Tips to Protect your home this Halloween from Thieves

Halloween and Bonfire Night create lucrative opportunities for thieves, so knowing your insurance rights and taking precautions to protect your home are vital.

The end of October and start of November are particularly fruitful weeks for burglars as they look to take advantage of big events to catch out unsuspecting households across the country.

Tips to keep thieves away

With this in mind, here are some handy tips to help keep your home safe at this time of year.

  • Install outdoor lighting as this gives potential burglars less places to hide.
  • Lock your windows and doors even if you’re in.
  • Don’t leave keys hidden outside, near the door or anywhere easily accessible from the door.
  • Get an alarm system fitted as it’s likely to deter thieves.

It’s also worth being wary of distraction burglars. These criminals use a seemingly honest cause to gain entry to a homes before stealing items while the occupant is distracted.

Bogus callers could invalidate your home insurance and some home insurance providers won’t pay out for theft unless there is proof of forced entry, meaning opening the door to these criminals could leave you unprotected.

To be safe, double-check what cover your policy provides and be extra cautious about letting strangers into your home.

For more pointers on keeping your home and possessions safe read our guide to making your home burglar proof.

Vandalism woes

It’s also key to keep an eye out for vandalism during the spooky season as insurers report more claims for damage to cars and homes on Halloween.

Malicious damage and fires should be covered as standard on your building insurance, and on your car insurance providing you have a policy covering third party, fire and theft.

But it pays to take care to avoid the expense and stress of having to make a claim.

Popular claims around this period are for smashed windows and damage to doors and garden property.

Although many police forces will increase their patrols during this period, here are some things you can do yourself to reduce the risk to your property.

  • Park the car in a garage for the night.
  • Move garden ornaments and any other items out of sight, perhaps in a locked garage or shed.
  • Leave on lights, the radio or television when you’re out to make it appear as if someone is in.
  • Ensure sheds, garages and other out-buildings have robust locks.
  • Don’t answer the door to trick-or-treaters if you don’t feel comfortable doing so and place a note or poster, such as this one from Gloucestershire police, on your door if you do not wish to have any visitors on Halloween.

Stay protected from thieves

Gareth Lane is head of home insurance at

He says: “Due to the seasonal spike in crime it’s especially important to take steps to ensure you and your home are properly protected.

“Alongside measures to keep thieves away and deter vandals, having home contents insurance is of primary importance.

“Otherwise you may be forced to cover the cost of any loss or damage as a result of a burglary, for example, out of your own pocket.”

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5 Risky Home Insurance Customers: Are You One?

By Samantha Alexander 

Do your hands tremble every month when you pay your home insurance premium? Do you spend the next 20 minutes complaining to your significant other about the cost? Or, worse, have you ever been denied homeowners coverage all together? If so, you might be a risky insurance customer and not even know it.

Insuring a house has as much to do with you as it does the actual building. Home insurance providers set your premium by evaluating the risks posed by you and your house. Homes in Tornado Alley, for example, cost more to insure because of the risk of wind damage. As for you, if you pose certain risks as a policyholder, your premium could shoot through the roof.

Here are a few types of customers who may raise red flags for home insurance providers. If you are one of them, your provider might be saying, “It’s not your house — it’s you.”

The low credit scorer

Credit report with scoreIf you’ve got a low credit score, your home insurance provider could consider you a risky insurance customer. Insurance providers often factor in a homeowner’s credit score when determining premiums, and usually a lower score means a higher premium.

Why? Because carriers believe  a poor credit score signifies high risk. The good news is that if you’ve got a low credit score now, you can work to improve it over time. How? Pay your bills promptly, actively monitor your credit score and don’t take out too many types of credit.

The dog lover

When it comes to risk, you may not think your cuddly pooch poses a threat, but some insurance providers believe differently. Carriers often won’t provide coverage for certain breeds because, statistically, they pose more of a liability risk. Pit bulls, Dobermans, Rottweilers and Akitas are just a few breeds that could cause your insurer to elevate your risk as a policyholder.

As for dogs outside those breeds? It depends. If your canine has a history of biting, you could face higher premiums or be denied liability coverage for the animal. Sure, every dog is different, but insurers don’t mess around when it comes to dog bites. The average payout for a dog bite claim in 2013 was nearly $28,000, according to the Insurance Information Institute (III).

