Monthly Archives: February 2014

Why Renters Insurance Really Matters

If you’re a recent college graduate, homeownership and all that comes with it – a mortgage, property taxes, trips to the hardware store – is probably not on your immediate radar. Home buying is a financial commitment and requires a certain level of stability that some young professionals might not have the luxury of boasting just yet. So for those of us who can’t commit to a hefty down payment or aren’t ready to commit to a certain geographic area, renting is a viable housing option.

In fact, the renting route might not just be for recent grads. 

rental agreement form

Although the American Dream of owning a home is still alive and well (7 in 10 renters aspire to this goal), a 2013 study from the MacArthur Foundation found that 57% of renters believe homeownership has become less attractive and 54% view renting as increasingly appealing. Current renters aren’t the only ones who see the allure; as more than half of the homeowners interviewed admitted they would consider renting in the future.

The American housing landscape is undoubtedly changing. Since 2009, 70% of our country’s biggest cities have experienced a rise in the number of households that rent.

But while the number of renters increases, more than half continue to skip the important step of adding a renters insurance policy to protect them and their valuables. These numbers warrant a deeper look into the importance of renters insurance.

Landlords and insurance: are YOU covered? Renters assume their landlords’ insurance policies cover the costs of damaged personal belongings. However, your landlord’s policy likely only covers disaster damage, such as fire, to the physical property and may not apply to your personal items. As a result, an increasing number of landlords are requiring their tenants to purchase a renters insurance policy, according to the vice president of the Insurance Information Institute.

Whether your landlord requires you to buy a policy or not, educating yourself on renters insurance can be worthwhile.

Where to begin?

Account for personal possessions. Standard renters policies typically offer minimum coverage of $25,000 for your possessions. Since your clothes, furniture, electronics and other possessions may cost more than that to replace, it’s a good idea to create a home inventory to determine the value of your stuff. A home inventory is simply a list of your personal possessions with their estimated values. Besides helping you determine the right amount of insurance to buy, keeping a detailed and accurate inventory is also important because it’ll make filing for a claim much easier. The Insurance Information Institute provides free software for creating a home inventory quickly and efficiently.

Note that renters insurance covers damages from disasters such as fire, lightning, vandalism, theft and certain types of water damage (i.e. your neighbor upstairs left his bathtub running). Since floods are not typically covered, consider enrolling in the government’s National Flood Insurance Program if you’re concerned about flooding in your apartment or the basement of your building.

If you possess expensive jewelry, rare collectibles or anything else of high value, consider adding a schedule as coverage for specific types of items may be capped in the standard policy. A schedule extends insurance coverage in the event these valuables are damaged, lost or stolen. Be sure to have each item appraised prior to adding a schedule as you will pay a premium based on the appraisal value. For more information on choosing the appropriate appraiser, check out this Consumer Reports article titled “How much is your stuff worth?”

Liability protection. In the unfortunate event you are sued by someone who was injured in your home, renters insurance can provide liability coverage. Your policy should cover some of the costs of court defense and court awards – generally limited too $100,000. You may purchase additional liability coverage as well.

Miscellaneous expenses. Renters insurance will likely cover additional living expenses (ALE) in the event your home is damaged and you have to temporarily move out. Such expenses include hotel rooms, car rentals, restaurants, and other similar costs incurred while living away from home. Some policies have a time limit for ALE coverage while others have a price cap- so be sure to read your policy carefully.

Discounts. For cost-conscious shoppers, consider inquiring about possible discounts with renters insurance. Companies usually grant discounts to renters who take preventative measures such as installing a security system, using smoke detectors, and having deadbolts on doors. Also, you could get a discount if you have a companion auto policy with a company.

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home, condo and renters insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in property and auto insurance throughout the northeast.

Ice Dam-age

As Old Man Winter continues his iron-fisted reign over New England, you should be wary of potential, costly damage to your home. So let’s talk about ice: the good, the bad… and the pretty.

Okay, so besides being pretty to look at, there’s not a whole lot of “good” when it comes to icicles. Beyond their attractive shine, icicles are a sign that something bad could be happening to your roof.ice dam

Icicles are the byproduct of an ice dam: a buildup of ice in gutters and roof overhangs. Ice dams form when it’s warm enough for the snow on the top of a roof to melt, but still cold enough for water to refreeze once it runs onto the eaves of the roof. Once refrozen, the ice blockage causes water to be pushed back up under the shingles, often resulting in damaged shingles, sagging gutters, stained ceilings and peeling paint.

Dam Removal

If icicles are hanging from your roof, there’s a high chance an ice dam is clogging the gutter. To remove the ice dam, there are a few recommended techniques:

  1. Use a roof rake from the ground to carefully chip away at the ice. Be careful not to damage your roof.
  2. Fill a nylon sock with calcium chloride – a melting agent – and lay it across the ice dam. The agent will create a channel by melting the ice and allowing water to drain through the dam. Calcium chloride can be found at your local hardware store. Do not use rock salt because it can be harmful to the roof.

Since working on or below a roof during the winter can be dangerous, the safest option is to call a professional to take care of any ice dams.

Prevention

The most effective way to deal with ice dams is to prevent them from happening in the first place.

Immediately following a snowstorm, a short term solution is to use a roof rake to clear off the first three to four feet of snow to prevent it from refreezing in the gutters – be sure to also clear debris out of downspouts so the gutters can properly drain.

A long term solution for ice dams is to keep the attic cold. By keeping the air in the attic cold, the snow on the roof is less likely to melt and run down to the gutter.

In order to keep the attic cold, it must be sufficiently insulated. An inadequately insulated attic will have cracks where the roof meets the exterior wall. This is where warm air leaks through, keeping the roof heated. So, inspect this area and if you find cracks, seal them with spray foam or sheets of rigid foam insulation.  There is more information online to help you prepare:

Although foam insulation can get pricy depending on the size of your attic, the benefit of preventing ice dams – and potentially water damage to your home – is worth the cost.

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home, condo and renters insurance to customers in Massachusetts and Connecticut. Bunker Hill is a member of The Plymouth Rock Group of Companies, which together write and manage over $1 billion in property and auto insurance throughout the northeast.