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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

Do You Need Umbrella Insurance?

To really feel secure about protecting your assets and your future, you may need the extra level of protection provided by a personal umbrella liability insurance policy.

In today’s society you can get sued for just about anything. An umbrella offers an extra level of protection from lawsuits.

What is an umbrella policy?

An umbrella policy provides additional layers of liability protection. If the liability limits are exhausted on your home, auto, or other underlying insurance policy, your umbrella insurance policy takes over and provides you with additional protection. The cost is minimal compared to the comfort of knowing you’re covered.

Once the liability limits are exhausted on your home, auto, or other policy, your umbrella policy takes over and provides a second layer of protection of at least $1,000,000.  Higher limits may also be available.

See 5 Real-Life Insurance Claims that demonstrate the value of an umbrella policy.

Do you have enough liability insurance?

Imagine what would happen if your dog was to bite a neighbor’s child, or if there was an accident on your rental property. What would happen if a fire in your condo spread to other units?  If any of these things happened to you, there’s a good chance your current liability limits wouldn’t be adequate to protect your assets, or your future earnings.

An umbrella insurance policy also pays some claims not covered by your home, auto, or other underlying insurance. The policy covers not just you, but your spouse and all family members living in your household, anywhere in the world. Legal defense fees are also paid.

Read more about the importance of liability coverage in our blog 3 Ways You Can Protect Yourself From Personal Injury Attorneys.

The right coverage for you is unique. Talk to one of our agents today to find out how to protect yourself, your family and your future with the right personal umbrella insurance for you.

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.

How to Clean Your Gutters

It’s important to clean your gutters every spring and fall to remove any debris that might have built up. If you don’t clean your gutters frequently, it can prevent water from draining properly.

When water doesn’t drain correctly, it can cause damage to your roof and fascia. It can also pool near your foundation and cause damage or seep into your home. Water that seeps into your home isn’t covered by homeowners insurance, so any resulting damage can be devastating to homeowners.

Water damage is avoidable with some simple steps.

Tips for cleaning your gutters:

  • Use a ladder instead of cleaning them from the roof
  • Make sure your ladder is on solid, stable, level ground
  • Use hooks to attach a bucket to your ladder for tools or debris
  • Wear work gloves to protect your hands from sharp objects
  • Remove debris near the downspout first
  • Remove loose debris and flush out the rest with a hose (try not to spray under your shingles)
  • Flush out the downspout and reattach
  • Use a level to make sure your gutters are sloping down
  • Fix any leaks with gutter sealant
  • Consider adding gutter guards to keep most debris out of your gutters

Cleaning your gutters is a simple project that is well worth the time and effort. If you don’t feel comfortable or are unable to clean your gutters yourself, you can hire a professional to help you maintain them.

In Denver, you can expect to pay anywhere from $125-$300+ on average. Your cost will depend on the square footage of your home, the number of stories, and the pitch of your roof. The more stories and steeper the pitch, the more difficult and dangerous the job is, so that will cost more.

Coverage Options to Consider For Your New Car

Coverages you should consider when you buy a new car:

New Car Replacement

If your brand new car is totaled within the first year, you’ll be paid the full value of the car you lost or a comparable model. Without this coverage, you’d be paid Actual Cash Value, which would subtract depreciation. New cars depreciate the second they drive off the lot, so this coverage can save you thousands of dollars if you have to replace your new car in the first year.

Loan/Lease Gap Coverage

If you finance a new car through a lease or a loan, this covers the gap between the Actual Cash Value and the amount you owe. Without Gap coverage, you’d be on the hook for paying the difference between your loan/lease amount and the depreciated value of the vehicle.

Original Equipment Manufactured Parts (OEM)

Most leases require that you return the vehicle in good condition, with original equipment manufactured parts. For example, if you have a BMW, the lease may require that you only use BMW parts for repairs.

