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Colorado Insurance Blog

Do You Have Enough Coverage For Your Belongings?

One coverage included on home, condo and renters policies is Personal Property coverage. If there is a covered loss on your home that results in your belongings being damaged, your Personal Property coverage will extend to help cover the costs to replace your property.

Most homeowners, condo and renters policies default to Actual Cash Value coverage for personal property.

That means if your belongings were damaged or destroyed in a loss, your claim payout would be the original value minus depreciation for age and wear & tear. That’s not going to go very far when it comes to replacing your things.

At Integrity First Insurance, we always try to write policies with Replacement Cost coverage instead of Actual Cash Value. With Replacement Cost coverage, our clients are given the full cost to actually replace an item, rather than the depreciated value.

How do you know if you have enough coverage?

One way to account for the personal property you have in your home is to fill out a Home Inventory Checklist. Having an inventory of your belongings is a great way to speed along the claim process if you have damaged property. You won’t have to spend hours trying to remember every little thing, and it’ll help your claim adjuster verify what you had prior to the loss.

It can also be helpful to take photos of any valuable or unique items you have. That makes it easier to prove what you have if any questions arise during the claim process.

How to create a home inventory:

Here are some tips from the Insurance Information Institute for creating a list of your belongings:

  • Pick an easy spot to start – A contained area—like your small kitchen appliance cabinet, your sporting equipment closet or your handbag shelf—is a great place to get started.
  • List recent purchases – Another way to start is with recent purchases—get into the inventory habit and then go back tackle your older possessions.
  • Include the basic information – In general, describe each item you record, and note where you bought it, the make and model, what you paid and any other detail that might help in the event you need to make a claim.
  • Count clothing by general category – For example, “5 pairs of jeans, 3 pairs of sneakers…” Make note of any items that are especially valuable.
  • Record serial numbers – Usually found on the back or bottom of major appliances and electronic equipment, serial numbers are a useful reference.
  • Check coverage on big ticket items – Jewelry, art and collectibles may have increased in value and may need special coverage separate from your standard homeowners insurance policy. While you’re making your home inventory list, check with your agent to make sure you have adequate insurance for these items before there is a loss.
  • Don’t forget off-site items – Your belongings kept in a self-storage facility are covered by your homeowners insurance, too. Make sure you include them in your inventory.
  • Keep proof of value – Store sales receipts, purchase contracts, and appraisals with your list.
  • Add significant new purchases to your list – Make it a habit to add the item information and receipts to your inventory while the details are fresh in your mind.
  • Store a copy of your paper inventory outside the home – Keep it—along with applicable receipts and appraisals—in a safe deposit box or at a friend’s or relative’s home. Make at least one backup copy of your inventory document and store it separately. An easy way to make digital backup copies of your paper list is to take pictures of it on your smartphone.

Sources:

How to create a home inventory. (n.d.). Retrieved April 19, 2021, from https://www.iii.org/article/how-create-home-inventory

What You Need to Know About Landlord Insurance

As a landlord, you want insurance that’s tailored specifically to protect your rental properties. A Landlord Protection policy, also called a Dwelling Fire policy, gives you choices when purchasing the insurance coverage you need.

Rental properties can be a great investment, especially if you protect your assets with excellent coverage. Make sure that you and your property are covered when choosing a landlord protection insurance policy.

For starters, make sure your property is on the correct type of coverage form. In many instances, landlords will purchase a property, spend a little time fixing it up, then will rent it out after the repairs are complete. This is perfectly fine; however, it’s in your best interest to fully disclose the extent of the anticipated renovations with your agent because a special form dwelling fire policy (which is commonly used to insure residential rental properties) has a couple of key conditions in it:

  • While freezing is indeed a covered peril, coverage only applies if you have maintained heat in the building or shut off the water supply and drained all systems and appliances of water. This is obviously a huge problem during the colder months, so pay a little extra to your utility company to keep the heat on in the house. Otherwise, you run the risk of having a large water-related claim go uncovered due to frozen pipes.
  • Vandalism, malicious mischief, and theft are all covered as long as the house isn’t vacant. If the dwelling has been vacant for more than 60 days prior to a loss caused by one of these perils, coverage is excluded.

