Planning for your Spring home remodel

It’s that time of year! Spring cleaning and warmer temps call for those updates you dreamed of for your home.  If you are hiring a contractor to perform work on your home or property, it is essential to hire a contractor who is both licensed and bonded. When you hire an unlicensed contractor, you are taking significant risks, including that you will be subject to a lawsuit, as well as the potential that any implied warranties afforded by state law will be void.

While the laws for a contractor’s license differs by state, in most cases, a license is required to do any type of skilled labor on another person’s home or property. For instance, an electrician, a plumber, or a drywaller may be required to have a license. Someone performing a variety of tasks may need to obtain a general contractor’s license. The state may impose specific requirements such as minimum education or work experience to obtain a license. The state may also require that the contractor take an examination with different levels of licensing for the right to do different size jobs. In addition, the state may require that the contractor has an active worker’s compensation insurance policy for a license to be issued. In many states, being bonded is also a prerequisite to obtaining a license.

Being bonded is different from being licensed, although the two are sometimes related. When a contractor is bonded, this means he has purchased a surety bond. This is a type of insurance policy that protects a property owner. The bond provides a certain amount of liability protection and if the contractor fails to complete a job as required or contracted, the bond can provide compensation to a property owner.

Typically, for a bond to pay out to a homeowner, the property owner must first win a claim with the state contractor’s board by proving that the contractor failed to perform the required work. The homeowner may also be required to attempt to collect money from the contractor before making a claim against the bond. Whether the bond will be sufficient to pay the claim depends on the size of the bond that the contractor had, and on whether there are other claims against it. The Oregon Construction Contractors Board (CCB) warns customers that the bonds required in Oregon may only provide a limited amount of financial security to property owners because the bonds required are often small compared to the volume of work performed by contractors. However, this may differ in your state and your contractor may sometimes buy a larger bond than is required by law. To determine the amount of protection available to you by hiring a bonded contractor, it is best to speak with a lawyer prior to entering into a construction agreement.

There are important reasons to hire a bonded and licensed contractor. First, since the unlicensed contractor is usually breaking the law by working without a license, there’s a good chance he is also not complying with other laws including permit requirements and inspection requirements. This can result in your project not being up to code, and necessitating repairs or removals if your home is inspected or before your property is sold. Second, it can be much harder to determine if an unlicensed contractor will provide you with quality workmanship since the contractor has not submitted to any examination or review of his knowledge by a licensing board.

Aside from the increased possibility of receiving poor workmanship when you hire an unlicensed contractor, you may also be giving up your right to make warranty claims. While most states impose implied warranties on contractors for bad workmanship, these implied warranty laws often require that the contractor be licensed in order to apply. Furthermore, your state contractor board will not typically help you to make a warranty claim against an unlicensed contractor. So if you are trying to recover at all, you will need to go to civil court. Even if you win in civil court, without a bond, there’s a good chance the unlicensed contractor will not be able to pay your damages.

Another important consideration when hiring an unlicensed contractor is that you could be subject to liability. While the licensed contractor is usually required to have worker’s compensation insurance, someone unlicensed may have no protection from injury at all. If the unlicensed contractor harms himself on your property, you could be subject to a lawsuit and responsible for paying his damages.

Hopefully we’ve equipped you with some information to help you make good choices when hiring a contractor.  Once again, Sentinel Assurance is here to help, let us know if you need a quote or to review your current coverage.

Inventory Checklist: What’s in your home?

No one really wants to think about the horror of losing your home and all of it’s contents to a fire.  But it happens.  If you had to remember every possession in your home with their values following a serious loss (like a fire), could you?

Taking some time to complete a checklist, room by room, prior to a loss you can systematically list and evaluate the value of your possessions. In the event of a loss covered by your policy, a checklist of your household items will be a valuable aid in helping you present your claim to your insurance company at a time of great personal stress {Downloadable Inventory Checklist}

Reviewing and updating this checklist every year would prove so helpful. Once completed, store this checklist in a safety deposit box or fire proof safe. Photographs and video are excellent means of recording your possessions and again can be of great value in the adjustment of a claim for loss or damage. Be sure to keep such records and an inventory list in a secure place away from your residence such as in a safety deposit box or with your agent’s file.

We highly recommend that you insure to today’s replacement value for greater protection. Exceptions, of course, are items that have outlived their effective usefulness, some clothing for example or perhaps other possessions that have been consigned to the cottage. These items should be insured on an Actual Cash Value basis (replacement cost less depreciation). Additionally, antiques, fine arts, rare books and objects of similar nature must be insured on an Actual Cash Value basis or scheduled basis for obvious reasons.

