Determine your insurance needs for 2015

At the beginning of each year, the natural tendency is to review, modify, and renew habits, behaviors, and needs. Throughout the course of a year many things can change, so an insurance review is also recommended. Here are some aspects you can consider that will help you figure out if you need to talk to your insurance professional about making a change to your coverage.

  1. Marriage or divorce. Marriage can bring with it a discount on your auto insurance as couples can bring two cars in the relationship from two different auto insurance companies. Take the opportunity and review your existing coverage and chose the company which offers the best combination of price and service.
  2. New baby. Birth or adoption, it is important to review your life insurance and disability income protection. A new family member will increase expenses and your life insurance. Keep in mind that if you plan to save for your child’s education, life insurance can aid that plan. Moreover, don’t forget to update the beneficiary designations to include the new member.
  3. First time driver’s license for a family member. Rather than purchasing a separate auto insurance policy for your teenager, add it to your insurance policy as it is generally cheaper. The type of the car a young person is driving has a major impact on the price of the insurance. Furthermore, most companies give discounts for getting good grades in school and for taking certified driving courses.
  4. Significant change in your income. If your income has increased, (good for you) your financial commitments might have as well. Make sure you review the life and disability insurance to confirm that is adequate to maintain them. If your income has decreased, one way to deal with expenses is to cut your life insurance premiums. If you have more than one policy, you might be able to replace both with a single policy at a lower rate having reached a ‘milestone’ amount of insurance. However, do not drop your existing life insurance before you have a new one in place.
  5. New lease. Living in a rental means that your landlord is usually responsible for insuring the structure of the building, but your possessions fall under your responsibility. More precisely you need renter’s insurance if you wish to be covered against losses from theft and catastrophes such as fire, lightning, or windstorm damages. Aside from these, renter’s insurance includes liability and this covers your responsibility to other people injured at your home and takes care of legal defense costs, should you be taken to court.

 

Guidelines for renter’s insurance research

The biggest mistake people make when it comes to renter’s insurance is not getting one. But that is not the only error they make related to it. Besides the cost, there are a few important aspects which should be researched before making the purchase.

Coverage – Items

You should know precisely which of your items are covered by the policy you purchase. Most of them cover the majority of your belongings – clothes, furniture, electronics, and artwork – with restrictions for jewelry, fur coats, and silverware; for these you can buy additional coverage.

Computer equipment is normally also included. Still, if you have a home office and work primarily from there, it may not be included. In this case, you need additional coverage for the business equipment you own.

Coverage – Perils

The typical perils covered are theft, fire, smoke, explosions and water damage from bursting pipes and overflows. However, is your dog knocks over your laptop and breaks it, it will be on your expense.

Coverage for storms is one of the grey areas – damage from wind is covered, but water oozing through the roof is not. If you don’t have a roof to worry about, meaning that you live in a ground floor or below-grade apartment, you won’t be covered in case of floods or excessive rain. The solution for such cases is to create a pathway for the water, to make sure the drains are kept clear, and that pumps are functional. A plus would be the flood insurance.

Coverage – pets 

In case your dog bites someone inside or outside of your apartment, the liability portion of your insurance normally covers this, unless your pup is one of the “aggressive” breeds. Click here for more information.

Injuries on your property

Renter’s insurance is reliable in the case when your bathtub or sink overflow and ruin your neighbor’s new floors and walls. Moreover, the liability component covers you for injuries that happen inside your apartment, such as when your babysitter trips over a toy and breaks her leg.

Roommates

Renter’s insurance will cover your spouse and immediate family members who live with you, but with roommates, things are different. Typically only two roommates can be named on a policy but not without risks: checks for damage are made for both, regardless if it’s your laptop that was destroyed and your roommate has moved out long ago. Click here for more information on a shared renter’s insurance.

