Lallis and Higgins Blog

10 Things to Do to Prepare Your Home for Fall

Joseph Coupal - Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Lallis and Higgins Insurance, Weymouth, MAFall is a wonderful time in Weymouth, Quincy and the surrounding areas — if your home is ready for it.

Yes, this is the time of year to fix small problems before they become big, and big ones before they become catastrophic. Here are 10 tips to help:

1. Look up. Examine your roof closely. Remove moss, clear debris from your gutters and downspouts, and repair any damage.

2. Look down. Check for signs of animals and insects around your home and garage, including in the basement and crawlspace. Bring in a professional to get rid of unwanted guests.

3. Keep things warm. Heat escapes through leaks around windows and doors, so seal up any drafty areas. Outside, put covers over faucets before temperatures drop.

4. Keep things dry. Drain outdoor hoses, faucets and irrigation systems. Look in the basement and crawlspace for wet spots. And, make sure your water heater or boiler isn’t leaking.

5. Clear the air (or vents and filters, at least). When’s the last time you checked your dryer vent? You should take a look at attic vents and exhaust ducts, as well. And, change that furnace filter!

6. Take a walk. Cracks in your driveway or walkways will only get bigger, so get them fixed soon. If your deck has signs of wear, make repairs now.

7. Get a tune-up. You or a professional should clean and tune your furnace, boiler and/or water heater, as well as your oven and range.

8. Don’t play with fire. Before building your first fireplace fire of the season, check for soot or creosote build-up.

9. Don’t play with fire extinguishers, either. But, check them to ensure they still have pressure. Don’t have fire extinguishers? Put them on your shopping list, ideally one for each floor.

10. Don’t forget those smoke and carbon-monoxide detectors. Replace batteries when needed, and test regularly that alarms are working.

Keeping your home insurance policy in tip-top condition is smart, too. Remember to check in with us at least once a year to update your policy so you’re covered for your new remodel, additions or personal possessions.

For more information on home owners insurance, contact Lallis & Higgins Insurance.

Best Practices for Home Insurance When Buying a Fixer-Upper

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, September 25, 2018
Lallis and Higgins Insurance, Weymouth, MA

Buying a fixer-upper can be great – you can get the house you want for a little less, and it comes with all the charm and history of an older home. But that adorable home that “just needs some TLC” can quickly turn into a money pit, if you’re not careful.

And we’re not just talking about the contractor’s fees and unexpected problems that will undoubtedly arise during renovation. Even basic costs – like the cost of insuring the home – can be a huge surprise for many homeowners.

Plus, some things about a fixer-upper are just more difficult. The buying process involving loan paperwork and contractors’ quotes is a little more muddied, and getting insurance can be a downright pain.

We'll leave the buying process to your mortgage lender, and here we will talk about how to get insurance on that fixer-upper. Even if you’re buying that dirt-cheap home with cash, you’ll need at least basic insurance to protect your investment from fire, flood and theft. But getting that insurance can be quite the feat. Why it’s so difficult to get insurance h3

Most homebuyers don’t think much about the process of getting insurance. It’s just part and parcel with the buying process. You get quotes, pay for your first year’s premiums at closing and roll your payments into escrow.

You can do this, too, with insurance on your fixer-upper. But you may have to do some more shopping around. Fixer-upper homes – especially those that have been foreclosed on or abandoned – are a higher risk for insurance companies. The fixing up process itself comes with some risks, including problems that might occur when no one is living in the home during the renovation process.

Since mores issues could arise, fewer insurers are willing to take on the risk. And those that are will charge you more for homeowners insurance. Luckily, you have some options for getting insurance on your fixer-upper, even if it’s in terrible condition. What are your options? h3

Before you even call to ask about homeowners insurance, get an inspection. You’ll need one to get a loan on the home anyway, and an inspection will tell an insurance company how much work needs to be done on the home.

