Thursday, November 3, 2011

9 Effective ways to protect your home against burglary

Did you know that american homes are burglarized about every 15 seconds, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. The typical homeowner suffers a loss of nearly $2,000 in stolen goods or property damage.

Here are 9 effective ways to protect your home from being burglarized.

Prune your shrubs-
Bushes, shrubs and trees can offer an intruder places to hide and camouflage signs of a break-in. Trim back any overgrown vegetation so that your home's windows, porches and doors are visible to neighbors and passersby.

Cover your windows-
Use shades, drapes and other window treatments to keep potentially tempting household items out of view. Burglary is sometimes a crime of opportunity and "window-shopping" is one way criminals choose potential targets. It would be a good idea to also make sure your windows are locked and secured while leaving the property for long periods of time.

Don't advertise new purchases-
 Be sure not to draw any unwanted attention by leaving large tv, appliance, or electronic boxes on the curb. Make sure that these boxes are flattened or ripped up, so that you are not showing a potential burglar what is in your home.

Buy Motion Sensors-
 One of the most effective theft deterrent systems is the lighted motion sensors.  It provides a bright light if someone is walking around your home, but also alerts you and possible neighbors that someone is on your property. It makes it harder for a burglar to go unseen.

Buy indoor timers-
You can usally buy these types of timers for christmas lights. These are good to set up at least 30 minutes before dusk, and turns on lights and a radio or television as to resemble someone being at home. Burglars usually do not like to attempt theft on a home if someone is present. They basically want to get in and get out without being seen.

Reinforce your doors-
 All entry doors should be solid wood or steel-wrapped core doors. Hollow doors and wood panel doors don't offer much protection if being kicked in.

Sheild windows near doors-
For existing doors with windows, it is a good idea to cover those windows with a sheet of plexiglass. 
it can prevent the burglar from breaking the window and either opening the door's lock from the inside. Also with that added protection, burglars won't want to take the time to remove it, and have the chance of getting caught or being seen.

Install Deadbolt locks-
Deadbolts should be installed on every exterior door.
Consult city building codes before buying new double cylinder deadbolt locks, though. Some communities don't allow their use due to safety concerns: They can impede a speedy exit from a home in case of fire. And when upgrading any entry door lockset, make sure that the strike plate is properly secured with strong 3-inch screws into the home's structural framing (studs).

Use Common Sense-
 With the economy these days, you have to protect what is yours. Use your head. Make sure that all doors and windows are locked when you leave the house. Make sure all fences are secure and locked.  Also it might be a good idea to get a dog, or just post "beware of dog" signs to alert potential thieves that they may get hurt.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Renter's Insurance-Protect your belongings

You just started renting an apartment and you have accumulated some nice things to make your apartment more homely. However, while at work, someone breaks into your apartment and steals your most valuable items. Now what do you do?

You can file a police report, and hope that they find your stuff, or you can purchase a renter's policy for future break ins. Renter's insurance is surprisingly affordable, and covers your belongings from most perils. Below is a list of what most common renter's policies cover. 

What is covered
  1. Fire or lightning
  2. Windstorm or hail
  3. Explosion
  4. Riot or civil commotion
  5. Damage caused by aircraft
  6. Damage caused by vehicles
  7. Smoke
  8. Vandalism or malicious mischief
  9. Theft
  10. Volcanic eruption
  11. Falling objects
  12. Weight of ice, snow, or sleet
  13. Accidental discharge or overflow of water or steam from within a plumbing, heating, air conditioning, or automatic fire-protective sprinkler system, or from a household appliance
  14. Sudden and accidental tearing apart, cracking, burning, or bulging of a steam or hot water heating system, an air conditioning or automatic fire-protective system
  15. Freezing of a plumbing, heating, air conditioning or automatic, fire-protective sprinkler system, or of a household appliance
  16. Sudden and accidental damage from artificially generated electrical current (does not include loss to a tube, transistor or similar electronic component)
What is excluded on this list is flood. If you live in a flood prone area, flood insurance would be a separate policy, and the rates are mandated by National Flood Insurance Program, based on where you live. 