Most auto policies will pay for aftermarket parts if your car is damaged, which may not be from the same manufacturer as your car. With OEM coverage your policy will pay to replace damaged parts with new OEM parts. This coverage is important if you have a lease or if you would prefer brand new OEM parts.

If you’re investing in a new car, make sure you have the protection you need. Give us a call or Request a Quote to get coverage tailored to your needs.

Renters Insurance 101

Whether you’re renting a home, apartment, condo, or even just a room, renters insurance is worth considering. One of the benefits of renting is that most of the upkeep and insurance costs fall on the landlord. The owner of the property is responsible for insuring the building or home, but their insurance doesn’t cover your belongings or liability risk.

Renters insurance offers financial security by protecting both your belongings and your liability risk.

What does renters insurance cover?

Personal Property

The average renter has around $35,000 worth of personal belongings, but 60% of renters don’t have renters insurance. You may not think you have that much but once you factor in clothes, shoes, dishes, furniture, electronics, medicine, jewelry, and more, it adds up.

Without renters insurance, your belongings wouldn’t be covered if there was a fire, theft, or other loss. Renters insurance provides the peace of mind that if something happens, you can replace your possessions without paying for everything out-of-pocket.

If you leave any of your property in your car and it gets stolen, your renters insurance can also pay to replace what was stolen. Most auto insurance doesn’t cover property stolen from a vehicle, so homeowners or renters insurance is the best option for that coverage.

Many renters policies will also extend a percentage of your personal property coverage limit to belongings that are kept in a rented storage unit.

Liability

Another important coverage offered by renters insurance is Liability protection. This will help pay for defense costs and judgements against you if you are found legally responsible for someone’s injuries or property damage.

If someone gets hurt while in your home, your dog injures someone, or your kid hits a baseball through someone’s window, you could be responsible for paying for those medical bills or repairs. The Liability coverage on a renters policy would help defend you and pay for those damages so you don’t have to pay out-of-pocket.

Loss of Use

If your home becomes uninhabitable due to a covered loss, your renters policy will pay for the additional living expenses you incur. That can include paying for a hotel or long-term rental, restaurant bills if you’re unable to cook in the hotel, laundromat costs, etc. Your renters policy can even pay for some of your gas costs if you have to drive further to work.

Valuables

You can add extra coverage to schedule valuable items on your policy. If you have jewelry, a comic book or fine art collection, or some other item of value, you can purchase coverage to have it insured at a higher limit and for more causes of loss.

How much does renters insurance cost?

Renters insurance costs an average of $16/month. If you have higher limits of personal property coverage or add optional coverage, that cost can increase. But in most cases, renters insurance is extremely affordable.

Given the benefits it provides for a relatively low cost, I think it’s worth it to have renters insurance.

Sources:

Sachon, L., & McGinley, K. (2020, February 4). Do I Need renters insurance? Retrieved March 24, 2021, from https://www.policygenius.com/renters-insurance/who-needs-renters-insurance/

What Is An Auto Insurance Deductible?

An auto insurance deductible is one of the most important factors to consider when choosing coverage for your vehicle. Because your deductible will impact your monthly premium as well as the amount you’ll pay for damages after making a claim, it’s critical you choose wisely.

So, what is a deductible and how does it work? Here are some points to consider when evaluating car insurance options to decide what will work for your needs.

What Is an Auto Insurance Deductible?

An auto insurance deductible is the fixed dollar amount you’re responsible for paying as the policy holder toward the financial loss from a covered car accident. If your damages exceed your deductible, the insurance company will cover the remaining balance up to your coverage amount. You choose your deductible amount and your coverage limits, and are required to pay up to the deductible amount before your insurance company steps in to cover the rest. For example, let’s say you choose an insurance policy with a $1,000 deductible. If you’re involved in an accident and the estimated damages are $2,000, you would be responsible to pay $1,000 of a covered loss before insurance kicks in.