Then call an independent insurance agent. Explain your home’s condition, and ask about the following types of homeowners insurance:

  1. Conventional insurance. If the home simply needs some basic repairs, and you’ll be able to complete repairs and move in within 30 days of closing, you can likely get a conventional insurance policy through a traditional insurance company.

    But what if the home is in really bad shape? What if you won’t move into it for months? Or even if you do move in quickly, what if some of the major repairs (like exterior siding and/or gutter repairs) will take a few months to complete?

    In this case, the traditional insurance company will likely recommend another type of insurance, specifically formulated for higher-risk situations like yours. (Empty and under-construction homes are particularly high risk for insurance companies.) Some insurers will still write the policy themselves, while others will refer you to a third-party insurer that specializes in higher-risk policies.
  2. Builder’s risk. This is the most common type of renovation or new construction homeowners insurance. This policy usually starts with lower costs, and as you get the home into better condition, the costs rise because the home becomes more valuable. Builder’s risk policies are easiest to get if you have a solid, timely plan to finish the reconstruction.
  3. Vacant dwelling. If your home mostly needs cosmetic work but will sit empty while the work is being done, a vacant dwelling policy is possible. These basic policies will protect a home against most physical losses, but they don’t usually cover theft. Keep in mind that depending on where the home is located, theft could be a huge problem, especially if the home contains valuable appliances, tools or copper wiring and piping.
  4. HO-8. An HO-8 policy is an insurance policy designed for an older home. Unlike more common HO-2 and HO-3 policies, an HO-8 policy wouldn’t cover replacement costs of your home if you lose everything. An HO-8 policy is suitable if your home isn’t in terrible condition, and if you plan to live in it while it’s under construction.
  5. FAIR plans. What if you’re in an unusual situation in which your repairs will take a long time (such as if you’re doing the renovation yourself or using cash to repair as you go)? In this case, you may have trouble getting an insurer to underwrite even one of the above insurance policies.

If this is your situation, look into your state’s Fair Access to Insurance Requirements plan. These plans, which are available in most states, are specifically for situations like yours. FAIR plans offer a very basic level of insurance, but it’s better than nothing.

Moving back to conventional insurance

Most of these insurance plans will be more expensive and/or offer less coverage than your conventional HO-2 or HO-3 policy. So as soon as your repairs are done, shop around for insurance again. Move to a conventional policy with proper coverage as soon as you can, and you’ll save money and have better protection for your home.

For more information on home insurance for fixer uppers, contact Lallis & Higgins Insurance.

Money- US News

Flood Insurance: Why You Need It

Joseph Coupal - Monday, September 17, 2018
Flood Insurance

Give your home more protection, so you have peace-of-mind. For many homeowners, flood insurance is an essential extra layer of protection.

Adding flood insurance to your insurance package means you're covered if groundwater rises and floods your home—a situation that isn't usually covered by home policies.

Why flood insurance might be a must-have

Everyone should have flood insurance, especially if you're in an area that has a high flood risk. You might even be required to have it if you're at high risk.

Below is why the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) recommends flood insurance to everyone:

The situations that cause flooding—heavy rain, melting snow, severe coastal weather—can happen anywhere. In fact, one in five flood insurance claims comes from someone in a low—or medium-risk area.

Most of your house is covered; what isn't?

Generally, most of your house is covered by flood insurance.

Specifically, the core parts of your home—like the foundation and the systems that keep it running—are covered. So are appliances.

Carpeting and personal belongings are generally covered, too, unless they're in the basement.

Flood insurance: One price, wherever you go

Unlike most other insurance coverages, your flood insurance policy will cost you the same, no matter where you get it.

The reason flood insurance costs you the same is that it's a national program backed by the federal government (via the National Flood Insurance Program). So, however you buy it, it's ultimately coming from the same place.

For more information on flood insurance, contact Lallis & Higgins Insurance.

