming stations, music devices – is argument alone for students carrying their own renters insurance.

Seniors – The situation for seniors living in assisted care or retirement living facilities is similar to that of students. Renters insurance protects the value of any possessions the resident has brought with them to their new home, as well as any family possessions stored in a storage unit. *Keep in mind that offsite possessions are typically covered only to $1000 or 10 percent of their value by renters insurance.

Military personnelRenters insurance is especially important for our nation’s military personnel who are frequently traveling away from their apartments for long periods of time. Potential for break-ins and accident damage while residents are away is always higher than with consistently occupied units. Special rates for military personnel on renters insurance policies are easy to find.

Vacation time! Avoid a break-in with these tips

Summer is almost here! Time to break away for a week or two of relaxation, maybe even longer if you are lucky. But who will keep an eye on your house, apartment and pets while you are away? Are the possessions in your home protected by renters insurance in case there were to be a break in while you were gone?

The best advice we can offer you for the ultimate security while you’re on vacation is to have a trusted friend or family member serve as a house sitter while you are on vacation. This is ideal especially if you have pets or plants that you want cared for during your absence. Dog boarding can be quite expensive, and most pets are much more comfortable when they are able to stay in their own homes.

If you aren’t able to get a house sitter, take precautions. (Going rate for this service in our area is about $20/day, depending on the number of pets you have and their care requirements, but sometimes you can find a friend who likes your place that might do it for free).

Here are our tips for home safety while you are away on vacation.

  1. Have a neighbor check in. Ask them to turn on lights overnight in the home so it looks like someone is present. Make sure you hold all newspaper deliveries and have your mail stopped at the post office, unless the neighbor has agreed to pick it up each day. Perhaps the helpful neighbor can water your plants , too. Otherwise, give them a good soaking before you leave so they don’t die.
  2. Make sure your windows, door locks and alarm systems are working properly. Thieves can sense when a home is empty, even when you make an effort to have it looked lived in, so make sure you don’t leave windows cracked or easy access points into your garage or storage shed.
  3. Don’t broadcast your plans on social media or to neighbors and acquaintances. It is fine to let close friends know you’ll be out of town, but avoid letting everyone in your neighborhood share the news. This doesn’t mean you don’t trust people, it just means you’re being careful.
  4. Turn off and unplug all electronics before you leave, and be sure to turn your thermostat way down. Just a simple way to save energy and come home to a low utility bill. Happy travels!

Watching out for apartment crime

You don’t need a formal neighborhood watch program in place at your apartment complex in order to keep your eyes open for criminal behavior. There are plenty of telltale signs of crime you may see around your home that shouldn’t go unreported.

Here are some things to look out for:

-Suspicious guests. If you see people at your apartment complex who you don’t recognize as residents, try to determine who they are visiting and that they have a direct relationship with the tenants. If you never see the guests and tenants together, be concerned.

Vehicle burglar

-“Visitors” when you know an apartment is unoccupied. If your neighbor has gone on vacation for two weeks and suddenly there are people in and out of her home, be concerned.

-Inappropriate use of community amenities. If laundry facilities, community gathering spaces like game rooms or business centers, or gyms and pool areas are being used by non-residents on a regular basis, it’s a legitimate concern.

-People who appear to be living in vehicles in your apartment community. If your apartment complex parking area is ungated, keep an eye open for residential vehicles that don’t seem to be connected to any of your neighbors’ homes.

-Homeless residents in the apartment complex. If they aren’t pass through or visiting a resident, notify your property manager or local law enforcement.

-Unattended children. Though usually unintentional, unmonitored children can be a source of crime and mischief during the summer months. If your neighbors are letting their kids roam unsupervised around your complex, express your concerns to their parents.

Can you think of any other red flags for apartment crime? Don’t be caught unaware – make sure your renters’ insurance policy is up to date should your apartment suffer a break-in.