Take inventory
To ensure you’re compensated for any belongings you lose from a fire, storm or other catastrophe, you should inventory all of your personal belongings. List each item, its value and serial number. Photograph or videotape each room, including closets, open drawers, storage buildings and your garage. Keep receipts for major items in a fireproof place. To make things easier, the Insurance Information Institute has free inventory software that helps you create a room-by-room inventory of your personal possessions. For more information, go to

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Business Insurance: Protecting you and your clients

In today's economy, people are starting their own business or thinking of starting one. One essential part of owning your own company is business insurance. Consider Murphy's Law. Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Even small businesses can be sued.

Business insurance consists of two parts. Insuring your business location (property), and insuring the business itself (operations). If you operate a small- to medium-sized, low-risk business, you may be eligible for commercial liability insurance coverage through an affordable property and general liability package policy called a Business Owner's Policy, or BOP. 

A BOP insurance package for small businesses is a single commercial insurance policy that combines property insurance with commercial general liability insurance  coverage. For many small but expanding companies, buying a BOP to secure general liability insurance coverage is an affordable way to secure small business commercial liability insurance coverage. 

Commercial general liability insurance is a comprehensive policy that companies buy to protect themselves in case of debilitating events, such as an illness or injury suffered by an employee or damage to property. Purchasing this policy is the first step businesses take to protect their assets. This safety net is critical in a society in which the number of lawsuits and the value of judgment awards have increased over the years.

By having a general liability package, companies can relax knowing that they can conduct business without having to worry unduly if an allegation is brought against them. If a claim is filed against an insured business, their insurance company will conduct a thorough investigation to eliminate any claims that are proven to be unjust. Legal fees, including court costs, are covered under the policy. If the business is found liable and the incident is covered under the policy, their insurance company would pay the award amount up to the coverage limit purchased by the insured.

Not having comprehensive coverage, like commercial liability insurance, leaves a company unprotected if an incident like an accident or injury occurs. It is wise to research the sufficient amount of coverage for the industry to gauge how much coverage is needed to avoid paying with funds from the company. With the amount awarded in lawsuits skyrocketing in recent years, a judgment against you can be catastrophic to your business.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The 411 on Bonds

The name's Bond. James Bond. No, not that type of bond. We are talking about surety bonds. What is a surety bond?
A surety bond is a contract among at least three parties:
  • The obligee - the party who is the recipient of an obligation,
  • The principal - the primary party who will be performing the contractual obligation,
  • The surety - who assures the obligee that the principal can perform the task
A key term in nearly every surety bond is the penal sum. This is a specified amount of money which is the maximum amount that the surety will be required to pay in the event of the principal's default. This allows the surety to assess the risk involved in giving the bond; the premium charged is determined accordingly.

There are different types of surety bonds. Contract bonds are used in the construction industry, nd are a guarantee from a Surety to a project's owner (Obligee) that a general contractor (Principal)
will adhere to the provisions of a contract. Included in this category are:
bid bonds, performance bonds and maintenance bonds.

Commercial bonds represent the broad range of bond types that do not fit the classification of contract. They are generally divided into four sub-types: license and permit, court, public official, and miscellaneous.

License and permit bonds are required by certain federal, state, or municipal governments as prerequisites to receiving a license or permit to engage in certain business activities.
Specific examples include:
  • Contractor’s license bonds, which assure that a contractor (such as a plumber, electrician, or general contractor) complies with local laws relating to his field.
  • Customs bonds, including importer entry bonds, which assure compliance with all relevant laws, as well as payment of import duties and taxes.
  • Tax bonds, which assure that a business owner will comply with laws relating to the remittance of sales or other taxes.
  • Reclamation and environmental protection bonds
  • Broker’s bonds, including Insurance, Mortgage, and Title Agency bonds
  • ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) bonds
  • Motor vehicle dealer bonds
  • Money transmitter bonds
  • Health spa bonds, which assure that a health spa will comply with local laws relating to their field, as well as refund dues for any prepaid services in the event the spa closes.
 Court bonds are those bonds prescribed by statue and relate to the courts. Examples of judicial bonds include appeal bonds, supersedeas bonds, attachment bonds, replevin bonds, injunction bonds, Mechanic's lien bonds, and bail bonds. Examples of fiduciary bonds include administrator, guardian, and trustee bonds.