Shop Local: Independent Insurance Agents Have $1+ Billion Economic Impact In Massachusetts

Joseph Coupal - Monday, September 10, 2018
Lallis and Higgins Insurance, Weymouth, MA

MAIA's most recent economic impact survey has found that local independent insurance agencies contributed an astounding $1.022 billion to the Massachusetts economy in 2017.

The study sheds light on the substantial role played by the nearly 1,200 MAIA member agencies in the state as employers, consumers, taxpayers, and active participants of their local communities.

Employment Numbers and Tax Revenue

In 2017, MAIA members employed an estimated 9,050 full time workers in Massachusetts, with the average agency employing 12 individuals. Over that same period of time, these agencies combined to pay their workers over $714 million in salary and over $107 million in additional benefits such as health insurance, pensions, profit sharing, and training costs. Independent insurance agencies also contributed over $80 million in state and local taxes in 2017.

This commitment to Massachusetts as both employers and taxpayers is something that MAIA believes separates local independent agencies from online direct writers and other companies with little or no physical presence in the Bay State.

Our members’ agencies have deep ties in their communities. They employ local people, support local businesses, and generate substantial tax revenue, all while serving consumers’ interests first. Conversely, online direct writers often have little presence in the state aside from their websites and advertising campaigns, and are focused on how quickly they can generate the next sale, irrespective of the needs of the consumer.”

Rental Income and Consumer Spending

Two other revenue streams independent insurance agencies bring to Massachusetts are rental income and consumer spending. Total agency rental spending topped $36 million in 2017. These agencies also spent over $73 million on other expenses, such as technology, office furnishings, supplies, equipment, advertising, legal and accounting services, repairs, maintenance, security and construction, over that same period of time.

Ingrained in the Community

Further reinforcing the notion that independent agents are committed to their home state and communities, the study found that 11% of local agencies have been doing business in Massachusetts for over 100 years, while 37% of agencies are between 51-100 years old. MAIA members contributed a total of $8.6 million to charities in 2017 in addition to countless hours of volunteer work that they perform on behalf of local civic, cultural, and religious organizations. (See some of our members good works this year in our monthly "Good You Do" feature.)

Thank you to the members who took the time to complete the survey, which was distributed this May. The survey is an invaluable resource in our representation of the independent insurance agency community in Massachusetts.

For an insurance policy review or for a quote, contact Lallis & Higgins Insurance.


New Commercial Vehicles Requirements for Massachusetts

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, September 04, 2018
Lallis and Higgins Insurance - Weymouth, Quincy, MA

If you have been identified as an intrastate motor carrier by the Massachusetts State Police, Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Section, please be aware that as of September 1, 2018, you will be required to obtain and display a USDOT number per 540 CMR 2.22, the Commercial Marking section of the Registry of Motor Vehicles regulations.

This applies to motor carriers operating the following motor vehicles:

  • Engaged in intrastate commerce having a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 or more pounds; or
  • Used in the transportation of hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placarding; or
  • Designed to transport more than 15 passengers, including the driver, used in intrastate commerce in Massachusetts.

If your company operates this type of vehicle it must be permanently marked with a USDOT number that conforms to the provisions of 49 CFR 390.21.

To obtain a USDOT Number, we urge you to click here. There, you may follow the Registrations links that will enable you to obtain an intrastate USDOT number. Your company will be issued a USDOT number that will be displayed on all CMV s as defined above that your company operates, including leased vehicles. There is no charge to obtain this number from the USDOT-FMCSA.

After September 1, 2018, failure to obtain and display a USDOT Number on your vehicles may result in a civil fine and/or placing your CMVs Out of Service until such time as your company obtains a USDOT Number.

Whether your company operates intrastate, meaning you conduct business solely within Massachusetts or operates interstate, conducting business in other states; you must obtain your DOT number directly on­ line.

If you have questions regarding the federal website, you may call the FMCSA at 1-800-832-5660.

