“When thunder roars, go indoors!”—Lightning Safety for You and Your Family

Even though summer doesn’t officially start until June 21, we’re already experiencing increased thunderstorm activity in Sarasota, Bradenton, and nearby areas. Florida is the lightning capital of the United States, with more than 2,000 lightning injuries in the past 50 years. While the odds of being struck by lightning are only 1 in 500,000, you’re at increased risk if you often work or play outdoors—and with summer activities soon to be in full swing, that’s most of us!

Since June is Lightning Safety Month, here are a few lightning safety reminders from your neighbors at Lakewood Financial.

Check the forecast

If you plan to spend a lot of time outside—going out on a boat, going dirt biking, hiking, or canoeing, for example, be sure to check the weather forecast. If thunderstorms are predicted, adjust your plans. And even if the forecast is favorable, be sure to keep an eye on the weather once you’re outside. Know where you can go for safety if a storm blows up. Your best options are an enclosed shelter not made of concrete (the metal wires and bars in concrete walls and flooring can conduct lightning), or a metal-topped vehicle.

“If you hear thunder, lightning is close enough to strike you,” according to the National Weather Service. Another rule of thumb: if you see lightning, count to 30. If you hear thunder before you get to 30, go inside. Don’t go back outside until 30 minutes after you hear the last thunderclap. Lightning can strike before or after rainfall, and as far away from rain as 10 miles.

If you’re outside

During storms with lightning, if you’re outside, you’re at risk. Doing the following may make you slightly safer:

Avoid open areas, isolated trees, towers, metal fences, or bodies of water—though these things don’t attract electricity, they do conduct it. If you can’t get inside a metal-topped vehicle or fully enclosed building, get as low to the ground as you can, with as little of your body as possible touching the ground.  Look for a low spot such as a ditch or depression.

What if you’re inside?

You should still be cautious even if you’re inside when lightning is present—one-third of lightning-strike injuries occur inside. During thunderstorms, avoid using water (no showers, baths, hand washing, or doing dishes), electronics, or a corded telephone. These things all conduct electricity and you could be injured if lightning strikes nearby while you’re touching them. It’s safe to use a portable or cell phone. Also stay off porches, balconies, lanais, and out of open garages.

Also remember your pets during storms—a doghouse or screened porch is not a safe place for your pet. Bring him or her indoors until the storm passes.

If someone is struck by lightning, call 9-1-1 and begin CPR if you have training. Strike victims often need immediate first aid and touching them will not give you a shock. Only 10 percent of lightning strike victims die, but many of the rest live with serious aftereffects such as severe pain, neurological disabilities, or depression.

If lightning hits your home, most standard homeowners insurance policies cover structural damage and damage to personal property caused by lightning. If your car is hit by lightning, if you carry comprehensive insurance, it should be covered, less your deductible. Be sure to report the lightning strike to your insurance company or to your Lakewood Financial agent as soon as possible.

Please feel free to call us at 941-747-4600 or contact us online if you have any questions about your insurance needs and coverage. And stay safe this summer!

 

 

Is Your Homeowners Insurance Hurricane Ready?

 

Hurricane deductibles

Image by David Mark from Pixabay


Hurricane season starts again June 1. Are you ready? Is your homeowners insurance? In addition to basic preparations such as creating a disaster kit and reviewing evacuation plans, you should also review your homeowners insurance coverage so you won’t have any surprises if a hurricane damages or destroys your home. Here are a few things to familiarize yourself with before hurricane season begins.

 

Hurricane deductible

Hurricanes have their own separate deductibles, different from the deductible you’d pay out of pocket for another named peril. Instead of a flat dollar amount, such as $500 or $1,000, a hurricane deductible is a percentage of your Dwelling A coverage (the part of your homeowners policy that covers you if your home has to be rebuilt or repaired). Most of the policies we see have a 2% deductible, but it can rise as high as 5 or 10% in Florida. That means that if you have a 2% deductible and your home is insured for $350,000, your hurricane deductible will be $7,000. (We do have a few companies that offer a flat hurricane deductible of $1,000-$2,000, which may be a better choice for some clients.) 