Outside the apartment

Typically, renter’s insurance covers off-premises damage caused by fire, damage from burst pipes, and vandalism. Additionally, if your personal property is stolen outside your apartment, it may also be covered. It includes the bicycle you took with you to the grocery store and didn’t find it when you were done shopping and the laptop you had with you on vacation that went missing from your hotel room while visiting museums.

Simple home security tips

Follow some simple tips for home security to ensure your time away won’t turn into a break-in of theft. There are many ways to take off attention of your home when you’re away and to keep it secure when you’re at home, including simple tricks like utilizing shrubbery as a barrier or installing motion-sensor lights.

1. Alarm Systems – A study by Rutgers University showed that intruders avoid homes with professional alarm systems, without displacing burglaries to neighboring homes. Following this logic, the more houses with alarm systems on the street, the safer the neighborhood.

2. Garage Security – Avoid garage doors that have windows as burglars can see when your car is gone. The easiest way to deal with them, in case you cannot afford a new door, is to frost or cover them.

3. Security Lights – Choose to pay a little more on your electricity bill and light up the house. Moreover, scare off the uninvited with motion-sensor lights.

4. Shrubbery – Not only does it beautify the exterior of your home, but it can also keep curious eyes off your home by maintaining it tall enough to create a barrier, and low enough that an intruder can’t hide.

5. Home Security Signs – Place these around the home; announcing that the house is monitored nonstop, can deter criminals from trying to trespass.

While you’re away, fight the temptation to leave notes on the door for family members or service people. Furthermore, turn down the telephone ringer so no one hears you’re not around to answer it. Set items like lamps and radios on a timer so they give the impression that your residence isn’t vacant. Ideal would be to send a trusted friend or neighbor visit your home regularly while you’re away and collect mail, water plants, and flick on and off some lights to show some activity at your house.

Don’t, under any circumstance, leave extra keys under doormats, potted plants, or any other outdoor location. If you don’t have a trusted neighbor you can leave them to, make sure you hide them in an inconspicuous place.

Set up a stressless holiday season

Holidays – the best time of the year with numerous parties to go to, celebrations with yummy cocktails, exchange of gifts, mountains of delicious food, friends and family gatherings flooded with laughter, right?

For most of us yes, for some no.

Holidays can turn into stressful times for quite a few of us due to the busy schedule that leaves space for nothing else. Buying the gifts, cleaning and decorating the house, preparing the food, all take time that seems to fly too quickly. Besides the physical stress, there is the greater one, the emotional stress. Some gatherings are filled with deadlines and preparations, others are about old family wounds and insecurities; by the end of the holiday season, we feel exhausted and drained of energy.

Experiences instead of things: Negative feelings come to the surface because we have misplaced our focus. The secret is to remember how it was back when we were kids, playing with the box of the toy just as much as with the toy itself. What have you planned or already done in order to get a wonderful gift to everyone you love? Instead of going broke thanks to your big heart, or spending countless hours in shops and malls trying to purchase the perfect gift, find the ways to actually spend the holidays with those you love, replace the material value of the things with their real value. Consider how you could use the time you’d normally spend at the stores, to be with your dear ones. Years from now they will not remember the fluffy slippers or the fancy soaps, but they’ll probably remember that special day you spent together.

Switch perfectionism with fun. The home doesn’t need to be perfectly clean, as the food doesn’t need to be chef quality. You definitely don’t need decorations made by Martha Stewart. Instead of judging yourself and pushing yourself at the end of your limits, try to have fun while preparing for the holidays. Those who love you do so not because of your decorations or your crystal clear windows; they might appreciate a gourmet dinner, but love it the most important ingredient. Do as much as you’re willing and spend the remaining time enjoying your holiday.

Gratefulness. It’s hard to avoid comparison when all these perfectly happy families flood the media with their perfect holidays. Every morning, when you’re sipping your coffee, make a list with the things you do have – the ability to read, write, see, walk, etc. All the little things we often take for granted can actually bring you joy and comfort. Discover which those are and watch your mood improve.

