Iowa derecho claims have you looking for new insurance?

Iowa derecho claims have you looking for new insurance?

2020 is a year Iowans will never forget. Not only did we have to deal with shutdowns from a global pandemic but three major storms devastated a huge number of homes in the Cedar Rapids area.  Even after a year later, much work remains to done as homeowners are sorting through insurance estimates, hunting for a trustworthy contractor and dealing with price increases for materials and labor. While most have been happy with the way their insurance company have handled their claims, others are unhappy with slow response times or the what is or isn’t covered. One result of the high cost of the claims has been higher insurance rates, even for those not filing claims. Some homeowners after experiencing multiple claims are getting cancellation notices from their carriers.

I want you to know you do have options. As an local, independent agency Insurance Gurus has several A-rated carriers to better match your needs and individual situations. Even if you are being cancelled due to claims, I probably have a carrier that will offer you good coverage at competitive rates.

Insurance Gurus is excited about becoming the newest Nationwide Insurance in Cedar Rapids. After seeing the large number of  satisfied comments from Nationwide customers after August 2020 derecho, I reached out to Nationwide about getting my agency appointed. The process was not only fast but they made it very easy and I became a Nationwide agent in just a few weeks. Nationwide has a 24/7 customer service center. So my Nationwide clients always have access to policy changes, getting ID cards, claims, policy declarations and answering their questions.

If you are looking for a better experience after recovering from the Iowa storms of last summer, please reach out to me. I offer efficient, personalized service and you’ll talk to a real person not phone prompts.  I would be happy to quote your home, auto and umbrella policies with Nationwide Insurance or any of my great carriers! Ed Faber, Agent/Owner.

 

Iowa Derecho Claims

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How to get storm damage repairs for an insurance claim

How to get storm damage repairs for an insurance claim

8 Things to know before hiring a contractor for storm repairs

Insurance can be a real godsend if your home receives storm damage, but it only writes the checks. It’s up to the homeowner to get the work done and finding good, reliable contractors can be a challenge. You want to know the work will be done correctly, timely and completely. If a problem turns up later, you’ll need to be able to get in contact with the contractor to make it right. Many property damage claims are made after a major catastrophe and local contractors are quickly booked up. Out of state companies come in to fill the demand. The question is, who can you trust? Here are some general tips to reduce your risks and have a more favorable outcome:

1. Make sure your contractor is licensed in Iowa.

Why is important to have a licensed contractor? If you hire an unlicensed contractor, you are assuming more risk. You become the de facto general contractor and are responsible for the quality of work and it is in compliance with the local building codes.  Ask for their Iowa license number and verify by looking it up on the Iowa Workforce Development site. You can search by registration number or by contractor/business name.  Search for an Iowa contractor.

2. Ask for a certificate of insurance.

They should have both:

  • General liability insurance
  • Workers compensation insurance

Without workers compensation insurance, you could be held liable if a contractor or their employee is injured while working on your property. If your contractor were to accidentally damage your neighbor’s property when working on your house and they don’t have general liability insurance, you can be personally liable. The certificate of insurance should be in the name of the business doing the work and the effective dates of the policy should cover the time your work is being done. Look for a minimum of $1M in liability coverage.

3. Check credentials.

  • Talk to references. Make sure they are not outdated, their work should’ve be done in the last few years.
  • Do a Google search and check several sites, including BBB.org. Look for user reviews and beware of anyone with too many complaints.
  • Ask how long they have been doing this kind of work (both as an independent contractor and working for someone else).

4. Get a detailed, written estimate.

It should include everything on your insurance estimate (unless you hire multiple contractors). Don’t allow unlimited or unspecified rates for labor or material. They should refer to your insurance estimate for materials and give you a flat fee.

  • Upgrades or work outside the scope of the insurance estimate should be approved by your insurance adjuster especially if you’re going over your budget.
  • Ask about Class 4 impact resistant shingles. Have you noticed that not all roofs in your neighborhood are damaged the same? It may be some have newer or higher quality shingles. Class 4 shingles cost more than standard shingles, but they can help prevent the need for re-roofing after every storm saving you from another insurance claim. Many insurance companies give generous discounts, up to 15%, for Class 4 shingles so the extra cost can be negligible. Not all roofers will suggest it because repeat customers are good for their business.