 

Once the storm passes, and the hurricane warning or watch has been lifted, you’ll still be on the hook for your hurricane deductible for 72 hours. That means if a tree falls on your roof a day after the storm passes through, your hurricane deductible will still apply.

 

What if you have damage from more than one hurricane in the same year? According to the Florida Department of Financial Services, “In Florida, you only have to pay one hurricane deductible within the calendar year, provided you are insured with the same insurance company or group of companies for the second or subsequent hurricanes during the same calendar year.” 

 

Other questions to ask

  • If your home is destroyed, do you have enough coverage to rebuild?  
  • Do you have flood insurance? Flood damage is costly, and even if the flood is caused by a hurricane, it won’t be covered by your homeowners policy. To have flood coverage, you need a flood policy. A “flood” can be anything from storm surge, to pooling water after prolonged rainfall, to rising water from a river, creek, or lake.
  • What about sewer backup? Damage from sewer backup is not covered by either homeowners insurance or a flood policy. You’ll need separate sewer backup coverage.

Before hurricane season begins, review your homeowners insurance declarations page, decide if you need any additional coverage, and make sure you’ll have access to funds to cover your hurricane deductible. Please call your Lakewood Financial agent at 941-747-4600 for a no-obligation homeowners insurance quote, or if you have any questions about your insurance coverage. You may also click here to contact us online.

Buying a Home? Don’t Skip the Home Inspection

home inspection

Image by Paul Brennan from Pixabay

When you’re buying a home, there are many decisions and expenses to take into consideration. While it may be tempting to waive the home inspection contingency to make your offer more attractive to the seller or to save money, most of the time that’s not a good idea. A home inspection is a protection for you as the buyer. If you waive a home inspection, you’ve lost the right to ask for repairs or walk away from the sale if the home has major problems. An investment of a few hundred dollars now may equal a savings of thousands of dollars later.

In addition, if you’re buying a home for the first time, a home inspection can help you understand what it takes to maintain a home, and what types of home improvement projects you should plan for in the future.

What does a home inspection include?

A standard home inspection covers the major components and systems of a home, including “the condition of the home’s heating system; central air conditioning system (temperature permitting); interior plumbing and electrical systems; the roof, attic and visible insulation; walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors; the foundation, basement and structural components,” according to the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). A home inspection is different from an appraisal, which determines the home’s market value.

Home inspectors must be licensed in Florida, and are generally required to be certified by state-run agencies. If possible, get a recommendation from someone you trust, or check with an organization like the Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List, or HomeAdvisor. Look for certification from one of the home inspection professional associations, such as ASHI. Your real estate agent may recommend someone, but be cautious—while many agents have your best interest in mind, some won’t recommend a home inspector if they think he or she is “too picky” and will cost them sales.

Attend the inspection if you can. You’ll be able to hear first hand about any issues the inspector finds, point out areas of concern, and ask questions about the home’s condition and how to maintain it.

After the inspection

Once the inspection is completed, the inspector will prepare a written report. Do remember that a home inspection will almost always find problems with a home. That doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. If the problems are serious enough, perhaps you can negotiate with the seller for repairs, or to knock some off the price so that you can make the repairs yourself. It’s unlikely that the seller will pay to have everything fixed, but knowing ahead of time what to expect will also help you budget for repairs and renovations you’ll want to do in the future.

While a home inspection is not a guarantee that nothing major will ever go wrong with your new home, it can be a helpful negotiating tool, as well as a source of knowledge for the future.

Lakewood Financial is a locally-owned, independent insurance agency based in the Sarasota/Bradenton area. We would love to help you with your homeowners insurance—or any of your insurance needs. Please give us a call at 941-747-4600 for a free quote, or contact us online. For more information about homeowners insurance, please click here. 

