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.

Should You Carry Dog Bite Liability?

dog bite liability

Most of us consider our dogs members of the family. They share our lives and our homes—but unfortunately, they may also leave us open to lawsuits. Even though it’s unlikely that your family pet will bite someone, it might be a good idea for you to make sure you have dog bite liability coverage, otherwise known as dog or animal liability.

 

In addition to dog bite claims, dog liability will also protect you if your dog knocks someone over, causes them to trip and fall, or damages their property. It will also protect you if your dog hurts another animal.

 

It used to be that your homeowners insurance policy covered you in the event that your dog injured someone. However, because of the rise in claims and litigation surrounding dog bites this is no longer a given. Florida ranks second behind California for the largest number of dog bite claims, and has the highest average cost per claim at $44,700. In fact, in 2017 dog bites and other dog-related injuries cost almost $700 million dollars and accounted for more than one third of all homeowners liability claim dollars paid out, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Some insurance companies exclude certain dog breeds, some exclude all animal liability, and others place limits on the amount they will cover. If you have a dog and are concerned about your liability, you should check with your homeowners insurance company or your Lakewood Financial agent to make sure you have the coverage you need.

 

And it’s not only homeowners who should be aware of the necessity for this coverage. If you’re a renter, some landlords now require dog liability insurance before they will rent to you.

 

Please call your Lakewood Financial agent at 941-747-4600 (or contact us by email) if you have any questions about whether or not your homeowners or renters insurance policy covers dog liability—or if you have any other questions about your insurance needs.

 

No Welcome Mat for Burglars—Try These Simple Home Security Tips

 home security

While you want your home to be welcoming to your family and friends, you also want it to be unattractive to burglars. A few simple home security measures can decrease the chance that your home will be broken into.

Burglars target homes that look like they’ll be easy to get in and out of quickly without being seen. If it takes a thief more than four or five minutes to break in, he’s likely to move on. In fact, “Time, sound, and visibility” are the three main factors you need to keep in mind when securing your home, according to safehome.org.

Time

Make it hard for a burglar to enter your home. Locks, doors, and windows are your first line of defense against intruders. To help keep a thief from kicking in a door, make sure all exterior doors are solid hardwood or metal, and that your locks are grade 1 or grade 2 deadbolts. Security experts also recommend installing a heavy-duty strike plate—the metal plate attached to the doorjamb that the bolt extends into—with three-inch screws that will penetrate to the doorframe stud.

If you have a sliding glass door, place a wooden dowel, stick, or safety bar in the interior track, or add a floor bolt.

Also be sure you close and lock every door and window when you leave home, even if it’s just for a few minutes.

Sound

Burglars don’t want any attention drawn to their presence, so if you have a dog that barks when a stranger is around, you already have one method of deterring intruders. If you don’t have a dog, or the family pet is likely to welcome a burglar as a long-lost friend, you may want to invest in an alarm system. Be sure to display the alarm company’s sign and decals to notify thieves of the presence of an alarm.

(Before you invest in a home security system, call your Lakewood Financial agent at 941-747-4600 about what features your system needs to qualify for a discount on your homeowners insurance.)

Visibility

Trim or remove plants or shrubs that offer a place for a criminal to hide. If you have a two-story home, make sure no tree limbs offer a way for a burglar to break into an upstairs window.

Make sure all entries to your home have good lighting, and consider installing motion-activated lights to illuminate the perimeter of your home.

Don’t leave easily stolen items like bikes or even that expensive grill out in the yard or driveway. And if you’ve recently bought a pricey new item, be discreet about how you dispose of the packaging. If a thief sees the box from a new big screen TV in your trash, he might decide to pay you a visit!

A few more tips

  • Keep your garage door closed unless you’re in the garage or nearby where you can keep an eye on it.
  • Don’t hide a spare house key outside your home. Leave one with a trusted neighbor, or invest in a combination lock box you can put in an out-of-the-way place.
  • If you park on the street or in your driveway, take all valuables inside with you, and lock the doors and roll up the windows. Don’t forget to take your garage door opener inside!
  • Get to know your neighbors. Even if you don’t participate in an official neighborhood watch program, you can still watch out for each other on an informal basis.
  • Walk around the outside of your home looking for possible modes of entry for a thief. Is that window always open a little bit? Does that door look like it could be easily forced? Think like a burglar—then take the home security measures to keep him out!

If you have any questions about your homeowners insurance, be sure to give us a call at  941-747-4600 or contact us via email.

 

 

 

Tips for First-time Home Buyers

first-time home buyers

Thinking of buying your first home?  Buying a home is a big investment, so you want to make sure you understand the process and you’re ready to take the plunge before joining the mass of first-time home buyers.Doing your homework before starting to look for your dream home is one way to make sure you make a good decision rather than one entirely based on emotion.

Here are some tips to make your home-buying experience more enjoyable and less stressful:

Get pre-qualified for a loan before you begin house hunting—but carefully consider how much you actually want to spend for your mortgage each month. How do you know how much house you can afford? When figuring costs per month for your new home, remember you’ll be responsible for more than just a mortgage. Consider property taxes, homeowners insurance, homeowners association dues, maintenance, and possibly higher utilities.

Also take a hard look at your finances and consider your personal goals and the lifestyle you want to maintain. Do you want to travel? Have children? Pursue hobbies? Make sure you’ll still have the discretionary income to do those things after you buy your home.