5. Get a general timeline.

Depending on the extent of the damage, a delayed schedule can expose your home to further damage. Make sure you are in agreement on the timeline.

6. Know who’s doing the work.

Will they be doing the work with their own crew or subbing out all or part of the work? Check the sub’s credentials as well.

7. Ask about warranties.

Not all contractors will guaranty their work. If one does, get the details in writing and make sure you are able to follow up with them years down the line.

8. Don’t pay in advance.

I’ve been burnt by this personally and had to pay legal fees to get my money back when the contractor abandoned the job. No more than 15% down should be necessary to secure your place on their calendar. If they don’t have good credit with their material vendors, that’s a red flag for you.

Storm damage repairs

Storm damage from the August 10, 2020 derecho in Iowa.

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Is damage caused by rioting covered by insurance?

Is damage caused by rioting covered by insurance?

Images of burning buildings and vehicles are dominating the news lately as some protests have turned violent. Many may wonder who pays for the damage caused by rioting and civil unrest. Can your auto or homeowners insurance cover the damage? Is it covered the same as vandalism or other criminal activity?

The short answer is yes. Insurance can cover your losses, less your deductible, subject to the terms and conditions of your policy of course.

On a “standard” personal auto policy, your vehicle’s comprehensive coverage covers damage caused by riot and civil unrest, just is it does for vandalism or theft. The “standard” homeowners policy (HO3) is an open peril policy, meaning it covers all types of loss to your dwelling expect for those that are specifically excluded in the policy. For example, flood and earth quake losses are excluded (not covered) in most homeowner policies. As long as riot or civil unrest isn’t excluded, and it usually isn’t, your loss should be covered.

Note that your personal property, things like furniture, clothing, electronics, etc. are generally not open peril, but named peril coverage. That means only perils which are named in the policy are covered. Although riot and civil unrest is often a named peril. Check your policy to be sure. Like auto insurance, your homeowner’s deductible will apply, which is usually at least $1,000.

Why the need for the disclaimer, “subject to the terms and conditions of your policy”? In order for any loss to be covered it must not violate any of the terms and conditions. This can include prompt reporting of the loss and it was accidental, not intentionally nor invited by the insured. The insured has an obligation to mitigate losses by taking reasonable measures to protect their property. For example, if a storm tears a hole in your roof you should have it tarped as soon as possible to mitigate any additional damage from rain. This doesn’t mean of course, you need to put yourself in harm’s way.

Hopefully, this helps give you a general idea of how it works. Contact Ed at Insurance Gurus for specific questions about your own circumstances.

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Car Thefts in Iowa

Car Thefts in Iowa

A claim came into my office today for a stolen car. I think this is only the second claim I’ve seen for auto theft in nearly five years. I wondered how common it is to get your car stolen in Iowa and this is what I found:

  • About 750,000 vehicles are stolen in the U.S. each year
  • California has the most vehicle thefts and Vermont has the least
  • Iowa car thefts rank #37 of 51 states and the District of Columbia
  • Davenport metro has the most thefts in Iowa
  • The car most stolen in the U.S. is the Honda Accord

Although there are only 13 states with lower car theft rates than Iowa, it was surprising to me that both New York and New Jersey were among them.  New York ranked as the fourth least state for stolen vehicles. Statistically, you are more than twice as likely to have you vehicle stolen in Iowa than New York. One might hypothesize that larger numbers of unlocked (with and without keys left inside) might have an measurable impact on Iowa’s theft rate.

What do you think? Leave a comment below to offer your reason why New York has a lower car theft rate than Iowa!

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Preventing basement water damage

Water Damaged Basement

It’s been said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you ever had to deal with the clean up and reconstruction from water damage you’ll appreciate that advice. A wet basement may or may not be covered by your homeowners insurance.

Are wet basements covered by home insurance?

