Vacant Home Insurance: What Is It and Do You Need It?

Written By Charlotte Insurance on October 28, 2021. It has 0 comments.

a vacant in home in Charlotte in need of insurance

There are so many reasons why your home may sit empty for a bit. If you expect your existing North Carolina homeowners insurance to cover you, you may be in for a nasty surprise when things go wrong.

It’s possible you need vacant home insurance instead. Not sure what that is or if you need it? Here’s what you need to know.

What is a Vacant Home and Why Does It Matter?

A home is typically considered vacant (by an insurance company) when it sits empty for anywhere from 30 to 60 days or longer.

Vacant homes are subject to increased risk of theft and vandalism as well as uncontrolled damage. When no one is home, would-be thieves see it as an easy target. Also, when no one is home, there’s no one to turn off the water when a pipe leaks or to notice a problem with the roof. Either way, damage tends to be greater when a home sits empty.

Will Homeowners Insurance Cover a Vacant Home?

A standard homeowners policy may cover claims that occur during a short-term vacancy such as going on vacation for a week or two or being in the hospital for a few days. But once a home sits empty for 30 to 60 days (depending on your policy), it may not fully cover you.

It’s important to understand how long your home can be vacant to receive full coverage. Before you go out of town or know your home will be empty for a while, contact your independent insurance agent to find out how your homeowners policy works.

Once your home is considered “vacant,” you need vacant home insurance.

What is Vacant Home Insurance?

Vacant home coverage can be purchased as a separate policy or an add-on endorsement to your current home insurance. Depending on the type of coverage you choose, it will cover fire, theft, explosions, lightning, wind, and hail, as well as liability coverage.

Every insurance company offers slightly different policies but many offer coverage for three, six, or 12 months at a time. This is great for planned vacancies because you can choose the length of coverage you think you’ll need.

Who Needs Vacant Home Insurance?

There are a lot of situations where you might need a vacant home policy. Consider these situations:

  • Your home is on the market for sale but you’ve already moved out.
  • Your rental property is vacant for more than 30 days at a time.
  • You’re doing home renovations and live elsewhere while the work is being done.
  • You’re in the hospital, assisted living facility, or medical rehab due to illness, injury, or other infirmity, and you live alone.
  • Your vacation home is only occupied a few times throughout the year and sits vacant for weeks at a time.
  • You’re traveling for an extended amount of time and you live alone.
  • You’re an active duty military service member and live alone.

One thing to note is that some insurers only consider a property “vacant” when it’s emptied of personal property. For homes with personal property in it, you may only need an endorsement on your existing home insurance. For empty homes, you may need a standalone vacant home policy.

It’s important to talk to your insurance agent about your specific situation so you choose the right coverage. Contact us at Charlotte Insurance so we can help you insure your vacant home.

Thinking of Getting Chickens? Read This First

Written By Charlotte Insurance on October 26, 2021. It has 0 comments.

backyard chickens

You’re finally ready to build a coop and go get some chickens for your backyard. You’re already envisioning all the eggs and the cute little chicks running around everywhere.

Before you head to the store, there are a few things you need to know to protect yourself and your home.

Chickens as Pets

If your chickens will be raised and treated as pets, even if they lay eggs for you, your homeowners insurance should still cover you. The important part of the policy for your chickens is the liability coverage. This will protect you if your chickens cause injury to someone who’s visiting your home or if they cause property damage to a third-party.

No homeowners policy covers damage that pets do to your own personal property. So if the chickens damage something in your yard or on the exterior of your home, that will be your responsibility. It’s no different than having a cat or dog.

Before you count on your insurance to cover you, though, it’s worth a conversation with your independent insurance agent. Chickens would likely be classified as “unconventional pets” and your policy may have limitations for these kinds of animals.

Chickens as Business

Even if you intend for your chickens to be pets, some people decide to branch out into a side hustle of selling eggs — especially once they discover how many eggs a few chickens can produce.

Once you do this, your homeowners insurance will no longer cover your chickens at all because homeowners’ policies don’t cover business activities. Selling eggs and making money makes you a business.

You’ll need to purchase business policy to cover any damage your chickens cause to others as well as coverage for your chickens, in case anything happens to them and disrupts your business income.

