Thursday, September 11, 2014

How to Avoid Contractor Fraud

Starting a house project? Read these helpful tips before you hire a contractor.

                -Get a list of reputable contractors from your insurance company, the Better Business Bureau or a specialized consumer organization like Angie’s List.

                -Contact multiple contractors, and obtain more than one estimate.

                -Don’t allow a contractor to inspect your property if you’re not home.

                -When the contractor is inspecting your property, personally watch him conduct the inspection.

                -Obtain the terms and conditions of the project in writing, including details on specific supplies being used     and who will purchase and deliver them. Include an estimated completion date and a price-deduction schedule if work takes longer than promised.

                -Ask about warranties on work.

                -Make sure the contractor gets the necessary permits and puts them in his name.

                -Ask for references from recently completed work. Call them and look at the work if possible. Ask if there were issues and if the homeowner would use the contractor again.

                -Ask the contractor if he has liability insurance, and get the policy number and agency’s name. Call the agency, and ask them to provide you with a liability certificate of insurance. There should be no charge to you as a customer of a contractor.

                -Avoid signing the contract until the document is reviewed fully and/or discuss the terms of the contract with a legal representative or a knowledgeable source.

                -Pay the contractor by check or credit card rather than in cash.

                -Don’t pay for work in advance. If possible, don’t pay until the work is done. If you do agree to pay portions at different stages, make sure the bulk of the payment is made at the end of the project after inspections are passed.

                -Get these details in writing.  
        -Ask for proof of insurance and get certificates of insurance especially workers compensation.

Sources: Ohio Department of Insurance, PIAA of Ohio, and Ted Kinney, CIC, CPCU, ARM

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Insurance Tips Before and After A Disaster

“If only I knew.” Four words spoken after disasters by people who’ve learned they don’t have the insurance coverage they thought they had. In our agency, we never want you to be in that situation, so here are some tips to help.

Advice you need before a disaster

You might have purchased your insurance a long time ago. Do you remember the coverage choices you made and your deductibles, endorsements and exclusions? These details can make or break a family after a disaster, so take a few minutes to call us to see if your coverage fits your current needs. Be sure to report life changes and significant purchases or home improvements.

Do you know how much coverage you have if your home or possessions are damaged by rain, hail, lightning or tornadoes? If your roof was damaged in a storm, would it be repaired or replaced? How soon after a storm do you need to report a loss? Are you aware that most renters and homeowners policies don’t cover floods or earthquakes? Do you have loss-of-use coverage in case you have to vacate your home temporarily? If a tree falls on your car, do you have the right auto coverage?

If you don’t know the answers, it’s important to call us to learn what your policy specifies.  Another helpful tip is to create a home inventory every few years. It sounds like a headache, but anyone who has filed a claim will vouch for its value, and technology has made the process quick and easy. Videotape or photograph your possessions room by room. Get close-ups of valuable items, and keep receipts. Create an inventory by downloading an app or using a website like, recommended by the Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness (OCSWA). Store this inventory on the web or somewhere outside your home to keep it protected.

Insurance tips for after a disaster

Inspect your property and vehicles. Make a list of what is damaged and how. Take photos for documentation. And report your loss in a timely manner. Also take steps to protect possessions from further damage after the disaster.

If you need to move out of your residence temporarily, provide us with a phone number where we can call you. Find out the monetary limit your loss-of-use insurance covers before you choose a hotel. When you file a claim, back it up with written estimates and your home inventory information.  Prepare now, and your family will be grateful if there ever is a disaster.