A How To Guide for Renters

Fire escapes on an apartment building in Manhattan, New York City, NY, USA

Fire escapes on an apartment building in Manhattan, New York City, NY, USA

Whether your goal is to avoid mowing a lawn or have unlimited access to a pool and fitness facility you never have to clean, or if you just plain don’t want to buy a house, you may be one of the 43 million households in the U.S. who rent a home, apartment or condo. In fact, according to Rent.com’s 2015 rental market report, rental inventory is near a 20 year low, meaning more people than ever are renting.

If you’re moving into a place of your own for the first time, the do’s and don’ts of renting can sometimes feel overwhelming. What happens if your fridge breaks? Should you tackle that sink clog or leave it for the landlord? Is renting even the right choice for you?

While you’ve probably always had someone in your life to remind you to clean out the lint trap in the dryer or to please not pour bacon grease down the kitchen sink, you’re on your own now. Yes, it might be nice if mom and dad could periodically stop over to check the smoke alarm batteries or tighten that door knob, but it’s not always possible.

That’s where we can help. We’ve compiled our best advice for first-time renters. Be sure to check back periodically for updates and if there’s a topic you’d like to see us tackle, send us your thoughts at Eriesense@erieinsurance.com.

  • 9 Reasons to Quit Hating on Renting: Here’s the truth…It’s OK that you haven’t bought a house yet or may not ever. Renting can be awesome, especially when you’re just starting out. Need proof? Our blogger gives you her completely (un)scientific list.
  • How to Steer Clear of Apartment Rental Scams: With more people renting, rental scams continue to pop up. Knowing how rental scams work and how to avoid falling for them goes a long way when it comes to protecting yourself. Here’s how.
  • 5 Things to Tell a New Renter: All good landlords should share these tips with tenants, but in case they forget, we’ve got you covered.
  • Who is Responsible for Repairs: Are there ever times when you would be responsible for making repairs to your apartment rather than your landlord? If you’re not sure, read this article. Think you know? Read this article anyway.
  • 8 Maintenance Hacks Every Renter Should Know: While most rental agreements include a landlord who takes care of your major maintenance worries, there are a few things you can do to keep service calls to a minimum and protect your security deposit in the long run.
  • Buying Renters Insurance? 6 Things to Consider: Everything you own has value, and most people actually underestimate the value of their things. That could leave you woefully under protected. We can help you figure it out.

– See more at: https://www.erieinsurance.com/Blog/2016/Topic-Hub-Renters#sthash.DljYjXan.dpuf

5 Common Insurance Mistakes to Avoid


Insurance can be a confusing thing. Without trusted advice from a professional like an insurance agent, it’s easy to make one of the most common insurance mistakes.

The Insurance Information Institute (III), an organization devoted to improving public understanding of insurance, created a video that shares the five most common insurance mistakes consumers make. Mistakes apply to both homeowners insurance and auto insurance.

Check out the video above to learn how to avoid these common insurance mistakes. And remember that one of the best ways to avoid insurance mistakes and coverage gaps is to talk with someone like an Erie Insurance Agent. An ERIE Agent in your community will help you get affordable coverage that gives you the protection you need–and the peace of mind you deserve.

Contact Lucsok Insurance today to get the correct coverage that you need.

Link to Original Article

How To Insure Your Home

Model HomeHomeowners insurance protects your home, its contents, and, indirectly, your other assets in the event of fires, theft, accidents or other disasters.

A standard homeowners policy (known as an HO-3 policy) will protect you from things like fires and fallen trees. Notice how we didn’t mention floods or earthquakes—those events are specifically not covered by a standard policy and require additional coverage. Homeowners in some areas of the country may be required by their mortgage company to carry these kinds of policies.

A standard policy will also protect your possessions from said disasters as well as theft. But a standard policy is not a blank check: there’s a limit to how much you’ll be compensated. If you have specific items of value, such as jewelry or artwork, you can pay a little extra each year to insure them for their full replacement value.

Now, if someone is on your property and slips and falls and sprains his ankle, he might sue you for his medical expenses. Homeowners insurance covers your liabilities in this situation as well. And like the examples mentioned above, you can pay more for extra coverage. Homeowners insurance isn’t required by law, like auto insurance. But mortgage companies usually require you to obtain a policy before they’ll give you a loan.

How Much Coverage Do You Need? Your home-insurance policy should cover enough to entirely rebuild and furnish your home were it wiped off the map. Ask a home builder to walk through your home and give you an estimate of what it would take to rebuild; that figure should be the basis for how much replacement coverage you’ll need. Be sure to point out any unique and/or expensive details that would add to the replacement cost.