If you plan on taking several months to renovate a property, your property may need to be written with a specialty insurance company until renovations are complete. In many cases, vacant properties are only eligible for basic form coverage (which means you are only covered for a small list of specified perils); however, there are some options in the marketplace to expand the list of covered perils for vacant properties. Once the renovations are complete and a tenant is about to move in, you can put the property back on a standard rental dwelling insurance policy.

In addition, keep in mind that water-related losses such as flood and water backup of sewers and drains are not covered in any type of rental property policy (vacant or occupied), so additional coverage will need to be purchased to properly address these perils.

Lastly, it’s important to protect yourself with liability insurance. Landlord Protection liability insurance options protect you and your spouse or domestic partner against personal injury, wrongful eviction, or wrongful entry as well as other non-bodily injury claims such as libel and slander.

The more assets and exposures you have, like rental units, the more important it is to have adequate liability insurance. I recommend getting an umbrella policy to go above and beyond all of your underlying policies, including your auto, home, landlord, and any recreational vehicles. With an umbrella policy, you can get an extra million dollars or more of liability coverage for only a few hundred dollars a year.

If you’re a landlord or are considering purchasing a rental property, give us a call. We’ll get to know you and your unique risks so we can tailor an insurance package to fit your needs.

What You Should Know About Wildfires and Insurance

The 2020 wildfire season in Colorado was the worst in state history. Not only is it heartbreaking to see our beautiful state burning each summer, but there are also more homes and businesses being impacted by fire than ever before.

Many people move to the foothills or the mountains for the breathtaking views and the relative seclusion from the noise and crowds in the city. Unfortunately, those luxuries often come with a much greater risk of wildfire damage.

According to an article from the Colorado State Forest Service, “The number of people living in areas at risk to the effects of wildland fire increased by nearly 50 percent from 2012 to 2017.” As of 2017 approximately 2.9 million people in Colorado, approximately half of the state’s population, live in areas at risk of being impacted by wildfires.

What does this have to do with insurance?

Simply put, the more structures that are impacted by wildfires, the more insurance companies are paying out.

While wind and hail claims are the most frequent, fire and lightning claims are the costliest. Since fires cause significant damage and result in much higher payouts than other claims, insurance companies have strict guidelines when it comes to insuring homes in high risk areas. As a result, it can be difficult to find insurance for homes in risky wildfire zones.

Most insurance companies use a FireLine score to determine the wildfire risk of any given home and will use that to decide if the home is eligible for coverage with that company. Some carriers are willing to take on greater risks, but they will often require certain mitigation efforts to reduce the risk to the home.

What factors do insurance companies look at when determining the wildfire risk of a home?

  • Responding Fire Department-Insurance companies look at the proximity to the responding fire department, as well as if it is volunteer or paid and what kind of equipment they have available.
  • Roads leading to your house– Are they paved or dirt roads? Are they wide enough for a fire truck to get through?
  • Proximity to neighbors– Are there neighbors within eyesight of your house to report a fire if you are away?
  • House materials– A log home is a much greater risk in a wildfire area than a brick home.
  • Trees or bushes surrounding the home– Many insurance carriers will require that there are no trees within a certain distance of the home and no branches hanging over any structures on the property. This is considered a “defensible space.”
  • Slope– Steeper slopes can increase speed that a wildfire spreads.

How can I find homeowners insurance if my home is in a high risk area?

Give us a call! This will save you a lot of time and effort because we can quote your property with many carriers rather than you having to call each one separately.

More importantly, we have strong relationships with the carriers work with. We have put in the time and effort to demonstrate to our insurance carriers that we operate with honesty and integrity.

