South Carolina

907 Elmwood Avenue
Columbia, SC 29201

Ohio

4652 Belden Village St NW
Canton, OH 44718

You’ve taken the plunge and opted for condo life.  Now that the papers are signed, it seems like everything is taken care of for you—building maintenance, roof repairs, landscaping, insurance, etc.  It’s time to relax because everything is covered, right?

Not quite.  The insurance policy provided by the condo association covers the building structure and common areas, but what about potential structural damage to your unit and covering your belongings?  Without a personal condo insurance policy, you could be left high and dry if your unit floods, is damaged in a fire, etc.

Most condos need two insurance policies.

Master Policy:  Generally provided by your condo association, this policy covers the physical structure of the building, including basement, roof, walls, elevators, lobbies, etc.  Coverage usually includes both physical damage and liability. Get a copy of the policy so you know what’s covered.

Personal Condo Policy:  This will cover additional structural damage to your unit, including cabinets, appliances, personal belongings, and more.  This also covers living expenses if you fall victim to a fire, theft, or other covered disaster. Many insurance carriers, such as Safeco InsuranceTM, offer enhancements that include personal property protection in your condo insurance policy. Safeco’s Full Value Contents® protection will pay the full replacement cost of your belongings, not just what they are worth today.

Other coverage to consider:

Umbrella Policy:   If someone were to trip and fall inside or near your condo, they could sue both you and the condo association.  Umbrella provides additional layers of liability protection and can protect against lawsuits that target both your current and future earnings.

Flood or Earthquake:  Read the fine print on your policy.  They often won’t cover damage due to these disasters.  Additional coverage may be required if you live in a prone area.

Even a small leak can become a major problem, so knowing what you’re covered for and how to prevent water damage are equally important.  The below tips should help uncover any potential water problems down the road and keep your property dry.

Check appliance hoses.  Standard hoses are not as durable as they used to be.  Replace rubber hoses with steel-braided hoses. This is a low cost fix that can save thousands in water damage.

Broken tiles in the shower can allow water to leak into the walls or on the floor. Replace cracked tiles and re-grout when needed.

Run dishwasher and washing machine only when you are home.  If a leak occurs, you can turn the appliance off right away.

When on vacation, turn off the main water supply to your house.

Keep storm drains near your house clear of leaves.

Install a gutter guard.  This can prevent a rooftop disaster caused by drain clogs, and also prevents flooding by water that isn’t carried away from the house.

Install a water pressure gauge.  An inexpensive gauge can prevent damage caused by water pressure that’s too high.  Pressure should be between 60 and 80 PSI.

Drafty windows. Leaky faucets. Dirty air filters.

All are common issues and they’re not only annoying — they also cost you money in decreased energy efficiency and higher utility bills.

Would you like to save $200 to $400 a year on your energy costs? That’s how much the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star program estimates that homeowners can save by incorporating technologies to make their homes operate more efficiently.

Of course, helping to protect you and your family is our goal at DeWees Insurance Partners, and keeping your home well-maintained usually means your home will be safer as well. Those are goals we all should share. Several of the tips below from the National Association of Home Builders will help you accomplish both.

Do a home-energy audit

Making your home more efficient can seem like an overwhelming task. But “auditing” your energy efficiency is something you can do yourself, and it’s relatively simple. This will show you where your home loses energy, how efficient your heating and cooling systems are, and ways you can decrease your electricity use. Just inspect the areas listed here and note the problems you find.

Where’s the air? Air commonly “leaks” from homes through gaps around baseboards, electrical outlets and windows or doors. Stopping these drafts can save up to 30 percent of your yearly energy costs. Be sure to check your home’s exterior as well, paying particular attention to areas where two different building materials meet. When you find leaks, seal them with caulk or weather stripping.

Don’t wait … insulate! Check to see if the amount of insulation in the ceiling and walls is sufficient. Your attic door should be insulated and close tightly. For walls, make a small hole in a closet or other inconspicuous place and probe into the wall with a screwdriver — the area should be completely filled with insulation.

Do a systems check. Efficient heating and cooling systems can save you frustration as well as money. Make sure ducts and pipes are insulated properly, and have your equipment checked and cleaned by a professional each year. Filters for forced-air furnaces should be replaced as soon as they are dirty, or every 30 to 60 days.

Let there be (efficient) light. Lighting can account for up to 20 percent of your home’s total electricity use, so consider compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) bulbs, which last longer and use far less energy than incandescent bulbs.

The only thing left to do after you complete your audit (and make any necessary changes)? Figuring out how to spend the money you’ll save each year!

 

If you live in a rental home or apartment, chances are you don’t have the proper insurance. Despite the fact that rented homes are more likely to be burglarized than owner-occupied properties, nearly 60 percent of renters don’t have a renters policy.

