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Posts Tagged ‘Massachusetts’

Insurance for Coastal Homes Q&A with Paul Burke

Now that the weather is finally warming up, there’s no denying that the South Coast of Massachusetts and Rhode Island is a great place to live — especially when you consider the beautiful beaches and scenery, fresh seafood, and sense of community found along the coast. Coastal homeowners also enjoy a boost as their home values increase, with many waterfront homes doubling in value over the last 20 years, according to a recent Zillow study.

As home values increase, however, so do the costs of insuring these beautiful properties. Luckily, your HIG insurance agent is here to help. While we can’t control the weather, we can help make sure you’re prepared for whatever it brings. Whether you live in Tiverton, RI or Fall River, MA, your HIG agent can help you put together a home insurance policy to fit your coastal home’s unique needs.

As experienced insurance professionals who have spent a combined 100 years living and working along the coast, we’re proud to be one of the most experienced coastal home insurance advisors in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Our goal is to always answer any questions you may have about your insurance policies, which is why we sat down with HIG partner, Paul Burke, to go over some common insurance questions coastal homeowners often have — but remember, if you have a question that you don’t see answered below, you can always give us a call at 508.676.5949 or visit our offices in Fall River and Somerset.

1) Why is it difficult to find insurance companies that will write a policy on a home near the coast?

Insurance companies have to buy insurance, just like individuals do. This ‘reinsurance’ is more expensive for homes along the coast because of the recent increased prevalence of storms like Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy. These storms cause more costly damages for coastal homes than inland homes. Subsequently, many insurance companies no longer write home insurance policies for homes along the coast.

2) My homeowners policy has a Hurricane Deductible. Do all companies have this for properties near the coast?

Not all companies will have a hurricane deductible for homes along the coast. It’s important to understand that each insurance company will define a coastal home differently — some will say that a home near the ocean is coastal, while some will also call homes by bays or rivers coastal. The type of deductible the homeowners insurance policy for your coastal home will have is dependent on the company writing your policy. Some policies will have a hurricane deductible while some will have a wind deductible. Make sure to ask your agent which your policy has.

3) What is the difference between a hurricane deductible and a wind deductible?

A hurricane deductible will only apply when damage is incurred by a storm that has been named by the National Weather Service. A wind deductible applies to all wind losses, regardless of the type of storm.

4) Do I need flood insurance for my coastal home?

We can’t stress this enough: your homeowners insurance policy does not cover flood damage! This means it is vitally important for homeowners to discuss their flood insurance options with their independent insurance agent.

5) What separates HIG from other agencies when it comes to insurance for coastal homes?  

HIG has partnered with several top quality insurance providers, which allows us to write home insurance policies that address the specific needs of homeowners along the South Coast of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. This gives us more flexibility to make sure our clients get the policies they need at a price they can afford.

When you work with an HIG agent, you’ll also get the best customer service around. We will walk you through your entire coastal home insurance policy from start to finish to make sure you are comfortable and confident in the policy you are purchasing. We will also continuously monitor the insurance options available for your home to make sure you are getting the best value and the best coverage.

Insuring your coastal home can seem like a daunting task, but your friends at HIG want to help simplify the process so that you can spend more time enjoying your home and less time stressing about your insurance. You can rest assured knowing that you will receive knowledgeable advice and recommendations from a local agent who knows exactly what is necessary to protect homes along the coast. Get in touch with an HIG agent today by visiting our website or giving us a call at 508.676.5949.

 

What To Do If A Pipe Bursts

You thought you took the necessary steps to protect your home from freezing temperatures, but now you’re dealing with a burst pipe. What should you do? First of all, stay calm. Then, follow these steps.

Shut off your water and potentially your electricity

If a pipe bursts in your home, the first thing you should do is turn off your water to minimize flooding damage. Every homeowner should know where the main water valve is. Find it and shut it off immediately! If necessary, you should also turn off electricity to the areas of your home where the flooding is occurring.

