‘Tis the season: Party hosts should be aware of liability issues


people at a holiday party

With Thanksgiving in our rear view mirror, we enter the season of holiday parties. If you are planning to host parties at your home or business this season, it’s time to think about responsible party hosting practices. We’re revisiting a post we made a full decade ago on holiday party do’s and dont’s – despite, the passage of time, everything is still relevant today!

A national survey on homeowners insurance issues by Trusted Choice and the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (IIABA) found that about one-third of homeowners did not think or did not know if they could be held responsible in the event of an alcohol-related accident. In addition, more than 46% of the survey respondents thought they weren’t liable in the event that a guest became seriously ill from catered food consumed at the host’s home and more than 22% didn’t think they could be held responsible if a guest was injured on the sidewalk in front of their property. In fact, these are all situations in which a homeowner could have liability.

A spokesman for the IIABA suggest that homeowners regularly review their liability coverage limits with their independent agent to ensure adequate coverage, and that frequent party hosts inquire about an umbrella policy providing $1 million or more in additional coverage. IIABC also suggest the following holiday hosting tips for homeowners and business owners:

  • Limit your guest list to those you know.
  • Host your party at a restaurant or bar that has a liquor license, rather in a home or office.
  • Provide filling food for guests and alternative non-alcoholic beverages.
  • Schedule entertainment or activities that do not involve alcohol. If the party centers around drinking, guests will likely drink more.
  • Arrange transportation or overnight accommodations for those who cannot or should not drive home.
  • Stop serving alcohol at least one hour before the party is scheduled to end.
  • Do not serve guests who are visibly intoxicated.
  • Consider hiring an off-duty police officer to discretely monitor guests’ sobriety or handle any alcohol-related problems as guests leave.
  • Stay alert, always remembering your responsibilities as a host.
  • Review your insurance policy with your agent before the event to ensure that you have the proper liability coverage.

Have a fireplace? Time to clean that chimney!


What’s better on a chill winter night than a crackling fire in the fireplace? But if you have a fireplace, it’s extremely important that you conduct ongoing maintenance — and it’s a good time to do that now, before the winter chill sets in and the fireplace starts getting a lot of use. Chimney fires account for 75% of home heating fires, according to experts, and almost all chimney fires are preventable with regular upkeep and maintenance to ensure proper venting and to address any buildup of creosote. It’s a frightening experience to have a chimney fire and even if it does not spread to other parts of the house – which it can easily do – it can be an expensive and unnerving event. Property Casualty 360 offers 10 tips to prevent chimney fires.

Many homeowners think that an annual cleaning is sufficient but it really depends on the rate of creosote buildup. Here are two great articles that offer advice on how often to have your chimney cleaned and what to look for in a professional chimney cleaning or repair service:

If you’re experienced at do-it-yourself home maintenance, you might want to tackle the project yourself. This infographic from The Fix shows you how.


Source: Fix.com Blog

Time to winterize your home!


illustration of a home as a piggy bank

While the weather may still feel like summer, the chill of winter is just a few short months away. It’s time to think about winterizing your home. Getting your home ready for winter will not only keep you warmer but also put money in your pocket. The routine maintenance that makes your home cozier in the cold pays off year-round by boosting your home’s energy efficiency.

Start at your furnace. When was the last time you had it inspected? Some state utilities offer free yearly furnace check-ups. A well-maintained furnace will run more efficiently, pump out cleaner air, and save you money on heating oil or electricity.

Change or clean your furnace filters regularly. Disposable furnace filters are less efficient, but much more affordable, than new permanent electrostatic filters. Your budget and your furnace’s life-cycle are your best guides here on what to use.

Clean the ductwork. With the furnace taken care of, turn to your ductwork and vents. Keeping this system sealed and insulated in a big money-saver. Check for cracks and leaks in every part of the system. Patch and fill any gaps, especially in the common places where leaks tend to form, like connections at vents and registers. This is a great time to reassess the insulation in attics, too.

Does your home have a fireplace? They’re so cozy on a snowy winter night! But they aren’t exactly efficient. A wood-burning fireplace is lovely, but an energy-efficient wood stove or a gas fireplace insert might make more sense. In any case, keep your chimney clean! A sooty chimney is a common cause of house fires and easily avoided with preventive maintenance. If your fireplace isn’t used often, install glass doors and keep the flue shut – don’t let all that expensive warm air whoosh right up your chimney!

Check the plumbing. Now that you’ve seen to the furnace, ventilation system, and fireplace, turn to the plumbing. It’s easy to winterize your pipes – make sure they’re well-insulated with foam wrap or heating tape. Flush water from lawn sprinkler systems with compressed air. Turn off your water at the main and turn on all your outside faucets, allowing any water that has pooled in your pipes to drain. This will prevent expensive damage from frozen pipes. This is also a great time to address those annoying drips and leaks. A roll of Teflon tape and a pipe wrench will save you hundreds of dollars down the line.

Doors & windows. Congratulations! Now you’ve done the hard stuff! On to the detail work. Check your doors and windows, replacing weather stripping and caulking leaks as needed. A good tight seal keeps warm air in and cold air out. Consider upgrading to storm doors and better-insulating windows. If you have a gap beneath a door too wide to close with weather-stripping, simply rolling up a thick towel and wedging it in the gap will help keep the warm air where you want it. Plastic sheeting and sealing tape can be a great and inexpensive way to cover larger leaks until a permanent solution can be put in place.