There are two main types of car insurance coverages that typically include deductibles:

  • Collision: This coverage helps pay for damage to your vehicle if it hits another car or object, is hit by another car, or rolls over.
  • Comprehensive: This coverage helps pay for damages to your vehicle that are not caused by a collision. Examples include theft, vandalism, glass-only damage, hitting a deer or other animal, and storm damage.

After you’ve paid your applicable deductible, your insurance will cover the cost of the damages to your vehicle, up to the limits of your policy.

How Does a Car Insurance Deductible Work?

Unlike with health insurance, your deductible is paid for each accident that you have. For example, if you get into three separate accidents during a given policy period, and you have a $500 deductible, you will pay a $500 deductible for each accident. It’s also important to note that your insurance company may only cover the cost of damages that exceed the deductible amount.

For example, if you have a $500 deductible and the damages to your car total $450, you would pay the full $450. But if the damages to your car total $1,000, you would pay your $500 deductible, and the insurance company would cover the remaining $500.

When Do You Have to Pay A Deductible?

You only pay a deductible when there are covered damages to your vehicle, not when there are damages to another person’s car. That said, it can be difficult to understand every situation in which you’ll be required to pay a deductible. Here are a few scenarios to help you understand, but be sure to check with your insurance agent to verify what your specific coverages include.

  • Another driver hits your car. If another driver is determined to be at fault for the accident, typically, their insurance company will be responsible for paying for your repairs if you file a claim with the other company. If you choose to file your claim with your insurance company, you will owe your deductible, but your insurer will likely seek reimbursement of your deductible from the other driver’s insurance company. However, if a driver hits your vehicle and both you and the other driver are determined to be at fault, then you may be responsible for paying at least a portion of your deductible if you file a claim with your own insurance company.
  • You hit another driver’s car. If you strike someone else’s vehicle and in doing so, damage your car, your insurance company typically will pay for the damages to your car, and you will be responsible for paying the deductible.
  • Your car was damaged by something other than a collision. With comprehensive coverage, if your car is damaged in a storm, fire, flood or if you strike an animal, typically your insurance company will cover the damages and — depending on your policy — you are likely to have to pay your deductible.
  • Your windshield was damaged. Generally, comprehensive coverage covers glass damage. In this case, your insurance company would pay for the cost to repair or replace your windshield. Depending on your policy, you may have to pay a deductible. Again, check with your insurance agent to confirm what your coverage will do.
  • Your vehicle was damaged in a hit-and-run. If you have collision or uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage and someone hits your car and flees the scene, you likely will be responsible for paying your deductible. This type of claim would be worth a phone call to your insurance agent for guidance on your coverage and what you may owe.
  • Your vehicle is totaled. If your insurance company determines your car is a total loss (e.g., generally, the cost of the damages exceeds the value of the vehicle), then it will typically pay for the fair market value of your car before the accident, minus your deductible.

How Does A Deductible Impact Your Car Insurance Premium?

Your deductible has an impact on your car insurance premium, so you’ll need to decide this based on your budget and perhaps several other considerations. In general, the higher the deductible you choose, the lower the premium you’ll pay. Conversely, the lower the deductible you choose, the higher the premium you’ll pay.

For example, if your current policy has a $500 deductible and you decide to increase your deductible when your policy is up for renewal, your monthly premium will likely decrease (assuming all other factors remain the same).

Here are a couple other things to consider when choosing your car insurance deductible:

  • How much of a deductible could you afford to pay? If you’re in an accident, you may need to pay your full deductible, so it’s important that it’s an amount you can afford. Consider starting an emergency fund to save up some money in case you have an accident that requires you to pay your deductible. Also, some insurance companies have minimum deductible requirements, so keep this in mind when you discuss your policy details with your insurance agent so you will know what to expect if you have a mishap with your vehicle.
  • How much is your car worth? The value of your vehicle may make a difference in what deductible makes sense for you. For the most part, the more expensive your vehicle, the more it costs to insure. That can translate into greater savings if you choose a high deductible.

