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. 

Preparing Your Home Before Vacation

There’s still time to sneak in a summer vacation before the kids go back to school. Before you go, there are a few things you should do towards preparing your home while you’re gone, and ease your reentry when you return.

preparing your home

Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters on Unsplash

Make it hard for burglars to get in

  • Install a motion-sensitive exterior light.
  • Park your car inside your garage. If you can’t, be sure to remove any valuables and the garage door opener from your vehicle.
  • Make sure all doors and windows are locked, including pet doors. Don’t forget the door between the garage and the house.
  • Disconnect the garage door opener receiver, or manually lock the door.

Safeguard your home

  • Florida experiences a lot of storms and lightning strikes, so unplug electronics, WiFi routers, printers, and computers to keep them safe from power surges. (This will also save you on your electric bill, because some electronics keep drawing power even when they’re turned off.)
  • Turn off the water main.
  • Turn off your water heater (if you’ve turned off the water main), or turn the temperature down.
  • Raise the temperature on the thermostat instead of turning off your air conditioning to protect your home and belongings from Florida’s high heat and humidity.
  • Avoid any unpleasantly smelly surprises by throwing away any food that might go bad before you return, and make sure you take out the kitchen trash before you go.

Don’t advertise the fact that you’re not home

  • Stop newspaper delivery and put a hold on your mail.
  • Wait to post your travel plans and experiences on social media until you return from your trip.
  • Don’t leave an outgoing voice message on your answering machine saying you’re out of town.
  • Help your home look lived-in by connecting interiors lights to a timer, and set them to come on at different times.
  • Hire someone or ask a friend or trusted neighbor to take care of your yard—mow the grass, water if necessary, and generally keep an eye on things. A big tree limb down in your driveway for several days is a major clue that no one’s home!
  • Consider hiring a house sitter to watch over everything while you’re gone, especially if you have pets. There’s something about knowing there is someone at home, and your pets will really appreciate being able to stay in their own environment.
  • If you don’t want or need a house sitter, leave emergency contact information with a neighbor.
  • Let your home security company know you’ll be out of town, and give them the names and contact information of your house sitter or a neighbor who has agreed to keep an eye on your house.
  • Ask a neighbor to park in your driveway a couple of times so your home doesn’t look deserted.

Enjoy your vacation, safe in knowing your homeowners insurance is on the job protecting your assets, and that you’ve done all you can to keep your home safe while you’re away.  And please give us a call at 971-747-4600 if you have any questions about your homeowners insurance, or you need a free, no-obligation quote.

 

 

How Your Homeowners Insurance Keeps Working, Even When You’re on Vacation

homeowners insuranceWhile you’re making plans for a summer vacation, packing up the kids, and making arrangements for the dog, the last thing on your mind might be your homeowners insurance. You can rest assured that even though you’re on vacation, your homeowners insurance is still working for you back home. Here’s how:

It protects your personal belongings. Under Coverage C, your homeowners policy protects your personal belongings up to the policy’s limits (usually 50-70% of the insured value of your dwelling), less your deductible. If the contents of your home were to be damaged or stolen while you’re gone, you’d be covered—but did you know the personal property you bring with you on vacation is also covered? That means things like your luggage, your laptop, your golf clubs—if these items were lost or stolen while you’re on vacation, they would also be covered, again less your deductible. Note: some companies reduce off-premises coverage to a percentage of the total coverage for personal possessions, so you may want to check with your Lakewood Financial agent if you have concerns about this.

It protects your liability. Even if you’re not home, if someone is injured on your property, the liability protection in your homeowners policy will cover you. Let’s say a friend is acting as house sitter for you while you’re away, and he or she falls and is injured. Your liability would cover this.

Or maybe you have a pool in your back yard, and some neighborhood kids decide to use it while you’re gone. Even if you’re not there and haven’t given them permission to use your pool, you could still be liable for any injuries.

(If you have someone staying in your home, or if you have a pool or a trampoline, you may need the additional liability protection of an umbrella policy.)

Your homeowners liability also covers you if you if you unintentionally hurt someone while you’re on vacation (for example, if you slice a golf ball into a fellow golfer!).

And, of course, it protects your home itself. Break-ins, vandalism, storm damage, fire—all the usual covered perils will continue to be covered while you are away.  

(One thing to be aware of: standard homeowners policies do not cover floods. Since Florida is essentially one big flood zone, talk to your Lakewood Financial agent about buying a flood policy—they’re more affordable than ever.)

It’s good to know your homeowners insurance is still working for you, even while you’re on vacation. Policy limits, exclusions, and deductibles still apply, so you should consult with your Lakewood Financial agent to make sure you’re carrying the appropriate coverages and limits to protect your assets. Please contact or call us at 941-747-4600 if you’d like a homeowners insurance quote, or if you have questions about what your policy covers.