It depends on the source of the water and the optional coverage you purchased on your policy:

  1. If water seeps through your basement walls, floors or windows, that is considered a flood. Floods are excluded (not covered) on homeowners insurance.
  2. If water backs up from a drainage system, such as a floor drain, sewer line or a sump pit, the damage COULD be covered but only if you have optional water and sewer backup coverage added to your policy. Due to the frequency of these claims, the cost of this coverage continues to increase.
  3. Damage from plumbing leaks, burst pipes and water overflowing from sinks and tubs is generally covered on your base home policy. It is all subject, of course, to the terms and conditions of your policy.

Even if insurance does cover the cost of the damage, you will still have to pay your deductible (usually $1,000 or more) and deal with the disruption, mess and paperwork of getting everything put back as it was before. In most cases you will also face increased home insurance premiums for the next three years. Therefore, prevention is a much better way to go!

Early detection is key to prevention

Fortunately, most water damage losses are avoidable. Here are some tips to help protect your home better.

  1. Consider replacing your sump pump regularly. I have customers who replace their sump pump every 7-10 years to avoid having it fail at an inopportune time. Sump pumps are relatively inexpensive, some are less than $100.
  2. Have a backup power source. A major reason for many sump pit overflows is a loss of power, especially during a storm. Battery backups are the most common. There are also sump pumps that can run off your water pressure for backup power. Emergency generators are another option.
  3. Water detectors. These are inexpensive and effective at giving you an early warning for trouble.
    1. For around $11 you can get a simple device that works like a smoke alarm, setting off an audible alarm when water is detected under it.
    2. Internet connected water detectors send an alert to your smart phone when it detects water. The advantage of this system is it can alert you even when you are away from home.

Water detectors should be placed in potential problem areas such as near your sump pit or floor drain to give you early warning. You can buy multiple units around your home, wherever water leaks can appear like under sinks, dishwasher or waterline to your fridge.

Insure your home for the big disasters but be proactive to prevent them in the first place. That’s the best emergency plan! Insurance Gurus represents several top-rated insurance companies. Ask for a free review of your homeowner insurance today.

Internet connected water detector. Just $49 at Menards.

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10 Ways to Save on Car Insurance

How to save on your car insurance

Is your teen driver driving you to the poor house? Did your insurance rates take a huge increase with no change in your driving record? It may be time to review your auto policy to make sure you’re not over-paying. Here are 10 tips to keep your auto premiums in tip-top shape.

  1. Check your driving record.

Your driving record can have a big influence on how much you pay for car insurance. When your insurance is quoted, they run two reports: 1) Clue Report, this includes claims data turned into insurance companies, and 2) Motor Vehicle Report, this comes from the DOT and includes information reported by police like violations and accidents. Either report can be inaccurate, so you should re-check for accuracy the driving records of every driver on your policy and record the date and type of incident, including:

  1. Traffic violations
  2. Accidents (both at-fault and not-at-fault accidents such as someone rear-ending you)
  3. Comprehensive claims (like deer strikes, hail, glass damage, vandalism, etc.)

Ask your agent (and anytime you quote new insurance) what incidents affected your rate. You can dispute inaccurate information, but you may need to show proof to get items removed.

  1. Maintain a good driving record

Obviously, if you obey traffic laws and drive safely, you’ll get into fewer accidents and violations. Make safe driving a habit. Consider taking a safe driving course, some companies offer discounts for doing so, but even if they don’t, it has its own rewards.

  1. Participate in telematics programs

Telematics are devices that monitor your driving habits such as mileage, time of day, hard braking, speed, mobile distraction and others. Insurance companies offer discounts of 5% to as much 50% depending on your driving habits. Before you agree to participate find out if the insurance company will raise your rates if your driving habits are unfavorable. You may not be a good candidate for telematics if you regularly drive during late night hours or drive in congested areas with a lot of braking. Some insurance companies don’t surcharge you for unfavorable driving habits and offer a discount just for participating.  Driving apps that you install on your mobile phone are gaining popularity among carriers as some offer both choices. Since you can monitor your own driving with these devices it is an opportunity to improve your driving habits.

  1. Check insurance before buying your vehicle

Not all vehicles are created equal when it comes to the cost to insure them. Obviously a more expensive car will cost more to insure, but other factors play into it as well. Luxury and less common makes are often more expensive to repair and get parts if they are in an accident. Sportier cars or vehicles that can be used off-road cost more too. Get the VIN of the cars you’re considering and have your agent quote them first.

