Lallis and Higgins Blog

Home Renovation Projects That Impact Your Insurance

- Monday, July 19, 2021
Lallis and Higgins Insurance - Home Renovation Projects

Thinking about a DIY home improvement project? Maybe a new kitchen or bathroom makeover?

If project excites you, you’re not alone. The Home Improvement Research Institute (HIRI) says do-it-yourselfers complete two-thirds of home improvement projects — and spend less than those who depend solely on contractors. While saving money is satisfying, the sense of accomplishment DIYers feel is even better.

But before you pick up a hammer or grab a paintbrush, you’ll need to do some homework. As you draw plans, budget, purchase materials and secure permits, you also need to think about home insurance. Talk to your Trusted Choice Independent Insurance Agent before you start work. Your agent can help you assess the unexpected risks of your project.

Here are five common renovation projects that may require additional insurance:

Kitchen renovation

Maybe you’ve been dreaming of a new kitchen, one with quartz countertops and Wi-Fi-enabled appliances. Kitchen remodels can add convenience and significant value to your home, but there are a few insurance considerations:

  • Depending on your level of experience, you may need the help of a plumber or electrician. Make sure the contractors you hire are bonded and insured. Do they carry liability insurance? Ask to see their certificate of coverage.
  • Check with your agent to see if you should increase your homeowners coverage. If your renovation substantially increases the value of your house, you could be underinsured if you haven’t raised your limits. Generally, you need enough insurance to replace 80% of your home’s value.
  • Will friends be helping you? Ask your agent about adding no-fault coverage or raising your medical expenses coverage.

Bathroom makeover

You have visions of a soaking tub, new vanities and imported marble tile. Sounds delightful, but keep these points in mind:

  • You may need a plumber to help you move a water line or drain. Bear in mind that water damage caused by your faulty workmanship won’t be covered by your homeowners policy. On the other hand, if you use a contractor, their business insurance should cover the damage to your home.
  • Will that expensive marble be sitting in your driveway after it’s delivered? Costly materials have a way of walking away from a job site. Check to see if your policy covers theft or damage to your building materials.

Home office

You’ve decided to convert a spare bedroom into a home office. It’s an easy renovation, but here are some insurance considerations:

  • Most homeowners policies only provide limited coverage (up to about $2,500) for office equipment. If you have items that exceed that amount, you’ll need additional coverage. Your agent can recommend some options.
  • If you’re doing work for your firm at home, make sure you’re covered by the company’s business and workers’ compensation policies. If you’re self-employed, you may need a separate business policy, especially if clients visit your house.

Sunroom

You’ve always wanted a room off the kitchen to take advantage of the morning sun. Sunrooms can provide enjoyment year-round, but you do need to keep a few things in mind:

  • Talk to your agent about adding a new room to your homeowners policy. You may be able to get a discount if you install energy-efficient windows or heavy-duty locks on an exterior door.
  • Is the project insured against severe weather? Theft or vandalism? You may need a builders risk policy.

Finished basement

You’re planning to create extra living space in the basement for your growing family. You’ve contracted to have a French drain and a sump pump installed to prevent water from leaking in. You’ve also decided to live in a friend’s house while you work on the project.

Considerations:

  • If your house is unoccupied during construction, you may need vacant home insurance.
  • Be sure to get a warranty on the French drain. Flooding isn’t covered by homeowners insurance. However, you can add water backup coverage to your policy to pay for damage if your sump pump fails.
  • Game room? Home theater? Extra bathroom? You may need to increase the limits on your homeowners policy. On the other hand, upgrading old wiring or installing a security system could lower your premiums.

If you’ve got the home renovation bug, maybe it’s time you joined the ranks of millions of satisfied DIYers. Just remember to contact your Trusted Choice insurance agent to get your insurance needs squared away. Then you can hammer to your heart’s content.


Summer Grilling Tips

- Monday, July 12, 2021
Lallis & Higgins Insurance - Summer Grilling Tips

America has a longstanding love affair with a classic backyard barbecue. Whether the snow has barely melted or it’s blazing hot outside, people across the country will find almost any excuse to fire up their beloved grill or smoker for a delicious meal with a flame-broiled or smoky flavor.

