Wildfires Burning, but Arizona Home Insurance Buyers Urged to Get Flood Insurance?

Arizona Flood Insurance due to wild firesWildfires continue to rage all over Arizona, and news agencies ABC15CBS5 and AzFamily report progress as each is managed and eventually extinguished. When the wildfires are gone, so is the Earth’s natural protection. The loss of underbrush and rooted plants can cause many problems. You would think that the primary concern for homeowners in regions prone to wildfires would be to carry homeowners coverage to protect their buildings and personal property.

So why are residents being encouraged to purchase flood insurance in the midst of so many wildfires? Consider these facts:

  • Wildfires destroy vegetation such as underbrush and trees.
  • The loss of this vegetation through intense fire leaves only charred ground.
  • Ground that is burned no longer has the ability to easily absorb water.
  • The increased run-off of rainwater can cause mudflow or flooding.
  • The areas at greatest risk are downstream or downhill from burned areas..
  • The risks are more substantial during spring thaws, heavy rains, or winter storms.

What are the risks? Loss of property ranks highest with a flood. According to recent reports:

From 2002 to 2011, total flood insurance claims averaged more than $2.9 billion per year. In high-risk areas, there is at least a 1 in 4 chance of flooding during a 30-year mortgage. However, losses due to flooding are not covered under typical homeowners and business insurance policies.

How can homeowners protect themselves?

The unfortunate answer is that there are very few ways to reduce your risks of damage from floods or mudflows. The debris and silt that accompany these conditions also increase the level of damage. Until the vegetation returns to a healthy level in the areas affected by the wildfires (uphill or upstream from these burned areas), the ground is simply unable to absorb or reduce the flow of rainwater and snow melts. These simple steps can improve your conditions should you find yourself faced with potential flooding:

  • Avoid loss of life or injuries, evacuate. Planning ahead for a safe location to move out of harm’s way ensures that there is no loss of life.
  • Important papers and valuables should be kept in a waterproof safe, or in a waterproof place such as a safe deposit box.
  • Take an inventory of your assets. Photos and descriptions will help you estimate your losses if you are affected by a flood.

The real solution? Flood insurance. When homeowners examine their current policies they find that they must purchase separate coverage for flood-related incidents. Ultimately, the best solution is protection through a flood insurance policy. As homeowners insurance specialists, we understand the needs of our region- this is our home, too. Our goal is to help you assess what coverages you need, whether you have the right coverage in place, and to fill any gaps that exist in your homeowners policies. We know that expenses after a flood can cause high out-of-pocket expenditures, and we want to help you reduce your risk of loss. Whether you live in a high flood zone or one that is less at risk (incidentally, more than 20% of claims come from low to moderate risk areas), there are solutions.

Unusual Things Your Insurance May Actually Cover

Items covered on your home insurance policyThe purpose of having homeowners insurance is that you’ll be covered in the event of an emergency. So how covered are you? The answer might surprise you, as there are a number of things your policy might cover that you hadn’t thought of before.

Falling debris from outer space is covered under most policies. This debris could consist of meteors, comets or even falling pieces of a spaceship. This coverage isn’t normally listed specifically; a claim for this type of loss would fall under the category of “falling objects.”

If you’re worried about stampeding animals invading your home, you’ll be glad to know that this is typically covered as well. This coverage is normally for animals that you don’t personally own. If you live next to a ranch or farm, you could benefit in the event your neighbor’s livestock gets loose and suddenly invade your property.

Other animal damage could be included as well. In the event a skunk discharges inside your residence, you could be entitled to money that would help you with your cleanup efforts.

Water damage from broken pipes isn’t the only thing that’s usually covered. Aquarium breaks and bursting water beds can also be included in many policies. In order to file a claim, you must usually assert that these items were maintained and stored properly within your home, yet failed to operate as expected.

Every insurance policy is different so not everyone will have the same coverage for these unusual events. Even so, it cannot hurt to contact an insurance agent if you inadvertently suffer a property loss due to no fault of your own. For more information about the different policies that are available, contact us today.