One more thing: Next, turn down your thermostat and your hot water heater. You’ll never notice the few degrees difference, but your utility bills will sure reflect your thriftiness.

Speaking of thriftiness, making your home more energy-efficient might also qualify you for a tax credit! Check if any state incentives are available to you. There also are federal tax incentives available for upgrading to a more efficient heating system:

Winter, as they say, is coming. So take some preventative steps to stay warm, pocket the savings, grab a hot beverage, and then… maybe put on a sweater.

Apartment dwellers: Don’t miss out on the protection that renters insurance offers


happy woman with boxes at a new aparment

Great, you have a great new apartment. You’ve thought of everything – the mover, the new furnishings, the utilities. You’ve got everything covered. Or do you?

Too few people are taking advantage of one of the most affordable and practical forms of property insurance available: Renters insurance, or sometimes also called tenant’s insurance. According to a 2016 poll by the Insurance Information Institute, while some 95% of homes are covered by homeowners insurance, just over 40% of tenants carry renters insurance.

Homeowners insurance, is, of course, required for a mortgage. Banks want to protect their assets! It’s much less common for landlords to require a renter to have an insurance policy – it’s usually optional. In either case, having an insurance policy that covers the loss of your possessions just makes sense. Most renters insurance policies also offer liability protection and coverage of additional living expenses.

Who need renters insurance?

If you rent, you do! Your landlord’s insurance does not cover your possessions. Their insurance covers the building and grounds, not the contents of each unit. Tenant’s insurance covers your belongings in the event of fire or smoke damage, vandalism or theft, lightning, and some specific types of water damage (such as a burst pipe or a forgetful upstairs neighbor leaving the tub running).

A great way to help determine what coverage you need is to make a home inventory. This will help you get an accurate picture of the value of your belongings, and that, in turn, will inform your renters insurance policy choices. Having your possessions accurately and thoroughly documented will also be a huge help if you need to file a claim. For help with making a home inventory, check out how to create a home inventory.

What else does renters insurance cover?

Many policies also offer off-premise coverage. This means that belongings outside your home (such as items in your car or hotel room) are protected just like they were sitting in your living room.

Renters insurance also offers liability protection. This covers you from lawsuits should someone be injured on your property. Your policy will cover the cost of a court defense, up to the limits of the policy.

Some tenant’s insurance policy also cover the costs associated with the aftermath of a home-destroying disaster: hotel rooms, rental cars, meals, and other expenses incurred while you home is rebuilt or you are able to relocate.

Determine your policy needs in consultation with your independent insurance agent. She can recommend additional policy provisions such as extra coverage for valuables like jewelry, art, or firearm collections; a policy deductible that suits your circumstances; and umbrella liability protection beyond the scope of your renter’s policy.

What isn’t covered?

While renters insurance offers significant protection from many common disasters, there are a couple of big exceptions. Most tenant’s insurance policies do NOT cover flood damage. Insurance for flood damage is available from the National Flood Insurance Program. Most rental insurance won’t cover earthquake damage. Policies specifically covering earthquake can be purchased separately or added as an endorsement to your renters insurance policy. You should also talk to your agent if you have any valuable collections that may need additional coverage.

How much does renters insurance cost?

The short answer is: not much, compared to the cost of replacing all your stuff. Your independent insurance agent can help you find a policy with the coverage that suits your needs. She’ll help you decide whether you need “actual cash value” or “replacement cost” coverage. Actual cash value pays out what your possessions are actually worth, including depreciation. It’s more affordable, but pays out less than a replacement cost policy, which would pay what it would take to replace the items if you bought them today.

Your independent insurance agent will also steer you toward any available discounts, too. Policies bundled with car or business policies are often discounted. Discounts are also sometimes available for having a security system, proper smoke detectors, and deadbolt locks. Your age, credit history, and length of time with the same insurer can also trigger significant policy savings.

Ask your independent insurance agent

If you have renters insurance already, it’s still a good idea to go over the policy once a year in consultation with your independent insurance agent. Your circumstances may have changed. Your insurance should reflect those changes. If you don’t have rental insurance, ask your insurance advisor for more information, make a detailed home inventory, and get some quotes. You may be surprised at how affordable tenant’s insurance policies are. And if the worst happens and you are a victim of theft, vandalism, or natural disaster, you’ll rest easy knowing that you were properly prepared.

Garage door maintenance tips: A handy infographic


white garage doors

Garage doors can be pretty expensive. According to Home Advisor, the average installation cost is $1,072. Depending on factors like door size, type and material, costs can range considerably higher. Plus, there is the cost of garage door openers. If you are thinking of installing a new garage door, it will involve electrical wiring, removing and disposing your old door and new door installation – a pretty big job. Home Advisor offers good tips on garage door installation cost factors. Unless you are pretty experienced at complex home maintenance and renovation tasks, it should probably be a job that you leave to the pros.

Given the cost and complexity, if you already have a garage door, it makes good sense to include that in your annual spring and fall home maintenance checklist. The article above offers some maintenance tips, and we like the Guide to Garage Door Maintenance, Upkeep, and Safety infographic from The Fix. It offers a pictorial of the different types of doors along with pros and cons of each. It also offers garage door maintenance tips.

While thinking about garage doors, you might also check out our prior post on two ways your garage door makes you vulnerable to burglaries. If you are thinking of getting new door, it might offers some food for thought on the type and style. It features an unsettling video showing burglars breaking into garages in just 6 seconds using a wire hanger. It also offers security tips to prevent break ins.

Source: Fix.com Blog