Whether you’re entertaining a houseful of guests or grilling up a simple meal for you and the family, grill safety is a must for everyone from the first-time-cook to the grill master.

Before you fire up, be sure your backyard barbecue is hazard-free with these grill safety tips.

Before Grilling

  • Never light your grill or smoker inside the garage, workshop or other indoor space.
  • Keep your grill in a well-ventilated area and at least 10 feet from your home, fences and trees or hanging branches or plants. If it’s a windy day, use extra caution and put even more space between your grill and anything that could catch on fire.
  • Be sure your grill is situated on a flat, stable surface.
  • If using a gas grill, check the gas line and connections before lighting the grill.
  • Check burners for rust.
  • Inspect tubes that extend from the burner to the control valves regularly.

While Grilling

  • Always use a light stick or mechanical lighter to light your grill.
  • If using a charcoal grill, use enough charcoal to cover the base about two inches deep.
  • Allow lighter fluid to soak into charcoal for a few minutes before lighting the coals.
  • Stand back when lighting the grill.
  • Don’t wear loose clothing while grilling.
  • Never leave a lit grill unattended.
  • Use long-handled, flame retardant tools and insulated mitts when grilling.
  • Never use water to put out a grease fire. Instead, spread baking soda over the flames.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher nearby in case of a fire.
  • Keep children and pets away from the grill and lighter, and store lighter fluid and matches or lighters where they cannot be easily accessed.

After Grilling

  • Allow your grill to cool completely before moving it.
  • Store extra propane cylinders outdoors.
  • Turn off all burners and propane cylinders when you’re done grilling.
  • Allow coals to burn out completely or soak in water before emptying them into a non-combustible container.
  • Wrap cool ashes in foil and place in an empty non-combustible container.
  • Store unused charcoal in a metal container with a lid.
  • Keep your grill clean and remove grease or fat buildup from the grates and the tray below the grill.

Happy Summer!

Source: cphostaccess.com


What to Know About Buying a Vacant Home

- Wednesday, July 07, 2021
Lallis & Higgins Insurance, Quincy, Weymouth, MA

Why buy a vacant home? One of the biggest perks is being able to make the home whatever you want it to be. You can make it your new home, create a vacation home, rent it out, or fix it up and sell it to someone else. In some cases the seller may be willing to sell a vacant home cheaper than an occupied home. This is good news for you because you can save some money, but it could also mean something might be wrong with the house. It may need a little love, attention and renovation. Before you purchase a vacant home, here are a few things to do and watch out for:

Professional Inspection

Ask for an inspection from a professional and take notes on what they discover. You'll want to know what's broken, what needs to be fixed and what could possibly go wrong. (Note: Be prepared to pay for the home's electricity to be on for the duration of the inspection).

Critters

Since vacant homes can sit for quite some time, critters may come in and make themselves at home. Although they are usually small animals such as mice or bats, they can cause damage to a vacant house. Those unwanted critters can eat at the floors, carpets, walls and wiring. Be aware that you may need to hire a pest control service, and this could be costly based on the number of animals and the amount of damage.

Plumbing

There may be plumbing issues that have caused dried and cracked seals, slow faucets, leaks and other issues. If the heat hasn't been on and the temperatures dropped, the pipes could be at risk to freeze or burst (if they haven't already).

Appliances

The previous owner may not have unplugged their indoor appliances, such as refrigerators and freezers, or let them dry out. There may be mold inside from the moisture being trapped. Having appliances plugged in with no one there could result in a fire (if the electric was on). Appliances in the house may become unusable due to long periods of sitting with no use, which means you will need new ones.

Molds

Remember, molds can grow on more than just appliances! Check for mold in the walls, floors, pipes…everywhere! Some molds may cause health issues, so if mold is found during your inspection, you may want to rethink purchasing the home. Talk with your inspector about the extremity and presence of mold, and evaluate the safety risks.

Unanticipated Repairs

There are other potential sources of damage. For example, break-ins are more likely when a home appears empty, and windows, doors and other items could be damaged by the intruder. Storms are another danger. Debris could hit the home and cause damage that may have gone undetected. Always thoroughly inspect the home before buying!