While this may not seem important, it gives us the opportunity to advocate for our clients and often times we can get them to make an exception when they otherwise wouldn’t. Before you go to a non-standard carrier or waste hours of your life calling insurance companies or getting quotes online, give us a chance to work for you.

Tips for preventing a wildfire from destroying your home (from Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association):

  • Create a 30-foot defensible space around your home by removing as much flammable material as you can. Replace flammable vegetation with fire resistive plants.
  • Reduce the number of trees in heavily wooded areas by spacing native trees and shrubs at least 10 feet apart. On trees taller than 18 feet, prune lower branches within six feet of the ground.
  • Remove branches overhanging the roof or coming within 10 feet of the chimney. Clean all dead leaves and needles from the roof, gutters, and yard.
  • Install a roof that meets a fire classification of “Class B” or better. Cover the chimney outlet and stovepipe with nonflammable screening no larger than half-inch mesh.
  • Install dual- or triple-paned windows, and limit the size and number of windows that face large areas of vegetation.
  • Put woodpiles and liquid propane gas tanks at least 30 feet from all structures and clear away flammable vegetation within 10 feet of those woodpiles and propane tanks.

Sources:

Half of Coloradans Now Live in Areas at Risk to Wildfires. (2018, November 26). Retrieved September 24, 2020, from https://csfs.colostate.edu/2018/11/26/half-of-coloradans-now-live-in-areas-at-risk-to-wildfires/

Wildfire. (n.d.). Retrieved October 07, 2020, from http://www.rmiia.org/catastrophes_and_statistics/Wildfire.asp

Insurance Guide: Sending Your Kid to College

At the end of every summer, many parents are packing up their recent high school graduate and sending them to college. This is the start of many big life changes for everyone, which can also bring a lot of stress and questions.

As a parent, you’re probably not thinking about insurance in that moment. It’s important to consider what coverage your kid will have when they go off to college.

Are they covered under your homeowners policy?

Many homeowners policies provide coverage for your college student while they are away at school. If they’re living in a dorm, your home policy might cover their personal liability and personal property.

Carriers can vary in how much personal property extends while away at school or away from home. The average for property covered away from the home is 10% of the personal property limit.

If your child decides to rent an off-campus apartment, they might need a renters policy. Even if their personal property isn’t worth much, they still need renters insurance for the liability coverage.

College students don’t always make good choices. If your kid throws a party, they are at risk of a lawsuit. Someone could get hurt and sue. Or a guest could drive drunk and injure someone, leaving your child responsible because they served the alcohol.

Liability coverage offers legal protection from those types of situations. A renters policy can help protect the future your child is building.

What about their auto insurance?

Auto insurance is pretty specific about who can and cannot be a driver on a policy. Most insurance carriers only allow “household members” to be drivers on a policy. While your child may not be living in your home daily, most insurance carriers consider college students a “household member.”

As long as your child is in school, you should be able to insure them on your auto policy with most insurance providers. Once they have graduated and have their own permanent residence, they’ll need to get their own auto policy.

While they’re still on your policy they may be able to qualify for a few discounts, like Good Student and Distant Student.

Most insurance carriers offer the Good Student discount if your student maintains a B average (3.0 GPA) or higher. You may need to provide a report card showing their grades each policy term to keep that discount.

The Distant Student discount can vary, it’s usually available for a student that is attending college more than 100 miles away from home. Most carriers specify that they can’t have a vehicle at school with them. Some insurance companies will provide the discount if they have a vehicle, but it’s more common to see the “without a vehicle” stipulation.

Dorm Do’s and Don’ts for your college student

Over the next few weeks, your child may be getting a taste for living on their own for the first time. That can be scary to think about as a parent. Below are some safety tips to share with college students to help keep them and their belongings safe during the school year.

DO keep your dorm room door locked at all times.

Many kids will keep their doors unlocked when visiting a friend a few rooms away, thinking that no one will enter their room if they’re only gone for a few minutes. This can’t be further from the truth.

