With the seasonal shift to fall comes cooler weather, earlier nights, and bonfires to gather around with friends and family. But when it comes to lighting a flame outdoors there can be risks—and how those risks relate to your homeowner’s insurance bring about another level of concern. In this article, we’ll explore basic fire safety for all the cozy nights (and productive days!) you have planned this autumn.
Types of outdoor fires and how to make them safer
There are a lot of reasons to be outside once the fall air turns crisp. From cleaning up fallen leaves to celebrating with those closest to you, here are some of the most common reasons people light up outside, and how to make them a bit safer.
With football tailgates comes outdoor barbeques, and you may find yourself at the grill a bit more often than before. But if you find yourself watching over the cookout, make sure you practice grill safety: stay with the grill the entire time it’s on, move the grill away from decking or siding that may be more flammable, and keep your grill clean so a grease fire doesn’t catch you unaware.
Nothing says “fall” more than sitting around a fire pit or bonfire with s’mores on hand, but a fire pit is also a common way for fire to get loose in the yard. If hanging around the fire with friends is on your fall to-do list, make sure your fire is at least three feet away from the house as well as anything that could easily catch fire, and use a metal screen to keep sparks at bay. When you’re done, check that the fire is out completely before you leave it alone for the night.
When the fall leaves make a dense carpet in your backyard, it’s natural to want to clean them out—whether to keep underlying grass healthy or to prevent snakes and other pests from taking cover. There are a number of preferable ways to clear out dead leaves other than a burn pile—such as bagging them up in biodegradable bags or chopping them up in the mower to mulch the lawn for the winter—but if you must burn, there are a few precautions you should take.
Firstly, check the weather, and never burn on super dry or windy days, when flames could jump or scatter. Also, look for a place that is flat, and never under branches or power lines. Add a moat around the perimeter of your pile for added safety, and make sure you douse the pile—not once, but twice, once you are done for the day.
Are outdoor fires covered by insurance?
While many will assume that a runaway fire would be covered by homeowners’ insurance, the reality is a bit more complicated. Grills and fire pits are typically considered personal belongings, as well as an “unattached structure.” This means that—typically—any damage will only be covered at a percentage of the insurance you carry for your entire home, usually about ten percent. So if an ember sparks something bigger and affects your shed or garage, it could mean big bucks out of pocket.
For this reason, it’s a good idea to know your coverage limits and liabilities—before you start up the fire pit for the season. Talking with your insurance agent about your own practices, hobbies and concerns is a great way to determine if you’re at risk, and if so, how much risk you’re taking on when you light the match.
For your homeowner’s policy, or any other insurance requirements you have, Penny Insurance has the experience and expertise to walk you through, every step of the way. Should you have any questions about coverage or insurance types, or if you would like to schedule a consultation or get a quote, please contact us and let us know.
How to Buy Hurricane Insurance
With hurricane season now upon us, it’s crucial that those with homes along vulnerable coasts know that their homes and belongings are protected. If you’re looking to buy hurricane insurance, you know that it can be complicated—from changes in what policies are required to how coverage differs from state to state. However, with the right advisor in your corner, you can have coverage from all the storms that may head your way.
What is hurricane insurance?
The first thing that’s important to understand is that not only will standard homeowners’ insurance not cover damage from a hurricane, but that there is really no such thing as a hurricane policy. Instead, homeowners will need to merge two types of policies—a flood policy, and windstorm insurance. Flood insurance will help cover the cost of damages incurred by surges of water into the home (rising water damage is typically not covered by a standard homeowners policy), and windstorm insurance covers damage from any sort of high wind, not just hurricanes.
How much will hurricane insurance cost?
To protect your home completely from a hurricane, you’re looking at pretty high premiums. While the standard homeowners’ policy will cost, on average, somewhere between $1500 to $1900 a year, adding flood coverage ($700-1000/year) can increase that significantly. In addition, you’ll want a windstorm insurance policy that can add an additional $700 to $2,600 a year, depending on your location, deductible and home build. Once added up, you’ll be paying significantly more to ensure that your coverage is gap-free.