The pool owner

Your pool may have seemed like a big plus when you purchased your home, but chances are your insurer isn’t as enthralled with it. Swimming pools pose a big liability risk to insurers. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, an average of 5,100 pool- or spa-related injuries in children younger than 15 were treated in hospital emergency departments for 2010 through 2012. During the same time period, 390 pool- or spa-related deaths were reported.

The bottom line: Pools are dangerous, and insurance providers know they increase the odds of a lawsuit.

The procrastinator

Are you bad about getting around to repairs in your home? The longer you put off getting that new roof or fixing that leaky pipe, you could be costing yourself some serious dough. Procrastinating on home repairs not only makes you vulnerable to claims, but the more you wait, the longer you could be stuck paying a high premium.

For example, change out the supply hoses on your water heater and washing machine; you can upgrade to braided steel hoses for about $100. An appliance failure could cost you (and your insurance provider) thousands of dollars.

The unlucky homeowner

You may be the most responsible homeowner who ever lived and simply be unlucky when it comes to claims. You can’t help it if a storm caused a tree to crash through your window or if hail pummeled your roof. However, having claims on your history may cause you to look riskier to an insurance provider.

To avoid more claims, do some things to boost safety on your property such as cutting dead branches off trees or checking your roof for loose/missing shingles. Prevention can go a long way in avoiding future claims.

Paying high home insurance premiums or getting denied coverage can be a frustrating experience. However, there are other ways to reduce your premium or find coverage. Comparison shopping is a surefire way to either find the lowest premium or find a provider who will offer you coverage. Each carrier has a different algorithm for determining risk — just because it doesn’t work out with one doesn’t mean you can’t find coverage elsewhere.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.


The Basics of Buying Homeowner Insurance

This is best done as soon as possible so your home is secure. If you do not acquire the right insurance, you could receive a rude awakening if your home were to be destroyed by fire or another natural disaster. Here’s how you acquire insurance:

1. Assess Your Home

The first step in the insurance-buying process is to provide details of your home to your Insurance broker.  Important information to record includes:

  • The year your house was built, square footage and construction material (such as type of shingles, siding etc)
  • Fire Protection i.e how far from a fire hall, are you hydrant protected or unprotected

You must present this information to your insurance broker so you can calculate the right rebuilding value.

2. Meet with a Broker

The insurance professional will help you calculate the rebuilding value of your home. Be aware that the replacement cost of your home may be different than what you paid for the home, due to the possibility of increased labor costs, debris removal, building codes, etc. This is separate from the resale value, which is the amount that would be paid if the house was sold.

Based on the characteristics of your home, the broker will help you choose the best homeowner insurance policy for your needs. You can also enhance your insurance in the following ways:

  • Sewer Back-Up: provides protection for losses that come from problems with a sewer, drain, eaves trough, septic tank, sump, or downspout.
  • Increased Liability: protects you from property damage or injury you may accidentally cause to someone else.
  • Floaters: Your homeowner insurance should cover the basic cost of your valuables if they were to be lost in a fire or theft. If you have valuable items that are worth more, you can enhance your insurance coverage to protect them.
  • Identity Theft: helps cover you in the event of someone committing fraud using your credit card, social insurance number, or driver’s license.

3. Inventory Your Belongings

In order to ensure your limits are adequate, make sure you have taken stock of all your belongings so you can get full coverage. Go room to room, recording everything you own. If you find that your belongings are worth significantly more than what your insurance policy would cover, talk to your broker about increasing limits.

Souce: Drayden Insurance LTD

Fires Spread More Quickly in Newer Homes: Report

Kansas City, MO: House fires injure or kill thousands of Americans every year and now they are more likely to burn faster than ever.  A new report found fires spread more quickly in newer homes and homes with newer products and materials – giving people less time to escape.

house-fire“We live in homes that are filled with things that burn fast, burn hot, and put out very deadly gas,” said Jason Rhodes, Overland Park Fire Department Media Manager. “We use more products in our home that are synthetic that are made out of petroleum based products – plastics and synthetic fibers – so those things burn quick and hot.”