If you are living in an apartment and do not have access to the building’s water supply or electric services, call your landlord or building manager as soon as you notice a problem.

Call a plumber

Next, call a plumber. If your plumber does not offer 24-hour services, do some research. A quick online search should yield services in your area that work round the clock.

Move your belongings

Move anything you can away from leaking pipes to minimize damage. This includes furniture, clothing, art, or any other items that can be damaged by water. Be extremely careful with electronic devices that may have come in contact with water.

Remove as much water as you can

Get together as many buckets, pots, pans or any other containers you have and start collecting the water. You want to get as much water out as quickly as possible to avoid problems with mold and mildew. Towels and mops or even a wet/dry vacuum can also help with this process. If you don’t own a wet-dry vac, try renting one from your local hardware or home improvement store.

Set up fans and a dehumidifier in the affected area to remove moisture from the air and dry things out faster. Make sure to keep an eye on the dehumidifier and empty it before it fills up. Desiccant products like silica gel can also help for more serious damage. You can apply tubs or sachets of the gel near areas most affected by water such as floors or walls.

For more severe damage, such as leaks affecting multiple rooms or floors of your home or cases where leaks have gone unnoticed for more than 8 hours, a water mitigation or restoration professional may be required.

Call you insurance agent

Get in touch with your insurance agent to keep them up to date about what is happening. Photographs and notes recording the extent of the damage will help you and your agent when it comes time to file an insurance claim.

Did you know that burst pipes are covered under most homeowner insurance policies? Give us a call at 508-676-5949 to discuss home insurance rates or head to our website for more information.

How to Reinforce Your Home to Resist Flood Damage

Along the South Coast of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, there is a high potential for flooding as a result of increasingly violent storms. High winds, downbursts, and fast-moving water are just a few examples of forces that increase the risk of water damage inside your home. Even with our close proximity to the water along the coast, most people don’t realize that flood insurance is not covered in your a homeowners insurance policy.

Here at HIG Insurance, we’ve worked to protect homeowners from flood damage for more than 100 years. The first step to protect your coastal home is to get good flood insurance — then consider these ways to reinforce your home during storms:

Caulking and Weather-Stripping

You may know that weatherizing can keep your home warmer while saving you money on energy bills. But did you know that quality caulking and weather-stripping can also help protect your home from flood related water damage?

Checking for existing leaks and sealing cracks is an effective way to minimize flood damage. Before applying caulk or weather-stripping, assess your home to figure out where water may enter during periods of heavy rain and wind. Look for gaps or holes around window frames, doors, and vents. Pay special attention to cracks in your basement, roof, or in the foundation of your home. Keep in mind that for large cracks, you may need to call a professional.

Affixing weather stripping to all doors that provide outside access is another way to keep water, snow, or sleet out of your house. When installed correctly, weather-stripping should create a watertight seal when doors are closed. Both caulking and weather-stripping wear with time and use, so make sure to inspect both annually.

Gutters and Downspout Inspection

It is important to keep your gutters and downspouts clear all year round. If leaves or other debris are clogging gutters, they can create blockages that prevent water from flowing away from your home. Make sure to also check for leaks in your gutters and downspouts to avoid potentially ruining both the siding and foundation of your home.

Especially during times of heavy rain, it is crucial to ensure that water is moving away from the foundation of your home to avoid flooding. If this is a problem for your house, consider purchasing a downspout extender. Ideally, water should be released away from your home at a distance of at least five feet.

Check Flood Vents

In the event that water does enter your home, flood vents can reduce the likelihood of structural damage by equalizing water pressure inside and outside of your home. If you have structures that are below base flood elevation or if you live in an area prone to flooding, you should consider installing flood vents. It is important to note that while many crawlspaces have air vents in the foundation, these do not function in the same way as a flood vent.

Make sure you have enough flood vents for the size of the area you are trying to vent. Vent opening should be large enough to provide for the force and flow of water. They should also be located low enough on the structure of your home to avoid draining water back to your foundation. Lastly, make sure to check regularly that flood vents are not blocked by debris, especially during periods of heavy rain and flooding.