What to know about hurricane deductibles
While most homeowners plans have a set, flat deductible per claim (like $1,000 or $2,500), oftentimes a hurricane deductible will be based on the value of your home (like one or two percent over your estimated value). That means your deductible could be much higher than you’re used to—a $1 million seaside home could require $10,000 deductible if calculated at one percent of the home’s value. These deductibles may also be called “Named Storm” deductibles, as they are triggered when the NOAA names a storm.
While the risk is small that you will need to use it, you’ll want to talk through your options with a trusted advisor who can walk through the options, and ensure you don’t get hit with a deduction that’s high during an already stressful time.
Top tips for purchasing hurricane insurance
If you’re considering purchasing hurricane insurance for your home, there are a few things you should consider.
Understand your coverage—and its gaps.
As you walk through your coverage options, you’ll want to make sure that you understand what is covered—inside and out. Does your payout cover the cost of a full rebuild? What is your deductible? How is your premium billed, and what is covered? All of these are things you’ll want to know in case of a storm-based emergency.
While hurricane season is somewhat predictable between June 1 and n=November 30 of each year, some policies have wait times before they are active, so you don’t want to wait until a storm is headed your way to figure all this out.
Compare your quotes.
Quotes can vary, and with such a high price tag attached to hurricane coverage, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting the best rates.
Get an advisor to help.
Because hurricane policies include many different variables, you’ll want to make sure you have someone who knows the industry and the coverage, so they can help you identify gaps in coverage and shore them up. But having someone knowledgeable alongside you can not only help while you’re going through the purchasing process, but can also give you a little peace should something happen, knowing they are helping you along the way.
If you need a hurricane insurance policy, Penny Insurance has the experience and expertise to walk you through it, every step of the way. Should you have any questions about coverage or insurance types, or if you would like to schedule a consultation or get a quote, please contact us and let us know.
Insuring Family Heirlooms—from Generation to Generation
Some of the most valuable things in life aren’t those that were expensive—they are things that are truly unique. Like the old grandfather clock that sat in your ancestor’s living room to the family ring that has been a part of more weddings than you have, these family heirlooms are the foundation of our own backgrounds and characters, and can be—quite literally—irreplaceable. For that reason alone, you should make sure you are doing what you can to take care of them—including insuring them in case of loss, theft or damage.
What is considered a family heirloom?
While the word “heirloom” brings up ideas of art passed down for generations, or a piece of priceless jewelry, the reality is that an heirloom is anything of value that is passed down from generation to generation. Practically, this means that everything from furniture, clothing, serving ware, textiles and more could be considered an heirloom. As such, any of these things can be worth insuring, if they are valuable enough for your family.
What kind of insurance will I need to insure an heirloom?
There are a few different types of insurance that may cover an heirloom, depending, of course, on what the heirloom is. Homeowners insurance may cover items within the home, but generally will not recognize the inherent value of a specific thing, so typically you will be looking at more specialized policies. Other options are personal property insurance, which focuses coverage on a per-item basis. At Penny Insurance, we offer Valuable Items Insurance, which takes into consideration the value you place on an heirloom item.
When in doubt, it’s best to consult your insurance agent for guidelines on what can be insured and for how much. Even if they won’t cover it, there is a great chance they will know who will.
How do you insure a family heirloom?
Insuring the most precious of items isn’t hard—even though there are a few things you’ll need to do to get everything in order. Here is a step-by-step process for getting your family heirlooms insured.
1. Locate and List
What do you consider a family heirloom? Is it—practically—worth insuring? Do your due diligence and determine what pieces you would like to insure—from artwork to jewelry or even grandma’s vintage recipe book. Once you have compiled all the information you can, you’ll need to find out what it’s generally worth.
2. Get an appraisal
While an appraisal can’t tell you how much you value grandpa’s old watch, it can give you a more complete picture of what you have to insure—the monetary value of the item, how old it is, and maybe even a bit of background information you didn’t have before. All of this information will be vital to have on hand as you meet with your insurance agent.
3. Work with your agent
Once you have all the information in place, schedule a time to sit down with your agent and go over the details of what you want to insure and for how much. They’ll be able to not only walk you through the process and the price, but often may also give you ideas on how to protect the item, or coverage options you should consider.
