Filing a Homeowners Insurance Claim

It’s necessary to file a claim with the insurance company if a home is destroyed by a storm or a visitor is injured. It’s important to keep in mind that a Homeowners policy is a contract held between an insurer and an individual. This means that there are specific procedures and rules to follow. It’s important to read an insurance policy thoroughly to understand individual responsibilities completely. There are a few pointers that every homeowner should remember.

Immediately report all crimes to the police. It’s important to notify the police of any vandalism, burglary or other crime. Homeowners should also obtain the names of any police officers involved in the report or investigation. It’s also important to write down the names of all law enforcement officers after speaking with them on the phone.

Make all necessary temporary repairs. Don’t shell out thousands of dollars for full repairs to a damaged property. It’s best to pay only for supplies to repair or sustain something temporarily. For example, if a window is broken, it’s best to pay for boards and nails or tape and cardboard to repair it temporarily. It would be pointless to pay for an entirely new window until after the claim is honored. Homeowners should save all receipts of items purchased for making temporary repairs.

Call your insurance agent immediately. After calling the police for any crime-related issues, it’s important to call your insurance agent. If the nature of the claim doesn’t involve a crime, phone an agent immediately after discovering the issue that will become a claim. Since there are time limits for some claims, it’s important to follow this advice. Ask your agent what steps must be taken.

List all damaged items. Don’t discard any items that are damaged before the insurance adjuster is able to survey them. Photographs and videotapes are also acceptable forms of proof in most cases. After making an inventory, make a copy for the insurance adjuster.

Obtain the necessary claim forms. After receiving notification of a claim, an insurance company must send the proper forms to an individual within a specific time period. The best way to avoid delays is to ensure that the paperwork is filled out correctly.

Keep all receipts after relocating. Not everyone has to relocate after filing a claim. However, if the dwelling is uninhabitable, it’s important to remember that Homeowners insurance has provisions for living expenses to some extent. It’s best to keep receipts in order to show written proof of expenditures.

Homeowners should follow each of these steps carefully. After filing a claim, it’s best to have an insurance adjuster come out as quickly as possible to survey the damage. Most insurance companies arrange for adjusters to visit a residence. To learn more about this process or to obtain answers to other questions, please feel free to contact one of our knowledgeable Protection Coaches® at 877-994-6787, that’s 877-99-INSURE or visit www.siaonline.com/report_claim.html. We are happy to help!

Protecting Your Home From Mold

It’s important to have a plan and routine in order to protect a home from mold. This involves constantly looking for watermarks on ceilings or walls, signs of mold growth and musty smells. If mold is caught early enough, it can be removed with a simple cleaning solution of bleach and water. However, preventing mold from growing again requires that the source of moisture be eliminated. The area where the mold started growing must also be dried properly. In some cases, the surface or area might simply need to be replaced. After cleaning the mold and attacking the source, be sure to place all rags, clothing, materials, paper and other debris affected in a plastic bag to be thrown in the garbage.

Mold is similar to insect infestations and rot in the respect that it is usually not covered under a Homeowners insurance policy. Standard policies afford coverage for sudden or accidental disasters. However, they don’t offer coverage for cleaning or maintaining a home. If the mold is a direct result of a burst pipe or other covered peril, the insurance company may cover the cost to eliminate the mold.

Since mold is also dangerous, it’s important to tackle the problem immediately if it arises. Mold can cause family members in the home to become sick. Symptoms are usually similar to allergic reactions or hay fever. The best way to avoid all of these problems is to take steps to prevent mold. The following steps can be taken to prevent mold from growing.

Reduce Humidity Level. It’s best to keep the humidity level between 30% and 60% by utilizing dehumidifiers and air conditioners. Be sure to place exhaust fans in all bathrooms and kitchens. If carpet is desired, avoid installing it in bathrooms or kitchens. It’s best to have carpet only in rooms that aren’t exposed to moisture on a regular basis. Another important thing to remember is to avoid letting water pool and collect under house plants.

Check & Replace Hoses. Be sure to regularly inspect pipes, fittings and hoses. It’s best to replace hoses to appliances that use water every five years. At about $5 or $10 per piece, the cost of replacing hoses is much less expensive than dealing with a major mold problem.

Use Mold-Reducing Products. Clean all bathrooms in the home with bleach and water regularly. There are also several other cleaning products available that are designed to kill mold. It’s a good idea to add mold inhibitors to paint before applying it to the walls or doors.

Exercise Caution after Water Damage. If at any time a large amount of water comes into contact with the home’s interior, it’s important to ensure that carpets, upholstery and any other surfaces that hold water are dried thoroughly and promptly. Everything should completely dry within 24 to 48 hours following the initial water contact. Items that can’t be dried should be discarded. If there is standing water, remove it promptly. In addition to promoting mold growth, standing water is a prime breeding ground for microorganisms. After all areas have been dried, wash and disinfect them well. This includes the surfaces of appliances, closets, walls, shelves, floors, heating systems and cooling systems.