Just a few decades ago, home furnishings were made mostly of wood, natural fabrics, and metal.  Those tend to take longer to catch fire than plastics and synthetic materials that are now in carpets, couches, and even cell phones.

The new report from Underwriters’ Laboratory found fires burn more quickly nowadays – especially in newer homes which are built more efficiently.

“There’s a chance that it’s very air tight and it’s also filled with perhaps some light weight construction materials that may not last as long when exposed to fire,” Rhodes said.

Home builders also use less construction materials in new homes.

“They’re lighter in weight, they can span longer distances and they’re very strong.  But in a fire they can collapse much more quickly than conventional wood and that often happens very unexpectedly,” said Ron Hazelton, a home safety expert .

Hazelton is pushing for sprinklers in homes because the report found fires in new homes can become deadly in less than three minutes – much sooner than in older homes.

“Considering what I’m getting in return which is safety for myself and my kids and my wife, I think (a sprinkler system) is a good investment,” Hazelton told 41 Action News via satellite interview.

Besides saving lives, sprinklers can also help prevent the estimated $7 billion in property damage that fires cause each year.

“Studies have shown they can reduce the amount of damage in a home that were to have a fire by up to 70%,” said Drew Robbins, Vice President of Jayhawk Fire Sprinkler.

The Lenexa, Kansas, based company told 41 Action News that customers who install sprinkler systems usually don’t live close to a fire station or a hydrant.

“They’re worried about response times from their fire department,” said Robbins.

The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA), which sets fire safety standards across the country, encourages the use of sprinklers in homes and states on its website that just one sprinkler head can contain 85% of fires .

Each sprinkler head is set to operate at a certain temperature.  A sprinkler system can cost thousands of dollars to install in an average sized home being built.

“What we see in the Midwest is normally about $1.50 to $3 a square foot depending on finishes, customizations,” Robbins said, who points out that costs go up to retrofit an existing home with sprinklers.

Article courtesy of Scripps Media. Written by Patrick Fazio of KSHB Kansas City. Based on a report from Underwriters’ Laboratory.

Controversy over women denied home insurance because of foster children

A Montreal mother says she is shocked and outraged that after insuring her home with Wawanesa Insurance for 10 years, the company will cancel her coverage because she has more than two foster children.

“I was floored. I couldn’t believe that a company could actually cancel your policy because you have foster children.”

The woman, whom CBC News has agreed not to name in order to protect the identity of her five foster children, received a letter from Wawanesa informing her that her home insurance will be terminated next month.

“Due to the risk of aggravating circumstances, we find ourselves under the obligation to cancel your house insurance to respect our underwriting norms,” the letter from Wawanesa read.

The letter came after the family got a call from the company to update her file.

“They asked, ‘Do you have anybody in the house living with you who is not part of your immediate family?’ So I said I have foster children … and this is what I get for it,” she said.

The woman said she has been taking in foster children for years, and in the 10 years she’s been a client with Wawanesa she was never aware of its policy.

Underwriting rules ‘clear’

A representative from Wawanesa would not comment on this specific case, but told CBC News its rules are clear.

“Wawanesa Insurance, like every other insurance [company], we all have underwriting rules. These rules determine what we insure and what we don’t. Our underwriting rule for households which house foster children is that we insure homes with two or less foster children,” said Thierry Gamelin, marketing manager at Wawanesa.

The family, which must now find another company to insure their home by July 11, calls it discriminatory.

“We’ve never, ever put a claim in to Wawanesa at all. This is the first time I’ve heard of any discrimination for foster kids. There are families out there that are trying to help other children have a stable life and not be labelled, and here the insurance company is labelling us for having foster children, and cancelling our insurance for it,” she said.

The Quebec Federation of Foster Families, which places foster children with families, said it has heard of this situation occurring before, but not often.

“The insurance companies can set the rules they want. If they assume more than two [foster children] are riskier, it is their choice,” said the federation’s vice-president Robert Pagé.

The Insurance Board of Canada told CBC News that it can help families find the insurance coverage that is right for them.

Source: CBC News

ILScorp offers specialized continuing education for Life & A/S insurance agents as well as on line insurance training for general insurance agents.

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