Why does it matter?

“If you rent a house or apartment and think that your landlord is financially responsible when there is a fire, theft or other catastrophe—think again,” warns the Insurance Information Institute*. “Your landlord may have insurance to protect the building you are living in. But your landlord’s policy won’t replace your personal possessions or pay for your living expenses while the building is being repaired. The only way to protect yourself financially against disasters is to buy a renters insurance policy.”

Renters insurance covers your possessions, liability and additional living expenses. Let’s take a look at these three types of protection:

Possessions

Standard renters insurance protects your personal belongings against damage from fire, smoke, lightning, vandalism, theft, explosion, windstorm, water and other disasters listed in the policy. Floods and earthquakes are not covered.

To decide how much insurance to buy, you need to know the value of all your personal possessions—including furniture, clothing, electronics, appliances, kitchen utensils and even towels and bedding. The easiest way to figure this out is to create a home inventory, a detailed list of all of your personal possessions and their estimated value.

There are two types of renters insurance policies for your possessions:

  •          Actual Cash Value pays to replace your possessions minus an amount for depreciation (the reduction in the value of items due to age and use) up to the limit of your policy.
  •          Replacement Cost pays the full cost of replacing your possessions (with no deduction for depreciation), up to the limit of your policy. The price of Replacement Cost coverage is about 10 percent more than Actual Cash Value coverage, but can be well worth the additional cost.

Note that a standard renters policy offers only limited coverage for items such as jewelry, silver, furs, etc. If you own property that exceeds these limits, it is recommended that you supplement your policy with a floater. A floater is a separate policy that provides additional insurance for your valuables and covers them for perils not included in your policy such as accidental loss.

Liability

Standard renters insurance policies also provide liability protection in the event you or members of your familiar cause injury to others or damage their property.  It also pays for damage your pets cause.

If you are sued, the liability portion of a renters policy may pay for both the cost of defending you in court and for court awards, up to the limit of the policy. Liability limits generally start at about $100,000. Your policy may also provide No-Fault Medical coverage. If visitors are injured in your home, regardless of fault, you can submit their medical bills directly to your insurance company. You can generally get $1,000 to $5,000 worth of this coverage. It does not however, pay medical bills for your own family or your pets.

Additional Living Expenses

Many people are pleasantly surprised to learn that Additional Living Expense (ALE) coverage is typically included in a renters insurance policy. If the home or apartment you are renting is damaged or destroyed and you need to live elsewhere while it is being repaired or rebuilt, renters insurance will cover your additional living expenses—namely the difference between your regular living expenses and the additional costs incurred by having to live away from your home, such as hotel bills, temporary rentals, restaurant meals, etc.

Need help deciding what coverage is best for you? Contact us today!

 

*Insurance Information Institute, September 30, 2009

You’ve seen them on the roads; you might even know a few of them.

And you could be one yourself.

Distracted drivers in come in all shapes, sizes, ages and experience levels. Even if you’re not one today, you could become one at any moment — in the time it takes you to answer your cell phone or check the kids in the back seat when you’re driving through Columbia.

If you or someone else you know thinks you can drive just fine while talking on your phone, think about this: More than 450,000 people were injured in crashes that reportedly involved distracted driving in 2009, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. More than 5,000 of those people died.

Distractions on the road come in many forms, according to www.distraction.gov, a U.S. Department of Transportation website. There are three main kinds of distractions:

Visual – taking your eyes off the road

Manual –taking your hands off the wheel

Cognitive – taking your mind off what you’re doing

To help you avoid all three kinds of distractions the next time you’re behind the wheel of your car  here are a few tips:

Put your phone in silent mode and store it away from the front seat or in a purse or bag. This helps reduce temptation.

Have a passenger answer your phone or return text messages for you.

If a call or a text can’t wait, pull over in a safe spot before using your phone.

This one seems obvious, but finish shaving or applying makeup before you get in the car!

If you’re emotional, wait until you’ve calmed down before hitting the road.

Avoid road rage. You’ll be happier and safer.

Whenever you’re on the road, it’s not a time to multi-task. Focus on driving safely.

In today’s economy, everyone is pinching pennies.  So why worry about umbrella coverage? Shouldn’t a home and auto policy leave you adequately covered?

Unfortunately, we live in a world of lawsuits.  Large damages can be awarded, be extremely expensive and have long-term financial impact.  Those lawsuits can come from unlikely sources, such as our furry friends.

Take Herschel for instance.  Herschel is a much-loved, rather timid labradoodle who enjoys taking naps on the driveway while his owner mows the lawn.