  1. Maintain good credit

Credit score can have as big of a factor on your rates as your driving record. Pay your bills on time, keep credit card balances low and dispute any discrepancies on your credit report.

  1. Shop your insurance

This is perhaps the biggest key to lower rates and yet many people are reluctant to do it. Perhaps it intimidates people who think they may unwittingly end up with less or inferior overage. Always insist on getting an apples-to-apples quote with your current coverage so you can compare fairly. While many insurance agents sell only one carrier, you can get quotes from multiple carriers from independent agents and brokers. Search for independent agents on Google and ask what carriers they are appointed with. That way you can get competitive quotes from more companies.

  1. Don’t assume advertised insurance companies are any better/cheaper than non-advertised ones.

Advertising is very costly and adds to an insurance company’s overhead. While brand recognition may help instill your confidence, advertising in its self doesn’t make a product any better. Some of the best values in insurance can be with small insurance companies you never heard of before. Also don’t assume a particular brand always has a better rate. All insurance companies have their own rating factors to determine what type of customers get the best rates. The company that was good for your brother-in-law may be a poor choice for you.

  1. Maximize discounts

Some of the biggest discounts include multi-vehicle and multi-policy discounts. Therefore, bundling home and auto insurance with the same company is usually cheaper. Paying your policy in full gives you an additional discount vs. monthly pay. Ask what discounts you are getting now and what other discounts are available, but not currently getting.

  1. Consider increasing your deductibles or reducing coverage on older cars

The lower the deductible, the higher the premium so you will save money by raising your deductibles. If the car is financed be sure to check with your loan company to see if they require a maximum deductible limit. If you have an older car or is worth less than $5K and is paid off, consider dropping comprehensive and collision coverage. A rule of thumb is if the annual cost of your comp and collision coverage is more than 1o% of the book value of the car, less deductible, consider dropping this coverage. For example, if the value of your car is $5,000 and you have a $500 deductible the insurance company would pay no more than $4,500 if you totaled the car. If your annual premium for comp and collision coverage is $450 or more, you might want to drop the coverage.

  1. Go easy on optional coverage

You’ve seen the commercials that advertise “accident forgiveness” or “disappearing deductibles.” What they don’t mention is those options often cost you more and they aren’t necessarily right for you. Watch the cost of rental reimbursement, GAP coverage and roadside assistance to make sure you feel the benefit is worth the extra premium.

Getting your best rates requires some diligence on your part and combined with a little knowledge you’ll get the most for your money. Take control of your insurance today!

 

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Smart connected homes help protect from big homeowner insurance claims

You’ve probably seen the commercials about home security systems that send video and audio to your smart phone if someone comes to your door. But what happens if your smoke alarm goes off at home and there’s no one there to hear it? If you had early notification you could call for help even if you’re out of town to prevent a much bigger catastrophe.

Discounts on homeowners insurance

Several companies are now making home protection devices that are connected to your home Wi-Fi to send a notification to your smartphone. As more data becomes available about the devices’ effectiveness in reducing or preventing claims, you will see more and more insurance companies offering discounts to homeowners with smart connected devices. One company, State Auto Insurance of Columbus, OH is already offering such discounts for their homeowners policies.

Smart batteries for smoke alarms

There are several types of devices that monitor everything from smoke alarms, water leaks and freezing temps in your home. Smart batteries can be placed in many smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. When a connected device goes off it sends you a notification to your smart phone. The data use is small so it will have only a minimal affect on your data use.

Wi-Fi enabled water leak and freeze detectors

Another smart connected device senses water leaks such as from a sump pump over-flow. Water and sewer backups can be a costly mess to clean up and repair. Insurance premiums for this coverage have been on the rise. Some companies now charge more than $260 for $10,000 worth of backup coverage while others are adding conditions for eligibility.