Dry vs Wet Flood-Proofing

Dry flood-proofing involves several methods for keeping water from entering your home all together, while wet flood-proofing has more to do with minimizing damage once water has gotten into your home. Often times, these approaches are better suited for homes or structures that are not being lived in during times of flooding, such as vacation or seasonal homes.

For dry flood-proofing, you should consider steps such as anchoring your structure, reinforcing walls, raising all utility services above flood walls, and installing a sump pump in your basement. Wet flood-proofing consists of changing the uninhabited areas of your home that are more prone to flooding, such as basements and crawlspaces. This can include installing flood vents (described above) or replacing all construction and finishing materials with flood resistant materials.

Often times, a structural engineer is required for when implementing either of these methods. Make sure to be aware of permitting and coding regulations in your specific area before making large structural changes to your home.

Learn More About Flooding

To read more about how to protect your home and family both before and during severe weather, here are some resources for you to check out:

HIG specializes in helping Fall River, Massachusetts and Rhode Island owners of coastal properties find the best Flood Insurance for protecting their home in case of flood damage. Please give us a call at 508-676-5949 to speak to an expert today. 

5 Tips for a Safe and Happy Holiday

The holiday season in New England is a beautiful and festive time of year. From Christmas trees to holiday lights to family gatherings, you’ll always notice more smiles around the holidays! But there are also some safety hazards that come with food, travel, and trimmings. Decorate safely and keep your holidays merry and bright with these five holiday safety tips.

Avoid The Gift of Food Poisoning

Few things can mar a festive family dinner more than a bout of food poisoning! Keep your cooking top notch with these guidelines from U.S. Department of Health and Food Services:

  • Do not wash the turkey. The only way to kill that bacteria is to fully cook the Turkey.
  • Refrigerate leftovers within two hours to prevent bacteria from growing on food.
  • Cook the Turkey until it reaches an internal temperature of at least 165° F.

Be Prepared For Holiday Travel

The holiday travel season carries the highest automobile fatality rate of the year. With so many cars on the road it’s important to check a few things before you leave:

  • Make sure your vehicle’s maintenance is up-to-date.
  • Keep your cell phone away. Let the passenger control the tunes.
  • Map your schedule and consider leaving earlier or later to avoid peak traffic times.

O Christmas Tree

If you’re celebrating the season with a Christmas tree, be sure to follow these basic safety tips to make sure your tree is decorative and not a fire hazard:

  • If you’re using a fake tree, be sure the label reads Fire Resistant.
  • When setting up your tree, be sure to place it away from any radiators, fireplaces, portable heaters, heat vents and televisions.
  • Cut a couple of inches off of the trunk of your tree to expose the fresh wood. This will allow the water to better absorb into the tree and keep it from drying out and becoming a fire hazard.

Light Safety

Whether you’re looking to add a decorative accent to your home or create a beacon in the neighborhood, the basics of holiday light safety are the same:

  • Only adorn your tree or home with lights that have been tested for safety by UL (Underwriters Laboratory) and marked as such.
  • Use no more than three standard-sized sets of lights per single extension cord.
  • Check all of your lights before hanging them to make sure all of the bulbs are working and no wiring is exposed.
  • Check any extension cords for frayed wires and be sure they are UL approved.
  • Do not run extension cords under the carpet.
  • Do not overload outlets or multi-outlet power strips.
  • Use LED candles for ambiance rather than wax or liquid oil votive candles.
  • Be sure to turn off all Christmas lights before going to bed.

Take Time For You

It’s also important to take the time to care for your mental health during the holiday season. Relationships, family gatherings and seasonal stresses can take their toll on anyone. The American Academy of Pediatrics has a few helpful tips to keep your holiday season stress free:

  • Don’t feel pressured to “overspend” on gifts.
  • Make a plan to focus on one thing at a time.
  • Most importantly, remember the holiday season is about spending quality time with your loved ones.