Once you’ve determined the replacement cost of your home, you’ll need to know what kind of coverage you want. There are a few key terms here:

Guaranteed Replacement Cost Coverage– This means that the insurer will pay for the rebuilding of your home no matter the cost. These policies are hard to find these days.

Extended Replacement Coverage– Many insurers offer coverage that caps the payout at around 125% of your home’s insured value.

Inflation Guarantee (or Guard) – This feature makes sure that your home’s insured value stays current with the marketplace.

If you get a reliable appraisal, extended replacement coverage and an inflation guarantee, you should be in good shape. The appraisal provides a realistic starting figure and the inflation guarantee makes sure that your home’s price stays current. The 125% coverage means that, even if construction prices outpace inflation, they probably didn’t outpace it by 25%, so you should have enough money for whatever work you need done.

One last thing: The law requires you to have flood insurance if you live in an officially recognized high-risk area. To find out your flood risk and to find plans (which are offered by the government), go to floodsmart.gov.

When it comes to protecting your possessions, you may want more coverage than your standard policy allows. If you have anything of exceptional value (a family heirloom, a piece of art, jewelry, etc.), you should insure it separately. Insurers will charge extra for this coverage (something like an extra $10 on your monthly premium per $1,000 of value insured), but it pays to be covered.

Also keep in mind that there are two different kinds of coverage when it comes to personal articles. There’s “actual cash value” and there’s “replacement cost.” You want coverage for replacement cost. Actual Cash Value Insurance is what you’d get if you sold your valuable today — a lower amount than what you initially paid. Replacement Cost Insurance pays you the amount of money you’d need to buy a brand-new item to replace your old one. Liability Coverage Say a guest stays at your home and slips on the floor and sprains his ankle. He decides to sue you. Your homeowners policy includes liability coverage in case you lose the court case. Generally speaking, standard policies offer $100,000 to $300,000 of liability coverage.

Supplemental liability coverage can boost your protection to $1 million or more. If you don’t own a car, adding that kind of coverage can be relatively cheap—less than $100 per year—and isn’t a bad idea. If you do own a car (putting you at greater risk for causing damage to people and property), expect to pay $300 to $400 a year. Check out your auto policy to see what kind of coverage you already have.

Shopping for a Homeowners Policy There are three kinds of home insurance companies and salespeople: Direct sellers, who sell directly to consumers; Captive agents, who only sell one company’s insurance products; and independent insurance agents, who sell policies from many different companies.

Your Deductible Like auto or health insurance, your homeowners insurance has a deductible (the amount you must pay before coverage kicks in). Like those other policies, you should opt for the highest deductible you can afford. If you do, the cost of your insurance premium (the monthly bill you pay) will surely be lower. Plus, a low deductible forces your insurer to cover more of your costs — costs they pass on to you in the form of increased premiums.

Remember: You should not use insurance to cover every conceivable expense, just the big ones. If reinstalling a gutter will cost you $200, pay the $200 — don’t start filing claims for it. Insurers hate it when you file too many claims, and may raise your monthly premium or even cancel coverage because they’ll view you as too risky. It’s not about gutters—you want the insurance when you have to pay for a whole new roof.

A good rule of thumb to follow: If you can fix anything for less than $1,000, don’t file a claim.

Lucsok Insurance is an independent agent wha can find the best policy to fit your needs.  Contact us today for a quote.

Link to original article here.

Preventing Frozen Pipes

frozen_pipes_in_the_garage_286103608_stdWhen water freezes, it expands. That’s why a can of soda explodes if it’s put into a freezer to chill quickly and forgotten. When water freezes in a pipe, it expands the same way. If it expands enough, the pipe bursts, water escapes and serious damage results.

Why Pipes Burst

Surprisingly, ice forming in a pipe does not typically cause a break where the ice blockage occurs. It’s not the radial expansion of ice against the wall of the pipe that causes the break. Rather, following a complete ice blockage in a pipe, continued freezing and expansion inside the pipe causes water pressure to increase downstream — between the ice blockage and a closed faucet at the end. It’s this increase in water pressure that leads to pipe failure. Usually the pipe bursts where little or no ice has formed. Upstream from the ice blockage the water can always retreat back towards its source, so there is no pressure build-up to cause a break. Water has to freeze for ice blockages to occur. Pipes that are adequately protected along their entire length by placement within the building’s insulation, insulation on the pipe itself, or heating, are safe.

Regional Differences

Generally, houses in northern climates are built with the water pipes located on the inside of the building insulation, which protects the pipes from subfreezing weather. However, extremely cold weather and holes in the building that allow a flow of cold air to come into contact with pipes can lead to freezing and bursting.

