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!

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.

Facts about renter’s insurance

When you move into a new home, the landlord or property manager will most likely inform you about your rights and responsibilities as a tenant, and ask you to read the lease agreement thoroughly. Some may even advise that you purchase renters insurance before moving in. But in most cases, renters insurance is optional.

Renters should keep in mind that the landlord’s insurance policy only covers the property itself, the structure and the common areas, and will not reimburse or replace the tenant’s personal belongings should disaster strike. For example, if a burglar breaks in and steals you Mac, your landlord cannot be held accountable. Keeping your assets safe and shielded from unexpected events it’s entirely up to you.

Rental insurance generally comes with relatively low premiums – about 43 cents per day with ResidentShield – and protects up to your selected policy limits against a variety of mishaps such as fire, robbery, vandalism, smoke, lightning, or windstorm. Earthquake coverage is optional and available only in California.

Standard policies typically include liability coverage which basically offers protection in case of unfortunate accidents, including slip-and-fall injuries and dog bites. This means that if a guest is injured on your property, or if Fido becomes mistrusting of the mailman and decides to act on it one day, you can be held liable and sued for medical expenses. With ResidentShield, you may receive up to $100,000 of coverage against common personal liability claims and select a liability provision for dog bites up to a maximum limit of $25,000.

Rental insurance also covers unintentional damage brought about by the insured to the apartment, the common building, or any other resident’s property (such as loss caused by accidental kitchen fire).

Additionally, should you be forced to move out of your rented home while repairs are being made following a covered event, or until you can find new accommodation, renters insurance will provide you with temporary living expenses over and above your normal living expenses.

It’s often a good idea to prepare a home inventory that will help you file an insurance claim, should you be confronted with any of the above. You can create a video of your home or take pictures to make sure you don’t overlook anything important. Every little thing counts when estimating the value of your possessions, including electronics, dishes, books, DVDs and clothes. Also hold on to bills, receipts and other documents that might be used to prove an item’s ownership and value.

For more information on how to protect you belongings, and specifics of renters insurance, click here.

Greet summer with an updated home protection plan

With warm weather in full swing it’s hard not to rejoice in the beauty of nature and invite fresh air into our homes. And while resorting to natural ventilation in the warmer months is a good idea that might help us lower our carbon footprint and save some money on electricity bills, it may also give way to misfortunes if we’re not careful enough. An open window or an unlocked door is also an open invitation for sneak-in burglars who can be in and out of your apartment in minutes, robbing you of your dearest possessions.

According to Commander Harold Medina with Albuquerque Police Department’s Property & Economic Crimes Division, on any given day when the weather warms up home break-ins can increase by as much as 10 percent. “Burglars are good at the job they do,” he told the KOB Eyewitness News 4. “They really know where to look and they’ll jump into backyards just to see if there is an open window.”

We’ve collected a few tips that will help you improve security at your home and minimize the damage in case of an unfortunate event.

Home burglaries may seem random but intruders actually do their homework before breaking in. They usually eye unoccupied properties and homes that are easy to get into or offer alternative escape routes. If you live in an apartment building, pay extra caution to your fire escape window as it’s a preferred point of entry for mischievous criminals.

The first step to reduce the risk of getting burglarized is to make your rental more difficult to enter. Always lock the door behind you when you come home from work, school or shopping. And double check for open windows or doors before going to bed.

Also, you might want to consider having a bell attached to your doors so that you can hear anyone getting inside the house.

Keep expensive possessions – such as phones, jewelry or cash – away from window sills or window-adjacent furniture so they cannot be grabbed by someone reaching inside the window.

Get renters insurance to keep your assets protected. Burglars are often tempted by small and costly items such as jewelry, watches, ultrabooks or tablets, computers, smartphones, and video players. These are all things that could benefit from renters insurance, which generally covers everything from furniture to clothing, electronic equipment and other personal belongings.

The ResidentShield Renters Insurance Plan offers protection in case of a wide array of misfortunes including theft, vandalism, fire, smoke and natural calamities. Standard policies also provide liability coverage, including liability provision for dog bites and accidental injuries of guests while at your residence. Additionally, rental insurance can provide you with temporary living expenses over and above your normal living expenses if your apartment becomes uninhabitable due to a covered loss.

Four reasons for renter’s Insurance

More and more utilized, sometimes at the renter’s initiative, some other times at the request of the landlord, renter’s insurance still has a series of benefits which are not known by all. The number of residents purchasing insurance is showing consistent growth, and by the looks of it, it will turn into a compulsory contract requirement in the near future.

Since this policy will soon enough become a must-have criteria in order to sign a lease, it is best to know what you’re paying for, and when to call the insurance company for ransom.