Insurance Agents in Arizona Talk About Break-ins

Arizona homeowners are being confronted with a rise in property crimes not just in their homes, but in their cars and storage areas. Crime statistics for 2010 show that “the city property crime rate in Phoenix was higher than the national property crime rate average by 35.05%.” Based on these and other statistics, given that the total burglary reports for Phoenix in 2010 amounted to 15,626, and the projected burglary rate for Phoenix in 2013 is 17,080. Your insurance agents want to help you make sure that your property doesn’t become part of these statistics.

To start with, here is an interesting infographic that covers many of the basic facts and statistics regarding residential break-ins. Since this information was compiled by a security system provider, it naturally promotes the use of home alarms. A security system is an important component of an overall plan, but they are too often defeated by the owners themselves. Nothing will substitute for awareness. Set the alarm for the day when you’re at work, not only at night.

It’s not just that the number of break-ins is increasing, but the types of break-ins have changed. Since more people are using garage door openers with remotes in cars, a burglar will break into a car in the driveway in order to get the remote. That’s often enough to gain entry into the house, as many residents neglect to lock the doors between the house and the garage. Remove remotes from cars parked outside. Lock your car each time you leave it.

Vacant houses are a burglar magnet because it’s so easy to tell that they’re unoccupied. An overgrown yard, shuttered windows, no cars in front, unused trash cans that are never put on the curb, notices or flyers flapping on the doors— all these signs are invitations to break in or vandalize. If a tenant can’t be found immediately, hire a property manager to check the premises daily.

It’s also become common for burglars to pose as work crews. They will drive around hauling trailers with yard equipment, shovels, pvc pipes, or other tools that give them the appearance of being on a job. It’s the most natural thing in the world to see a man walking around a house with a shovel on his shoulder, carefully examining landscaping or the foundation, and to assume he’s from a nearby nursery or a foundation repair company. What he’s actually doing, however, is looking for security wires, a vulnerable door, or a partially hidden window. Know what’s going on in your neighborhood. Look for company signage on any work trucks.

Finally, one of the most depressing trends in break-ins is the number of them that occur during summer vacation or school holidays. Unsupervised teens have been known to break into neighbors’ homes for a number of reasons:

(1) They’re familiar with the area; they know who goes to work during the day or who is away on vacation. They know who has the expensive toys and who does not have a dog or a security system.

(2) They’re bored, looking for some excitement, or trying to build up a reputation.

(3) They don’t like certain neighbors and want to exact a little revenge for a perceived wrong.

Get to know your neighbors. Take extra precautions during school breaks.  

Arizona Insurance Agents Show You How to Prevent Water Damage to Your Home

Water damage is a primary cause for claims against homeowners insurance in Arizona. Even a paid claim cannot adequately compensate you for the time and aggravation of dealing with water damage, so we want to help you avoid this issue.

Let’s start by addressing potential water damage to the exterior of your home, or your neighbor’s home- during rain season.

The major factor in avoiding exterior water issues is the slope of the ground surrounding your house. Six inches in slope for every 10 feet, or a grade of -2% to -5% is considered ideal for drainage, but you must make sure your excess water does not drain into your neighbors’ yards.

Another factor affecting drainage is the amount of concrete around your house in the form of driveways or patios. Water that hits concrete has got to drain off somewhere, so you need to control that flow. A good solution may be to replace some of that concrete with pavers. Lay drainage pipes underneath the pavers, or install French drains. Always consult with a licensed contractor to make sure your renovations meet codes.

See that your roof is in good shape. An inspection every two to four years is adequate unless there has been severe weather, in which case you should have someone look at it right away. Damaged shingles or missing flashing indicates the need for repairs. Go up to the attic during the day to look for spots of daylight coming through the roof. Water spots on room ceilings or walls call for an immediate roof inspection.

Finally, see that your home is equipped with gutters and downspouts. Not only do they safely channel excess rainwater, they protect landscaping and add aesthetic appeal.

Now let’s look at how to head off interior water damage.

1. Monitor water use. This sounds elementary until you realize that a significant amount of water damage is caused by overflowing tubs, toilets and sinks. Make sure that sinks are equipped with overflow drains. Always supervise children in the bathroom and kitchen.