Water pipes in houses in southern climates often are more vulnerable to winter cold spells. The pipes are more likely to be located in unprotected areas outside of the building insulation, and homeowners tend to be less aware of freezing problems, which may occur only once or twice a season.

Pipes in attics, crawl spaces and outside walls are all vulnerable to freezing, especially if there are cracks or openings that allow cold, outside air to flow across the pipes. Research at the University of Illinois has shown that “wind chill,” the cooling effect of air and wind that causes the human body to lose heat, can play a major role in accelerating ice blockage, and thus bursting, in water pipes.

Holes in an outside wall where television, cable or telephone lines enter can provide access for cold air to reach pipes. The size of pipes and their composition (e.g., copper or PVC) have some bearing on how fast ice forms, but they are relatively minor factors in pipe bursting compared with the absence of heat, pipe insulation and exposure to a flow of subfreezing air.

When is it Cold Enough to Freeze?

When should homeowners be alert to the danger of freezing pipes? That depends, but in southern states and other areas where freezing weather is the exception rather than the rule (and where houses often do not provide adequate built-in protection), the “temperature alert threshold” is 20°F.

This threshold is based upon research conducted by the Building Research Council at the University of Illinois. Field tests of residential water systems subjected to winter temperatures demonstrated that, for un-insulated pipes installed in an unconditioned attic, the onset of freezing occurred when the outside temperature fell to 20°F or below.

This finding was supported by a survey of 71 plumbers practicing in southern states, in which the consensus was that burst-pipe problems began to appear when temperatures fell into the teens. However, freezing incidents can occur when the temperature remains above 20° F. Pipes exposed to cold air (especially flowing air, as on a windy day) because of cracks in an outside wall or lack of insulation are vulnerable to freezing at temperatures above the threshold. However, the 20°F “temperature alert threshold” should address the majority of potential burst-pipe incidents in southern states.

Mitigating the Problem – Preventing Frozen Pipes

Water freezes when heat in the water is transferred to subfreezing air. The best way to keep water in pipes from freezing is to slow or stop this transfer of heat.

Ideally, it is best not to expose water pipes to subfreezing temperatures, by placing them only in heated spaces and keeping them out of attics, crawl spaces and vulnerable outside walls. In new construction, proper placement can be designed into the building.

In existing houses, a plumber may be able to re route at-risk pipes to protected areas, although this may not be a practical solution. If the latter is the case, vulnerable pipes that are accessible should be fitted with insulation sleeves or wrapping (which slows the heat transfer), the more insulation the better. It is important not to leave gaps that expose the pipe to cold air. Hardware stores and home centers carry the necessary materials, usually in foam rubber or fiberglass sleeves. Better yet, plumbing supply stores and insulation dealers carry pipe sleeves that feature extra-thick insulation, as much as 1” or 2” thick. The added protection is worth the extra cost.

Cracks and holes in outside walls and foundations near water pipes should be sealed with caulking to keep cold wind away from the pipes. Kitchen and bathroom cabinets can keep warm inside air from reaching pipes under sinks and in adjacent outside walls. It’s a good idea to keep cabinet doors open during cold spells to let the warm air circulate around the pipes. Electric heating tapes and cables are available to run along pipes to keep the water from freezing. These must be used with extreme caution; follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to avoid the risk of fire, and check to make sure the product conforms to UL 2049. Tapes and cables with a built-in thermostat will turn heat on when needed. Tapes without a thermostat have to be plugged in each time heat is needed, and may be forgotten.

Letting the Water Run

Letting a faucet drip during extreme cold weather can prevent a pipe from bursting. It’s not that a small flow of water prevents freezing; this helps, but water can freeze even with a slow flow.

Rather, opening a faucet will provide relief from the excessive pressure that builds between the faucet and the ice blockage when freezing occurs. If there is no excessive water pressure, there is no burst pipe, even if the water inside the pipe freezes.

A dripping faucet wastes some water, so only pipes vulnerable to freezing (ones that run through an unheated or unprotected space) should be left with the water flowing. The drip can be very slight. Even the slowest drip at normal pressure will provide pressure relief when needed. Where both hot and cold lines serve a spigot, make sure each one contributes to the drip, since both are subjected to freezing. If the dripping stops, leave the faucet(s) open, since a pipe may have frozen and will still need pressure relief.

If You Suspect a Frozen Pipe

If you open a faucet and no water comes out, don’t take any chances. Call a plumber. If a water pipe bursts, turn off the water at the main shut-off valve (usually at the water meter or where the main line enters the house); leave the faucet(s) open until repairs are completed. Don’t try to thaw a frozen pipe with an open flame; as this will damage the pipe and may even start a building fire. You might be able to thaw a pipe with a hand-held hair dryer. Slowly apply heat, starting close to the faucet end of the pipe, with the faucet open. Work toward the coldest section. Don’t use electrical appliances while standing in water; you could get electrocuted.