Fires at home – why renters insurance is a must

According to the National Fire Protection Agency, every year there are more than 90,000 apartment fires in the U.S., causing over 1 billion in property damage.

Sadly, these fires also cause death, injury, damage to adjoining units, displacement of residents, death and injury to pets, and many other calamities.

One of the most common places for an apartment fire to start is in the kitchen. Forgotten “food on the stove” calls are one of the most common starters for fires reported to local fire departments.

lit stove

Such fires are usually accidental and can be deadly. A recent kitchen fire in San Francisco caused the death of an apartment resident and injuries to two other men who inhaled smoke from the blaze.

One lesson from this tragic tale is to never leave unattended food on the stove. But perhaps the more important lesson is to protect yourself and your possessions with renters insurance.

Damages in the San Francisco fire amounted to about $600,000 in damage — $500,000 to the structure of the building and $100,000 to its contents.

Structure damage will typically be covered by the property owner’s insurance policy on the structure. But the damage to the contents? Unless the renters had renters’ insurance, they will be responsible for replacing their items on their own.

So before you head into the kitchen for your next culinary experiment, be sure to make sure your renters insurance is up to date – and make sure you turn off the stove when you are done!

Child-proofing your apartment

If you’re getting ready to entertain friends or family members – and their small children – for the first time, it’s probably a good idea to take a look around your place at least a week before they arrive for their visit. If you’re childless and don’t have friends with babies or toddlers who visit you regularly, there may need to be some changes you make in order to help everyone have a safe and happy visit to your home.

Child-proof your apartment

Start the process of child-proofing by giving your home a rigorous cleaning. Most small kids are apt to put anything that’s at their eye and reach level into their mouths, so during your cleaning process, start putting away objects that could look like tasty teething items for babies or toddlers.

Next, assess your living spaces from the eye level of someone who is just a few feet tall. What can they grab, get their hands on, or might confuse for a toy when it’s actually a piece of art, knick-knack or edible substance? To be very safe, remove everything that’s within grabbing distance on shelves, tables and from open cupboards. If you don’t have baby locks on your low-level kitchen cabinets, consider installing them. Kids who bang pots together are only cute if you are deaf.

Now that you’ve dealt with the most likely rooms you’ll be hanging out in, don’t forget that kids can travel, fast, especially if they’re left unattended. Check the places you might not expect them to be – like bathrooms, laundry rooms, even offices, removing any products that a child could grab and try to eat or grab and break.

Next, it’s time to think about sharp corners. Do you have any furniture in your home that is truly dangerous? It may not be dangerous to you, but what if a running two-year-old fell toward it and hit their head? Watch out for glass pieces, coffee tables, lamps and any modern furnishings that could result in a trip to the emergency room.

When your friends arrive, be sure to alert them to potential danger spots. If there’s a room in the house that kids could do major damage in, be sure to close it off and let the parents know it’s off limits. But remember, it’s your home, so if the baby gets into trouble while exploring, it’s probably ultimately going to be your fault.

In Case of Emergency – Is your contact info on file?

With Hurricane Sandy winding up to the hit the East Coast soon, it’s a good time to remind all of us about emergency preparedness. We designate the person to contact In Case of Emergency – ICE – at the doctor’s office, in our employee records, and at our children’s schools.  But does your apartment complex know who to call if something should happen to you at home?

warning sign of bad weather ahead

Check with your property manager to make sure they have the most up to date information for you on file. Be sure to provide them with your personal cell and work phone numbers, as well as with contact information for a third-party source who should be notified if you should be injured or incapacitated at your apartment.

Another good thing to do is to save an ICE number in your cell phone, as well as on a card in your wallet. It may not get a rescuer far if the phone is password protected, but listing at ICE in your contacts is always a good idea.

While you are making plans for a potential emergency, don’t forget to make sure you have current renters insurance. If something happens to your apartment while you are not home, like a fire or a theft, you’ll want to have a policy that will allow you to replace your possessions.