And just to make sure, check the end date of your renter’s insurance. You don’t want to worry over 43 cents/day this holiday.

The pet-friendly apartment – Christmas edition

Few things really set the mood for the winter holidays as decorating your apartment does. Sure, you can have Christmas carols playing in the background all day long. You can even binge-watch Christmas movies while loading up on cinnamon cookies and eggnog, but it won’t really feel like Christmas until you’ve hung that mistletoe and lit up that tree your apartment.

As a responsible, renter’s insurance-carrying tenant, you already know most dangers to look out for during the season (faulty Christmas lights, unsupervised candles, etc.). However, as a brand new pet owner your responsibilities have just doubled. Not only are you responsible for your own safety, but that of your pet as well. And you’ve also got to be on the look-out for all the trouble they can get into with their loveable, goofy ways.

One of the first and easiest steps you can take to give yourself peace of mind, especially during such a stressful time as the winter holidays, is to add a Pet Damage Coverage to your policy. Resident Shield’s Pet Damage Coverage for example, offers you $500 in liability coverage in the event of pet damage to the apartment.

As a pet owner, the number one danger in your festively decorated apartment is the Christmas tree. Both dogs and cats have a penchant for running around, knocking things over, as you’ve already experienced. But the Christmas tree is a whole new ballgame. The tree smells intriguing, the twinkly lights are enthralling, and all the sparkly, colorful, and gently swaying tinsel and globes are simply irresistible, especially to cats. While you might not mind a few cheap broken globes or some eviscerated tinsel, you need to be aware that your pets won’t simply break them.  They (or you) can step on the shards and they could swallow them. It won’t even take a cat or dog much to pull the entire tree down onto himself. If you can’t forgo a decorated tree, make sure you secure it. If you think a pack of Christmas elves on a sugar high could knock it down, so can your cat.  Make sure the base is super stable and the tree itself is tied to something.

Next stop: the shiny decorations. If your pet is attracted to shiny things, considering using decorations with a matte finish or made from more natural materials such as wood, cardboard, felt, straw, etc. This way, even if your pets get their paws on them, the chances of hurting themselves are significantly smaller. And a piece of swallowed felt won’t put them in nearly as much danger as a shard pf glass or plastic.

Speaking of shiny things, be very careful with wrapping paper, especially candy wrappers. While chewing up and swallowing some simple wrapping paper probably won’t hurt your pet, things like tinfoil and plastics can present a threat to their life. Make sure you dispose of all wrappers as soon as the present was opened.

Of course it’s not only candy wrappers you need to be careful with, but also the sweets themselves.  And generally all types of human food. While Fido might give you his biggest puppy eyes, you must resist! Not all human foods and spices are pet-friendly. And candies are especially dangerous. Chocolate, for example, can be downright deadly. Do not give them any human food, no matter how hard they beg. If you know you have a hard time resisting, keep some pet treats within easy access.

But it’s not only man-made holiday items that are toxic to pets. Be very careful to hang  decorative holiday plants out of the reach of your pets, as staples such as holly and mistletoe are quite poisonous.

As an extra security measure and also because it’s Christmas and he deserves it, buy your pet some new toys. The best toys are the ones that require a lot of attention, such as pet activity toys and puzzle games. This way, he’ll be way too busy with his own stuff to chew up yours or murder your holiday wreath.

Have yourself  a Merry Christmas!

Renter tips for a safe holiday season

As holiday cheer start reaching fever pitch, everybody’s in a hurry to get their hands on the best holiday gifts and nail down the last details of their holiday celebration. But lost sleep and stress can contribute to careless behavior, which, paired with all the holiday paraphernalia, like candles, tinsel, lights and fir trees can spell disaster for your apartment.