2. Fix malfunctioning appliances immediately. A constantly running toilet is a disaster waiting to happen, and when it finally gives, it will do so in the middle of the night. Water heaters that are 10 years old or older should be replaced. Not only will you head off a sudden 50 gallon deluge, you will enjoy the savings of new energy efficient models. Inspect your dishwasher door’s seals or gaskets, and replace them if they are hard or cracked. Periodically check your washing machine’s drain hose to see that it is clear and uncrimped to the stand pipe (you’d be surprised what sometimes happens to those missing socks).

3. Dehumidify wet basements. Control minor seeping with an oil-based masonry waterproofing paint. Major seeping problems may have to be addressed with a French drain or other pressure relief systems. Get expert advice on this.

4. If you live in an area that experiences freezing temperatures, protect your pipes by covering exterior spigots and allowing interior faucets to drip during cold spells.

5. Know where your home’s water shutoff valve is located and how to operate it. Should you experience sudden flooding from a water supply line failure, shutting off the water quickly will mitigate damage.

Contact any one of our insurance agents, they will be glad to help.

3 Things to Consider When Buying Home Insurance in Arizona

You’re looking for home insurance for your Arizona home. Perhaps you just moved to the state or you’re a first time homeowner. Either way, you’re unsure about what things to consider when you purchase insurance for your home.

What types of coverage do you need? How can you avoid paying too much? What should you look for in a homeowners insurance policy? Here are three things that many homeowners rarely consider when they buy home insurance.

Think About Safety First

Many times when people buy their home, they look for a great area, with friendly neighbors, close to schools or shopping. However, the MSN article, “10 Things That can Lower or Raise Your Homeowners Insurance Rates,” suggests looking for a home near a fire department. According to the post, if your home is over five miles from a fire station or fire hydrants, your insurance rates may be higher.

Additionally, items such as swimming pools, trampolines, and play equipment can cause injuries, thereby raising your rates. Whether it’s a fire or an injury, keep safety in mind when you consider your home.

Consider the Land Your Home is Built On

Most people don’t consider that the land their home sits on isn’t at risk from theft, fires, or other hazards. Therefore, they shouldn’t include its value in deciding how much homeowners insurance to buy. Otherwise, you could pay a higher premium than you should.

Your insurance agent can help you decide how much dwelling coverage to buy. Your coverage should equal the full replacement cost of your home. Replacement cost and market value are not the same. The market value includes the price of your land and depends on the real estate market.

Remember Your Responsibilities as a Homeowner 

Becoming a homeowner means an increased level of responsibility. That responsibility not only includes paying your home mortgage, home insurance premium, and taxes, but it includes maintaining your home and property as well.

Seasonal maintenance includes things such as:

  • Cleaning out your home’s rain gutters
  • Checking your roof for signs of wear and tear
  • Checking the weather stripping and caulking around your doors and windows
  • Cleaning your chimney flue
  • Checking for leaky faucets inside and out

Maintaining your home not only can save you money on the cost of your home insurance, it can keep the expenses of maintaining your home low.

Additionally, as a responsible homeowner, maintaining a solid credit history can help keep your home insurance costs in check. More and more insurance companies are using credit information to determine the cost of home insurance. Generally, they must advise you if there is any adverse action – like a higher rate.

Your best course of action is to keep your credit in good shape by paying your bills – like your home mortgage and insurance – on time and by not getting more credit than you need. And don’t forget to check your credit report regularly for problems or errors. You can check it for free once a year.

For more information on home insurance, check out this guide from the Arizona Department of Insurance or visit our website.

Do You Need Flood Insurance in Arizona

Flood Insurance in ArizonaEven though Hurricane Sandy wreaked havoc on the East Coast, thousands of miles away from Arizona, anyone with a home in the state might be thinking about flood insurance. Well, here’s some good news.

According to The Arizona Republic article, “Reminder to review insurance,” insurance companies focus on “in-state hazards” when they set their prices, so Hurricane Sandy won’t have much effect on the cost of insurance in Arizona or other parts of the Southwest. Rates are set according to risks, and natural disasters in Arizona don’t include hurricanes.

