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Learn about common risks regarding your home and discover how the proper insurance can help.
Homeowners Insurance Coverages
Coverage A – Dwelling
This coverage protects the structure of your home for such perils as wind or fire.
Coverage B – Other Structures
If you have detached structures such as a garage or tool shed, this coverage protects them.
Coverage C – Personal Property
This coverage protects your belongings. Furniture, appliances, clothing and similar property are covered up to a percentage of your Coverage A limit. This percentage is typically 70% of Coverage A, but is selectable by you. Because some belongings are of special value and better insured specifically, your Homeowners Policy limits the amount you can collect for such items as jewelry, furs and fine art. To ensure you have the proper protection for these items, you will need to obtain specific insurance for these items, which is called scheduling. Contact our office to discuss scheduling your valued possessions.
Coverage D – Loss of Use
Loss of Use pays for the extra cost of living if your home is not habitable due to an event covered by your policy.
Coverage E – Personal Liability
Personal Liability protects you from claims against you for injury to others or their property. This coverage also pays for defense costs if you are sued as a result of injury to others or their property.
Important optional coverages include:
- Extended Dwelling Coverage providing coverage above Coverage A limits if needed
- Increased Building Ordinance coverage to pay the extra costs of upgrades to meet building codes
- Replacement Cost Contents to replace your belongings rather than payment at depreciated value
- Scheduled Personal Property for specific coverage on valuable items such as jewelry
Water is essential for many things in life, yet it is one of the most frequent causes of damage in homes. Consider how many rooms in your home are connected to an inside water source or are susceptible to water coming in from outdoors and you will quickly realize how vital water damage prevention should be.
When water goes where it shouldn’t, even a small leak can become a major problem. Some damage from water is covered by your homeowners policy, some is not. Either way, most damage from water is preventable.
Quick action helps in water emergencies.
It has happened. There is water everywhere — in your walls, under your carpets and soaking into your belongings. Whether caused by a burst pipe, a broken water heater or a flood, there are things you can do immediately to salvage belongings and limit damage or loss.
Nothing is more terrifying. The thought of flames racing through your home is probably your worst nightmare. Unfortunately, it is an all-too-frequent occurrence in this country. Every year, 4,000 Americans die in fires. The vast majority of those deaths occur at home – each year, 100,000 homes are destroyed, 40,000 family pets are killed and uncounted irreplaceable family treasures are lost forever.
Tragically, most fires are preventable. The leading cause of fires in the home is faulty heating equipment. A couple of simple measures can ensure that your home heating system is safe. For example, changing your air filter regularly will ensure that your furnace isn’t overtaxed. And don’t leave piles of newspaper or other combustibles within two feet of your furnace.
While home heating systems are the No. 1 cause of fires in the home, cigarettes are the No. 1 factor in home fire fatalities. If you do smoke, be sensible. Don’t smoke in bed. Use a large metal or glass ashtray. Put that cigarette out with water before you drop it in the trash.
The No. 2 cause of fire-related deaths is arson. Intentionally set fires claim the lives of more people each year than all natural disasters – including floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes – combined. Most arson fires are fueled with combustible material found nearby. A little diligence around the house, along with a watchful eye for strangers, can make a world of difference.
In fact, a little diligence is the key to home safety in general. It may go without saying, but smoke detectors that work, fire extinguishers that are well-charged and easily accessible and a ladder for the upper floors can save money and lives.
Protect Against Theft
Burglars don’t advertise their unique line of work. They don’t wear a uniform or act suspicious. Remember this when you invite new acquaintances into your home or have a large social function. 21% of burglaries are committed by juveniles, frequently those living in the area.
The first step in helping prevent household burglary is simply to lock your doors and windows. This simple step alone greatly reduces the odds of being burglarized.
The burglar is always looking for the easiest job – don’t help him. Make it as difficult as possible for a thief to enter your home. Lock your doors and make your home look occupied when you’re not at home. By doing so, a burglar will most likely look for an easier break-in somewhere else.
Burglary, one of the most costly crimes in terms of actual dollar losses, is also one of the easiest crimes to combat. A moment of carelessness – not bothering to lock windows and doors – is an invitation to the criminal. The burglar is likely to go where there is an inviting open garage door or other easy way to enter. By taking normal precautions, you can save your share of the millions of dollars those open doors and windows cost crime victims every year.
Common Sense Precautions
- Lock all doors and windows, especially when leaving the house (even for short periods)
- Don’t leave keys under the mats, doorsills or on an outside nail
- If you leave your car keys with someone, don’t give them the full key ring containing the house keys
- Do not carry an identification tag on your key ring
- Never leave notes outside your home advertising your absence
- Always lock and close your garage door, even if you plan to be gone only for a few minutes
- Lock all outside doors at all times, even when you are on the premises
- Keep tool shed and other out-buildings locked
- Adjust the volume on your telephone so the ring cannot be heard outside — smart burglars may be listening when you aren’t home
- Make your home look occupied when you are away for the evening by leaving on some exterior and interior lights
- Keep jewelry in a safe deposit box at your bank
- Prune shrubbery around doors and windows so a burglar cannot work undetected
- Remove objects from your yard or near the house that might conceal a burglar
- Check door moldings for tight fit
- Never keep large sums of cash or easy-to-sell valuables in your house
- For those few valuables you feel you must keep at home, find hard-to-reach or hard-to-find places to conceal them
- A dog is an excellent anti-burglar investment — a barking dog, whether large or small, may persuade a burglar to move on
When You're at Home
- Do not open your home to strangers. Demand identification before you admit anyone you do not recognize. Don’t accept a uniform as identification, and verify identity by phone before you admit a repair or delivery person.
