Renting Out Your Home – Is It Worth the Risk?

Written By Charlotte Insurance on September 30, 2019. It has 0 comments.

house that may need rental

Renting your home out sounds like a great way to make money or to hold onto a property you’re not living in. With the right tenants and an understanding the responsibilities you have has a landlord, it can be a sound way to build your income. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t any risks involved. 

Before you decide to rent your property, make sure you understand those risks and know how to combat them.

Risk: Accidents, Storms, and Other Disasters 

Just like your primary home, anything can happen to your rental — a fire, a tree through the roof, flooding, you name it. And just like the home you live in, insurance can help you pick up the pieces and rebuild. But that only works if you have the correct type of insurance.

The vast majority of landlords need rental property insurance. This is a specific policy to cover the property itself and only the contents you provide for your tenants (like appliances). If you expect your homeowners insurance policy to cover you, think again. 

The only time your home insurance covers a rental is if it’s a one-time, short-term, temporary rental. Even then, some insurers require the purchase of a rider. If you’re renting your home out to a long-term tenant or you use AirBnB to make extra cash, you need the right insurance to protect you from potential disaster.

Risk: Bodily Injury and Property Damage

Owning a property, whether you live there or rent it out, comes with the threat of being held liable for accidents. Liability for property damage and bodily injury depends on exactly who was negligent. 

If a tenant has a guest over or a service person works on the property, and that person gets hurt because of carelessness or negligence from the tenant (like a cluttered or slippery entryway), they will be liable for the damage.

If, however, the damage was caused because of negligence or carelessness by a landlord — you don’t do something you were responsible for doing — you could be found liable. So if you’re going to rent out your home, make sure you understand the state laws that outline your responsibilities and make sure to take care of the property.

Risk: Lost Rental Income 

If your rental property becomes unlivable due to disaster or accident, your tenants will have to find another place to live. You may only lose their rental income for a short while until the property is repaired or you may need to find new tenants. Either way, for some amount of time, you’ll be without rental income. 

Many landlords depend on rent to pay the property’s mortgage, taxes, insurance, and maintenance. Going without this money even for a month or two can be financially devastating. While it may be rare, it is a potential risk landlords have to face.

The good news is that you can insure against potential loss of rental income. You’ll need an idea of your annual rental income and should insure at least that amount. While your property is unlivable and being rebuilt, you can file a claim for the lost income and save yourself a lot of stress. 

Risk: Damage to Tenants Property 

As the landlord, you are not responsible for your tenants property — as long as you’re not liable for the reason it was damaged in the first place. If your property catches on fire or floods during a storm, your insurance covers the property not your tenants property. They’re responsible for their own belongings. 

Landlords should at least encourage their tenants to purchase renters insurance. In some cases, you may be able to require coverage as a condition of the lease. It is relatively inexpensive for your renter and makes sure their property can be replaced after a covered loss.

There are risks to any financial endeavor, including renting your home. But if you’re prepared for the worst and take your responsibilities seriously, you can minimize those risks. Before you rent out your home, talk to an independent insurance agent who can explain your coverage options. Contact Charlotte Insurance today.

Chimney Maintenance

Written By Charlotte Insurance on September 26, 2019. It has 0 comments.

a fireplace belonging to someone who followed some fireplace and chimney safety tips

Winter is just around the corner — don’t let the last few warm days fool you. If you’re dreaming of a crackling fire on a cold night, now is the time to think about your chimney and fireplace. Proper care and maintenance not only keeps your fireplace functioning properly, it prevents damage and disasters.

Here’s what you need to know.

Maintenance Before You Light a Fire

Don’t wait until after you light the first fire and notice a problem to have your chimney inspected. Go ahead and get your chimney looked over and cleaned now. You need maintenance on your chimney at least once a year, even if you don’t use it that much.

If you frequently use your fireplace during the winter, this will keep it in tip-top shape so you can keep using it. If you don’t use it often, having it inspected will make sure no animals have made a home in your chimney and that debris hasn’t blocked it.

Have Your Chimney Cleaned

While you need to have your chimney inspected yearly, a professional cleaning is something you can do on an as-needed basis. If the inspection yields no nests or critters, you may be able to skip the cleaning this year. But if you have a soot build-up of at least ⅛” it’s time for a cleaning. Chimneys can also build up creosote, a flammable material, that can cause a fire that can spread to your entire home.

A professional cleaning doesn’t just focus on the chimney. Here’s what you can expect:

  • Sweeping the fireplace
  • Checking the firebox, liners, smoke chamber, and flue
  • Inspection to make sure the chimney is free of debris
  • Offering recommendations on keeping your chimney cleaner longer
  • Offering recommendations on potential repair or equipment replacement

Keeping Your Chimney and Fireplace Working Properly

Beyond yearly inspections and as-needed cleanings, there are several things you can do to help maintain the proper function of your chimney and fireplace while you use it.