Additional units can be placed in other areas of the home where water leaks can appear such as:

    • Under your dishwasherWi-Fi water leak detector
    • Near the washing machine drain
    • Ice maker line on your refrigerator
    • Under sinks
    • Near the bathtub or toilet

Some water leak units also sense for out of range humidity and temperatures. If you’re out of town on a winter vacation and your furnace fails, it could freeze your water pipes. When water freezes it expands and the pressure can burst your pipes, releasing a constant blast of water into your home which could go on for days if no one is around. Other smart devices can even turn off your water when a leak is detected.

Encompass Insurance offering customers free connected home program

Smart home connected devices

Images from Roost Home Telematics

Encompass is partnering with Roost, the largest and fasting growing home telematics company in the US to offer smart home devices at no cost. The program includes a smart water leak and freeze detector and a smart 9-volt battery for smoke alarms. The insurance company is offering up to 7,000 packages for policyholders and will be tracking their effectiveness in reducing damage to homes and personal property.

If you have an Encompass homeowner policy in Iowa, contact your agent or Insurance Gurus in Cedar Rapids to register. Supplies are limited. For a free home and/or auto insurance quote from Encompass contact Ed Faber at Insurance Gurus, 319-200-4878.

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Insurance Gurus now represents Encompass Insurance!

Insurance Gurus now represents Encompass Insurance!

I’m proud to announce that Encompass Insurance has now joined the product mix offered by our agency! Encompass is one of the largest home and auto insurance brands sold exclusively by independent agents. We are looking forward to placing our clients with a company with the resources and financial strength of an Allstate Insurance company. Contemporary insurance options are available for today’s modern economy. Insurance that is “competitive, flexible and customizeable” for your home and auto.

Available Auto Features:

  • Encompass Ride Share coverage for drivers working for Uber or Lyft for example.
  • Accident Forgiveness to protect your renewal rates in case you have an accident or violation
  • Auto Replacement Protection that includes new car replacement, better car replacement and loan/lease gap
  • Telematics App that gives drivers real-time feedback on driving behavior, and promotes safer, less-distracted driving
  • Transportation Expense, broader than rental car reimbursement because it includes reimbursement for things like train tickets or Uber rides
  • Discounts, such as multi-policy, homeownership, new car, good student, Encompass Easy Pay and pay in full—with no cap!

Available Home Features:

  • Ability to customize coverages as needed, such as adjusting limits up or down for Other Structures, Contents and Additional Living Expenses
  • Multiple deductible options provide flexibility for pricing and protection for our consumers
  • Home Sharing coverage for customers who periodically rent their house
  • Guest Protection for when your customers are traveling and cause property damage at places they are staying
  • Water Backup with multiple limits and deductible options
  • Discounts, such as multi-policy, claim-free and protective devices

Let us see if Encompass is the right fit for your family’s insurance needs!

 

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Nation’s Lowest Auto Insurance Rates

Auto insurance rates

States with the Lowest Auto Insurance premiums

Do you feel like your auto insurance rates have gotten out of hand? Be thankful if you don’t live in Michigan, Oklahoma or Louisiana. Residents there pay more than $2,000/per year on average to insure each vehicle. Iowans may also complain about raising rates, but should take some comfort in knowing they pay the lowest auto insurance rates in the nation! According to the November 2017 newsletter for Independent Insurance agents of Iowa, Iowans pay on average $1,125/year for auto insurance. Premiums vary by zip code and are based on the loss (claims) experience of insurance companies in each zip code. Therefore rates can vary widely even within a state. For example people in Detroit zip codes will pay a lot more than those in Marquette, MI.

Iowa’s lack of large urban areas helps reduce traffic congestion and accidents. However lower crime rates (theft and vandalism) as well as relatively fewer weather-related losses also work in the state’s favor. On the other hand, Iowa was the fourth highest state for deer-vehicle collisions last year according to State Farm. Of course the car you drive, driving records, credit history and age and experience of the driver(s) are important insurance rating factors too.

Uninsured Motorists

Iowa also is the 12th best state for the lowest percentage of uninsured drivers at just 8.7%*. This is despite the fact that Iowa doesn’t have a compulsory insurance law. Iowa’s Financial and Safety Responsibility act requires that drivers have the financial means to cover injury or property damage to others. Financial responsibility can be satisfied either from one’s personal wealth or with auto liability insurance.