1.      It protects your belongings in and out of your home.

In a way, renter’s insurance is like a hidden gem. Aside from the protection it offers to your personal property in case of fire, theft, and severe weather, it also covers it outside your home. For instance, if your car is broken into, your car insurance will not cover the items you had in your trunk and now are gone. Your renter’s insurance will. Under the same claim, the same thing happens if you come out of some coffee shop and you find your bicycle missing, or return to your hotel in some vacation you went on to discover that your laptop or tablet is missing.

Other less known facts about renter’s insurance include the cases when your home is broken into – many of the renter’s policies will replace the locks after such a misfortunate event, or will replace your food if it spoils during a power outage.

2.      It covers additional living expenses

In the event your home is damaged by water or fire, you will need a place to stay while repairs are made. Renter’s insurance will cover the costs for your temporary move, hotel and even meals. It is important to look into how much and how long you would be covered, there is a big difference between a couple of weeks at a Super 8 or a few months at the Hilton.

3.      It eases up identity theft recovery

Current times are about connectivity to the online environment, identity theft is ever-more present. Some renter’s policies help you recover faster by working with credit card companies, credit bureaus, and other related institutions to undo any damage caused to your good name; even the associated legal fees can be covered.

4.      It can pay for liability and medical costs

Litigation is a reliable way to ruin friendships. But if a guest is injured on your property and renter’s insurance covers the medical bills. Also, if your dog chews up your friend’s designer signed shoes, renter’s insurance can help pay for a replacement pair.

Keep in mind that not all renters’ policies are created equal; take the time to compare prices and coverage levels.

Time for a renters’ insurance checkup

Do you live in a rental apartment? Do you own a TV, laptop or a smartphone? An engagement ring maybe? What about a dog? Do you like having people over? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes”, then you should definitely consider getting renters insurance.

Renters should pay the same level of attention to insuring their belongings as homeowners do as they are prone to the same type of risks, including theft, vandalism, fire, lightning, and personal liability. Don’t assume that just because you live in a rental and you landlord takes care of everything around your apartment, you’re protected against personal property loss. A lot of people have the misconception that their possessions are covered because their landlord has insurance, yet typically that’s not the case. Without renters insurance before disaster strikes, replacing items such as furniture, clothing, electronic equipment, jewelry, and other personal belongings is solely up to you.

If you’re worried about the costs of renters insurance, you should know that pricing is quite reasonable as compared to what it does. For about the cost of an IMAX 3D movie ticket per month, you could have peace of mind knowing that you are protected against the financial risk associated with property damage. Rental insurance with ResidentShield can insure full replacement value for your personal property and that of your neighbors in case of fire, smoke infiltration, water damage and other similar incidents.

The basic renters’ policy provides both liability coverage and personal property coverage. The liability component is more useful than you might think. Just imagine: what if Fido goes crazy one day and bites a neighbor? What if a houseguest slips and falls in your kitchen? Or your roommate’s ex-girlfriend trips over an exposed cord on her way out, gets injured and decides to take you to court? You could be held liable for thousands of dollars in damages. Renters’ insurance does precisely that: it shields you from having to pay out for any damages you accidentally cause to your apartment, the common building where you reside, or any other resident’s property. It also offers protection in case you are held responsible for injury to another person.

Additionally, renters insurance can provide you with temporary living expenses over and above your normal living expenses if your apartment becomes uninhabitable due to a covered loss.

Check out ResidentShield’s Personal Contents Calculator to determine just how much contents coverage may be right for you.

Renting with a pet roommate

Owning a pet comes with many amazing moments, but just as everything has a price, so does renting with one. Especially with dogs.

After the challenge of finding a rental that is pet friendly, you’ll be paying the supplementary pet deposit.  Depending on your dog’s breed, you might have to introduce your furry roommate to the future landlord to prove that she or he is friendly. Once you’re ready to move in, you might also consider – or even be required – to hold dog liability insurance.

Renter’s insurance typically covers personal property damages/displaced-living  expenses caused by fire, wind, burglary, as well as  personal liability expenses caused by negligence or accidental injury to others while on your property. Dog bites usually fall under the personal liability section of your insurance plan, but depending on your dog’s breed, where you live and who your insurer is, you might need additional coverage.

Things turn more dramatic if you own one of the 11 “riskiest” dog breeds:

  1. Pit Bulls & Staffordshire Terriers
  2. Doberman Pinschers
  3. Rottweilers
  4. German Shepherds
  5. Chows
  6. Great Danes
  7. Presa Canarios
  8. Akitas
  9. Alaskan Malamutes
  10. Siberian Huskies
  11. Wolf-hybrids

Not all insurance companies ban these breeds, but you’ll most likely have to shop around for a potential policy.

Having renter’s insurance may help ease your landlord’s mind if he’s undecided about renting to you. Some landlords will ask for proof of pet liability insurance before signing the lease. For them, it is a necessity simply because their homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover dog bites (or your pets for that matter). Any property damage can be paid out of the security or pet deposit (or both). Be a responsible pet owner – train your pup, and protect yourself against unforeseen circumstances.