  • Regularly clean ashes out of the fireplace
  • Only use properly seasoned firewood. One way to do this is to collect firewood a year before you need it and give it time to dry out properly.
  • Completely open the damper before lighting a fire
  • Only burn dry firewood or CSIA-approved manufactured logs
  • Use a top-down burn method: place largest logs at the bottom, add a cross layer of smaller logs, add crumpled newspaper, and then top with kindling

As wonderful as a fireplace can be in the winter, it still presents a potential safety hazard in your home. Before the winter season arrives, make sure you have enough insurance to cover a total loss. Contact Charlotte Insurance today to update your policy limits or for a free quote on a new home insurance policy.

Hazard Insurance: What It Is and What It Isn’t

Written By Charlotte Insurance on September 23, 2019. It has 0 comments.

a couple ready to learn about hazard insurance

Are you buying a new home? Did your mortgage lender tell you that you need hazard insurance as a requirement for the purchase and you can’t go to closing until you have it? You know you need homeowners insurance, but you didn’t know about hazard insurance!

Don’t panic. Hazard insurance isn’t a special kind of coverage that’s going to cost you thousands extra. You probably already have it. Here’s what you need to know about what it is and what it isn’t.

Hazard Insurance vs. Homeowners Insurance

Contrary to what you might think, hazard insurance isn’t something separate from your homeowners policy. It’s actually a part of your coverage. When you purchase homeowners insurance and read which “perils” are covered, you’re looking at your hazard insurance.

It’s the part of your homeowners policy that pays to replace the contents and structure of your home after a natural disaster. Without this coverage, you’d pay the full expense of replacing your home and your personal belongings after a fire or hail damage, among several other perils.

What Hazard Insurance Covers

Every insurance policy is different, so not every potential peril will be included in every single policy. When you sit down with an independent insurance agent, they’ll show you different options and can explain what is and isn’t covered by your hazard insurance. There are 16 potential hazards that could be included:

  • Fire or smoke
  • Lightning, hail, or windstorms
  • Theft or vandalism
  • Damage from vehicles or aircraft
  • Explosions
  • Civic commotions/unrest or riots
  • Volcanic eruptions
  • Accidental overflow or discharge of steam or water
  • Freezing of your HVAC system
  • Falling objects
  • Sudden or accidental damage from electricity
  • Weight of sleet, snow, or ice

When selecting your hazard policy coverage, purchase the amount of insurance you need to fully rebuild your home and replace all of your personal belongings in case of total destruction and loss from a covered peril. Base your policy limit on replacement costs, not actual cash value, so the total amount of rebuilding is covered.

What Hazard Insurance Doesn’t Cover

Although liability coverage for bodily injury and property damage are included in your homeowners insurance policy, it’s not covered under hazard insurance. It’s a separate part of your coverage with its own policy limits and exclusions.

Hazard insurance also doesn’t cover certain natural disasters. In many cases, additional coverage can be purchased instead:

  • Flooding
  • Earthquakes
  • Landslides
  • Mudslides

Flood insurance is recommended for all homeowners, even if you’re not located in a high risk flood zone.

How Much Does Hazard Insurance Cost?

Like every other part of your insurance coverage, several factors determine your insurance costs:

  • Policy limits
  • Deductible
  • Past claims
  • Age of home
  • Value of your home
  • Security features you’ve added
  • Material your home is made of

When you’re ready to purchase a new homeowners policy while buying a new home, it’s important to ask a lot of questions and understand your options. Even existing homeowners need a refresher from time to time to know what’s included in their policy. When you have questions about your hazard insurance coverage or you need a new homeowners policy, contact Charlotte Insurance Agency.

Best of Charlotte: Apple Picking!

Written By Charlotte Insurance on September 12, 2019. It has 0 comments.

apple picking in Charlotte, NC

Even if you can’t feel the change in the air yet, fall is fast approaching. If that puts you in mind of apple cider, pie, and apple-picking, you’re not alone! September is prime apple picking season although you can still find delicious apples into late October, when the weather really begins to change.

If you’re looking for a family adventure that doesn’t cost a lot of money and is great for all ages, now is a great time to plan a trip to an orchard or farm to pick apples.  

Apple Hill Orchard

Head out of Charlotte to Morganton, a few miles off of I-40 to Apple Hill Orchard. They grow several different types of apples, so you can continue to pick apples long into the fall season. While you’re there, check out the cider mill and shop the country store. If you get hungry but want to make sure your apples survive the trip home, head to the bakery for warm, yummy treats!