The holiday season in New England is a magical time of year. Take these few basic precautions, you can make sure it’s a safe one, too.  You can find more seasonal tips and insurance news on our website or give us a call at 508-676-5949! We’d love to hear from you.

Happy holidays from HIG!

Everything You Need To Know About Ice Dams

Ice dams are a very real problem that you will most likely face if you own a home in Massachusetts. While ice can be lovely for skating, it can quickly ruin your home if you don’t take the proper precautions. Luckily, we know all about ice dams! Follow our suggestions and you can rest easy knowing that even if we see a repeat of last year’s winter, you won’t have to worry about ice dams ruining your home.

What’s An Ice Dam?
Great question! An ice dam occurs when water from melting snow runs down your roof then refreezes, causing the ice to accumulate, or “dam” in one spot. If any water gets under a shingle it will lift it up, which can often cause water to drip into your home, ruining gutters and shingles along the way. Ice dams are not your friend.

Oh No! How Do I Prevent Them?
The trick to preventing ice dams is to completely seal and insulate your attic space. Unfortunately, this usually means calling a contractor! Call a contractor now and schedule a visit ASAP before they’re booked for months. If your contractor isn’t available, or if you prefer to just do-it-yourself, it’s not that difficult! This guide from Energy Star lays out all the materials you would need and walks you through the process step by step. The sooner you can prep your home, the more quickly you can stop worrying about an ice dam!

Take Care Of Leaves
Autumn in New England is what makes winter worth it for all of us. However, all those beautiful leaves will often clog up your gutter, which can lead to more ice dams. Keep your gutters free of leaves and snow so they can actually do what they were designed for. Now is the time to buy a roof-rake to help keep your roof clear of snow. Remember, the crux of ice dam prevention is a clean roof!

It’s also important to note the importance of basic ladder safety when doing any work on the roof, particularly in the winter. Always keep your ladder away from an electrical wiring, have a spotter stabilizing the base of the ladder and always face the ladder when descending or climbing!

Dam It!
Alright, so despite your best efforts, you still got an ice dam. Don’t panic. We can fix this. Simply run down to the hardware store and grab a chemical melting agent! Avoid using rock salt. While rock salt will melt the dam, it will also likely damage your shingles and gutters. Stick with a basic melting agent like calcium chloride. All you have to do is apply the agent to the dam and you’ll be all set!

Don’t Use Fire
Always use a chemical melting agent rather than fire. While it may intuitively make sense to use some sort of fire, such as a blow torch, to remove ice dams we beg you to listen to us and simply don’t do it. Seriously, don’t do it. You are far more likely to cause a problem than to fix one when using fire in this situation.

If you own a home in New England you need to prepare for ice dams! A little money upfront to purchase the necessary preventative tools will save you a lot of money down the line. Finish winterizing your home by making sure your all of your insurance needs are up to date. Give us a call at 508-676-5949 or visit our website!

The Basics of Fire Prevention: National Fire Prevention Month

October is National Fire Prevention Month! Is your home protected? Most everyone has some semblance of fire prevention in their home, even if it is just a few fire alarms with aging batteries. While “stop-drop-and-roll” may be all you needed to know as a child, as an adult it’s time to step up your game. Fortunately, we’ve compiled everything you need to know about effective fire prevention in this article—complete with a few tips from our very own Paul Burke, who spent 35 years as a firefighter!

Fire Alarms: Location, Location, Location

A working fire alarm is the crux of every fire prevention plan. According to the National Fire Prevention Agency, a working smoke alarm can lower your chances of dying in a reported fire by 50%. Yes, the beeping when the batteries are low can get annoying, but one bulk purchase of batteries just for your fire alarm will ensure you’re protected.