4. Keep them safe
While it’s great to have Aunt Cindy’s stole insured in case something happens to it, keep in mind that there is no compensation equal to that of losing something that held personal value for you, so you’ll want to make sure you keep your family heirloom as safe as possible. Consider how you will store and care for the item until it’s ready to pass down to someone else—and when you do, let them know how they can go ahead and protect and insure it, as well.
No matter what type of heirloom you want to insure, Penny Insurance is ready to help. Should you have any questions about coverage or insurance types, or if you would like to schedule a consultation or get a quote, please contact us and let us know.
Hurricanes destroy countless homes each year and unfortunately, it is not a matter of if they occur, it is when they occur. If you live near the coast, or own a coastal rental or vacation home, having the right storm coverage is absolutely essential. Storms can be unpredictable– easily tearing down houses and causing overwhelming damage. Most typical home insurance policies do not cover flood or windstorm insurance, so it’s crucial to confirm that you have sufficient coverage before the storm hits.
While in most scenarios, storm damage is out of your control, there are some things you can do to prepare your home for hurricane season.
Have a plan in place, so that when a storm is on the horizon, you’re not frantic and can put the plan into action immediately. Determine a central meeting spot for your family so everyone knows where to go and what to do in an emergency situation. Plan out your evacuation route– where you will go for a safe destination during the storm, and make a checklist of all the necessary preparations that need to be made before you evacuate. With a plan already in place, you can take quick action and limit stress. If you do not have a hurricane plan, check out this helpful checklist: https://www.ready.gov/plan.
Confirm Your Insurance Coverage
The last thing you want to be doing in the event of a severe storm is wondering if you have the right coverage for your home and possessions. Confirm your insurance coverage ahead of time, so you can focus on evacuating and keeping your family safe during a storm. Most home insurance policies do not cover flooding damage or windstorm damage– two weather occurrences that go hand-in-hand with hurricanes. If you already know that your home is in a floodplain or the area is prone to flooding, do not wait to get flood insurance. If there are trees surrounding your home, you could be at risk for windstorm damage to your roof. Call before it’s too late. Our agents are here to provide you with coverage and peace of mind.
Inspect Your Home
Thoroughly inspect your home for areas of potential damage before a storm hits. While homeowners can usually detect possible problem areas, it is always a good idea to schedule appointments with professional inspectors to get an expert’s perspective. Check for low-hanging branches and trees that could come crashing down, check your roof for any weak spots, and check that your hurricane shutters are industry-approved and in working condition.
Prep Your Home
Lastly, if there is a hurricane warning or a storm approaching your area, be sure to properly prepare your home. If you have a generator, make sure it is in working condition and can switch on in the event of a power outage. Make sure there are no loose items in the yard like bikes or furniture that could fly around and break a window. Check all of your window seals, door locks, roof shingles…etc. to be sure that your house is in its best condition to weather the storm. Write a checklist ahead of time so you don’t have to frantically stress about making sure everything is done, and also so you know that you’ve done everything you can to prepare. Finally, make sure you have a “survival kit” with first aid items, food items, flashlights and more, so you can focus on keeping yourself and your loved ones safe.
If you’re unsure of what your current insurance policies cover, or would like to know more about hurricane coverage, give our agents a call. We are here to help and provide a peace of mind.
As people in our local communities and beyond spend more time at home due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it may be a good time to review your current home insurance policies and assess your coverage. At Penny Insurance, we believe that every homeowner or renter deserves to be matched to the right policy. We take the time to get to know you, the area you live in, and understand the unique risks that your property is exposed to. We offer customized policies for Homeowners, High Value Homeowners, Renters, Condominium, Vacation/Seasonal Homeowners, Vacant Home Insurance, and Rental Property Insurance.
Homeowners or Renters Insurance
With our traditional Homeowners Insurance, common risks such as the physical structure of your home, replacement cost, personal contents, additional structures on your property, any additional living expenses, and personal liabilities risks are covered. Our agents always strive to go above and beyond for our clients, and we also offer coverage for unique valuable items and collectibles, flood, earthquake, and umbrella policies. Penny Insurance proudly serves all of Western North Carolina as well as Tryon, Cliffs Communities and the Upstate of South Carolina area, and are licensed in both Georgia and Florida. Our professional personal insurance specialists can review your current policies today and provide you with a free quote for homeowners insurance. We know it’s more than a house, it’s a home.