- Post guidelines for your baby-sitters and children at home alone. If a non-family member or unexpected visitor knocks at the door, the child or baby-sitter can say through the door that the parents are “busy and cannot come to the door.” If the person persists, the police should be called and told that there “is a person at the door who will not leave.”
- If you have an answering machine on your phone, your recorded message should say you are busy, not that you are gone from the premises.
- When you admit a repair or delivery person, do not leave them alone, even for a few minutes.
- Never volunteer information over the phone. Instruct children and baby-sitters never to admit to being home alone. Have them tell callers that mother or father is asleep or busy, but the call will be returned if they leave a number. It is recommended to answer the phone as a burglar may be calling to determine if the house is occupied.
- When attending a funeral of a family member, have a neighbor house-sit. Burglars read the newspapers for advance notices, especially funerals, anniversaries and weddings.
When You’re on Vacation
- Discontinue mail deliveries, and have a trusted neighbor pick up newspapers and advertising circulars. In some areas, suspension of deliveries is a tip-off to your absence. Ask your local police for advice.
- Store ladders, bicycles and lawn and garden equipment in a locked garage or out-building. A few large pieces of furniture may be left on the patio or deck so it appears you are at home.
- Ask a trusted neighbor or relative to keep an eye on your house.
- Notify your local law enforcement agency that you plan to be away as some agencies will schedule periodic checks of your home.
- Arrange for someone to mow the lawn or shovel the snow.
- Use automatic timers to turn on lights and radio or television at an appropriate time.
- Install a high-quality peephole viewer with a wide angle 180-degree lens, and do your talking through the closed door.
- Install solid wood or metal door exteriors, including the door from the garage into the house. Hollow core doors are easy to smash and enter. The finest lock is worthless if the door around it is flimsy. Even solid doors with thin inset wood panels can be entered easily.
- Reinforce or rebuild door jambs.
- Equip your doors with deadbolt or double-cylinder locks. “Dead” denotes the bolt is mechanically held in place instead of spring-loaded. Conventional spring-latch locks are easily opened, and can be opened with a credit card inserted between the door and frame. If unfamiliar with locks, confer with a locksmith on selecting the best lock or locks for your particular situation.
- Change your door locks if you move into a house or apartment that has been previously occupied. Do the same thing if your keys are lost or stolen.
- Don’t rely on the time-honored chain. They are easy to break or tear out of the wall.
- If you have Colonial or Dutch doors with small glass panes, a sheet of Plexiglas can be fastened over the inside of the door covering all panes.
- Check your outside doors for exposed hinges with removable pins. These allow the burglar to knock out the pins and remove the door.
- Block sliding glass doors with a dowel or broomstick in the door track. Even if the lock is jimmied, the door will be hard to open.
- If your sliding door can be lifted out of the track from the outside, insert screws along the upper track of the door, leaving room to slide the door, but not to lift it out.
- Consider purchasing one of the economical locking devices on the market designed specifically for sliding glass doors.
- Install locks on your windows. Consider the special locks for specific window types, such as sliding, double-hung wood and casement.
- Install heavy screens on your windows.
- If burglars can’t get in quietly by prying or jimmying a lock, they are reluctant to break glass because of the noise involved. Most burglars prefer to break one small pane, if necessary, to reach a lock, but will avoid breaking large windows. If they do break glass for entry, burglars look for an easy exit through a door, especially if they are stealing large items. If you have double-cylinder deadbolt locks installed on your doors, the locks cannot be opened to exit without a key.
Home Security Systems
If you live in a high-crime area, own a valuable collection or have been previously burglarized, here are additional preventative measures to safeguard your home.
- Security systems of all designs, complexity, installation method and cost are available. The easiest installations require no wiring. A battery-operated unit is hung by a strap over the doorknob or by the window, or a pressure-sensitive mat is placed under the rug in front of the door or under a window. Some alarms are merely plugged into an electrical socket. Installations that necessitate wiring should be purchased with your electrical skills in mind. The range includes alarm systems for the average do-it-yourselfer, the skilled do-it-yourselfer and the professional installer.
- The prime function of a home alarm is noise. Usually the burglar leaves the premises as soon as the alarm sounds. The burglar doesn’t know if the alarm will sound for a minute or two or run indefinitely. Some alarms are connected to the police station, although false alarms due to improper use have lessened their credibility.
- For advice on the best alarm for your particular situation, you should consult with a security system firm, hardware store manager, police department or your insurance agent. In general, you should have a burglar alarm system if your house is isolated from view, if your home contains valuable items, if you live in a high-crime area or if you live alone or fear the danger of forced entry and physical attack.
- Costs also vary greatly. Point-of-entry alarm systems (the alarm sounds when the door or window is opened) can be purchased for under $10. Numerous point-of-entry devices are available in the price range of $15 to $60. For $250 and up, you can select a system, wired or wireless, that equips all doors and windows with sensors. Other systems rely on electric eyes, ultrasonic sound waves and radar.
If You Are Robbed or Burglarized
- If there is a burglar in the house and you are at home, leave the house and call the police from a neighbor’s phone. If you cannot leave the house, go to a safe room, lock the door and call the police.
- Do not seek out the burglar – avoid a confrontation if you can. Don’t take an action that could result in injury to you or in legal complications.
- If you come home and think you’re being robbed, don’t go into the house. Go to a neighbor and call the police. Watch the exits of your house to see if anyone leaves, and write down or remember descriptions of the person or persons and car.
- If you have been robbed or burglarized, do not touch or rearrange anything inside the house until the police arrive.
- If you find checks, a passbook or credit cards missing, notify the necessary authorities immediately.
- Collect the complete household inventory you have stored away from the premises; this will aid in reporting your losses to the police and your insurance company.