Paul Says: “Smoke alarms obviously work and are designed to save lives. If you have battery smoke alarms, change the batteries every time you move the clocks forward or back. If you have a monitored burglar alarm you want to include the smoke detectors. That way if you’re not home the alarm company can notify the fire department if there is a fire in your house. A fire doubles in size every minute so the sooner the fire department is notified the less damage you’ll have.”

The placement of the smoke alarms is critical to their effectiveness. There needs to be a detector on every floor of your home, in each sleeping area and outside each sleeping area. You can’t predict a fire, but correctly placed, working smoke alarms are the next best thing.

It’s also important to note that every floor should have a working CO2 monitor. CO2 has no smell, making these monitors the only way to detect it. Thousands of people lose their lives every year to this “silent killer.” Get a monitor, rest easy.

Paul Says: “Obviously you want one in the basement near the boiler. You want to have a CO2 detector on every floor.”

Escape Plan

Take the time to create an escape plan with your family. Make sure you know which exit is the closest to where you sleep and create a designated meeting point for all house members that is a safe distance from your home. If an unexpected fire occurs, it will be hard to think clearly amidst the frenzy. Having a plan could make all the difference. Make sure no one forgets by practicing the plan at least twice a year.

Basic Electronics

With everyone becoming more and more connected to the digital landscape, homes are consuming an increasing amount of power. Remember to use surge protectors, keep electronics such as space heaters away from curtains and fabric, and be wary of halogen lights, which have been known to ignite nearby flammable material. You should never leave halogen lights on when you are not at home.

Paul Says: “If you have a room where there are a lot of electronics, you may not be required to put a smoke detector in, but that’s where you should put it. My answer is put it in every single room.”

Additional Thoughts

If you live in a home that is particularly susceptible to fire, you may want to consider a few additional measures. Home sprinkler systems are becoming more common and are surprisingly cost effective when installed only in high risk areas of the home (kitchen, fireplaces, etc).

Paul Says: “Make sure any fireplaces or wood/pellet stoves are thoroughly cleaned before they are used. This is the time of year where it’s about to get cold at night. If you burn a lot of green wood you need to clean them more than once per year.”

It’s also worth noting that smokers need to be extra careful of home fires. It sounds obvious, but you should never smoke in bed! Whether in bed, in your backyard or driving your car, carelessly discarded cigarettes are the leading cause of fires in the United States.

This National Fire Prevention Month, take the time to make sure your home and family are prepared for an emergency. Stop-drop-and-roll is only the beginning. These tips will ensure that you’re prepared for any unexpected fires.

How To Protect Your Car And Home From Hail

Severe weather can strike at any time–as we saw a few weeks ago when golf ball sized hail took Massachusetts by storm in the middle of summer. If you’ve experienced a hailstorm you know that these small balls of ice are much more dangerous than they look. The rare form of precipitation is also the most dangerous, and even small sized hail can cause substantial damage to the unprepared car or home. The average hailstorm lasts about five minutes, but according to reports by the National Weather Service, hail causes upwards of a billion dollars worth of damage every year. Minimize your damages by learning the basics of protecting your car and home from hail.

Protect Your Car!

If a hailstorm is predicted, it is certainly wise to avoid driving during the peak hours of the storm. If you have to be on the road, be ready to pull over into any kind of covered parking when the hail hits—it only takes one piece to crack a windshield. Consider getting to the office a little early that day and leave your car in a covered parking garage.

If you’re in an area that is regularly at risk for hailstorms, you should buy a plastic cover for your car that you can keep in your trunk. The cost of one of these covers pales in comparison to the cost of a dented vehicle. If hail is an infrequent problem and you don’t want to purchase a formal cover, a heavy blanket or comforter will also protect your car from any dents or scratches.

Protect Your House!

The most important way to protect your home from hail is to keep your roof in tip-top shape! Make sure there are no leaks, rotting wood or exposed areas that hail could harm. A well kept roof will protect your home from any form of precipitation. If you need to redo your roof, consider using an impact-resistant material if you’re in an area that regularly deals with hail.