Many electronics are small and portable and can be stolen in 30 seconds if left unattended. Whether you’re making a quick trip to the restroom or hanging out in the room next door, keep your door locked.

DON’T leave candles/incense unattended.

Candles and incense are big on college campuses. Small rooms crammed with at least two people can smell a little funky, so many students use these items to help freshen up the air.

Leaving these unattended while lit can be a huge fire hazard. The flame is not the only issue with candles and incense. The heat from the candle and the ash from the incense are enough to start a fire.

DO remove dryer lint from lint trap before running dryer.

Many students are used to Mom and Dad doing their laundry. Living at college is their first real experience with washing and drying their clothes regularly.

Dryer fires are common on college campuses because many students don’t clean the lint trap in the dryer and dispose of the lint properly. Dryer lint is like kindling and can catch fire from the heat put off by the dryer. Be sure to clean the lint trap before turning on the dryer every time you use it.

DO plug electronics into surge protectors and frequently save all work.

There is nothing worse than being up until 2:00 a.m. finishing a 20-page paper only to have your computer shut down or short out before you’ve saved your work. Surge protectors will help keep your electronics from being fried due to an overload from your neighbor’s hair dryer. Saving your work frequently will help prevent a late-night meltdown if you encounter computer issues.

DON’T post when you will be away on Facebook or other social media sites.

In today’s social media-crazed society, many people think nothing of posting their plans, even when it means they will be away from their home for a weekend or longer. If you post that you’re going home for the weekend, this may give someone who sees that post an opportunity to break into your room and rob you blind.

Posting on social media is not like telling your friends your plans. It’s more akin to posting your plans in the newspaper.

Some of these tips may seem like common sense, but they are all derived from actual incidents. Many people have that old “it won’t happen to me” mentality. But these situations can and do happen, so it doesn’t hurt to have a quick conversation with your college student.

Flood Insurance 101

Beginner’s Guide to Flood Insurance

When I ask clients if they would like to get a quote for flood insurance, I am almost always met with the same answer: “no, my home isn’t in a flood zone.” The truth is: Every home is in a flood zone.

You’re not required to purchase flood insurance if your home isn’t determined to be in a “high-risk zone.” But every home has the potential of flooding.

After talking to many clients, I’ve learned that most people fall into one of the following categories:

1. They think their homeowners or renters policy will cover any potential flooding.

2. They feel confident their home will never flood because they don’t live by a body of water.

3. They assume they don’t qualify for flood insurance because their home isn’t in a “high-risk zone.”

That tells me that the insurance industry hasn’t done a great job educating people about flood insurance.

Our mission here at Integrity First is: By operating with Integrity and focusing on education, we will change the perception of the insurance industry.

It’s important to understand your risks and your coverage, not just pay for insurance because you have to. If this blog can help even one person understand the risks of flooding and how flood insurance works, I’ll consider it a success.

Continue reading “Flood Insurance 101”

3 Ways You Can Protect Yourself From Personal Injury Attorneys

If you watch TV or listen to the radio, chances are you’ve seen or heard a commercial from a personal injury attorney. You know the ones- “I called (name of law firm) and they got me $700,000!” The frequency of these commercials means you’re more likely to get sued if you are at-fault in an accident.

The fact of the matter is, there are people out there that see a big payday if they get in an accident. Insurance is there to pay your medical bills paid and get your vehicle fixed. When the injured party wants to pocket extra cash, it drives up rates for us all.

Read more about Colorado’s increasing rates in our blog 5 Reasons Insurance Rates Keep Increasing in Colorado.

If you’re at-fault in an accident your insurance company will only pay up to your liability limits. Anything beyond that is your responsibility. If you don’t have that money laying around, they can take your home or garnish your wages.