In fact, homeowner-insurance costs in Arizona are moderate. The latest tally by Homeinsurance.com puts the average premium here at $617, compared with a U.S. average of $853. 

In addition to natural disasters, property values, building costs and other factors have an impact on the cost of insurance premiums.

Disasters like Sandy remind us that it’s smart to take time to make periodic reviews of our insurance coverage. Standard homeowner insurance policies cover damage and injuries caused by most natural disasters. However, floods are a notable exception.

Living in Arizona may make you wonder if flood insurance is a wise investment. Here are the facts:

  • Arizona has more flood-insurance policies in force than most states.
  • There have been five federal flood declarations in the state since 2000.
  • Winter storms, summer monsoons, and flash floods in wildfire-charred areas caused the floods.

Additionally, as stated the article “Should you get flood insurance?”:

If you live in a flood plain, FEMA makes sure you’re covered. Not so for far too many residents.

A flood plain by definition is dry most of the time, but it fills with water temporarily. Consider the Salt River basin, the area in which we live, its put residents at risk of flooding for thousands of years.

The federal government decides who is and is not eligible for flood insurance. You can check with your policy provider.

You may get some relief from flood damage through special government grants or loans, but only if a disaster is declared. Therefore, having coverage is helpful for covering damage from flash floods and heavy rains.

The National Flood Insurance Program is the main source of coverage for flood insurance. The NFIP site lists the names of local agents who sell policies. Premiums don’t vary by company.

If you decide that flood insurance is something you want to add to your policy, annual premiums are about $400 in low- to moderate-risk areas.

In the meantime, the State of Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs recommends the following steps for people in hurricane and/or flood zones :

  • Read your insurance policy carefully and talk to your insurance agent if you have questions
  • Consider whether you need more coverage or different types of coverage
  • Deal with licensed agents with companies licensed to do business in Arizona
  • Take inventory of your belongings and maintain a list in a safe place in your home as well as off site
  • Make sure you have sufficient provisions on hand such as canned goods, dried goods, and water (see the FEMA Handbook)
  • Take precautions to secure your home
  • Track storms through the media

Contact your insurance agent in Arizona to see what options they have to best insure your home against an Arizona Flood.

Buying the Right Home Insurance for Your Family

Insurance policies in Arizona

Credit: Mike Olbinski

With such a diverse array of insurance options to choose from, finding the right insurance for your personal needs can be difficult. The only way to truly ensure that you are purchasing the insurance policy you need for the price you are willing to pay is to educate yourself. There are some basics worth considering when buying insurance in this state.

It is important to understand that Arizona is home to a very diverse array of natural disasters. These include dust storms, earthquakes, land slides, flash floods, and tornadoes, just to name a few. Take the time to do some research about the disasters that occur most frequently in the area of Arizona where your house resides. These statistics should help immensely when deciding which policy is right for you. According to the Western Farm Press, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture has designated 5 counties in Arizona as primary natural disaster areas due to damage and losses caused by ongoing drought and related disasters that began Jan. 1 and continues”. Knowing the disasters which specifically tend to affect your county is crucial.

While it is possible to buy insurance that covers your home in the case of a specific disaster, it is often easier to buy a comprehensive package which covers your home in the case of the most common natural disasters. Although these comprehensive policies can be expensive, they offer peace of mind. The worst thing that can happen is for a different natural disaster to occur than what you are specifically covered for.

There are other precautions besides purchasing home insurance that should be taken into consideration. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. One of the best ways to prevent a disaster from damaging or destroying your home is by taking some simple precautions. Meet with your agents to discuss some simple home modifications that can help prevent you from having to file a claim. Simple things like installing a lightning rod to prevent fires, installing a sump pump to prevent flooding, and strengthening a foundation can go a long way.

Evaluate the worth of your home before deciding to purchase a policy. Many people don’t take a close enough look at exactly how much coverage a specific home insurance policy provides. If you aren’t sure how much your home is currently worth, hire a professional to assess its current value. This will help ensure that you don’t overpay or underpay for your policy and are getting the exact amount of coverage that you need.