Several factors affect the cost of your car insurance policy, but your deductible will have an impact on your premiums as well as on how much you’ll pay out-of-pocket for damages to your car from an accident. Before you select a policy, consider your options for your deductible. Hopefully you may never face a situation where you’ll have to pay a deductible, but it’s important that you be careful to choose a policy with a deductible that you can afford to pay.

Are Your Underground Pipes and Utility Lines Covered?

A common misconception is that either the city or the utility company would repair damage to any utility lines. In most situations, it’ll actually fall on the homeowner to repair damaged pipes or lines.

If you’ve ever had to replace a sewer line or repair underground wiring, you know how expensive that job can be. It can cost thousands of dollars just to dig up the damaged line to determine what the issue is.

What are Service Lines?

The underground lines and pipes that connect your home to the main line.

Examples of Service Lines:

  • Power lines
  • Cable lines
  • Fiber optics
  • Sprinkler piping
  • Compressed air lines
  • Drain piping
  • Heating lines
  • Sewer piping
  • Water piping
  • Natural gas lines
  • Steam piping

Where does the city’s responsibility end and yours start?

You’re responsible for any utility lines that run through your property. Once the underground line crosses the line between city owned property to your property lines, it becomes your responsibility.

Does your homeowners insurance cover damage to Service Lines?

A typical homeowners policy does NOT include service line coverage. Many insurance companies now offer an endorsement that you can add to the policy to get coverage for such losses.

How much does Service Line coverage cost?

The exact cost depends on your insurance company, but the average cost is $25-$50 per year. That’s less than $5 per month. With an average cost of $30/year for $10,000 of coverage, it’s a beneficial and affordable coverage to have.

Most companies also offer a lower deductible for Service Line coverage. Rather than having a deductible over $1,000, you can often find an endorsement with only a $500 deductible. That means if you have a service line loss, you’re paying even less out-of-pocket than you would for other claims.

What is generally covered under a Service Line endorsement?

Service Line coverage will usually extend to the following causes of damage:

  • Wear and tear
  • Rust or corrosion
  • Mechanical breakdown
  • Freezing
  • Tree or other root invasion
  • Collapse

If you have a Service Line endorsement, your policy will cover the excavation costs to dig up the damaged line. It will also pay to repair or replace the damaged line and restore the landscaping after the repairs are complete.

Many insurance companies also provide additional coverage to replace your damaged lines with more eco-friendly options. In some cases they will pay up to an additional 50% if you choose to use materials that are more environmentally friendly and efficient.

In some cases, your insurance company may also pay for additional living expenses you incur if you are unable to live in your home during the repairs.

What losses typically aren’t covered by a Service Line endorsement?

  • Water well damage (depending on the carrier)
  • Heating and cooling systems (except geothermal piping in some scenarios)
  • Fuel tanks
  • Septic systems

Real life Service Claim examples:

  • A late freeze caused a buried water pipe to burst, requiring excavation to repair. Total claim payment: $3,700
  • Root invasion led to the collapse of an underground sewer line. In addition to the sewer line repair, temporary living expenses were incurred by the homeowner. Total claim payment: $7,800
  • Electrical arcing occurred in two underground conduits that provided home electrical service. Total claim payment: $10,000

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

COVID-19 Impact on Insurance

With everything happening to stop the spread of COVID-19, many facets of normal life have been impacted.

Businesses are still shut down or having their employees work from home. Many restaurants are now offering takeout and delivery when they otherwise wouldn’t. You’d have a hard time finding anyone whose sense of normalcy hasn’t been affected in some way.

As a society we’re all trying to figure out how to exist in the new normal. There are many things to think about with these many changes, and insurance is no exception.

Here are some of the questions we’ve been asked regarding COVID-19:

What can I do if I’m out of work and unable to pay my bill?

Continue reading “COVID-19 Impact on Insurance”

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