While Resident Shield has your back in case of fires and other disasters, such as theft and accidental injuries of guests, it’s always easier to avoid them altogether. Below are a few things to watch out for during this holiday season:

Candles are a ubiquitous decorative element this time of the year. Be extra vigilant during the holidays. Many decorations are manufactured from highly flammable materials, such as paper, wood or plastic blends. Holiday get-togethers can get quite boisterous. Families get together, children chase the pets and the adults might have one too cups of eggnog. With all the hubbub, candles can easily be knocked over. You might not even notice the accident, until it actually becomes a threat. To avoid such a situation, consider replacing them with electric candles. If you can’t fathom such a notion, make sure all candles have stable bases, are out of the reach of children, curious pets and careless adults.

Fir trees. Present in millions of homes throughout the countries, this holiday staple is as dangerous as it is pretty. Not only are firs highly flammable, they have a low ignition point. Make sure you don’t place any candles near Christmas trees, nor do you strew heat-emitting lights on them. The same goes for fake Christmas trees.

Lights. Twinkly, sparkly, flashy – whatever your preference, make sure you buy your Christmas lights from reputable retailers. Before installing, test whether they function properly.

Deck the halls with boughs of holly, Fa la la la la, la la la la - but make sure those boughs of holly or any other plants you bring into your home aren’t poisonous for your pets.

If you’re lucky enough to boast a fireplace in you apartment, color us jealous. While nothing sounds more divine than cozying up to crackling hearth with a cup of mulled wine, make sure you had the chimney swept beforehand  and that both your fire and carbon monoxide alarms are working properly.

Unfortunately thefts and break-ins are quite common during this time of year. As tired as you might be when all your guests leave, check that all windows and doors are locked. Avoid putting expensive presents in a highly visible place (such as windowsills).  Moreover, if you bought or received big-ticket items with lofty packaging, such as HD TVs, laptops, home cinema systems and the like, dispose of their packaging in a discreet way. Don’t just leave the box outside your door, thinking you’ll take it down to the recycling center later. You’re basically advertising to those up to no good.

Also, to be on the safe side, document any new purchases or presents and add them to your insurance policy. Should the worst happen, you’ll at least be reimbursed for your stolen or damaged goods.

Prep ahead for Thanksgiving

As Thanksgiving creeps closer, everybody’s got turkey, football and family dinner on the brain. But as much fun Thanksgiving is, we all know it’s also quite the undertaking to throw a successful party that goes off without a hitch. To make things easier, we’ve thought of eight things you can do in advance and to free up Gobble Day for family and friends.

  1. Finalize your guest list. You probably already have an estimate of who’ll be attending, but call everybody to confirm. This is also a great opportunity to ask about food allergies and special diets, especially if guests are bringing new significant others or people whom you haven’t seen in a while will attend. People with special dietary needs are aware that it can cause a hitch in others’ menu planning and will be extra-grateful to you if you’re the one who initiates the conversation. Assure them you are happy to create a menu or at least a few dishes that take their needs into account.
  2. Now that you have a clear guest list, it’s time to work on your menu. You might want to go traditional, or have a theme celebration. Once you’ve decided on a theme, scour through grandma’s recipe collection and that magical land known as Pinterest. Copy or print recipes and start your list of ingredients. If your guests are expected to contribute to dinner with drinks, a dish or desert let them know now.
  3. Take stock of your pantry. Knowing exactly what and how much of it you have at home will help you during shopping and cooking. It’s also a great opportunity to put aside items for a food bank, where donations are much appreciated at this time of year. Make sure you toss all expired items – do not donate them!
  4. Clean out your freezer and fridge and put the oven through a self-clean cycle. This ensures that all the ingredients and leftovers are stored in a safe environment. Clean and replace missing Tupperware so you can put away leftovers as soon as you take the dish off the dinner table.
  5. Finish up that comprehensive list of ingredients you’ll need and hit the stores. One week before Thanksgiving buy all drinks, non-perishables, any special cooking utensils you might need and the turkey. Pick up all ingredients, even perishables for dishes you’ll make in advance such as vegetable soup, stock, pies and rolls. Store these in the freezer when they’re done. Sturdy perishables such as pumpkins, carrots, potatoes and such can also be bought now. Other perishables that will be cooked on Thanksgiving should be bought no more than three days in advance.
  6. Take care of deep cleaning now so you only have to do a quick vacuum before your guests arrive. Polish your silverware now.
  7. Make Compile a cooking schedule, so on the day before and the day of Thanksgiving you know exactly what, when and in what order needs to be cooked, whipped, reheated and popped in the oven.
  8. Review you renter’s insurance and make sure it’s up to date. Thanksgiving is one of the most dangerous days of the year, with the highest number of home fires. In fact there are three times more home fires on this day, helping November take the top spot for cooking-related fires. Make sure you’re protected with Resident Shield.