There are a lot of things to do and watch out for before purchasing a vacant home, but the possibilities of what the home could be are endless. If you are looking to buy a vacant home but haven't found one yet, there are a few ways to move forward. Look online, talk to neighbors, get a realtor or simply drive around. There are more vacant homes than you think…happy hunting!

Source: foremost.com


Insurance Terms Made Easy!

- Monday, June 28, 2021
Lallis & Higgins Insurance, Weymouth, MA

Our customers need to know what we're talking about when we're talking about it! Insurance has its own terms which can be tough to understand sometimes. This beginner's guide to insurance terminology will teach you the must-haves to put in your dictionary, so celebrate along with us and make some sense of these words!

For the precise definitions, please refer to your insurance policy.

Claim

A demand by a person or business seeking to recover from an insurer for a loss that may be covered by an insurance policy.

Coverage

The specific protection provided by a policy against the results of the hazards insured against.

Deductible

A certain dollar amount beyond which insurance protection begins. The insured assumes the loss up to the deductible limit and the insurer pays the remainder, up to the policy limit.

Exclusions

The section of the policy contract that specifies the losses not protected by the policy. Many of Foremost's policies provide Comprehensive coverage – that means that any cause of loss that's direct, sudden and accidental is covered, unless it is specifically excluded in the policy. This is broader coverage than a Named Peril contract, which provides coverage only for the causes of loss (perils) that are listed (named) in the policy.

Peril

The specific event causing a loss, such as fire, windstorm or accidental death.

Policy

The written contract effecting insurance, or the certificate thereof, by whatever name called, and including all clauses, riders, endorsements, and papers attached thereto and made a part thereof.

Premium

A periodic payment by the insured to the insurance company in exchange for insurance coverage. Foremost offers a wide variety of discounts that can lower your premium, and we offer payment plans that can help you manage your premium payments in a way that works with your budget.

Replacement Cost

The cost of replacing or repairing property using new materials of like kind and quality without deduction for depreciation.

Risk

The hazard or chance of loss on any particular item of insurance. The term "risk" usually is used in a general way to designate the entire subject matter of insurance covered under a policy or upon which an application for insurance has been received. Risk is also sometimes used to designate a policyholder.

Quote

The rate at which an insurance company indicates its willingness to assume certain liabilities or provide coverage under an insurance policy. A quote is an approximation of the premium for a given policy.


Tips for Keeping Your Home Cool in the Summer!

- Monday, June 21, 2021
lallis & Higgins Insurance - Keeping Home Cool This Summer

We always look forward to the warm weather that summer brings, but when we are dreaming of sunny days, we can often forget how difficult it can be to adapt to the heat. Rising temperatures can make even those with the sunniest dispositions rather grumpy. During times when you're sweating and baking in stifling heat, you want your house to be a cool, comfortable oasis, not a sweltering prison.

In these situations, your air conditioner can save the day. So here are several tips to make sure your air conditioning unit is working efficiently and effectively:

  • Be sure your air conditioner is properly sized for your home.
  • Avoid air conditioning unused rooms.
  • Ensure that your air ducts are properly sealed and insulated.
  • Provide shade for the outside half of your air conditioner.
  • Clean your air conditioner's air filter at least once a month to increase the air flow.

A well-functioning air conditioner is great for surviving the summer heat. But constantly keeping one running uses a lot of energy and raises monthly electric bills. To cut down on energy usage, it's a good idea to have a few alternatives for beating the heat. Here are 10 ideas for staying cool in your home during the summer without air conditioning:

  1. Cook your meals outside on a grill instead of preparing food with an indoor stove or oven.
  2. Open the windows and let the cooler nighttime air in before you go to bed.
  3. Turn on bathroom fans after you take a shower and turn on the exhaust fan in your kitchen after you cook. This will blow away the hot air that is created by both activities.
  4. Unplug your electronics when they are not in use. Even if they are turned off, your gadgets will produce heat when they are plugged in.
  5. Make sure your house is properly insulated. A well-done insulation project will keep your home cool in the summer as well as warm in the winter.
  6. Plant trees around your home to create shade.
  7. Refrain from using appliances like dishwashers until cooler parts of the day.
  8. Sleep with cotton bed sheets instead of satin, silk or polyester. Cotton is lightweight and will allow for much more airflow.
  9. Be creative and experiment with fans. Try facing box fans out the windows so they push away hot air, or make a DIY air conditioner by placing a pan or bowl of ice in front of a fan.
  10. Turn off the lights as often as you can. Light bulbs give off heat, so try to use them minimally and take advantage of summer's longer daylight hours.