A good home insurance policy will also provide deductions based on various factors. These could include paying your bill on time, living in a low-risk area or simply because you have been a customer for a long period of time. Deductions can help you save a lot of money in the long run on the cost of your insurance. Do your research to help find out which insurance company can provide you with the most deductions. Also, when a disaster does strike, big or small such as a fire, water damage, or mold, we can help get you storm damage clean up providers.

Don’t Let a Fire Take Everything! Make Sure Your Insurance is Current

Phoenix AZ Home FireIt’s a sign of the times. A recent news report from Arizona’s abc15.com tells the heartbreaking story of a young woman trying to save money.

A young woman was in the process of foreclosing on her condo. She was packed and ready to move. She had cancelled her homeowner’s insurance policy just before a fire burned down her condo and caused damage to two other units.

As a state with a history of hot, dry weather and raging fires, many residents know how easy it would be for their property to go up in flames. That’s why it is important to take every precaution possible to protect your home by having the right insurance policy.

Take Proactive Steps Before a Fire

Don’t take chances. Don’t think it will never happen to you. Take the right steps before anything goes wrong.

Here are steps to consider to help prevent house fires, according to the National Institute of Fire and Safety Training:

  • Don’t leave cooking unattended.
  • Never cook when you are drowsy.
  • Keep combustibles at least three feet away from heat sources.
  • Never smoke when lying down.
  • Test your smoke detectors on a monthly basis.
  • Replace smoke detectors every 10 years.
  • Develop an escape plan and practice it every six months.
  • Equip your home with the necessary safety equipment, such as smoke detectors, escape ladders, and fire extinguishers.
  • Sleep with your bedroom doors closed.
  • If a smoke detector goes off during the night, feel the bedroom door with the back of your hand before opening it. If it is hot, do not open it.
  • Make sure that you are able to contact the fire department from any room in your house—in case you are trapped.
  • Replace the batteries in your smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors every six months.
  • Be careful not to overload electrical outlets.
  • Unplug appliances when they are not being used.
  • Schedule an annual home-fire safety inspection.

Additionally, for insurance purposes, be sure to document your belongings with photos or videos and keep a list of your possessions. Remember to:

  • Make a list your belongings and valuables.
  • Take photos of every room.
  • Keep a copy of documents off-site.

Preparing in advance will help get your insurance claim settled faster.

What to Do After a Fire in Your Home

Dealing with the aftermath of a home fire is very emotional. However, here are some fire damage experts to help get you back on your feet quickly:

  • After a fire, don’t enter the house without an okay from the fire department. First, you want to make sure the blaze is out. Second, you need to ensure the structure is sound.
  • Call your insurance carrier right away in order to start the reimbursement process. Additionally, your insurance agent can assist with other needs such as emergency lodging, hiring a cleanup crew, and the steps you need to take to rebuild.
  • Homeowners insurance typically covers you in case of fire, except when they prove arson. If you’ve done your due diligence, you’ll have documentation to support your loss.
  • Speaking of documentation, be prepared to provide the insurance company with copies of your inventory list and photos or videos of your possessions.
  • Obtain a fire report from the fire department.
  • If you home isn’t completely burned, secure any personal items to prevent looting. Otherwise, your insurance company may hold you liable for its replacement.

Dealing with a home fire is devastating. What is even worse is not having the right insurance coverage if this happens. Make sure your policy is up to date today by calling your insurance agent!

Tips From Insurance Agents to Reduce Homeowners Claims

One factor that can affect the cost of your homeowners insurance is your claims history. Keeping your claims history to a minimum can be accomplished by using a variety of tips from insurance agents.

Winterize Your Home

This is a task that needs to be done in the fall before the winter season starts. All pipes that are exposed to the weather or cold will need to be insulated. This can be done by adding pipe insulation to all of the exposed pipes. Another option is to wrap heat tape on the pipes. You will need to insulate pipes that are in a garage or a crawl space that is exposed to cold air. Turn off and drain all your outside water faucets to prevent the pipes from freezing.