The top 10 states with the lowest average auto insurance premiums are ranked below, with Iowa being the lowest:

  1. Iowa
  2. North Carolina
  3. Ohio
  4. New Hampshire
  5. Maine
  6. Idaho
  7. Wisconsin
  8. Kansas
  9. North Dakota
  10. Arizona

* Percentage of uninsured drivers, as measured by the ratio of uninsured motorists claims to bodily injury claim frequencies. Source: Insurance Research Council, 2015.

Get a quote from a Cedar Rapids auto insurance agency.

 

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Prevention is Best Cure for Water Back-up Claims

Prevention is Best Cure for Water Back-up Claims

It’s been raining for days and then you step down to your basement and “squish!” You have water problems. Just how big of a problem it is depends on how long and how much is wet. Your base homeowners insurance policy usually won’t cover the damage caused by water or sewage backing up or overflow from your sump pit. You need to add the optional sewer and water backup coverage to your policy. Water back-up coverage may also be added to your renters insurance policy to protect your personal property. Unfortunately, that coverage isn’t as cheap as it once was. Water back-up insurance can cost upwards of $200/year for a $10K coverage limit. Loss occurrences have become increasingly common in Iowa and other states with higher rainfall amounts, premiums have risen dramatically. The average water backup claim is $7,500 which may include cleanup costs as well as damage to your dwelling (flooring, base trim, drywall) and personal property.

Back up your Sump Pump

There are steps you can take to help prevent the likelihood of water back-up in the first place or at least lessen the impact of the damage if it does happen. The most common cause of water back-up claims is a malfunction with the sump pump. The storms that bring the extra water can also knock out the power to your home including the sump pump. Getting a sump pump with a battery back-up will allow your pump to do its job even when the power is out. Water powered sump pumps uses the water pressure from your home rather than electricity to pump water from your sump pit.

Another cause of sewer and water backup claims are floor drains that back up when city sewers are overwhelmed, causing it to flow backwards into your home. A properly installed back-flow valve or check valve can help prevent sewage backing into your home.

Early Warning System

water detector

A battery operated water detector (about $10) can provide early warning of water problems.

Let’s say you took all these precautions and you still get water backing into your basement. A water detector placed on your basement floor sets off an audible alarm, like a smoke alarm, to alert you of trouble before it gets serious. The early warning can tell you there’s a problem with your sump pump so you can take care of it before your property is damaged. These cost only about $10 so you can buy extra ones to use around your home where water leaks can form, such as behind your refrigerator (with automatic ice-makers), under your sinks and under your dishwasher. They also make water detectors that are connected to your home’s Wi-Fi and will send a text alert to your mobile device anywhere you may be.

Act Quickly to Prevent Mold

One of the biggest cost for water back-up is the mold remediation which can start forming in just 24-48 hours after exposure to water. Therefore, you need to act quickly if your carpet does get wet. Some useful equipment to help remove the water and start drying things down are:

  1.  A wet vac and/or carpet cleaning machine
  2. Carpet blowers or high-speed fans
  3. Dehumidifier(s)

You will first remove as much water possible with the wet vac and carpet cleaner then place the blowers/fans in line to move the air in the same direction around the room. The dehumidifiers will pull the moisture out of the air. If the water collects in a corner of the room you might want to pull back the carpet and pad in that area to facilitate drying. Check for mold on the back of the carpet and pad.

Water Backup Coverage isn’t Flood Insurance

Not all wet basements are due to water back-up. Which type of coverage applies depends on where the water entered your home. If it seeps through walls or enters through windows, that would be considered a flood and only flood insurance would cover it. Even so, flood insurance provides only limited coverage in basements. For example, personal property and floor coverings that are below grade are not covered. While water from a frozen or leaking pipe as well as water that overflows from a sink or tub may be covered in your base homeowners policy.

If you’ve had water damage in the past, you are more susceptible for having damage again. And of course, a water backup claim can lead to 3-year surcharge and loss of claim-free discounts, not to mention putting you at risk for cancellation if there are multiple claims. The best policy is to take the steps necessary to protect your property in the first place and mitigate damage by taking action quickly.

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