 

Thanksgiving safety tips for cooks

Everyone looks forward to Thanksgiving Day, from preparations, to the cooking, and especially getting together with friends and family to savor a delicious meal, tell stories and create memories. Some Thanksgivings are more memorable than others; the idea is to create the best kind of memories, as the host and as the guest.

Thanksgiving is the day for home cooks to shine, but because cooking causes around 69 percent of Thanksgiving Day fires, here are ways to avoid a kitchen disaster on Thanksgiving, or any other day. You won’t want to have to use your renter’s insurance as a result of a culinary mishap this holiday.

Most of the cooking fires happen as a result of unattended cooking. Even though it’s easy to get distracted as the host through the arrival of guests and serving appetizers, the first rule is to not walk away from a stove or appliance in use.

Select your cooking clothes carefully; avoid loose-fitting clothing while cooking as the fabric can catch fire. And your sleeves – make sure you roll them tightly beforehand.

Carbon monoxide is not something you want to play with, so check your carbon monoxide and smoke alarms to be in good order. Also, turn on the kitchen fan or vents and open windows periodically.

In the event that a fire starts in a pan on your stove, turn off the stove and cover the pan with a lid. You can also use a fire extinguisher to put it out. Never ever try to kill a stove fire with water, flour, or anything else you have around in your kitchen as these can cause a flare-up.

In case the fire starts in your oven, turn off the oven, keep the door closed, and call 911. Wait for the firefighters outside.

Keep a fire extinguisher handy and make sure everyone in your residence knows how to use it.

If you’re a fan of deep-fired turkey, keep the following in mind:

  • Don’t use the fryer indoors
  • Keep it at a safe distance from buildings and flammable items
  • When preparing the turkey, make sure it’s completely thawed and dry
  • Keep children and pets away

Hot grease shouldn’t be thrown in the garbage; let it cool and discard it in a covered metal can.

Once you finished cooking, before going to bed check to make sure the oven, turkey fryer/BBQ, and stove burners are off, candles too, and if you have a fireplace, make sure the chimney damper is open.

Bon appetite!

Protecting your personal property and identity

For personal property protection and liability coverage in cases of fire, weather damage, robbery and more ResidentShield Renters Insurance has you covered, but more and more we are seeing the importance of protecting yourself against identity theft. Now more than ever, renters must be aware of potential access points to their information in the real world and online.

watch for password theft

According to PrivacyRights.org, identity theft affects more than 8 million Americans. While that number is woefully high, fraudulent activities have decreased since their record high of 55.7 billion worldwide in 2006. Much of the decline can be attributed to institutions’ and businesses’ increased security investments to protect clients. The wise actions of residents also contribute to a significant portion of the decline.