Public official bonds guarantee the honesty and faithful performance of those people who are elected or appointed to positions in government. Examples of officials sometimes requiring bonds include: notaries public, treasurers, commissioners, judges, town clerks, and law enforcement officers.

Miscellaneous bonds are those that do not fit well under the other commercial surety bond classifications. They often support private relationships and unique business needs. Examples of significant miscellaneous bonds include: lost securities bonds, hazardous waste removal bonds, credit enhancement financial guarantee bonds, self–insured workers compensation guarantee bonds, and wage and welfare/fringe benefit (Union) bonds.

Fidelity bonds, also known as employee dishonesty coverage, cover theft of an employer's property by its own employees. Though referred to as bonds, fidelity coverage functions as a traditional insurance policy rather than a surety bond.

The earliest known record of a contract of suretyship is a Mesopotamian tablet written around 2750 BC. There is evidence of Individual Surety Bonds in the Code of Hammurabi and in Babylon, Persia, Assyria, Rome, Carthage, the ancient Hebrews and later England.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Homeowners: Basic and Broad Coverages Explained

You found the house of your dreams, and you start the process of buying your home.  There are some things that are important and you want to look for. First, if the home is an older home, then you want to make sure that the electrical wiring and plumbing have been updated. Most insurance companies will not insure a home that has not been updated. Second, you want to make sure the septic and well are in good condition, as well as the roof and siding. A home inspection from a reputable company is a wise decision, but make sure they check everything thoroughly.

If the inspection comes back good, then you will start looking into homeowners insurance. Basically a homeowners can be a basic policy, also called an HOA; or a broad policy, also called an HOB.

An HOA (or HO2 policy) is a homeowners policy that covers the home on a "named perils" basis. That means that there are 11 perils that will be named in the policy and everything else is not covered. Most of the HOA policies give you a limit on theft coverage, and accidental discharge of water. Sometimes these type of policies will only cover your home for actual cash value, and not what the home would cost to be replaced. It may also only provide actual cash value against your personal contents of the home. The benefit of this type of policy is that it is cheaper, but also is less coverage.

An HOB (or HO3 policy) is a more broad form of coverage that would cover 16 perils unless otherwise excluded. This is a more common homeowner policy, because it gives more coverage than a standard policy, and provides coverage based on what the home would cost to replace it if there was a total loss. These type of policies include coverages like accidental discharge of water up to the coverage amount on the dwelling, glass coverage, replacement cost on detached structures (ie sheds, garages), and replacement cost on personal contents. This type of policy also offers coverage for loss of use, (also called additional living expense). This is an additional amount on the policy that can be given if the home is deemed uninhabitable after a loss.

Here are the coverage parts of a homeowner policy.
  • Coverage A (Dwelling) covers the physical structure of your residence and any attachments--such as attached garages--but doesn't cover outlying structures, like sheds or fences.
  • Coverage B (Other Structures) covers structures on your property not attached to your residence, including detached garages, sheds and guest homes.
  • Coverage C (Personal Property) covers the contents of your home. Special limits are placed on valuables like cash or jewelry, which require additional, separate coverage.
  • Coverage D (Additional Living Expenses) covers living expenses such as housing, meals and utilities, incurred due to loss from Coverage A, B, and C.
  • Coverage E (Liability) covers injury and property damage incurred at your home and other covered locations.
  • Coverage F (Medical Payments) covers medical payments for guests injured in your home and on your property.