These ideas may be exactly what you need to keep your home cool in the summer. Making sure you and your family are comfortable at home is the first step to making the most of this wild and wonderful season!


Pool Safety Tips!

- Monday, June 14, 2021

Make sure you and everyone else in and around the pool are safe with these tips!


Hurricane Season has Begun, Be Prepared

- Monday, June 07, 2021
Lallis & Higgins Insurance - Hurricane Season

Know your Hurricane Risk

Hurricanes are not just a coastal problem. Find out how rain, wind, water, even tornadoes could happen far inland from where a hurricane or tropical storm makes landfall. Start preparing now.

Make an Emergency Plan

Make sure everyone in your household knows and understands your hurricane plan. In your hurricane plans include the office, kids’ daycare, and anywhere you frequent. Ensure your business has a continuity plan to continue operating when disaster strikes.

Know your Evacuation Zone

You may have to evacuate quickly due to a hurricane if you live in an evacuation zone. Learn your evacuation routes, practice with household pets, and identify where you will stay.

Follow the instructions from local emergency managers, who work closely with state, local, tribal, and territorial agencies and partners. They will provide the latest recommendations based on the threat to your community and appropriate safety measures.

Recognize Warnings and Alerts

Have several ways to receive alerts. Download the FEMA app and receive real-time alerts from the National Weather Service for up to five locations nationwide. Sign up for community alerts in your area and be aware of the Emergency Alert System (EAS) and Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA)- which requires no-sign up.

Those with Disabilities

If you or anyone in your household is an individual with a disability identify if you may need additional help during an emergency.

Review Important Documents

Make sure your insurance policies and personal documents like ID are up to date. Make copies and keep them in a secure password protected digital space.

Strengthen your Home

De-clutter drains and gutters, bring in outside furniture, consider hurricane shutters.

Get Tech Ready

Keep your cell phone charged when you know a hurricane is in the forecast and purchase backup charging devices to power electronics.

Help your Neighborhood

Check with neighbors, senior adults, or those who may need additional help securing hurricane plans to see how you can be of assistance to others

Gather Supplies

Have enough supplies for your household, include medication, disinfectant supplies, masks, pet supplies in your go bag or car trunk. After a hurricane, you may not have access to these supplies for days or even weeks. Remember that not everyone can afford to respond by stocking up on necessities. For those who can afford it, making essential purchases and slowly building up supplies in advance will allow for longer time periods between shopping trips. This helps to protect those who are unable to procure essentials beforehand and must shop more frequently. Only take the items you and your family may need so that others who rely on these products can also access them.


8 Signs You've Found the Right Auto Shop

- Tuesday, June 01, 2021
Lallis and Higgins Insurance - Finding The Right Auto Shop

“If you’ve got people saying, ‘I’ve used this guy for 20, 30 years and he’s always been good,’ you don’t want to ignore that,” says Heath Knox, a veteran of an AAMCO transmission shop and a Chevrolet dealership who now helps maintain a fleet of trucks for a company that deices airplanes at Pittsburgh’s airport. Here are some more things to look for when hiring someone to maintain or repair your vehicle.

1. The shop has the right certifications.

Look for blue-and-white ASE emblems; this indicates that the technicians have passed tests and been certified by the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence. “With technology changing at such a rapid pace, experience can't offset a lack of training,” says Dave Cappert, veteran auto technician and now campus administrator for ASE.

2. The shop has a good reputation.

Cappert says it's a good idea to establish a relationship with a dealership or repair shop for routine matters, like oil changes and inspections, so that when you have an emergency or urgent job, you're already comfortable with the shop.

3. The shop has a clean rap sheet.

The Better Business Bureau (bbb.org) can show you how long the shop or dealership has been in business, how many complaints have been resolved lately and its BBB rating. Be wary, though, of online user ratings. Says Cappert: “You've got to watch the outliers. You might have 100 people reviewing a brick, and 99 say that it's sturdy, red and useful. But one guy says, ‘Worst brick I ever had.’ “

4. The shop shows pride in its appearance.

You can overlook some messiness; it's not a restaurant. But beware of constant untidiness. “Overall sloppiness throughout the shop and the place of business might reflect a lack of attention to detail,” Cappert says.