The size of hail will vary depending on the severity of the storm, but some pieces can be as large as grapefruits! A large enough piece of hail can easily shatter your basic home windows. Covering the window shades, drapes and blinds can help prevent the wind from blowing broken glass into your home and causing further damage or even injury.

If you have any patio or outdoor furniture, always try to either bring it inside or place protective covers over it. One hailstorm can easily decimate an entire patio set.

Get Insured!

Comprehensive and rental insurance coverage will leave you with the peace of mind that your home and car are protected, regardless of the severity of the weather. Most comprehensive insurance covers severe weather (like hail), as do most rental insurance agreements. The only thing worse than ruining your car in a hailstorm is ruining your rental car in a hailstorm. Take the time to make sure you have the proper coverage.

The best thing you can do to protect your home and vehicle from any kind of severe weather is to prepare in advance. If you follow these easy tips, hail will never be more than a minor inconvenience. While we can’t yet control Mother Nature, we certainly can mitigate the damage she causes by taking a few precautions before the hailstorm hits.

At HIG, we want to learn about what you need and are happy to help you find the right coverage. Give us a call at 508-676-5949 or visit our website for a free quote!

5 Reasons You Need Rental Insurance

The adage “safety is priceless” is rarely more apt than when it’s used to describe rental insurance. A lot of times it takes a loss before you realize that while rental insurance in Fall River or the surrounding communities isn’t always mandatory, it is always necessary. Many Fall River residents learned this the hard way after a devastating winter of intense snowfall left many apartments flooded due to ice dams and their belongings damaged. If you are getting ready to move into a new apartment and don’t have rental insurance, here are five reasons getting a quote is the right choice:

It’s Cheap
While each individual scenario will differ, the average rental insurance policy costs a little over $150 a year—that’s $3 a week. If you packed one lunch, or skipped one cup of coffee you’ve paid for your rental insurance that week. Think about it: that’s $3 a week protecting thousands of dollars worth of your stuff!

Your Landlord’s Insurance Isn’t As Comprehensive As You Think
A good landlord will always be appropriately insured, but your landlord’s insurance never protects your personal belongings. So while they may help with a damaged dishwasher, your sofa that was flooded is not going to be replaced.

Rental insurance also protects your belongings from theft. People’s belongings are worth more now than ever before, in a large part due to the value of technology like computers and cellphones. Dealing with a burglary will be a lot easier knowing that you can be reimbursed by your trusted insurance agent for the cost of your stolen belongings.

You Have Neighbors
You may be thinking only within the walls of your own home here, but your neighbor’s actions affect your life. What if your neighbor forgets to turn off their stove and starts a small house fire? Even if the fire doesn’t spread to your apartment, you could be dealing with thousands of dollars worth of smoke damage. Without rental insurance, you could be in serious trouble through no fault of your own! Rental insurance can give you the peace of mind that you are in control of your belongings.

It Protects You From Negligence
We all make mistakes, that’s just a fact of life—but that doesn’t mean we can’t prepare for them. Insurance is about investing in your future and protecting what you work for. Remember, if you leave a pot cooking on the stove and start a fire in your apartment complex, you’re not only liable for your apartment, but for any others affected. Most rental insurance policies cover negligence and when it comes to protecting your future, the best you can do is make sure you’re prepared.

Protection that Travels with You
Rental insurance protects your belongings, no matter where they are. This means that if you lost your laptop while on your vacation in Europe, it isn’t a complete loss. Always remember to check your policy or ask your insurance agent what constitutes “other covered losses” to know the full extent of your protection while traveling abroad.

Rental insurance provides protection for your belongings wherever they may be, and liability coverage for accidents in your home. You work hard for the life you have, why would you not protect it for less than the cost of a single drink a week? Rental insurance in Fall River may not be mandated by your landlord, but if you value your property it’s a small investment with a large payoff.

Now is the time to protect your home, and HIG Insurance is happy to help find the right coverage for you! To request a quote today: CLICK HERE.