Check Local Ordinances First

Before you buy your chickens and build their coop, check your local ordinances (city or county) on whether they allow chickens at all. In North Carolina, most areas do allow them, but many have a permitting requirement. Here in Charlotte you can have chickens in your backyard, but you’ve got to get a permit first. To get a permit, you have to follow certain requirements.

While some people skip this step, it’s not a good idea. If you need to file an insurance claim for property damage or injury to someone else, not having the proper permits could cause problems. It’s your responsibility as the homeowner and the owner of the chickens that you take every precaution to protect your home and others. Getting proper permits is part of that responsibility.

Before you bring chickens home, contact us here at Charlotte Insurance. We’ll help you understand what your current home insurance covers and help you find a policy so you and your chickens are protected.

Winterizing Your Toys

Written By Charlotte Insurance on October 22, 2021. It has 0 comments.

a motorcycle that needs to be winterized following our tips

Spring and summer were great while they lasted. You hit the water or the road and made so many memories. Now it’s time to get your toys ready for winter.

Here’s what you need to know.

Boat Winterization Tips

Winterize your boat to help prevent damage to it while it sits during the winter, and so it’s ready to hit the water in the spring.

  • Replace the engine oil. Moisture and acid can build up in old oil which may damage the engine. Use a high-quality oil per the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Flush and drain the cooling water. This will prevent frozen water from expanding and damaging your boat over the winter.
  • Add a fuel stabilizer to your gas tank followed by adding fresh fuel. Run your engine for a few minutes to let that work through the system.
  • Use a fogging oil spray on the engine to protect against corrosion or cylinder scuffing.
  • Change the gear oil, and if you see moisture while doing so, go ahead and change the seals, too.
  • Grease the engine fittings to protect against rust and corrosion.
  • If you’re storing your boat in a boatyard, remove any valuables to guard against additional loss from a break-in.
  • Clean, wax, and cover your boat to protect against the elements.
  • Update your boat insurance to reflect the lack of use over the winter months. Dropping coverage isn’t a good idea as damage or theft can still occur in storage.

RV Winterization Tips

After a long spring and summer on the road, it’s time to park your RV for the winter. Do these things to prevent damage and make sure its road-ready come spring.

  • Drain and flush the water tanks to prevent bacteria growth in the water and burst pipes when the water freezes in the middle of winter.
  • Drain and flush the water heater, and then bypass the water heater so you can add antifreeze to your RV. You don’t want antifreeze getting into the water heater, and you don’t want water sitting in it all winter, either.
  • Drain all fresh and low point drains to prevent standing water.
  • Turn on the water pump so the antifreeze you add can flow through the water system.
  • Open faucets and valves on the outside of your RV and keep them open until the water begins to look pink. That’s the antifreeze. Repeat this with all of the faucets and valves on the inside of your RV, too.
  • Pour additional antifreeze down the sink, shower, and toilet drains for added protection.
  • Clean your RV and remove food and other perishable items as well as valuables. You don’t want food spoilage in your RV after it’s parked for a few months. You also don’t want to lose anything of value in a break-in.
  • Update your RV insurance coverage once it’s parked. You may lower your premiums in the process. Don’t cancel coverage as your RV could still be damaged or stolen during the winter.

Motorcycle Winterization Tips

Before parking your bike for the winter, do a few things to protect it so you can ride it as soon as the weather warms up again.

  • Check the chains and belt for damage and to make sure they have enough lubrication. If you’re not sure what to do, take it into the shop so they can do it for you.
  • Get an oil change for your bike because old oil can cause engine corrosion.
  • Add fuel stabilizer to prevent motor damage and ignition problems later.
  • Charge your battery before storing. Consider getting a trickle charger that cycles on and off to maintain the correct charge over time.
  • Clean and wax your bike before storing. Any leftover road grime could damage the paint or chrome on your bike. Don’t forget leather conditioner for the seat and/or saddlebags.
  • Consider indoor storage for your bike. A heated garage is ideal, but any covered area with a tarp over your bike will work.
  • Update your motorcycle insurance coverage. Even if you don’t ride all winter long, there is always the risk of loss or damage to your bike while it’s stored. Your premiums may be reduced while you’re not putting miles on your bike.