Going on a Trip

When away from the house for an extended period during the winter, be careful how much you lower the heat. A lower temperature may save on the heating bill, but there could be a disaster if a cold spell strikes and pipes that normally would be safe, freeze and burst.

A solution is to drain the water system. This is the best safeguard. With no water in the pipes, there is no freezing. This remedy should be considered even when the homeowner is not leaving but is concerned about a serious overnight freeze.

To drain the system, shut off the main valve and turn on every water fixture (both hot and cold lines) until water stops running. It’s not necessary to leave the fixtures open, since the system is filled mostly with air at that point and not subject to freezing. When returning to the house, turn on the main valve and let each fixture run until the pipes are full again.

Source: Institute for Business and Home Safety. IBHS is a national nonprofit initiative of the insurance industry to reduce deaths, injuries, property damage, economic losses and human suffering caused by natural disasters.

The Pitfalls of Failing to Review Your Homeowner’s Insurance

Damaged HomeWhen was the last time you looked at the details of your home insurance policy? For most of us, we’re lucky to have read through the fine print back when we first secured the protection we’ve been renewing every year. Only about a third of the respondents to a recent Angie’s List nationwide survey said they’d reviewed their homeowners’ policy in the past two years.

“At a minimum, every year when it’s time for renewal, you should review your policy,” said Lynn Hudson of The Turner Agency Inc. in Greenville, S.C. “A lot of changes can affect the policy. There are things that, when they come up throughout the year, would benefit (the homeowner) to tell us as soon as they do them.”

Skipping this review can really cost you if you’ve made improvements and failed to cover them. But don’t just stop at home improvement. Think about expensive purchases or gifts — jewelry, electronics, antiques or artwork. Most of us have something of value that’s sitting unprotected somewhere.? Even adding a pet or plaything like a trampoline could impact — even void — your policy.

Another issue could be a misunderstanding about what kind of coverage you have. Most homeownersshould have a guaranteed cost replacement clause in their policy, so if the home is damaged beyond repair, the policy would cover the cost it would take to rebuild the home. But some homeowners have policies that only offer the original value of the home.

Because the cost of reconstruction has increased in recent years, homeowners without replacement cost might not have enough coverage to replace their homes to their current state.?

Suzanne Brown of Suzanne Brown Insurance Agency in Houston suggests homeowners consider inflation guard protection, which raises the dwelling coverage 4 percent every year. ?

“In a year like this year, it would definitely be worth it to check with your agent to be sure you have the current cost of appraisal built into (your coverage),” she said.

Brown speaks from personal experience. Her 91-year-old neighbor had a 60-year-old home and hadn’t updated her policy in years. When a fire leveled the home, Brown’s neighbor found out her policy only covered the original value of the home.

“She didn’t review it and left everything up to her agent,” said Brown, who was not the agent who insured her neighbor. “When they looked at the policy after the fire, they realized she did not have a policy that tracked with inflation, so she got only a fourth or a third of what she needed. All those years, she basically thought she had a policy that would rebuild her home, but because the value of that policy did not track to what she needed based on current construction costs, it paid her much less.”

If establishing that you have the coverage you need isn’t enough to get you to talk to your agent, consider this: Sometimes a short chat can result in a rate reduction. Many insurers give discounts for alarm, home automation and sprinkler systems. Even nonsmokers and retirees can qualify for special deals through some carriers. Anytime you have a significant life change, be it having a new child, getting divorced or bringing in a roommate, you should talk to your agent.

Homeowners concerned about whether they have too much or too little coverage should ask their agent to run a replacement cost estimator, which can provide them with accurate information on current values.

“You don’t want to find out after you have a loss or claim,” Brown said. “By then, it’s too late.”

If you’re shopping for a new policy, don’t just look at rates. Find an agent who is well-versed on the varying coverages and isn’t interested in just making the sale. Talk to prospective agents, and find one who will act as your consultant during the purchasing process. Insurance agents must be licensed by each state in which they do business. Your agent should work on your behalf. Be sure to find someone with whom you are comfortable.

Hudson has another tidbit to offer.? “The home insurance market is getting tough right now,” Hudson said. “The losses have been bad the last three to four years. Homeowner insurance carriers are tightening up. When you have a loss, talk to your agent and weigh it out with them whether or not it’s something you need to turn in. It’s not a good idea these days to turn just anything in. Always talk to your agent first. That’s what they’re there for.”

Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, the nation’s most trusted resource for local consumer reviews on everything from home repair to health care. To find out more about Angie Hicks and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

COPYRIGHT 2013 CREATORS.COM Original article can be found here.