Carrigan Farms

Any weekend is a good weekend to go to Carrigan Farms over in Mooresville. They’re open Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The cost is $11 per person and includes a hayride and half a peck of apples. You’ll get to pick red and golden delicious apples. No credit cards are accepted — only cash or check.

 The Orchard at Altapass

This year, the Orchard at Altapass reports a bumper crop which means there are a lot of apples waiting to be picked! They offer a wide variety of apples so you can go when the apples you love best are ready to be picked. Just check the schedule first. The orchard is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Bring the kids so they can enjoy the story-telling hayride, nature walks, checkers, and more!

Sky Top Orchard

Sky Top Orchard, located in Flat Rock, North Carolina, offers 22 varieties of apples to pick each apple-growing season. They’re open daily through October from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., so any day you have time is a good day to go. To time your trip to pick the apples you love best, consult their picking schedule. Bring the kids for a tractor-pulled “hay” ride (there’s no hay involved so you can enjoy it even if you have allergies) and try some tasty apple-infused treats. 

Windy Hill Orchard and Cider Mill 

Head over to York, South Carolina to the Windy Hill Orchard and Cider Mill for an afternoon of fun in the sun. They grow Stayman Winesap apples for picking. These are great for eating fresh or cooking with because they’re sweet with just a bit of tartness. If you want more than your standard apple-picking fun, enjoy their hard cider tastings, live music, and delicious pastries and treats made with apples. They’re open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoon through apple-picking season.

Nothing says fall like the sweet taste of apples — in cider, as pie, or fresh from the tree. Enjoy this sweet and fun side of Charlotte. Get the family together for a day of fun, laughs, and memories and go apple picking this fall!

How Much is “Too Much” — Is It Possible to Be Over Insured?

Written By Charlotte Insurance on September 10, 2019. It has 0 comments.

a question mark representing the question "is it possible to be over insured?"

We spend a lot of time making sure people have enough insurance. Not carrying enough liability coverage or updating policy limits over time can put you in a financial crisis after an accident. But there’s another side to insurance that should be avoided as well — having too much insurance.

While it’s not as common as being underinsured, being over-insured is something to be aware of.

Home Insurance

When you purchase a homeowners insurance policy, you’re given the option between insuring your home at actual cash value or replacement cost value. It may cost more, but the best option is replacement cost. This means that you’ll be compensated for what it costs to completely rebuild your home. Actual cash value policies factor in depreciation, leaving you short when it’s time to rebuild or repair your home.

Some owners, however, base their policy needs on the market value of their property which isn’t the same as the replacement cost value. Market values include the value of the land the property sits on and can increase over time, but not necessarily at the same rate construction costs will. Homeowners who use the market value of their home to determine their policy limit are overpaying for their insurance and are often severely over insured.

Auto Insurance

The most common problem in buying auto insurance is not buying enough liability and underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage. Many drivers believe that they won’t get into an accident, the other driver will have plenty of insurance, or the accident won’t be “that bad.” When they’re left with the financial burden of a car accident, they learn the truth. 

But there are times you may have more auto insurance than you really need. It all depends on the vehicle you drive. If your vehicle is new, costs a lot, or carries a large balance on an auto loan, comprehensive and collision coverage are necessary. But if you’re driving an old beat-up vehicle that would only be worth a few hundred dollars if totaled, you likely don’t need comprehensive or collision coverage. The best way to test if you need it or not is to ask yourself if you could afford to replace your current vehicle if it was totaled in an accident .

Life Insurance

We wish more people would purchase life insurance. Even a small policy that covers funeral expenses is better than nothing. Underinsurance isn’t the biggest issue in life insurance — it’s convincing people the policy is needed at all.

But once you have life insurance, it is possible to over insure. A good life insurance policy should cover necessary expenses — funeral, college, mortgage, etc — when you die. What it should not do is make someone a millionaire several times over just because you died – at least not for the average person. A good “rule of thumb” is that you should have life insurance worth 10-12 times your annual income.

Being underinsured can be financially devastating. Being overinsured wastes your money which could be better spent or invested in other ways. If you’re not sure if you have the right amount of insurance coverage, contact Charlotte Insurance today. We can help you understand the policies you have — and what you need.

Creating Safer Workspaces

Written By Charlotte Insurance on September 3, 2019. It has 0 comments.

hard hats belonging to a company that follows workplace safety guidelines

While you can’t prevent all accidents or workers’ compensation claims, you can create a safer workspace for your employees and yourself. Doing so will keep your employees out of harm’s way and your costs down.

Here’s how you can create a safer work area for your employees.

Provide Safety Training

Common sense isn’t always common, and you can’t hold someone accountable for a rule you never told them about. Making your business safer begins with training your employees on how to work smartly and safely. Go over your company’s safety manual. Explain the procedures to prevent an accident or notify someone of a potential hazard. Provide this training on a routine basis and for all new employees. 