Once you put your toys away for the winter, give us a call so we can help you update your RV, boat, or motorcycle insurance. You’ve done the work to protect your toy from winter. Let us help you protect it from the unpredictable.

Fall Maintenance Checklist: 2021 Edition

Written By Charlotte Insurance on October 19, 2021. It has 0 comments.

a person cleaning their gutters as part of their fall maintenance checklist

Regular home maintenance helps take care of your property and helps prevent unnecessary expenses later. It also helps avoid damage that could lead to big insurance claims.

Now that fall has arrived, here’s what you need to do around your home to protect and take care of it.

  • Snake out the drains around your home to unclog them. This will help water drain more efficiently and prevent accidental flooding in your home.
  • Clear your air vents of debris and vacuum out heat vents and registers. Also, change out any air filters. Air will flow more efficiently, keeping your home warmer in the winter.
  • Rake and pick up leaves in your yard. Not only will this keep your lawn healthy, it’ll help prevent slips and falls on your property.
  • Put away lawn furniture and other items that won’t be used in fall or winter. This will help them last longer and reduce potential hazards in a big storm, especially if the wind picks up.
  • Have your heating system inspected and serviced. This includes your HVAC, furnace, boiler, and/or fireplace. Make sure it’s all in good working condition and repair problems now before they become disasters in the winter.
  • Clean your gutters and downspouts. This will help water flow away from your house during a rainstorm or as ice and frost melt..
  • Drain and winterize outdoor plumbing towards the end of fall. This includes pools, spigots, and sprinkler systems. The last thing you need is damaged hoses and pipes after a freeze or two.
  • Inspect your roof. Take care of any missing or loose shingles now to prevent roof leaks later.
  • Check for hot water heater leaks. Leaks could lead to flooding. Even if there are no leaks, consider the age of your hot water heater. If it’s more than eight years old, it could be nearing the end of its life. It may be time to replace it.
  • Check your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Replace the batteries if needed. Tip: If you changed them in spring, it’s time to replace them again. If you can’t remember the last time you replaced them, do it now.
  • Clean window wells around your home. When water from rain or melted snow gets into clogged window wells, it can’t drain easily. This could lead to additional pressure on the well, causing the window to break and moisture to get into your basement.
  • Check your home insurance coverage to make sure you have enough. Your policy amount is based on what it would cost to replace your home from the ground up. As costs and values change over time, it’s good to check your policy once a year or so. If you don’t remember the last time you thought about your insurance, now is a good time.

Regular maintenance of your home keeps it in good working condition, helps maintain the value of your home, and reduces damage from weather and other perils. Fall is a great time to get your home ready for winter. If you have questions about your homeowners insurance or you need a quote for a new policy, contact us here at Charlotte Insurance. We can help you protect your home!

Homeowners Insurance and Renovations: Here’s What You Need to Know

Written By Charlotte Insurance on October 18, 2021. It has 0 comments.

a couple discussing their home renovation project along with their insurance needs

Even small home renovations come with a lot of stress. It’s exciting to improve your home in some way, but there are also a lot of details to worry about.

Don’t let your home insurance be one of those stressors. Here’s what you need to know before you start renovating.

Will Your Standard Homeowners Insurance Policy Be Enough?

To some extent, your current homeowners insurance policy will cover home renovations you make. But it won’t fully cover everything, depending on the type of renovations you have planned.

If the changes will increase the cost to rebuild your home, you may need more coverage. Examples include: Adding on a new room to your home or upgrading the materials used in an existing room, like your kitchen.

At the same time, you may not have enough liability coverage to protect yourself from the danger of a renovation. People working in or visiting your home will have more hazards that could cause potential injury or damage. Depending on the situation, you may be liable for their medical expenses or property damage.

The most important thing to do is contact your insurance agent before you start the renovations. This will give us a chance to discuss your plans and figure out what, if any, changes to your homeowners policy need to be made.