Another important policy to consider during this time is personal liability insurance (umbrella policy). Many people are currently working from home and have family members, children, and pets at home for extended periods of time. Having an umbrella policy protects you from legal costs if you or a family member damages someone else’s property, causes harm or injury, or if someone is injured while on your property. This type of policy is especially important to consider for homeowners with children or pets, as you become responsible for any damages they may cause.
Rental Property Insurance
If your rental properties have been affected by travel restrictions due to COVID-19, contact us directly to see how we can help. We offer solutions for those in need of Condominium coverage, Vacation/Seasonal Homeowners, Vacant Home Insurance, and Rental Properties and our agents will work with you so you have the coverage you need.
Depending on your situation and the company your insurance is provided by, there may be relief available if you’re facing financial hardships due to COVID-19 and are unable to make mortgage or rent payments. Many of the companies we work with are extending payment deadlines and will work with you and your situation. Our agents are here to help with any questions you may have. In uncertain times, it is important to know that the place you call home is covered. We understand the investment you’ve made in your home, and we are here to protect it. At Penny Insurance, we want to give you a peace of mind as your insurance provider, even in the midst of a crisis.
Flooding is one of the most difficult natural disasters to face and a significant trauma for property owners. “One of the biggest issues why people don’t carry flood insurance is apathy. I think many people think it won’t happen to them and are willing to take the risk,” says Loretta Worters, a spokeswoman for the Insurance Information Institute.
The average annual cost of flood insurance is minuscule compared to the average cost of a flooding claim when disaster strikes. Whether you own property near the coast and are exposed to the risk of coastal flooding, or your home is inland where severe rainstorms can cause damage, anyone can become a victim of flooding.
If you’re dealing with this home disaster, discerning what to do so you can resume your “normal life” again can seem daunting. If stress is flooding your life and you’re overwhelmed, here are some easy steps to follow to help you gain clarity on what to do next.
1. Verify Your Policy
Firstly, call your insurance agency. Verify that you have flood insurance, as standard homeowner’s insurance policies don’t include flood insurance. At Penny Insurance Agency, we make it a daily priority to maintain open, honest communication with those we insure. For almost a century, our trusted agents have been assisting people with their insurance needs. Once you’ve gained a better understanding of next steps from your insurance agent and gotten the ball rolling on filing a claim, you can focus on more tangible steps to help the process.
2. Take Photos
If it is safe to do so, document everything you can that suffered damage on your property. This includes water levels (if the flooding is still there), any major or minor water damage, photos of any ruined valuable items, and key structures of the home. There may even be damage that is difficult to see and pinpoint, so the more photos, the better. This will help ease the process of filing a claim if you have proper and substantial documentation.
3. Cleanup Safely
After you’ve contacted your insurance agency and properly documented the damage, you can begin the cleanup process. If it is safe to do, while following the instructions of local authorities, scan the perimeter for any obvious threats to your safety and then begin opening doors and windows to allow airflow. It is better to be safe than sorry, so always assume that flood water is polluted and unsafe, unless told otherwise. Work with a trusted contractor and professionals when assessing what to do next in cleanup and beginning to rebuild.
4. Prevent and Prepare
It may take some time to fully recover from a terrible flooding experience. Once you’re back on your feet, it’s important to consider what you can do to prevent the same damage and prepare for the future. Flood-proof your property as much as you can doing things like elevating the foundation of your home or vacation property, building in flood openings to the foundation, using water-resistant flooring in your home, and building with water-resistant insulation in the walls. In addition, verify that your homeowner’s insurance covers flooding, so that you’re protected in the future. Never just assume that your policy covers this– in fact, most homeowner’s insurance policies do not include flood insurance as part of the policy.
We understand how to help those facing critical situations and have been aiding people in navigating the waters of insurance for almost 90 years. Penny Insurance Agency is licensed in South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Texas to better serve your unique property needs. For honest and personal service from one of our agents, give us a call or stop by one of our two office locations in Hendersonville, NC or Tryon NC. We would be happy to speak with you about your insurance needs.