There are a few simple things that you can do to protect your identity at home, on the internet and in your neighborhood:

  • Shred unwanted financial and personal documents instead of simply placing them in the trash.
  • Completely clear cookies, history, and all system caches on public computers after use.
  • Never access online banking on public computers. Technology exists to let remote users view your screen and any information that your type into a field whiles you’re online.
  • If you do not plan to buy a home, car, or other large investment in the near future, consider freezing your credit. This prevents the unauthorized opening of additional lines of credit in your name.
  • While on the web, don’t bother with “You’ve Won…” banners. No one wants to give you anything for free. Best case scenario is that you’re caught filling out a grueling survey. Worst case scenario is that you click the banner and inadvertently download spyware, viruses, and other dangers to your system.
  • If you’re filing your taxes at a center, take a thorough look around before accepting service. How are documents stored? Are files easily accessible to anyone passing by?

When it comes to storing personal property and documentation within your rental, keep these points in mind.

  • Keep copies of personal documents in a safe place outside of the home, like a safe deposit box.
  • Ensure that sensitive documents within the home are in a secure, obscure location.

 

Happy Halloween – the smart way

Decidedly one of the most beloved American holidays, Halloween brings out our playful side. But as the old adage goes, it’s all fun and games until somebody loses an eye. Or a door. Or the home cinema system. Because Halloween not only brings out the fun side of people, which in itself can be annoying and dangerous (I’m looking at you bored teenaged pranksters!), but it certainly brings out the crazy as well.  To stay safe this Halloween, here are a few easy tips.

  1. Whether you plan on going out for the night or huddle around a giant bucket of popcorn while you rewatch the first season of American Horror story, check that all doors and windows are locked properly before you get on with your night.
  2. If you’re hosting a party, no matter how tired you are, do a quick roundup after your last guest leaves, to make sure all entry points are secured. Do not facilitate crimes of opportunity and do your best to hamper anyone’s malicious intent.
  3. While you do a room-by-room sweep for locked doors and windows, be sure to check for still lit cigarettes. Check in trashcans, take a peek under the furniture, between sofa folds and pillows.
  4. Make sure all your smoke and carbon monoxide alarms are functioning well and have batteries. If something catches fire, say from a carelessly discarded cigarette or fallen candle, the smoke alarm is your first line of defense. And whatever you do, do not disable them. You might want to allow friends to smoke inside your apartment, but in all honesty, what’s more important: your physical safety or your smoker friends’ comfort? When guests arrive, inform them of the designated smoking area (ie. the balcony).  Print out a few simple signs with directional arrows leading towards the designated area and spread them throughout your place.
  5. Alcohol-related crimes and pranks tend to spike on All Hallows Eve, so be sure to update your renter’s insurance policy. Have you bought any new electronics, appliances, jewelry or books lately?  Be sure to add them to your policy. Should they go missing while you’re out trick-or-treating or be damaged in a fire thanks to the drunken random dude that knocked over your candles, the more accurate and detailed your inventory is, the more you’ll receive in your insurance claim. Renter’s insurance offers you coverage in case of vandalism too, so if your apartment get paint bombed or a rock flies through the window and knocks out your TV, you’re covered.
  6. Another perk of renter’s insurance is personal liability coverage, including a provision for dog bites. So if a guest tripped and hurt himself enough to need medical attention, and is blaming you and definitely not his way too elaborate and cumbersome costume, renter’s insurance has your back. The same goes for your friend’s girlfriend’s medical bills. Even though she wouldn’t have any had she listened to you, when you told her that your dog is afraid of new people and please do not pet him.
  7. Don’t put any candles, including jack-o-lanterns in places where they can easily be knocked over, especially if you’re throwing a party. Other than having to clean melted wax off your furniture, they pose a real fire hazard as well. Go for flameless candles, glow-in-the dark sticks and twinkly lights. If you can’t resist having candles, be sure to put them all out when the party is over.
  8. Avoid using extension cords. Any novelty appliances you use (ie. fog machines) should come from a reputable retailer and manufacturer, to decrease the chances of short-circuits. DO NOT DIY any electronics or appliances.

Now that Resident Shield has your back, you’ll definitely get the treat and not trick, so go have some fun! Happy Halloween!