Herschel watched from eight feet away as his neighbor, a 39 year old man, showed off his rollerblading skills to his kids.  The man wiped out on the sidewalk in front of Herschel’s house and broke his leg. He required surgery, costing around $35,000 in medical costs and $18,000 in lost wages.

Fair or not, the man brought a lawsuit against Herschel’s owner, suing for $220,000 in damages.  He alleged that Herschel had caused the accident by getting in his way, despite multiple witnesses to the contrary.

But Herschel’s owner was lucky–a jury vindicated Herschel. However, lawsuits such as these can easily exceed the limits on a homeowner’s policy, leaving the insured responsible for the remainder.  An umbrella policy would prevent that, giving you an extra $1 million to $5 million in coverage.

Our furry friends can put your assets at risk in other ways as well.   According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 4.7 million people are bitten by dogs each year, with half of those occurring on the owner’s property.  Dog bites, according to the Insurance Information Institute, account for about a third of all homeowner’s insurance claims, which only cover limited damages.

Protect what you love.  Call us to talk about your umbrella options.

In today’s unsettled economy, many people are looking for ways to stretch their money—but sometimes this includes altering insurance  coverages to dangerously low levels or eliminating coverage entirely. If you’re thinking about changing your coverage to save money, consider these key issues below — and give us a call. We can help make sure you’ve got the right protection at a price you can afford.

  •          Make sure you’re getting the appropriate discounts and credits:  Most insurers offer a variety of policy credits and account discounts that can translate into significant savings — without endangering the level of protection you need for your home, autos and other valuable property. And often, if you purchase multiple policies through the same insurance company, you’ll receive further discounts. People who own motorcycles or boats and who complete approved safety courses can qualify for discounts, and families with teen drivers who earn good grades in school may qualify for auto policy discounts.
  •          Increase deductibles for cost savings: Only a small percentage of homeowners have claims in any given year, so you might consider increasing your deductible.
  •          Specialty lines coverage options:  Own a classic car or RV?  If their use is seasonal, you can typically reduce your coverage to liability only during the off-season, then add full coverage only when you are actually using the vehicle
  •          Full payment on policy: Depending on your financial circumstances, you may be able to make lump-sum payments instead of partial premium payments, such as monthly or quarterly. Partial payments often include small transaction fees, so paying the full amount can eliminate those extra costs.

Some decisions to avoid

It is just as important to understand what not to do as you look for cost savings. Here are some scenarios you should avoid:

  •          It may be unwise to carry only the minimum state-required amount of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on auto policies, or to cancel it entirely if it is not required in your state: According to the Insurance Research Council (IRC)*, the correlation between the percentage of uninsured motorists and the unemployment rate is high — when the economy is struggling, more people go without insurance. You want to make sure you’re protected in this instance.
  •          Ignoring renters insurance: This coverage is often overlooked no matter what shape the economy is in. Landlords’ policies generally only cover the structure, not the individual renters’ contents. Imagine having to replace furniture, clothing and other personal property out of pocket because you excluded this essential, affordable coverage and then suffered a devastating loss from a burglary or other covered event.

Saving money is important, but so is making sure that what you’ve got is protected. If you’re looking for ways to save, or want to review your coverages, give us a call!

*Insurance Research Council, January 21, 2009

With spring just around the corner, it’s a great time for a “spring break” RV trip. Whether you’re heading to somewhere specific or planning your getaway a lot farther from home, you’ll want to make the trip safely.

At DeWees Insurance Partners, we want you to travel safely too. Here are some great tips to help you get out there and back without worry, because nothing can ruin an RV trip faster than trouble on the road.

First, know your ride — even if you’re just along for the ride

Of course, knowing the features (and limitations) of your RV is the first step to safely driving it. Are you towing a car? Be mindful of how that will affect your stopping power and maneuverability. Know the dimensions of your vehicle to help with parking and any tight spots you might encounter on the road. Make sure you know that you can fit under the overpasses and bridges on your route.

And even if you’re just a passenger, it’s a good idea to learn how to drive the RV as well. You might need to take over in an emergency or other situation.

Maintenance, maintenance, maintenance

Just like a car, keeping your RV well-maintained is extremely important. Are your tires in good shape and properly inflated? If you’re towing a car or boat, do you need additional braking power? Are your mirrors angled correctly? Is your safety equipment (for example, your fire extinguisher) in good working order? Doing a walk-around and conducting some quick checks before you leave can save you a lot of frustration down the road.

Down the road!

Your RV is much bigger than a car, of course, and that means you need to act more carefully when you’re driving it.