Check the Roof & Gutters. Another way to prevent mold is to check the roof and gutters frequently. Clear the gutters of any debris. If there are any leaks in the roof, have them repaired immediately to avoid water seeping into the home.

Although mold is problematic, it can be prevented with proper care. For any questions about mold and the specific terms of an individual Homeowners insurance policy, contact one of our Protection Coaches® today.

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  1. Call 951-600-5751 or 877-994-6787
  2. Fax 951-677-6265
  3. Email – insure@siaonline.com
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Deck the Halls, but Keep it Safe!

When decking your halls this holiday season, avoid the possibility of accidental poisoning by keeping certain plants and berries safely out of reach of little hands and paws.

  • Though your local florist may champion the colorful poinsettia as a benign plant breed, the plant’s vibrant red leaves emit a potentially toxic sap that can cause skin, mouth and stomach irritation when handled or ingested. Best to keep these Christmas decorations up high. If you suspect your child or pet has come into contact with poinsettia leaves, a quick scrub with soap and water can remove most of the sap from skin or fur. Call your doctor or veterinarian if you think your child or pet has ingested poinsettia leaves.
  • Bright green holly makes a terrific seasonal ornamental, and you may be tempted to line your staircase banister or walkway with this plant, but as beautiful as those ruby-red berries may be, they can cause a wicked tummy-ache (or worse) when ingested. Keep holly berries up high, away from pets and children, and remove the berries of holly used to decorate easily-accessible stairways and doors. Though the berries of the holly bush can cause vomiting, diarrhea and intestinal distress, the toxins contained in the holly berries are rarely fatal, so don’t panic if you think your child (or pet) has eaten one or two. Just notify the pediatrician, veterinarian or your local poison control center, and they’ll advise you on how to treat the impending discomfort.
  • Kissing under the mistletoe can not only pass along cold germs, if your mistletoe drops a berry or two, it can be fatal to small children or pets! Remove these extremely poisonous berries before hanging mistletoe in your home, and dispose of them carefully. Wash your hands after handling mistletoe berries, and keep Christmas kisses short and sweet–preferably on the cheek!
  • If your family prefers the smell of a live pine tree to the convenience of an artificial variety, keep your pets and children safe by removing stray pine needles from the floor whenever you see them. Their sweet smell may prompt pets and kids to put the needles in their mouths, which can lead to skin irritation, allergic reactions or–in the case of accidental ingestion–punctured digestive organs. Vacuum daily around the tree, and keep small children and pets away from the pine needles if you can. If you suspect your child or pet has ingested pine needles, contact your pediatrician or veterinarian immediately for information on signs that the needles may have cause harm. Or save yourself the trouble, and consider buying an artificial tree this year!

We hope this article helps.

The Stromsoe Insurance Agency Total Protection wishes you and your loved ones a wonderful and safe holiday season!

7 Tips on Classifying Workers as Employees vs. Independent Contractors

Small business owners can hire individuals as either employees or independent contractors. Which classification a hired individual falls under is often a confusing process for business owners, but it’s this critical classification that affects what tax documents must be filed; how much you, the business owner, pays in taxes; as well as whether or not you should be withholding from a particular worker’s paycheck or not.

If you own a business and hire people, then you should keep these seven points in mind as you go about hiring workers as either employees or independent contractors:

  1. If you, as an employer, intentionally or otherwise misclassified your workers, then you could suffer significant tax bills and be facing hefty penalties for not filing the appropriate tax forms and not paying employment taxes.
  2. You should know and understand how the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) determines the relationship between a worker and a business. The IRS uses the following three factors in determining this relationship:
    • Type of relationship, which means how both your business and the worker views the relationship.
    • Financial control, which refers to whether or not your business can control or direct the business and monetary aspects of the worker’s job.
    • Behavioral control, which refers to whether or not your business can control or direct how work is done through means like training or instruction.
  3. IRS Form SS-8, which is labeled as the Determination of Worker Status for Purposes of Federal Employment Taxes and Income Tax Withholding, can be filed by employers and/or workers. This form essentially asks the IRS to determine if a specific worker’s status should be classified as an employee or as an independent contractor. IRS form SS-8 can be obtained online at IRS.gov or by calling 1-800-829-3676.
  4. Generally speaking, a worker should most likely be classified as an employee if the employer can direct or control what is being done and how it’s done.
  5. Generally speaking, a worker should most likely be classified as an independent contractor if the employer only directs or controls the result of the work, and not the manner, means, or methods being used to accomplish the end result.
  6. Do ensure that workers are aware of their classification, or worker status. This will not only help them avoid higher tax bills, but also avoid losing any valuable benefits.
  7. Check out the small business tab on the IRS.gov website and IRS publications 15-A, 1779, and 1976 to find out more about determining a worker’s status as either an employee or as an independent contractor.

We hope this article helps. If you have any questions, comments or concerns, please feel free to contact one of our knowledgeable protection coaches today at 877-994-6787, that’s 877-99-INSURE or email us at insure@siaonline.com. We are happy to help!