5. The shop's technicians communicate well.

Be sure that they can tell you what's wrong, how it will be fixed and what it will probably cost — in language that you understand. “A good mechanic can lay out for you what work is immediate and necessary, and what can be held off until you have more money,” says John Ibbotson, Consumer Reports’ chief mechanic. “If you stay loyal, they're bound to treat you right, which can be advantageous when it comes to those really expensive jobs."

6. The shop has a clear warranty policy.

Rather than relying on personalities and relationships, focus on the written warranty that the shop offers on repairs, as well as its track record on making good on its legal commitment, Cappert says. “A shop with a strong, clear warranty policy adds confidence that they will do it right the first time. And should things go wrong, which can happen, the customer knows that it will be made right,” says Jeff Bartlett, deputy auto editor for Consumer Reports magazine.

7. The shop looks out for you.

Be sure it gets automakers’ technical service bulletins. A TSB provides an automaker's approved way of fixing a growing or common problem — such as rough shifting or a leaking transmission — that doesn't qualify for a recall. Work that's related to a TSB while your car's still under warranty should be free, so be sure to ask.

8. The shop fits into your life.

Don't overlook convenience. Is the shop nearby? Will it give you a ride home after you drop off your car? Pick you up when it's ready? Is there a comfortable and — in this pandemic period — sanitized place (preferably with a Wi-Fi internet connection), should you want to wait while the work's being done? Is there a secure place to leave your keys if you want to drop off the car the night before instead of early in the morning? These are all legitimate criteria and appropriate to ask about.

Understanding the paperwork

Typically, three documents are involved in a car repair. Here's how to understand each and to make sure you are being dealt with fairly.

  • Drop-off sheet: Typically, this includes your request for specific work or details the “symptoms” you want investigated. Your comments should be specific: What work is the shop immediately authorized to do? Usually, it would be limited to routine maintenance or diagnostics. The form should tell you under what circumstances the shop can do additional work, or charge more, without giving you a written estimate although sometimes a simple phone call and your consent is considered sufficient to proceed with further work.
  • Estimate: If the initial work was simply to diagnose a problem, or if the shop discovers something serious while doing routine work, it should provide a detailed estimate of the work it recommends and the cost. Only upon your approval can the mechanic proceed. Ask the shop to explain things in plain language if you don't understand it. The estimate should include both a projection of the parts that will be needed and their cost and the hours required to do the job. If you've done your due diligence, you'll know what the labor rate is — probably $100 an hour or more though that can vary widely from shop to shop. Parts are often more involved than you think. For example, replacing a water pump also might require a wide range of clamps and hoses.
  • The bill: It shouldn't vary much from the estimate unless you authorized more repairs or expenses. Make sure it is detailed; it should list all the parts that actually were used and their costs, as well as a detailed accounting of the time spent on the job. You might see a “shop fee,” or a line for “supplies,” which usually is explained as a charge for the rags, grease, solvents and safe disposal of any environmental hazards. Sometimes a small shop will itemize those charges, but big shops might just charge a percentage of the bill as a shop fee, or perhaps $40. Either way, you pay for the things the shop uses to do the work.

Source: aarp.org


Grilling Safety Tips

- Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Getting ready to grill out? Keep these safety tips in mind before you get started!

Have a safe & relaxing Memorial Day Weekend!


How to Prevent Package Theft

- Monday, May 17, 2021
Lallis and Higgins Insurance - How to Prevent Package Theft

Tips for protecting your packages from disappearing while you’re out, and how insurance might also help h3

Online shopping has introduced a great convenience for those who don’t have the time or preference for brick and mortar stores, but unfortunately it’s also introduced new risks to consumers. When your packages disappear from your porch before you ever get the chance to claim them, you can end up losing a lot more than money. Package thieves cause unnecessary stress and frustration for homeowners everywhere.

Fortunately there are some easy steps you can take to prevent your deliveries from vanishing. It’s also important to get equipped with the proper homeowners insurance, and an independent insurance agent can help you find the right coverage long before you’d ever need to use it. For starters, check out this guide to preventing porch package theft and how homeowners insurance can help, too.