Hire a buyer’s agent to protect your interests. Ask family and friends for recommendations to find a reputable agent. He or she should take the time to answer your questions, and help you understand the process of buying a home, as well as represent you in negotiations for your new home. If you can find an agent that specializes in first-time home buyers

Don’t rush. Take time to research the real estate market in your desired area. Make a list of features you want and features that are deal-breakers. Be sure to communicate these to your agent so you don’t waste time looking at unsuitable properties.

Don’t spend all your savings on the down payment. There may be unexpected expenses once you close on your home, or you may want or need to make some changes or improvements to it. Also, now more than ever, you’ll need to keep funds on hand for emergencies.

Shop around for homeowners insurance. You can start with the company that carries your car insurance, but don’t stop there. They might not have the most competitive rate for you. Get several quotes, and be sure that each quote contains the same coverage types and limits. We recommend that you carry replacement cost coverage. (At Lakewood Financial, we represent multiple homeowners companies, and we’d love the chance to give you a free, no-obligation quote on homeowners insurance.)

Be realistic in your expectations. Your new home doesn’t have to be perfect, but you should be aware of what repairs or cosmetic changes you’ll want to make. Be sure to have a home inspection so you’ll know what you’re getting yourself into.

Buying that first home can be one of the most exciting milestones in your life. Once you’ve found your dream home, be sure to protect your investment with the appropriate homeowners insurance coverage. We are independent agents with multiple homeowners insurance companies to choose from, as well as the expertise to find you the most cost effective policy while still insuring your home and its contents for the proper value. Call us at 941-747-4600, or contact us for a homeowners insurance quote. 

Insuring Your Pricey Presents

Insuring Your Pricey Presents

When all the wrapping paper has been thrown away, and you bask in the glow of another happy holiday, the last thing you want to think about is whether or not your new gifts are covered by your insurance. We get it. But if Santa’s been extra good to you this year, you may want to put down that eggnog and check to see that you’d be covered if your new goodies were lost, stolen, or destroyed.

Even if you didn’t find a new car with a bow on top in your driveway on Christmas morning, you still might need to think about insuring your pricey presents. For instance:

Jewelry

Jewelry is covered under the contents portion of your homeowners or renters insurance policy, but only up to a certain limit (often $1,500). Items such as engagement rings, high-end watches, and tennis bracelets may go over your policy’s limits, leaving them unprotected. If so, you’ll need to raise your limits, or buy a special “rider” or “floater” policy to cover your new bling. Talk to your Lakewood Financial agent about appropriate coverage, and what steps you’ll need to take to get it.

Stereo/flat-screen TV/computer

These items will likely be covered under the contents portion of your homeowners or renters policy, but you should review your policy to see if your limits are adequate for all your personal property, including your new gifts.

Artwork

If you receive a piece of fine art as a gift, you will likely need specialized fine art insurance. Most standard homeowners policies won’t provide enough coverage for high-value art.

Also remember to:

Make sure you keep receipts if you have them, and add your new property to your home inventory list.

Double check the type of coverage you carry, i.e., replacement cost or actual cash value.  “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.

Don’t assume your pricey presents are covered. Review your policy, or give your Lakewood Financial agent a call at 941-747-4600 (or contact us) to be sure your holiday gifts are protected.

Loss of Use Benefits Explained

loss of use

 If a disaster such as a hurricane, tornado, or fire strikes your home, you may find it temporarily uninhabitable, or even destroyed. Imagine if you have to live someplace else while your home is being repaired—how will you pay for the extra living expenses? Many homeowners insurance policies contain coverage to help you pay for those additional expenses. It’s called “Loss of Use,” “Part D,” or “Additional Living Expenses” coverage. Not all policies include it, but many do.

Here are the three types of coverage that make up Loss of Use:

Additional living expense—reasonable expenses you incur to maintain your family’s standard of living if you must live elsewhere while your home is being repaired. These expenses include things like rent or hotel bills, restaurant or grocery bills above and beyond what you’d normally spend, laundry bills, parking fees, or the cost of storing your belongings while your home is being repaired.

Fair rental value—if you own a tenant-occupied home or rental property and the covered loss makes the rental premises uninhabitable, the insurer will cover the lost rental income. Expenses which will not continue, such as what a tenant pays for utilities, will be subtracted from that reimbursement.

Prohibited use—if you must stay elsewhere when a civil authority, such as a government agency or the state police, prohibits you from accessing your home in a damaged neighborhood, even if your own home is unharmed.

Things to remember:

  • Loss of Use is only payable if the damage was caused by an insured peril. This does NOT include flood, which is normally excluded on a standard homeowners insurance policy. Federal flood insurance also excludes additional living expense coverage, but some private flood markets are starting to provide some Loss of Use coverage in their policies.
  • Most policies cap the amount of Loss of Use coverage, often at a percentage of the limit of insurance carried on the dwelling.
  • No deductible applies to Loss of Use coverage.
  • Loss of Use extends beyond the policy term limits if the covered loss occurs before the policy’s expiration date.

Loss of Use can be an important coverage to have if you’re ever faced with a serious homeowners claim. Since coverage terms vary, you may want to discuss with your Lakewood Financial agent whether or not your homeowners insurance coverage is appropriate for your situation. Please call us at 941-747-4600, or contact us if you have any questions.