 

 

Show Your Home Some Love With These Maintenance Tasks

Maintaining your home

Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching and love is in the air! Once you’ve taken care of your significant other, why not show your home some love? Maintaining your home can save you money, hassles—and maybe even a homeowners insurance claim!

You don’t have to do a major remodel to improve your home. Here are a few areas where a little loving attention will do the most good.

First, see your home with fresh eyes. Walk through your entire home, noting areas of wear, safety issues, and so on. Don’t forget your attic, deck, patio, porch, or lanai. Take pen and paper, and jot down any areas that need attention.

For instance, are there signs of leaks, such as discoloration on walls, floors, or ceilings? What about around toilets, tubs, and sinks? Is a faucet dripping or a toilet running? Even minor leaks can do major damaged, and unlike a sudden accident, such as a burst pipe, gradual damage caused by neglected maintenance is not covered under homeowners insurance policies.

Check and replace fire safety items. Change batteries in smoke detectors, and every 10 years, replace the smoke detectors themselves.

Fire extinguishers should be checked monthly. Click here for instructions on how to properly inspect your fire extinguisher. (And remember, only use a fire extinguisher on a small, contained fire. In many cases, it’s more important for everyone to get out of the house and let the fire department handle a fire.) 

Keep drains and pipes clear. If water drains slowly from sinks or tubs, try using vinegar and baking soda, or commercial drain cleaner, to get things moving again. Don’t put things down the kitchen sink unless it’s equipped with a garbage disposal. In the bathroom, use traps in drains to keep hair from clogging the plumbing, and don’t use flushable wipes as these also cause plumbing backups. 

Maintain your HVAC system. Replace air filters on an appropriate schedule, and have the unit cleaned and serviced according to manufacturer’s directions. These tasks improve air quality and help your unit operate more efficiently, as well as lessen the chance of a breakdown when it’s 90 degrees outside!

Inspect and clean large appliances. This includes cleaning the dishwasher, which can become clogged with food particles or soap residue, resulting in dirtier dishes or even a breakdown. If your dishwasher has a filter, take it out and clean it. Run some white vinegar through a wash cycle, or use a commercial dishwasher cleaner.

Check dishwasher and washing machine hoses and replace if they’re cracked or worn.

Clean refrigerator coils.

Empty the dryer lint trap after every load, and periodically clean dryer exhaust vents in order to prevent fire.

Review and update your insurance coverage if necessary. Are you receiving all available discounts? Have you made home improvements that have added value to your home? Did you replace your roof? Notify your Lakewood Financial agent of any changes to your personal situation, such as marriage or divorce.

Please call us at 941-747-4600 if you have a question about how a home improvement project might affect your homeowners insurance, or contact us if you need a quote. Happy Valentine’s Day to you—and your home!

Start the Year Right With Insurance Savings

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Shopping for insurance is no one’s idea of a good time, but here at Lakewood Financial, we try to make it as simple, painless and cost-effective as possible. We are an all-lines, local independent agency, based in Bradenton, and we: …
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If Lightning Strikes, Are You Covered?

Lightning Strike Insurance Coverage

Photo by Svitlana Koshelieva on Unsplash

Even if you’re new to the Bradenton/Sarasota area, you’re probably already familiar with our frequent thunderstorms. After all, the Sunshine State could just as well be called the Lightning State—Florida experiences an average of 3,500 cloud to ground lightning flashes every day—1.2 million per year! The good news is that most standard homeowners insurance policies cover structural damage to your home caused by lightning as well as damage to personal property, such as sensitive electronics affected by a power surge. (Please note: power surges caused by utility work or other non-lightning related causes may not be covered. If you have questions about this, please consult your Lakewood Financial agent.)

 

In addition, your policy will probably also cover additional living expenses if your home is so badly damaged that you can’t live in it while it’s being repaired or rebuilt.