Reward Employees for Safe Behavior

It’s not enough to not have an accident. When an employee exhibits safe behavior — cleaning up a spill, using proper equipment, letting someone know about a problem — reward them for it. This might be a small bonus, a restaurant gift card, or some other acknowledgement. Not only do you show the value and importance of safety, you encourage the same behavior from others.

Maintain Equipment and Clean Workspaces 

Many accidents are avoidable as long as the area is neat and clean and all equipment functions properly. Create a system for checking and maintaining any equipment in your business. Make sure employees understand the importance of a clean workspace and keep it neat and tidy. Reward compliance and reprimand those who fail to comply. 

Provide Proper Equipment

Not only should your employees have the proper tools they need to complete a job, they should also have the necessary safety equipment. This includes hard hats, restraint systems, and properly functioning ladders, heavy equipment, and more. Your employees should not be “making do” with materials that aren’t right for the job they’re doing. That’s the quickest way to an expensive accident. 

Encourage Breaks to Stretch and Rest 

It doesn’t matter if your employees sit at a desk all day or if they’re lifting heavy boxes. They all need a break from the work they do. Any job can lead to an over use injury. While certain breaks are legally required, encourage your workers to use those and other breaks to move their body and stretch. This can help prevent injuries due to fatigue or overuse. A few minutes each day of stretching or walking can add up to healthier employees over time.

Follow OSHA and Other Regulations

Not only should all legal requirements and regulations be followed as mandated by law, but you should also consider suggested best practices that aren’t required. Make sure signs and labels are placed in appropriate areas. Never ask or allow an employee to do something that goes against safety regulations. These rules aren’t written to cost you more money. They’re meant to save lives.

Partner with Outside Help

An occupational clinician who specializes in workplace safety could help you find safety problems you’re unaware of. They may also offer practical advice on how to prevent injuries for your employees. This kind of help is good for all industries, not just those with more potential for accidents or injuries. Even office workers need help staying safe and injury-free.

A safer workplace isn’t just a happier, healthier one. It also costs less to maintain and operate. No matter how safe your business is, you still need a good workers’ compensation insurance policy. Contact Charlotte Insurance today for a free quote.

Fall and Fire Pits

Written By Charlotte Insurance on September 2, 2019. It has 0 comments.

fire pit safety tips

Fall weather is in the air, and the heat has started to lift. What better time to hang out with friends or enjoy a peaceful moment at home around your fire pit?

Fire pits are popular in fall weather as homeowners extend their living space to the back yard or their patio. If you’re ready to light up your fire pit, make sure you stay safe so everyone enjoys the moment.

Purchasing a New Fire Pit

If this is the year you’re adding a fire pit to your outdoor living space, you’ve got some important decisions to make.

DIY or Professional Installation: If you want a DIY project or to save a bit of money, you can go to your local home improvement store to get everything you need to set up a fire pit. If you don’t have the time, energy, or skills to do that, you can always have it professionally installed.

Permanent or Portable: Will your fire pit be part of a designated outdoor living space? You may want a permanent fixture. Do you want to bring it with you when you go camping or to a friends home? Look for portable fire pits instead.

Wood or Gas: Your final decision is about how you want to light your fire. Wood burning fires give off a nice crackle and smoke, creating an ambiance that many people enjoy, but they can take a while to get going. Gas fire pits light almost instantly, shortening the wait time, but don’t offer the same sensory experience.

Fire Pit Safety Tips

Much like using a fireplace in your home, there are many things to keep in mind when you use your fire pit. All are meant to keep you, your family, and your home safe.

  • Place or install your fire pit on bricks, pavers, or a metal surface. Do not set it on wood or grass as these can catch fire easily.
  • Make sure your fire pit is set up at least 10 feet away from your home and your neighbors homes and yards.
  • Before lighting your fire pit, check the wind direction. You don’t want a spark blowing towards people or your home.
  • Do not use gasoline or lighter fluid to light your fire pit as these liquids are highly flammable and can cause a fire to grow too big too quickly.
  • Make sure your clothing is non-flammable and doesn’t fit loosely. It only takes a single spark.
  • Keep pets and children at least three feet away from your fire pit and never leave them alone with it.
  • Always have a fire extinguisher or source of water (a hose or a bucket of water) close by in case the fire gets out of hand.
  • Safely dispose of ashes by letting them cool, placing them in a metal bucket, and dousing the ashes with water.

No matter which fire pit you enjoy in your backyard, always make sure you have enough home insurance in case of a fire. If you haven’t thought about your home insurance since you bought your home, now is the time to check your policy limits. Contact Charlotte Insurance today!