Guest Author - Bonnie Sayers
For those who rent and have not considered renters insurance now is the time to obtain a quote and fit the premiums into your monthly budget.
Flood and Earthquake coverage are separate policies. If you are a resident of California you can purchase Earthquake Insurance through your insurance provider, as long as they are authorized to represent the California Earthquake Authority. The Federal Government sets the rates for Flood Insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program. The policy can also be administered through your insurance provider of choice.
Because renters insurance is not necessary to sign a lease and move into a residence, a good portion of renters never obtain renters insurance. I purchased my policy in May after a robbery in my home occurred while I was out doing errands. My annual premium is $294.00. I also purchased an Earthquake policy at an annual premium of $108. I opted for the lowest option at this point in time, and will most likely increase when an income tax refund arrives. For now I have a $750 deductible with a limit of $5,000 personal property on the Earthquake Policy. What sold me on the policy is the Additional Living Expense and Loss of Rent.
While they do pay for the shortest time reasonably needed to repair or replace parts of the rental unit; it is more than I had prior to the Earthquake Insurance policy. I am not covered for fire, explosion or water damage from flood, rain, tsunami, or water below the surface of the ground, whether it be natural or not. This includes leaks through a sidewalk, foundation or other structure.
My personal property protection for the Renters Insurance has a reimbursement provision of $25,000, a deductible of $250 with additional living expenses up to twelve months. The family liability protection is at $100,00 for each occurrence, $1,000 guest medical protection at $1,000 for each person.
Since the city of Los Angeles recently replaced the sidewalks on the street and I witnessed the shoddy job being done, I am now concerned that something could go amiss down the road. I see this type of incidence occurring frequently in areas of the State while watching local news. Workers in another area could cause damage that would result in my house being flooded.
I have my auto insurance through Allstate and made the telephone call to their offices directly for my insurance needs. I was asked several questions when I applied for both Renters and Earthquake Insurance. These included how close I reside to the Fire Department, nearest Hospital in miles, if I have any pets and anyone else besides my children reside in the house.
There is also a separate policy offered through Allstate, known as Schedules Personal Property Coverage. This would cover fine art, musical instruments, sports equipment, valuables stored at the safe deposit bank or in the home. If you work from home and utilize your computer or audio-visual equipment for business purposes these will be covered as well.
It is important to document all major purchases throughout the year and contact your agent or insurance provider to include these items in your property insurance policies. These would include a new computer, laptop, exercise equipment, new furniture, new appliances, etc.
I am a home health care worker for my son and get my health and dental insurance through the Union. If a home health care worker would be coming into my house on a daily basis I would need to make note of that on an insurance policy. In California there is the California Workers’ Compensation and Employers’ Liability Coverage for Residence Employees Coverage. This would be noted on the Policy Declaration of the Condominium and Renters or Standard, Deluxe or Deluxe Plus Homeowners policies.
We had a trampoline in our home for my kids to use. A few years ago a classmate came over with his Mother for the afternoon. When I noticed the boy jumping on the trampoline I mentioned to the parent that I did not have insurance and that he really could not use that for his protection and mine.
If you rent out a room in your home or have taken in displaced residents from Hurricane Katrina, you should contact your insurance agent or provider and get the additional persons added onto your policy.
You do not want to weigh down your car with all your emergency belongings since this will cause you to go through gas quicker driving around with a carload, but do keep a suitcase with important documents in a closet that is not at floor level.
Take inventory of your contents and videotape the rooms with the date noted for future reference. Make sure you list items received over the Holidays and at birthdays. Make a monthly note on your calendar to do an insurance checkup. Pack a directory of health care providers in case you have to evacuate and need to switch Primary care physicians or choose another provider through your PPO. I also keep a copy of the banking locations for my state in one of the emergency suitcases.
While gathering important documents don’t forget the schooling data if you have children. This would include the recent test results, report cards and progress reports. It will help in case you have to enroll your child in another school. Since Hurricane Katrina destroyed schools this would really help enable your child to continue with their studies without having to be re-tested.