Legal Business Name - This is the legal name of the business entity that owns/controls the Motor Carrier operation. The name should be the full legal business name (the name on the incorporation certificate, partnership agreement, tax records, etc.). For example, if the company is a:

  • Sole Proprietorship/Individual, enter the legal name, e.g., “John A. Doe”
  • Partnership, enter the legal names of all partners, e.g., "John A. Doe and Jane B. Smith”
  • Corporation, enter the name on the incorporation certificate (this name must include the type of corporation), e.g., “John Doe INC”, “John Doe LLC”.
  • Doing Business AS (DBA) Name — When the company's trade name is different from the company's official legal business name. For example, if “John A. Doe" is the company's official business name, but the trade name, or “Doing Business As" name, is "John's Trucking Company.

Principal Place of Business — Enter the physical address of where the company is engaged in business operations related to the transportation of persons or property and where safety records are regularly maintained. A Post Office (P.O.) Box is Not accepted for Principal Place of Business Address.

How do I update my Intrastate or Interstate DOT Number? You must update your information online here.

How do I re-activate my existing DOT number? You must update your information here

What is the difference between interstate commerce and intrastate commerce? - If you perform trade, traffic, or transportation exclusively in your business's domicile state, this is considered intrastate commerce.

If your trade, traffic, or transportation is one of the following, this is considered interstate commerce.

  • Between a place in a state and a place outside of such state (including a place outside of the United States)
  • Between two places in a state through another state or a place outside of the United States
  • Between two places in a state as part of trade, traffic, or transportation originating or terminating outside the state or the United States

Should each terminal operation or branch of a corporation register for a USDOT number? - A USDOT number usually applies to the company, not a particular branch office or vehicle. Generally, the corporate office or headquarters should register the company, and should inform its branches of the USDOT number.

Unified Carrier Registration (UCR) - Commercial vehicle motor carriers that conduct interstate commerce are required to pay unified carrier registration (UCR) filing fees annually based upon their fleet size and can register online here. (link no follow, target new page ).

Department of Public Utilities (DPU) - Companies for hire that move passengers, household goods, or conduct police ordered or trespass tows are regulated by the DPU and information on DPU authority can be found here.

For more information on commercial vehicles insurance or requirements, contact Lallis & Higgins Insurance.

A Few Tips for the College-Bound

Joseph Coupal - Monday, August 27, 2018
Lallis & Higgins Insurance, Weymouth, Quincy, MA

College is expensive enough without the added cost of unexpected accidents or theft, not covered by your insurance policy. If you have a student heading away to school, below are a few tips to help you get the most out of your coverage.

HOMEOWNERS (varies by state)

Items such as jewelry or expensive electronics, require special coverage and may not covered by the parents’ homeowner policy. Renter's insurance is strongly recommended for college students.

Liability Coverage: General damage to a dorm room or apartment is not usually covered.

Documentation: Creating an inventory of the items your child is taking to school is a good idea. Use photographs and keep receipts.

AUTO (varies by state)

Car Stays Home: Keep your child listed on your auto policy if they will still drive your car while at home on school breaks.

Car at School: Make sure to notify us if your child will be taking a car away to school. In most cases, if the car is registered to you and listed on your policy, it will be covered.

Driving a Friend’s Car: Students are generally covered if they are listed on their parent’s policy and are not regularly using the vehicle. The coverage would be secondary. The insurance for the friend’s vehicle would be the primary coverage.

Discounts: A full-time student meeting certain academic requirements can qualify for a good student discount. Distant student discounts may also be available. Drivers under 21 who have completed driver’s education may also get a discount.

Before your child leaves for school, call Lallis & Higgins Insurance or contact us here. We can walk you through the steps to ensure you have the right coverage. We’re here to help!

Back-to-School Insurance Tips

Joseph Coupal - Monday, August 20, 2018
Lallis and Higgins Insurance, Weymouth, MA

College students can take simple steps to protect their belongings from theft and loss when heading to school this fall.

For a college student, experiencing the loss of a bike, laptop or mobile phone is not only an inconvenience, but can be a big hit to the pocketbook. Taking basic precautions can help prevent theft or loss and help students avoid unnecessary stress while away at school.