  •         Know your blind spots and use caution when changing lanes, merging or turning.
  •         Be patient and aware at all times. Consider installing a rear camera to help give you a complete picture of your surroundings.
  •         Other vehicles may act aggressively to get around you, and sometimes will cut you off once they have passed. Prepare for these situations and understand that many drivers don’t realize that you need additional space in front of the RV.
  •         Because your vehicle is far heavier than others, it picks up speed faster when going down hills or mountain passes, so keep an eye on that speedometer.

What about parking?

  •         It’s best to have someone to guide you into a parking spot. If you don’t have anyone with you, check out the area before you try to pull in.
  •         Practice turns and backing up before you leave on your trip.
  •         Of course, never park for the night in an area unless you have approval or know that it’s safe.

Need to learn more?

Consider taking an RV driving safety course, if possible. At the very least, practice in a large parking lot before hitting the road. Taking a little time to learn how best to drive your RV or improve your skills can have a big impact for you and your family!

Sidebar:

You’ll find a lot of helpful resources online for RV owners. We like:

In most places in the United States, March 10th is Daylight Saving, when clocks are moved forward one hour. We here at DeWees Insurance Partners want to remind you it’s also a great time to improve your family’s safety.

Be Safe in Your Home

Health and safety agencies often use the approach of Daylight Saving Time to remind people to change the batteries in their smoke alarms. The American Red Cross suggests you test your smoke alarms and talk with your family about your fire escape plan. Whether you live in South Carolina or Ohio, practice the plan too – at least twice a year.

Daylight Saving is a great time to check your emergency preparedness kit to make sure it’s fully stocked with fresh supplies.

Carbon Monoxide is a concern too

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 400 people die annually in the US from carbon monoxide poisoning. The CDC recommends changing the batteries in your CO detectors when moving your clocks forward this Sunday.

The CDC says the most common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain and confusion.

See the CDC’s site for more ways to prevent carbon monoxide exposure.

We here at DeWees Insurance Partners hope these tips help and that you’ll consider sharing them with the people you care about so they can live safer lives too.

From genetically modified crops to the environmental and health effects of pesticides, more and more people are questioning whether they should grow what they eat.

Wherever you stand on the issues surrounding today’s food supply, however, there are several good reasons to start your own garden:

 

  • You’ll know exactly where your food was grown, and what went into growing it.
  • You and your family can enjoy great-tasting vegetables — better than store-bought, some believe.
  • Many people find gardening provides both physical and mental benefits and gives them an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors.
  • Finally, there’s that sense of satisfaction that comes with eating food that you have grown yourself!

Clearly there are plenty of benefits to gardening. But, how do you get started?

Here are some important tips from the Oregon State University (OSU) Extension Service, which, like similar services around the country, provides helpful community resources on agriculture and other topics.

Pick the Right Site

 

“Choosing a garden site is as important as selecting the vegetables to grow in it,” according to the OSU Extension website. “All vegetables need sunlight and fertile, well-drained soil, and they will contract fewer diseases if the site has good ventilation.”

Here’s what to consider before marking your garden plot:

 

  • Sunlight. Look for a shade-free site. Vegetables need a minimum of six hours of sunshine a day.
  • Soil. How is the natural vegetation? If weeds and grass are healthy on the site, the soil will probably be good for vegetables, too.
  • Surroundings. The roots of trees and large shrubs can suck nutrients away from your vegetables.
  • Proximity. Make it easy on yourself, with water access nearby. Otherwise, you might be less enthusiastic about caring for your garden.

Choose What to Plant

 

Check with a local gardening organization or search the Web for what vegetables are best for your specific situation and climate. Here are three factors to keep in mind when you’re getting ready to plant, according to the OSU extension:

 

  • Season. Plant your seeds at the right time to avoid damage from temperatures that are too hot or too cold. Follow the instructions on the seed packet.
  • Depth. If you plant your seeds too shallow, they can wash away or dry out, but if they’re too deep, they might not come up at all.
  • Spacing. Each plant needs its share of sunlight, nutrients and water. Don’t make them fight for it! Putting seeds too close together usually results in smaller vegetables, too.

Water Wisely

 

The best way to water is by monitoring your garden, rather than simply adhering to a set schedule. Follow guidelines for your specific plants, and avoid these common problems, as noted by the OSU Extension website:

 

  • Frequent, shallow watering. This can promote root development in surface layers of the soil, making plants very susceptible to stress and damage.
  • Overwatering. Yes, you can “drown” plants; too much water can leave little to no oxygen in the soil.
  • Postponing watering. Check your plants regularly. If they appear to need water, don’t wait.

For more specific advice on gardening, check with the local university extension program. And, don’t worry; you don’t have to be an expert to enjoy homegrown food. You just need to be willing to put in a little time and effort — and get your hands dirty!