 

If lightning strikes

If lightning strikes, check your home and personal property for damage, and make a list of anything affected. Do remember that your deductible will apply, and the amount you’ll receive for your claim will depend on whether you carry actual cash value or replacement cost coverage. “Replacement cost” covers the amount you would need to replace the item with a new, similar item, and “actual cash value” will cover the cost of replacing the item minus depreciation for that item. We almost always recommend replacement cost coverage.

 

Report the lightning strike to your insurance company, or to your Lakewood Financial agent as soon as possible. Your home inventory will be helpful in filing a claim if expensive electronics or other personal property is damaged.

 

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What if lightning hits your car? If you carry comprehensive insurance on your vehicle, you should also be covered if lightning damages your car. Your deductible will apply.

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Protection from lightning

Surge protectors may help, but often aren’t enough to protect your sensitive electronics from a direct lightning strike. You may want to unplug them before you leave the house, or before the storm hits if there is lightning in the forecast. During the storm, you risk being struck if you try to unplug your electronics, so don’t do it!

 

For whole house protection, consider installing a lightning protection system. These systems help conduct the lightning’s electricity safely to the ground, and should be installed by a certified professional, according to the Lightning Protection Institute.

 

Please consult with your Lakewood Financial agent if you have any questions about what your homeowners insurance policy covers, and whether or not it is adequate to protect your assets. If you’re in the market for a homeowners policy, please call (941) 747-4600, or email us for a free, no obligation quote.

Insurance and Your College Student

Congratulations—your child is going off to college! While you’re packing up your student’s belongings and offering last minute advice, take a few minutes to think about how this new adventure affects your own and your college student’s unique insurance needs.

Unique Insurance Needs

Car Insurance

Is your child taking a car to school? If you’re supporting your student financially, he or she should be covered under your existing family car insurance policy. You will want to notify your Lakewood Financial agent (give us a call at 941-747-4600), especially if the school is outside of Florida.

If your child is not taking a vehicle to school, you should still tell your agent—you may be eligible for a premium discount, especially if your child’s college is 100 miles or more from home. Also remember that you may be eligible for Good Student Discount if your child maintains a certain grade point average, usually a B average or above, whether or not he or she takes a vehicle to school.

Protecting personal property

Another concern for parents of college students is protecting their child’s personal property. About half of all campus crimes involve burglary. While college students need items such as laptop computers, tablets, smart phones, and so on, if at all possible they should leave home any non-essential and expensive items such as electronics, or luxury watches and jewelry. 

If your child lives in an on-campus dorm, his or her personal belongings are covered under your homeowners insurance policy, up to certain limits (check your insurance policy or ask your agent, and remember that your deductible still applies).

However, if your student lives off campus, he or she is not covered by your policy, and should buy a renters insurance policy. These policies are affordable, and also offer liability protection as well coverage for personal property. 

Make a detailed inventory of what your student takes to school, and update it every year. Include copies of receipts and photos. This will help you get a claim paid faster in the event of a theft.

Remind your student to take common sense precautions, including locking dorm rooms and keeping personal items like backpacks, purses, and laptops with them instead of unattended in the library, cafeteria, or common areas.

If you don’t already have one, you might consider adding a personal injury endorsement to your homeowners policy. This could come in handy if your student is sued for posting something negative on social media!

If you have any questions about what is or is not covered, please give your Lakewood Financial agent a call.

What about health insurance?

Depending on your health insurance policy, your college student may be covered under your policy. If he or she is going away to school, make sure there are in-network doctors and hospitals available in the new area. You’ll pay more for out-of-network medical services, or there may be no out-of-network coverage except for emergencies.

If there are no in-network providers in your college student’s area, most colleges offer student health plans that may be just what you need.

Other insurance concerns

If your income is paying for your child’s college education, do you have enough life insurance coverage in place to complete it if something were to happen to you? In general, you’ll want enough to cover expenses until your youngest child finishes school.