I always kept our emergency suitcases at the back door and have changed that to a high storage cabinet that is easy to access when emergencies occur. I learned from seeing the flooding of homes on the news coverage. Think of the replacement cost of all your items if you are a renter and have no insurance as of this date.
I have now looked into purchasing Flood Insurance. The first step is to check your Flood Risk through the FloodSmart.gov site. I found out that here in my Los Angeles area we are a low to moderate risk and according to Allstate 90% of all disasters are flood related with 25% occurring in low to moderate risk areas. The site states, “Buildings in these zones could be flooded by severe, concentrated rainfall coupled with inadequate local drainage systems. Flood insurance for these zones is available in communities participating in the NFIP.” Considering that last years season had one of the highest rain falls in Los Angeles, along with witnessing the water pouring down the street, I feel it is necessary to purchase Flood Insurance at this time.
I cannot imagine having to make the decision on what to bring if being informed to evacuate. I know we have three suitcases with our essentials and a bag or two in the car with water, food and health care supplies. After seeing the devastation and realizing that one might not get back into their homes for weeks on end, it makes me want to take pictures of every room so we would have something to reflect back on if we had to leave quickly. If anything it might help my children see items they had to leave behind.
Each time a disaster hits somewhere in the world I take it as a sign to update my emergency supplies, purchase more batteries and candles and go through the canned good stock and make sure we have a can opener that is not hard to grasp and easy to maneuver.
Many people discussed on the news that they prepared by filling their bathtubs with water. I heard this could be used for drinking and to flush the toilet. Each time I go to the store I pick up a jug of water. Now my kitchen has turned into a storage facility with ice chests and water jugs. Recently we had a power outage across Los Angeles that freaked out many and put others on preparation overdrive. I called the school to see if the power was out and was notified they had a generator.
At one of my children’s Elementary schools they hand out every other year a large plastic ziploc bag that has a printed label with the student’s name, address, room number, parent name and phone number. All families were requested to place a large plastic bag inside, a juice box or water container, cereal bars and other non-perishable items. We were asked to include a letter or card to our child and a family photo. I assumed the letter was to have the child read during the emergency so I wrote for my son to remain calm and eat something or read a book in the classroom and that I would be there to get him quickly.
Families also need to have a disaster plan in place. Children need to know their phone numbers and addresses. It was also noted during the coverage on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that many young children did not know their names or their parents. For children that are under 2 or 3 and cannot speak this information, families should consider a label on the sneakers or inside the clothing somewhere to help identify the child. There are emergency medical alert bracelets for those who have health issues and are on medication. I have yet to do this for my younger son who is nonverbal, but inside the car I have a sticker noting his information and one inside the house. This is just in case something happens to me so he could be identified.
Many families have adopted one night a week for game playing and having a sit down dinner. This would be the time to discuss a family disaster plan and tell them what types of insurance you have to help them learn about planning for emergencies. If there are relatives in other cities or States share their number with your children and discuss what each child would want to take along and make a list of these items. Have this list on the bulletin board or on refrigerator so the child can read through this when the time comes to evacuate.
I also have purchased additional warranties on my stationary bike, television and air conditioner. These documents are kept in my emergency suitcase along with my insurance policies.
The tips to remember are to review your insurance policies, update coverage and contents within the home and create a disaster plan for the family. Another step is to pack emergency supplies and important documents in a high storage section of the home and make an additional copy for relatives in another city or state. Consider purchasing a small portable television that takes batteries and make sure you have a portable radio with plenty of batteries. If you only have a cell phone you might want to purchase some calling cards to use payphones when cell phone is not fully charged. If you have a home phone line with the only phone being a cordless, head over to Radio Shack and get the old fashioned kind of phone.
In order to afford the insurance policies start packing a lunch a few times a week, wash your laundry in cold water once a week and avoid fast food for two weeks. Other ways to cut corners would be to read newspapers and magazines at the library on your lunch hour and take the kids to rent movies at the library on Saturday.
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