Extra Coverage You Might Need for the Renovation

Whether your homeowners insurance coverage should be updated or not depends on many factors. But there are some common increases or additions that may be needed during and after your renovation. Here are a few to consider:

  • Increase your policy limit if the cost to rebuild your home increases after the renovation.
  • Increase your liability limits during the renovation, especially if you’re doing DIY. If you hire a contractor, they should have their own insurance coverage.
  • Increase your liability after the renovation if the new addition creates new potential liability for you as a homeowner. Examples include installing hot tubs or swimming pools.
  • Increase your personal property coverage if you need to buy new items like appliances and furniture for the renovation.
  • Add “dwelling under renovation” coverage to protect the building materials needed for your renovation. The materials will be covered both en route to and at your property. This also includes coverage for foundation collapse during the renovation.
  • Add “vacant home insurance” if your renovations will require you to vacate your home for at least 30 to 60 days.

Will Your Premiums Increase After the Renovation?

While renovating a home is an exciting (albeit stressful) process, many homeowners worry it’ll increase their insurance once the work is complete. The answer is…it depends.

If the renovations increase the cost to rebuild your home, then yes, your premiums may increase. This could be because of a new room addition, an increase in liability, or an upgrade in materials used in a room, like a kitchen.

Sometimes, though, a renovation makes a home more secure. Updating your home’s plumbing or installing storm shutters may protect your home against potential disasters. This could result in your premiums going down because of discounts.

The question about your premiums is one for your independent insurance agent to help you answer. It’s why calling before the renovation even begins is so important.

Thinking of renovating your home? Before you do, give us a call so we can help you protect your home during and after. Is the work already done? Contact us so we can make sure you have enough homeowners insurance, at the best price, for your home.

Planning a Haunted House? Make Sure You’re Protected

Written By Charlotte Insurance on October 14, 2021. It has 0 comments.

haunted house in need of insurance

You’ve always wanted to have a haunted house during spooky season, and now you’ve done it. The costumes, props, and scares are mapped out, and you’re ready to open your doors and horrify your neighbors.

Before you do, make sure you’ve protected your guests and yourself from the hazards of running a haunted house. Here’s what you need to know.

Understand Safety Hazards

Haunted houses face a variety of safety risks. They’re often dimly lit with twisting pathways and a lot of commotion as people react to the scare tactics.

Damage from fire is a top concern for haunted houses. Between the flammable materials used for decorations and the wires and cables from audio/visual equipment, a poorly set-up attraction can be a recipe for disaster.

Injuries to attendees and people working the haunted house are also potential risks you’ll have to consider as well. People can fall and trip when the lights are out. They may bump into equipment.

Haunted houses are considered a “special amusement building” and are required to meet specific fire code regulations per the National Fire Protection Association. It’s also important to check with the city or county for any local permitting requirements. Following these regulations will keep attendees safe and prevent your haunted house from being shut down.

Protect Yourself with the Right Insurance Coverage

Understanding the hazards of running a haunted house and following regulations to prevent problems will help keep everyone safe. But accidents can and will happen. The next step to protect yourself is to make sure you, as the owner of the haunted house, have proper insurance coverage — and enough of it.

Ask yourself (and an insurance professional) these questions:

Where is your haunted house located? If your haunted house is set up in your home or business property, and you’re relying on liability coverage you already have, you may be surprised later. The haunted house may be excluded from your current home insurance of business insurance coverage because it is outside the scope of what that property was originally intended to be used for. Find out before your haunted house opens, not after an accident.

Will you charge admission? If you charge people money to enter your haunted house, that may turn a community event into a business event. Your personal insurance rarely covers business activities, so it’s important to talk to your independent insurance agent to make sure you have the right insurance. You may decide not to charge admission or you may want to purchase a policy that covers business activities.

How will you handle injuries? When someone gets hurt or experiences property damage on your property, you’re responsible. For a haunted house, you’re going to need the right kind of liability coverage in case of a claim or a lawsuit later. You need special events coverage that’s designed specifically for bigger events with more people and more potential hazards.

Don’t let the fear of a high insurance premium stop you from protecting yourself. The cost of a new policy will depend, in large part, on the scare tactics and set-up of your haunted house. A mild or small haunted house will need a smaller policy than an elaborate or horror-filled event. The only way to know for sure is to talk to an independent insurance agent.

If you’re planning a haunted house, give us a call at 704-552-5888. We can make sure you have the coverage you need to protect yourself from the dangers of running a haunted house, so you can focus on the fun.