Protect Against Moisture and Mold

Areas of the country that have high levels of humidity can cause problems for a homeowner that has a basement. Excess moisture in a basement can lead to the formation of mildew and mold. Mold is a risk to you and your family’s health and needs to be prevented. Your homeowners policy may not cover any mold removal from your home. Moisture in your basement can be treated with a dehumidifier. If your basement has water penetration, then the walls may need to be sealed. Check all of the appliances in the basement, such as a water heater, to ensure there are no leaks. You also need to make sure that no water is leaking at your windows and doors.

Home Fire Prevention Measures

Verify that all of your smoke detectors are working properly once to twice each year. Smoke detectors that are not working properly may need a new battery or require a replacement. Your home should also have one to two fire extinguishers that are easily accessible. Fire extinguishers are needed to put out a grease fire because water will be ineffective. You should also have a fire evacuation plan for your home, should a fire occur.

Home Theft Safety Measures

Outside doors to your home should all have a deadbolt lock. You can also install an alarm or a security system to alert the police if your home is burglarized. If you have valuable items inside of your home, store them in a fire-resistant safe. Make sure that you do not have easy entry points that an intruder can use, such as a window air conditioner installed on the first floor.

Eliminate Safety Hazards and Nuisances

The potential for an accident is something that is not always considered. An accident can occur if you do not have the proper railings on staircases or take proper care to ensure your property is safe. Make sure that all sidewalks and entrances to your home are free of ice to prevent a trip and fall. You should also keep all flammable items in an outbuilding, such as a barn or shed, away from your home.

Benefits of Safeguarding Your Home

The use of smoke detectors, fire extinguishers and alarm systems qualify for a discount on a homowners insurance policy.

Make sure that you have reviewed your insurnce policies with your local insurance agent to make sure you are getting all the policy discounts that you should.

Arizona Homeowners Insurance Tip: Document Your Belongings

Tips for your Arizona Home Insurance policyYou know that thing you know you really should do, but you just keep putting off? Maybe it’s backing up the files on your computer, or putting irreplaceable documents into a safety deposit box. You never seem to get around to taking that preventative step, yet you know that if anything ever happened you would deeply regret it. Perhaps you even have an entire list of tasks like this that you’re planning to get to “one of these days”.

Well, add this one to your list, and put it at the top: Document your personal property for insurance purposes. Most people have heard this tip, but very few people actually take the time to do it. That’s unfortunate, because in the event of a burglary or fire, if you didn’t document the contents of your home ahead of time, the insurance claim process will be much more difficult. Save yourself the headache and the heartache–before anything happens, set aside a few hours some weekend and take inventory, including photos, videos, and a written list. Then store it all in a safe location away from your home, such as that safety deposit box you’re going to get.

With digital photography this process can be easier than ever before. Use a digital camera and take pictures of every room in your home, including inside drawers, cabinets, and closets. Don’t forget the art on the walls, the lights on the ceiling, and the carpet on the floors. Take pictures of the inside of bathroom cabinets, tool boxes, and the garden shed. Be sure to photograph appliances, curtains, bathroom fixtures, bedding, and computer equipment. Even everyday items are more valuable than you might think. Imagine the cost of replacing all the things you use on a regular basis, like furniture, kitchen items, bedding, and clothes. You get the idea: photograph everything.

You can also use video to document your possessions. The best way to do this is to start at the front of your home and work your way through each room. Narrate as you go along, explaining what each item is and making a note of any valuable items like jewelry and electronics, including the value or price paid if you know it.

Then you can simply save the images and/or video on a CD, DVD, or other storage device that you put in the safety deposit box, along with copies or originals of important documents and a written list of anything that might be helpful when filing a claim. You can also save your photos and video remotely in the cloud for additional backup. Having the images stored in more than one place will give you additional peace of mind. And as a bonus, you can back up your family photographs to the same cloud-based site. After all, photos are one thing home insurance can never replace if you don’t have copies saved elsewhere.

Imagine how much better you’ll feel after you knock this task off your “really-should-do” list. Consult with your homeowners insurance agent for more advice about documenting your belongings, and to discuss ways to ensure future home insurance claims, if any, go as smoothly as possible.