Package Theft Stats

Package theft is particularly a concern around the holidays and in globally tough times, such as pandemics, because a much larger percentage of folks than usual do their shopping online. However, “porch pirates” have become a threat year-round with the rise in online shopping in general. Check out a few quick package theft stats and see for yourself.

Since package theft is a very real threat, it’s crucial to take action steps ahead of time to protect your deliveries from disappearing. It’s also critical to get set up with the right homeowners insurance for further protection.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Package Theft?

Yes, however, it can get a little tricky. First of all, in order to file a successful claim, you’d need to be able to prove your package was actually delivered and then stolen, which can be a challenge. If the package wasn’t actually delivered, the fault would return to the sender. This is why large online retailers like Amazon have started photographing package deliveries, so they can’t be held liable if your package disappears later. If your package was delivered and then stolen, it becomes your responsibility.

What insurance companies refer to as “mysterious disappearance” doesn’t always indicate a theft. If you were able to provide proof of package theft, the issue would then become if the value of the goods you ordered exceeded your insurance policy’s deductible. Renters insurance deductibles can be lower, often between $250-$500, but homeowners insurance deductibles are typically one percent of the total value of your home. Unless what you ordered was really expensive, it’s unlikely to exceed this amount.

How to Prevent Porch Piracy

So, while it’s good to know that homeowners insurance can provide coverage for stolen packages, it’s also important to understand that you may not actually get your money back if your order wasn’t valuable enough to exceed your deductible. Beyond avoiding the hassle of filing unsuccessful insurance claims, however, it’s best to just prevent porch piracy all around.

The following action steps can eliminate porch package theft:

  • Install a doorbell camera: The most popular option to catch porch pirates is to install a doorbell camera like Google Nest, Vivint, or Ring. Homeowners can record footage of their porches and other entryways around the clock with doorbell cameras, which would then allow them to prove to an insurance company if a package was in fact swiped from their home.
  • Install motion sensor lights: One way to deter porch pirates is to install motion sensor lights. These lights are activated when someone walks past a programmed spot on your property, and can help to scare away package thieves.
  • Use Amazon’s Smart Lock Kit: Amazon created its own service to help prevent porch piracy. Their Smart Lock Kit gives parcel deliverers permission to leave a package right inside your home. While this isn’t the most popular option currently, it’s been gaining traction over time.
  • Schedule your deliveries: If you have the option to plan or schedule a delivery for a day when you know you’ll be home, that’s an easy way to prevent your stuff from getting stolen. For example, if you’re always home on Saturdays, order from Amazon on a day that will allow the delivery to fall on a Saturday.
  • Get a BoxLock: A new popular option is to use a smart padlock box, known as BoxLock. Packages you order are scanned by the delivery person, and then your BoxLock is scanned. The BoxLock will only open for packages scheduled to be delivered to you. If you’re afraid of someone stealing the box with a package inside of it, you can padlock the box to your porch.
  • Ask a neighbor for help: If you have a trusted neighbor, you can ask them to grab your package for you before you get home. This option can work well for folks who live in apartments and may not have the option to install cameras or motion sensors.
  • Ship to an alternate address: If none of these other options work for you, you might consider having your packages shipped to an Amazon Hub Locker. Amazon Hub Lockers are found at many convenient locations such as grocery stores, and requesting to have your packages shipped to them comes at no additional cost. This option can work well for folks who live in high-traffic areas, such as a busy downtown street.
  • Though unfortunately porch piracy has been steadily on the rise as online shopping becomes more popular, there is hope for homeowners who want to protect their packages. While it’s important to take steps to keep thieves from stealing your deliveries, it’s also important to be covered by homeowners insurance, especially if you ever order products or equipment that’s particularly valuable. Your independent insurance agent can help you find a policy that makes you rest easy.

Here’s How an Independent Insurance Agent Can Help

When it comes to protecting homeowners against porch pirates and all other perils, no one’s better equipped to help than an independent insurance agent. Independent insurance agents search through multiple carriers to find providers who specialize in home insurance, deliver quotes from a number of different sources, and help you walk through them all to find the best blend of coverage and cost.

Source: trustedchoice.com



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