According to the U.S. Department of Education's campus safety and security analysis tool, burglary is a top criminal offense at colleges and universities.

If you're a victim of theft or your apartment is damaged in a fire, your landlord is likely not responsible for replacing your belongings. If you live in on- campus housing, your belongings may be covered under your parent's homeowners or renters policy but it's a best to check with your insurance representative to see what is covered.

A typical renter's insurance policy will cover personal belongings in the event of an unexpected loss such as a burglary or fire. Some policies also cover part of the expense for living in another location if the apartment were to become inhabitable due to a covered loss. In addition, liability coverage may protect a renter if a visitor were to injure themselves in the apartment or the renter accidentally damages property.

Renter's insurance on average costs $240 per year. Policies are frequently added to auto or homeowners policies. Students' parents may be able to add a renters insurance policy to their homeowners or auto policy to cover a full-time student.

Students should start by taking an inventory of their possessions to determine the value of their personal property. Take photos or video to get a record. The value of items like electronics, bikes, jewelry etc. can add up quickly. It's best to be pro-active than to look back and say "I should've done that."

5 Simple Steps to Protect Your Belongings While at College

  1. Create a list of your valuables with photos and serial numbers. Give a copy to your parents and save a copy in the cloud.
  2. Register your valuable with campus police. Many schools let you register your laptop, tablet or bicycle to deter thieves and identify your stolen property if it is recovered.
  3. Don't leave your valuables unattended in public areas. If you're studying at the library or a coffee shop bring your laptop with you if have to step away.
  4. Always lock your doors and windows and make sure your roommates do the same. Consider keeping a safe for your room for extra protection.
  5. Leave your prized possessions at home. If it can't be replaced or has sentimental value, it's best not to bring it in the first place.

To learn more about protecting your stuff, visit Lallis & Higgins Insurance.

Renter’s Insurance: Don’t Risk Losing Everything

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, August 14, 2018

If you were at risk of losing $5,000, $10,000 or even $15,000 and could do something to stop it, would you? The answer is a no-brainer: you’d would.

Yet, more than half of adults ages 23 to 29 years old who rent apartments don’t have renters insurance, putting all their stuff at risk.

Homeowners buy homeowner’s insurance to cover their home and belongings. Those who live in dorms or college apartments should get renters insurance to do the same thing. A renter’s policy will cover your personal possessions (clothes, electronics, furniture, etc.) if they’re stolen and will pay to repair or replace them if there’s a fire, burst pipe or other unfortunate event. Renter’s policies can also pay for you to rent a new home or stay in a hotel in if you are displaced by a fire or other natural disaster — coverage that most policies refer to as “loss of use.”

Like homeowner’s insurance, renter’s insurance includes liability coverage – if someone is injured in your home, the cost of their care and potential legal proceedings is covered up to your policy’s liability limits, which is typically $100,000.

But unlike a homeowner’s policy that covers the home structure and its contents, renter’s insurance covers just the contents of your home. That makes it a lot cheaper. Your landlord has an insurance policy that covers the building, but that does nothing to protect your valuables.

Most people don’t have the cash sitting around to replace all their stuff. So why do so few buy renters’ insurance? One reason: while homeowner’s insurance is almost always required if you are paying for your home with a mortgage, there are no blanket laws requiring that you purchase a renter’s policy.

Another reason:

A lot of people are under the misconception that if they live in an apartment that their landlord is responsible for their belongings.

In fact, of the 59% of adults ages 23 to 29 who do not have renter’s insurance, 46% didn’t think they needed it. Another third said they thought it was too expensive and a quarter said they just hadn’t gotten around to purchasing it.

The average millennial carries $45,000 in debt, and it is thought that for that reason as well as other societal trends, they’re delaying a lot of life moments like marriage and home-buying. That means they’re going to rent longer.

Another reason younger renters don’t immediately think to insure their stuff is that they underestimate the value of their possessions. Once they do the math they’re shocked by the full value of what they own.

