Survey: Most homeowners unaware of holiday liabilities

A national survey on homeowner’s 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 Trusted Choice agent before the event to ensure that you have the proper liability coverage.

Renter’s insurance – common questions and misperceptions

In today’s tough economic climate, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) notes that many former homeowners may now be renters, either due to their own choice to downsize or due to a home foreclosure. In the light of this, NAIC offers an alert about renter’s insurance, which discusses the importance of renters’ insurance and dispels some of the most common misperceptions that people have about this type of insurance.

  • “Renter’s insurance is too expensive, and I already have enough bills to pay.” The average renter’s insurance policy costs between $15 and $30 per month. Replacing all of your possessions or being liable for an accident on your premises will cost much more.
  • “I don’t have that many valuables; renter’s insurance isn’t worth the cost.” Renter’s insurance policies can cover everything from electronics to clothing to household appliances. Even a minimal number of items could add up to thousands of dollars’ worth of merchandise, which can all be covered in a basic policy.
  • “My landlord has insurance, so I’m already protected.” Your landlord has insurance for structural damage to the building, and might even be protected against damage caused by tenants. However, this coverage does not extend to your personal property, nor does it protect you from being liable for damage you might cause to the building inadvertently (e.g., a kitchen fire or a plumbing mishap).

The alert also includes other common questions and answers related to renter’s insurance. If you have questions about whether or not you need renter’s insurance, how much coverage you need, or what it will or will not cover, your independent agent is also a good source of information.

Whether you are a homeowner or a renter, the Insurance Information Institute offers a free downloadable home inventory software This software will help you create a room-by-room inventory of your personal possessions. Having an up-to-date home inventory will help you:

  • Purchase enough insurance to replace the things you own
  • Get your insurance claims settled faster
  • Substantiate losses for your income tax return

Preparing for catastrophes

With the anticipated landfall of Gustav, we’re thick into hurricane season, which continues through November 30. Homeowners in the hurricane belt here in the U.S. are preparing for what is expected to be an active September and October. Disaster relief organizations such as the Red Cross offer hurricane preparation advice, with information about a personal evacuation plan, including supplies that should be part of your emergency kit.
A few preparatory steps can also make filing insurance claims after the storm an easier process. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) offers a special disaster preparedness section of their website, along with a one page tip sheet on Storm Preparedness: A Four–Step Process . Among their recommendations:

  • Review your insurance coverage in advance to understand what your insurance policy covers and what it excludes.
  • Take an inventory of your property – photos or videos can be helpful. They suggest storing photos on the web or with a relative.
  • Move all of your important documents to a safe location. Take them with you if you evacuate. Be sure to include the name of your insurance companies and agent, policy numbers and contact information.

And should your home or property suffer damage, NAIC’s guide to What Consumers Should Know When Faced with A Loss can also be very helpful.