Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Alternate Sources of Home Heating

The high cost of home heating and the current recession have led many Americans to search for alternate sources of home heating.  Many of these sources of heating may be acceptable if appropriate safeguards are used.  However, be aware these supplemental heating devices are responsible for thousands of home fires each year.

Wood stoves cause more than 4,000 residential fires each year.  Carefully follow the manufacturer's installation and maintenance instructions.  Look for solid construction, such as plate steel or cast iron metal.  Check for cracks and inspect legs, hinges and door seals for smooth joints and seams.  Use only seasoned wood for fuel, not green wood, artificial logs or trash.  Inspect and clean your pipes and chimneys annually and check monthly for damage or obstructions.  Cleaning more often may be necessary.  Be sure to keep combustible objects at least three feet away from your wood stove.

Buy only heaters with the Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) safety listing.  Check to make sure it has a thermostat control mechanism, and will switch off automatically if the heater falls over.  Space heaters need space, keep combustibles at least three feet away from the heater.  Always unplug your electric space heater when not in use.

Buy only UL-approved heaters and check with your local fire department on the legality of kerosene heaters use in your community.  Never fill your heaters with gasoline or cam stove fuel, both flare up easily.  Only use crystal clear K-1 kerosene.  Never overfill an portable heater and never fuel the heater when it is hot.  Use the kerosene heaters in a well-ventilated room.  Kerosene heaters pose perhaps the worst exposure largely due to improper use and the fact they contain a highly flammable liquid-not to mention potentially dangerous fumes.

Fireplaces and wood stoves regularly build up creosote in their chimneys.  They need to be cleaned frequently and chimneys should be inspected for obstructions and crack to prevent deadly chimney and roof fires.  Check to make sure the damper is open before starting any fire.  Never burn trash, paper or green wood in your fireplace.  These materials cause heavy creosote buildup and are difficult to control.  Use a screen heavy enough to stop rolling logs, and big enough to cover the entire opening of the fireplace to catch flying sparks.  Do not wear loose fitting clothes near any sealed metal container outside the home.

Finally, having a working smoke alarm dramatically increases your chances of surviving a fire. Always remember to practice a home escape plan frequently with your family.

Source: US Fire Association

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Insurance Things to Consider on Rental Properties

Over the last few years many homeowners have turned into landlords.  With the real estate market drop, those that decided to purchase a new house also decided to not sell their prior home for fear of a financial loss on the property.  Instead, they have turned their prior house into a rental.  The trend still continues today even after the real estate market has rebounded some because landlords are seeing great cash flows from renting.  

Here at Fey Insurance Services we insure a number of these properties and on occasion we are asked by clients if we have any insurance tips in renting a property.  When asked we always mention these five things:

1.  Temperature Requirement in the Lease:  It is a good idea to include a clause in your lease that requires the tenant to keep the heat no colder than 59 degrees.  This is important because around the Holidays many tenants will travel and if they want to try and save a buck they may turn off the heat.  Pipes do not enjoy this especially with a polar vortex threatening again this year.  This way, if they do turn the heat off and pipes break you can pass that damage on to the tenant.

2.  Renters Insurance for Tenants:  Since you may have passed on the risk of pipe freezing damage to your tenant you then want to make sure they have insurance in place to pay for such damages.  Requiring tenants to have renters insurance is a good idea.  Not only does it protect their contents (which is excluded under your policy), it protects your property if they are negligent in causing damage to your property.  I would recommend they have liability limits at least the value of your property.

3.  Dogs:  Know your states laws on dog attacks.  For example, in Kentucky there was a law recently passed that could drag landlords into dog attack claims.  This may make it difficult to get insurance for a property that has a dog.  If you are going to allow dogs to live on your premises it is best to limit which kinds as some insurance policies exclude coverage for "vicious dogs".

4.  Loss of Rents Coverage.  Make sure your rental property insurance policy includes coverage for loss of rents.  If you sign a year's lease with someone and then have a fire a month later, you are going to be out 11 months of rent or at least however many months it takes to rebuild the house.  You can recoup this loss with loss of rent coverage.  Also, make sure that you have enough loss of rent coverage.  Many polices give  you 10% of your dwelling limit or give you a flat $25,000.  Add up your annual rents and make sure you have enough coverage.

5.  Certificates of Insurance from Contractors:  Unless you yourself are handy, you may be employing contractors to do fixes around your rental property.  We strongly recommend you ask these contractors for proof that they have insurance.  If they were ever to cause damage to your tenants contents or to your tenants person, you would want to make sure they have insurance to cover such things.