Think you can’t afford renter’s insurance?

You can. The average cost of renter’s insurance is $20 per month — equal to the cost of ordering takeout one night. What you pay for a renter’s insurance is largely based on the value of your belongings.

All renters policies should cover your belongings in your apartment and up to 100 feet from your apartment — to include damage or theft while you’re moving. Policies will cover your items whether or not you’re home at the time of the vandalism, fire, burst pipe or other disaster that ruined your belongings.

For more information on renters insurance, contact Lallis & Higgins Insurance.

Changes to MA Driving Licenses: What You Need to Know

Joseph Coupal - Tuesday, August 07, 2018
Lallis and Higgins Insurance, Quincy, Weymouth, MA

If you need to get your car inspected or renew your driver’s license soon, you need to prepare for new driver’s license rules.

Massachusetts drivers are seeing big changes—including waiting in line if they want a new type of licenses instead of renewing online.

The new software can, among other tasks, issue new types of “Real ID” driver’s licenses required by federal law as a security safeguard in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Drivers seeking to renew or get a new driver’s license will need to bring several documents to the RMV, one that shows their Social Security number, another proving US citizenship such as a passport, or that shows lawful presence in the country, like an employment authorization card. Applicants will also need two documents proving Massachusetts residency, such as utility bills or bank statements.

The new Real ID licenses will include a small mark in the upper right corner showing the license complies with federal rules, making it acceptable as a federal identification. Drivers wanting a Real ID license will have to renew in person, either at an RMV office or a branch of the AAA.

Drivers aren’t required to obtain a Real ID, but if they don’t, their license will no longer be a valid form of identification for boarding a flight within the US, or entering a federal building after October 2020. Instead, they would need to use a passport.

The state will also issue non-Real ID-compliant licenses that nonetheless will require drivers to show more documentation than previously, including proof of citizenship or lawful presence, and a single document showing proof of residency. These licenses can still be renewed online. Previously, only holders of US visas had been required to provide such documentation for license renewals.

The Registry is bracing for more traffic at its branch offices.

A significant number of the 5.3 million people with an existing Mass ID are going to want a Real ID.

The new software will help with Real ID compliance; for example, the existing software could not always print long last names in full on every licenses, which the new system can as required by the federal government.

This new software will also facilitate a number of new features, such as paying for multiple transactions at once, creating customer profiles, and allowing the RMV to communicate with drivers by email – functions that state officials admit are not exactly high-tech breakthroughs today.

To see what documents you will need for a Learner’s Permit, Driver’s License, or Mass ID Card, click here.

For more information, contact Lallis & Higgins Insurance.

Source: Boston Globe

Buying a Vacation Home? Homeowners Insurance Does Not Cover Flooding

Joseph Coupal - Monday, July 30, 2018
Lallis and Higgins - Insurance

In the wake of summer storms, many homeowners are surprised to learn that their homeowners insurance policies does not cover damage caused by flooding. It should be one of the big lessons: Know what your insurance policy covers – and what it does not.

Looking forward, do you need flood insurance? According to, nearly 25% of flood insurance claims come from moderate-to-low risk areas. It doesn’t take a major body of water or a significant storm to cause flooding. A flood can occur as a result of a slow-moving rainstorm, snow melt, land development runoff, and more.

A common argument against flood insurance is that federal disaster assistance will be available when flooding occurs. This is not always the case, and when it is, federal disaster assistance may still cost more than flood insurance. Federal disaster assistance is only offered when a disaster is federally declared, and it usually comes in the form of a loan with interest.

If you’re interested in protecting your home with flood insurance, call you local agent at Lallis & Higgins Insurance who can help you purchase a policy through the National Flood Insurance Program. We can help you fully understand your coverage options and can continue to advise you as your needs change.

The best time to buy flood insurance is now. Policies do not take effect until 30 days after purchase. 

 Source: Plymouth Rock

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