Tag Archives: home insurance

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.

Summer Home Maintenance Tips

house cleaningHere’s a punch list of summer home maintenance tips, tailor-made for New England homeowners.

If you’d rather hit the beach than the hardware store, call a pro before those small repairs balloon into bigger expenses. Angie’s List is a good resource or ask for referrals from a friend or neighbor.

Inside…
Air Conditioners
• Clear the air: Dirt and dust force air conditioners to work harder, waste energy and jack up your electricity bill
• Change your AC filters monthly, especially if you have allergy sufferers at home. If not, it’s fine to change filters once every three months
• Leaves and other debris from outside condensers can block air flow; clean them out of vents

Attic
• Clear attic vents of insect and animal nests or other debris
• Make sure vents and attic exhaust fans are in good working order
• Take a good look at your roof line: Check for leaks on rafters and insulation caused by loose or missing flashing

Basement /Cellar
• Check for and seal cracks, repair leaks in walls and floors
• If you have one, make sure your bulkhead entrance is free from leaves and other debris; sweep and repair cellar stairs, paint or re-paint metal bulkhead doors with rust-resistant metal paint
• Check and clean vents and basement windows
• If you have a sump pump, test, clean and lubricate it. If your pump has a backup battery, make sure it’s charged and replace it if necessary
• Sweep floors, toss out junk and other unused items you haven’t touched in two years or so. Click here to read our blog post on a room-by-room guide on how to declutter your home.
• Organize a giant yard sale with friends and neighbors to raise money for a good cause or your local school

Smoke & Carbon Monoxide Detectors
• Test and replace batteries

Windows & Doors
• Clean windows inside and out with this chemical-free, green cleaner: newspapers and a solution of water and white vinegar will make glass sparkle. For more green cleaning tips, click here or, for something a little more official, the EPA’s website
• If you have older windows and doors, add putty, caulk or weather-stripping where needed
• Clean and install screens for windows and doors

Outside…
Exterior Walls & Walkways
• Check and repair missing or loose siding or shingles
• Caulk joints and cracks to prevent seepage from winter water damage
• Touch up wood finishes damaged by wet winter weather
• Touch-up painting or re-paint exterior siding and shingles
• Repair crumbling or missing bricks and mortar from walls and walkways

Exterior Plumbing
• Check and turn on outside spigots, sprinkler system and other outside water lines
• Check, connect garden hoses

Grill
• Click here to read our post about grill safety
• Check fuel lines and replace propane tank if needed
• Tired of lugging propane tanks—and of running out of fuel when you need it? Hire a plumber to run a grill gas line

Gutters
• Get the gloves out: Clean out those gutters; hire a pro to clean hard-to-reach places
• Check and repair damage and leaks from winter storms
• Hate cleaning gutters? Installing gutter guards may be a worthwhile splurge

Porches, Patios and Decks
• Powerwash, seal wood decks
• Check wood for rot, replace and seal damaged boards

Roof
• Repair damaged soffit panels and flashing
• Repair, replace damaged or lost shingles

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home 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 homeowner’s and auto insurance throughout the northeast.

Save It Up: Discount Madness up on the Hill

Why Pay More If You Don’t Have To?

We love to save money too. Here’s a list of potential Bunker Hill discounts that you might be able to take advantage of—it’s painless and it’s easy. Speak with a Bunker Hill agent to see what discounts you may be eligible for, and how you can reduce your spending and start saving today. Yay!

Save big…piggy bank

Companion policy: Home & Auto, better together. If you insure your car with our affiliate, Plymouth Rock Assurance, and your home with Bunker Hill, you could save up to 10% on your car insurance AND up to 20% on your home insurance—it really adds up.

Newer homes built up to 15 years ago get lower rates – up to 20% off your premium.

Protective devices like smoke and fire detectors, burglar alarms, fire alarms or automatic sprinklers can save you up to 28%.

No claims? If you haven’t had a claim within the last three or more years, you could save up to 13%. Not bad!

Save small (it all adds up)…

eDocuments. Go electronic: get your policy and billing documents delivered to your inbox and save up to 3% when you sign up for eDocuments.

Paid in Full. Pay your policy premium up front in one chunk and get a discount of up to 3%.

Policy renewals with your Bunker Hill agent: Loyalty pays. Renew your home, condo or renter’s policy for at least 3 years in a row with the same agent immediately prior to moving your policy to Bunker Hill, and save up to 5%.

Advanced Issue…New Bunker Hill policies issued at least 7 days prior to the policy’s effective date save up to 5% for the policy’s first year.

New Roof…If your home has a roof that’s less than 10 years old, let your Bunker Hill agent know. You could save up to 5% in your policy’s first year.

Safe Property…no guns, no dogs, no pools, no boats >15 feet & 10 hp = no problem. Save up to 3%.

Hurricane Loss Prevention. Batten down the hatches: window shutters and other protective measures you install can save you up to 5%.

Find out more…To learn what you could be saving on your insurance, talk to a local independent Bunker Hill agent for details. They’ve done the comparison shopping for you—and they’re close by. Why not take advantage of their hard work and reap some decent discounts?

Bunker Hill Insurance offers home insurance policies. Plymouth Rock Assurance Corporation, a separate company, offers auto insurance policies. Each of these companies is financially responsible only for its own insurance products. Actual coverage is subject to the language of the policies as issued by each company.

Headquartered in Boston, Bunker Hill Insurance provides home 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 homeowner’s and auto insurance throughout the northeast.