What about an umbrella policy? Umbrella policies cover all household members even when they’re away at school. This provides additional liability protection for both your college student and you as their parent. 

When you wave goodbye to your budding young adult, rest easy knowing your insurance safety net will continue to protect you all. Please give us a call at 941-747-4600 if you have any questions about your insurance needs, limits, or what your policy covers. You may also contact us online by clicking here.

We’re here to help!

9 Summer Pool Safety Tips for Florida Homeowners

 Homeowner Pool Safety Tips

Who doesn’t love to hear the words, “pool party”?

 

Swimming and playing in a backyard pool is one of the best ways to have fun and stay cool during our hot Florida summers. However, homeowners need to be aware that swimming pools can be dangerous for children, especially young children who don’t know how to swim. Drowning remains the leading cause of preventable death for children ages 1-4 years old. Here are some pool safety tips to help you swim safe all summer.

 

1. Create a barrier around your pool to prevent children from entering it without supervision. Your pool should be fenced or otherwise blocked off on all four sides. Fences should be at least four feet tall with no openings or protrusions that would enable a child to climb over or under them. Gates should be self-closing and self-latching, with the latches out of reach of small children. Alarm the doors and windows that face the pool, especially if your house itself provides the fourth side of the barrier. For added protection, install a surface wave or underwater alarm that will alert you when someone goes in the pool.

If you have an above-ground pool, be aware that children leaning against soft sides can fall in. Surround it with a fence just as you would an in-ground pool. Remove the ladder or steps when the pool isn’t in use, and install a safety cover.

 

2. When it’s time to swim, a responsible adult should always supervise children in and around the pool. Stay within arm’s reach of young children. Children should never be left unattended, even if they know how to swim.

 

3. Keep rescue equipment, such as a life preserver and fiberglass shepherd’s hook, on hand. Also have a portable phone nearby when the pool is in use.

 

4. Establish pool rules such as “walk don’t run,” “no diving,” and “never swim alone.” Make sure everyone in the family and all visiting children know and understand the rules, and be sure to enforce them.

 

5. Sign children up for age-appropriate water safety and swimming lessons. Keep in mind that swimming lessons don’t “drown proof” a child.

 

6. Get your CPR certificate. Knowing how to perform CPR could save a life!

 

7. Avoid the drain. Suction from pool drains can catch bathing suits, hair, or jewelry and trap swimmers underwater. Make sure all drain covers are present and in good repair, and remind swimmers to stay clear of drains.

 

8. Maintain the pool water. Pool water can be the source of earaches, rashes, and other more serious afflictions if it’s not maintained properly. Test water on a regular basis, and adjust the chemicals as needed.

 

9. Make sure your homeowner’s policy carries adequate liability coverage in case of accident. Call Lakewood Financial at 941-747-4600 or contact us online if you have any questions about your limits, or for a free, no-obligation quote.

 

Happy swimming!

For more information on pool safety for children, please visit poolsafely.gov

Hurricane Season Is Almost Here–Will You Be Ready?

Hurricane Season

After 2017’s Hurricane Irma impacted nearly the entire state of Florida, most of us in the Bradenton and Sarasota areas are taking hurricane preparations seriously this year. Hurricane experts have already indicated that the 2018 hurricane season should have slightly above-average activity and probability that a major hurricane will make landfall along the continental United States.

Don’t wait until the last minute to be ready. Here are five things to do NOW to prepare before a hurricane blows your way:

  1. Inspect your home and yard. Now is the time to make any necessary repairs to your roof (if you replace your roof, be sure to get a wind mitigation report—it could save you money on your homeowners insurance), cut down dead tree limbs, or buy any necessary storm shutters, plywood, or braces for your garage door. Also make note of any lawn furniture, children’s play equipment, or potted plants that might need to be moved so a hurricane’s high winds don’t turn them into flying hazards.
  1. Check evacuation and flood zones (they aren’t the same). If you live in an evacuation zone, familiarize yourself with the route, and make plans now for where you’ll go. If you don’t have to evacuate, consider offering friends or family who must evacuate a place to stay. Tip: Keep your vehicles gassed up during hurricane season, just in case you need to get out of town quickly.
  1. Create or update your Disaster Supply Kit. Make sure you have plenty of medicines, food, water, batteries, pet supplies, and other crucial items on hand—at least enough for seven days. Include a portable NOAA radio, and if you have a landline, a corded phone (portable cordless phones won’t work if there’s a power outage). Click here for a full description of what your Disaster Supply Kit should contain, or visit Manatee County’s Hurricane Preparedness Page (see link below). Note: Starting June 1, there will be a one-week tax holiday on the purchase of all emergency supplies.
  1. Collect copies of important documents, such as driver’s licenses, and insurance policies, and make sure you have your insurance agent’s contact information.   Take pictures of your home and belongings if you haven’t already done a full home inventory, and store those pictures someplace that won’t be affected by the storm, either online or with a friend or family member outside of Florida.
  1. Review your insurance policies. What is your hurricane deductible? Do you have flood insurance? Standard homeowners policies do not come with flood coverage, but flood insurance is more affordable than ever, so you might want to look into buying it.

Don’t let a hurricane catch you unprepared. Take time now to prepare your home and your family for any coming storms. And remember, Lakewood Financial is here to help you. Please contact us if you have any questions about hurricane or flood coverage.

For more information, please visit:

Manatee County Emergency Management

Printable disaster kit checklists:

http://www.mymanatee.org/home/government/departments/public-safety/emergency-management/are-you-prepared.html#jump5

https://www.ready.gov/hurricanes

Download the FEMA app

 

 

If My Garage Burns Down and My Classic Car Is Destroyed, Am I Covered?

Classic Car Policy

You might think that if your classic car is damaged or destroyed by fire while locked in your garage that your homeowners insurance would cover the loss.

Think again. Your homeowners insurance will not cover your classic car, because it doesn’t provide coverage for motor vehicles. The good news? It’s simple to make sure your classic car is covered in the event of a fire or other catastrophic event by purchasing a classic car insurance policy that includes comprehensive coverage.

Classic car coverage—your best option

You could simply add your classic car to your conventional car insurance, but it likely will not cover the true value of your classic car. Unlike the car you drive every day, classic cars don’t depreciate over time—often they go up in value. Conventional car insurance covers your car up to actual cash value, but classic car insurance covers your vehicle up to a guaranteed amount agreed upon by you and your classic car insurance company. This amount is determined by appraisal, documentation, and/or consultation with a collectible car value guide such as the Old Cars Report Price Guide or the value guide at www.buyclassiccars.com.

What coverage is included in a classic car policy?

While there are a few differences among insurance companies, a basic classic car policy will typically include the same coverage for liability, property damage, comprehensive and collision that a conventional policy does. However, since you don’t drive your classic car every day, you’ll probably pay less for equivalent coverage. Also, classic car policies often include coverage specific to classic cars, such as specialized repair or restoration, or special towing and spare parts. If you don’t plan to drive your classic at all, you may be able to purchase a comprehensive only classic car insurance policy.

While there is no single definition of a “classic car,” vehicles that may qualify for classic status include cars that are at least 25 to 30 years old, certain hotrods or modified vehicles, exotic luxury vehicles, muscle cars, or classic trucks. To be eligible for a classic car policy, your classic car cannot be used as a primary vehicle, and your insurance company may restrict the number of miles you can drive it each year. You must also store your classic car in a locked, covered enclosure, such as a garage or storage unit.

If you need a classic car policy, please give Lakewood Financial a call at 941-747-4600 or contact us online. We’re happy to answer any questions you have about covering your classic vehicle. We’re a locally-owned, independent agency serving Sarasota, Bradenton, Ellenton, Lakewood Ranch, and nearby communities, and our agents are experts in finding you the best coverage at a competitive price.