The best way to find out what kind of coverage you need is to talk to a local agent that knows the location of where your home is. For example, if your home is located near a beach, you want to find an agent that knows the area, and knows what companies will take a home that is near a body of water.  There may also be certain requirements that the company has for the home to be insured properly.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Worker's Compensation: Good for employees and employers

Got hurt at work? Now what happens?

You and your employer need to discuss worker's compensation.  It is a good practice to find out if your employer carries this insurance before an injury occurs.

Workers' compensation is a state-regulated insurance program that pays medical bills and replaces some lost wages for employees who are injured at work or who have work-related diseases or illnesses.Workers' compensation will pay for the medical treatment of an injury or illness if:
  • The injury occurred at work or the disease or illness is job-related; and
  • The worker's employer has workers' compensation insurance or is certified by the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers' Compensation to self-insure.
Workers' compensation will also replace some of the worker's lost wages if:
  • The injury or illness caused the worker to lose some or all income for more than seven days.

Employers: Do I need worker's compensation insurance for my employees?

Texas employers who do not carry workers’ compensation insurance coverage are required to report their non-coverage status and work-related injuries and illnesses to the Texas Department of Insurance, Division of Workers’ Compensation (TDI-DWC).  Employers are also required to notify their employees if they do not carry workers’ compensation insurance.  Employers who do carry workers’ compensation insurance coverage are required to report any work-related injuries and illnesses to their insurance carrier.  Employers that fail to meet these requirements commit an administrative violation and may be subject to administrative penalties.

It is a good business practice to protect your employees and your business, by having worker's compensation coverage. Worker's compensation gets your injured employee back to work safely, and soon as possible. 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

What is an SR-22?

SR-22 is a term heard a lot in the insurance industry. What is an SR-22 exactly?

In the United States, an SR-22 is a vehicle liability insurance document used by some state Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) offices. It provides proof that a driver has the minimum required liability insurance coverage for that particular state.

Here in Texas, the state requires that you have an SR-22 when your drivers license is suspended or revoked due to a crash, conviction or judgement. Maybe you have had too many tickets, or a DWI. The state requires that you keep the SR-22 for two years after a conviction date to show that you have the state's minimum liability coverage. 

If the coverage for the SR-22 cancels, the state will be notified, and will take appropriate action. Most insurance companies will send the certificate to the state for you, however there are some companies that will hand you the certificate for you to provide to the state. You do not have to own a vehicle to get this coverage. You can get an SR-22 without a vehicle on a non-owners policy.

A non-owners policy is a document that states that you can drive any vehicle that you do not own. This type of policy is associated with the driver, and not a vehicle of any kind. It is recommended for those who don't own a car, but drive occasionally for a friend or family member, or when you rent a car. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The dreaded "H" word

Here in Texas,  we are always talking about the weather. It can be hot and humid, or it could be raining with sunshine. Not a lot happens here weather wise,  unless you are talking about the dreaded "H" word: a hurricane.

A hurricane is a tropical cyclone, occurring in the North Atlantic Ocean or the Northeast Pacific Ocean, east of the International Dateline. A tropical cyclone is formed by warm atlantic or pacific waters, and produce high winds and heavy rain. Hurricane season is typically from June 1 to November 30th.

When there is damages from hurricanes, we know that there are two types of damages. The first part is the damage from the high winds. The second part is damage from the rising water of the ocean, or also called storm surge. Some people are only going to have damage from the high winds, and some people who live closer to the ocean are going to have the rising water. Since there are two types of damages that a hurricane can cause, there are two different types of insurance as well. We call this windstorm and flood insurance.

Windstorm insurance covers damages from wind and hail. Flood insurance covers damages from rising water of oceans, rivers, lakes and streams. If you live in a coastal county, these two coverages are very important to have. In fact, here in Texas, if you have a windstorm policy, and live on the beach, it is a requirement to also have a companion flood policy.

Hurricanes can be a very scary storm, because of the damage it causes. However, nothing is more scary than not having the adequate coverage, or no coverage at all when facing a hurricane. Don't wait for the hurricane season to begin to start checking your coverage. Better to be safe, than sorry.