Here are 3 ways you can help protect your family and your financial future:

Continue reading “3 Ways You Can Protect Yourself From Personal Injury Attorneys”

What Dog Owners Need To Know About Home Insurance

Why do insurance companies care what breed my dog is?

Here at Integrity First, loving dogs is basically a requirement. We know that even the dog breeds that get a bad rep can be the sweetest dogs out there and would never hurt anyone. The insurance industry doesn’t hate dogs, but they use analytics to determine risks.

Many insurance carriers have restricted breed lists. If you have a dog that is on their list, you can’t get home insurance with that company. As unfair as that may seem, insurance is based on probability. Research shows that certain dog breeds inflict significant damage when they bite.

Why do certain dog breeds end up on most Aggressive or Restricted Breed lists?

Continue reading “What Dog Owners Need To Know About Home Insurance”

Do You Need Home Insurance in Colorado if You Don’t Have a Mortgage?

Most mortgage lenders in Colorado these days require homeowners to carry home insurance as part of their contracts. But what if you’ve paid off your home in full and don’t have a mortgage? Do you still need home insurance?

Here’s the short answer: legally, you do not need home insurance in Colorado, but there are many reasons why you’ll probably still want a policy. At Integrity First Insurance, we’re here to answer all your questions!

What Does Home Insurance Do?

While mortgage lenders may refer to home insurance as protecting their financial investment, it’s really about protecting yours as well. After all, you’ve already put a lot of time (and funds) into your home, and this goes tenfold if you’ve paid it off in full and don’t have an active mortgage. A good home insurance policy prevents you from having to pay for many potential damages to your property out of your own pocket, therefore making sure your investment is not wasted.

Does it Matter if I Live in an Urban or Rural Area?

Colorado is a very geographically diverse state, and our beautiful land is home to both rural and urban communities. Homes in both areas face different kinds of risks, and they are both still in need of home insurance as a result. Fortunately, insurance providers recognize this and offer different ranges of coverage options as a result.

How Do I Get a Policy?

When you’re ready to learn more about your home insurance coverage options, give us a call at Integrity First Insurance. We’re homeowners in Colorado ourselves, and we understand there’s no “one size fits all” policy. We’ll get to know you and your property, as well as any specific needs you have for coverage. Then, we’ll be able to present you with the policy options that fit best. Don’t wait to protect everything you’ve already invested into your home — reach out to us today!

10 Ways to Save on Insurance Without Sacrificing Coverage

Raise your hand if you live in Colorado and your insurance premium increases every year. You can’t see me, but my hand is high in the air.

I work in the insurance industry, but that doesn’t make me immune to the same rate increases as everyone else. My policies have increased 4 years in a row.

To understand more about WHY the rates are increasing in Colorado, read our blog: 5 Reasons Insurance Rates Keep Increasing in Colorado.

We’re all in the same boat when it comes to increasing rates. I understand how overwhelming it can be to see 15-30% increases year after year. Especially when you haven’t filed a claim. If you’re anything like me, once you see that your rate has increased yet again, your first thought is to try to find a way to lower your rates.

Many agents will offer to lower your liability limits or remove coverage to save you some money. If you go that route, it’s important to understand what coverage you’re giving up and how it’ll impact you if you have a claim.

Continue reading “10 Ways to Save on Insurance Without Sacrificing Coverage”

If Your Tree Falls, Will Home Insurance Cover It?

When summer storms roll through, a lot of questions arise about what your policy will cover if a tree falls.

There are two main situations we get questions about: if a tree falls on your property, and if a tree falls on someone else’s property. Unfortunately, there isn’t one answer to both of those questions, so I’ll answer each separately.

Please keep in mind that all insurance policies are different. So while these answers are the norm, the coverage on your policy may be different.

My tree fell in my yard, will my policy pay to remove it?

Most home policies cover the reasonable cost to get a tree off a covered structure. The amount they’ll pay is still subject to applicable policy limits.

Continue reading “If Your Tree Falls, Will Home Insurance Cover It?”

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