Do you operate a business from your home?  There are limitations to your residential insurance policy regarding business property and operations.  If you operate a trade, profession or occupation for continuous regular pursuit of financial gain within your home, your home based business may not be covered! Having another checklist for your business property will be helpful and while you are at it, contact Sentinel Assurance to make sure you have the business coverage you need as well!

Lawsuits: Why you may need an Umbrella Policy

In today’s world, anyone can get hit with a lawsuit. That’s why it’s more important than ever to consider an added layer of protection for your assets – and your peace of mind.

An umbrella policy provides excess coverage above and beyond what is provided by your homeowners and auto insurance policies. As an example, let’s say your auto insurance pays $300,000 of medical expenses per accident and your umbrella policy is for $1 million. If you are sued for $900,000, your auto insurance would pay $300,000 of the damages and your umbrella policy would pay the remaining $600,000. Umbrella policies usually provide roughly $1 million to $5 million of additional coverage, and it is possible to get more if you have lots of assets to protect.

What about the legal expenses you’ll incur if you’re sued? With umbrella policies, legal expenses are covered on top of the policy amount. The policy may also pay you if your appearance at legal proceedings causes you to lose pay from work (for example, if you are an hourly employee or if you don’t have any personal or vacation days available). Since the insurance company’s money is at risk when you’re sued, it’ll want to protect that money with its own legal team, possibly a better legal team than you could afford on your own.

In addition to covering you for accidents on your property or car accidents you are found to be at fault for, an umbrella policy can also protect your dependent children (for example, if your daughter causes a car accident), any accidents caused by you or your dependent children while operating a watercraft, accidents that occur on rental property you own and personal injury lawsuits arising from slander, libel, defamation of character, false arrest, detention or imprisonment, abuse of process, malicious prosecution, shock/mental anguish and possibly more.

Take some to time to review your coverage.  An umbrella policy can save you a lot and literally cover you and your family.  Sentinel Assurance is here to help. Give us a call and we will put together a quote for you.

 

 

Personal Articles Policy-What is covered?

Everyone has possessions of value in their home, some of a high monetary worth and some which simply hold a great deal of importance to the owner. With a typical home insurance policy the major items in a home, including appliances, furniture and clothing, are covered in the event of a theft or loss. There’s also some of coverage for other valuable items, such as jewelry, personal computers or antiques.

The dollar value paid out on these valuables by a home insurance policy can be quite low, however, and is often not nearly enough to cover the cost of the item. To avoid this from happening, many insurance companies offer another level of home item insurance, such as a “premium” or “ultra” coverage. However, even this type of policy will not pay out for extreme or rare situations, like a valuable being damaged by a houseguest. In situations where high-value items in a home fall outside the scope of even the broadest home insurance policy, a personal articles floater may be a viable option.

When a personal articles policy is purchased, it will require a detailed list or “schedule” of the property that will be covered. Each item must have an appraised value attached to it, and some insurance companies will require proof of that appraisal. If a loss occurs the insurance company pays out the lowest of the following options: actual cash value, the amount the property could reasonably be expected to be repaired or replaced, or the amount of insurance.

So, that wedding ring your spouse purchased for you, make sure you get coverage!  Sentinel Assurance is here to help, let us know what your needs are.

 

Top 10 Items for Your Winter Driving Kit

Snow. Black ice. Freezing temps. Winter driving conditions vary from a slight nuisance to extreme hazard. But with the right gear and a little prep, you can put yourself in a better position to deal with an accident or unexpected delay while on a cold, wintry road. Here are 10 items to stash in your winter driving kit.

1. A folding shovel

If you find yourself suddenly snowed in or stuck in a snow bank, a good shovel can be a lifesaver. Check out compact, lightweight folding varieties that store easily in the trunk.

2. A windshield scraper and de-icer 

Make sure you carry a decent windshield scraper to get snow and ice off your windshield and mirrors. For extreme ice build-up, consider using a de-icer to save you precious time and energy.

3. Extra water and high-energy snack foods

Even in cold weather, staying hydrated is extremely important. Bring along a few bottles of clean water with you before you head out. And stow some high-energy snack foods with a long shelf life (like energy bars, unsalted trail mix, and hard candy) in your car at all times.

4. Emergency signaling device

Flares are incredibly useful if you’re stuck in snow — they can be used to start a signal fire, and the heat they emit helps them stay visible in heavy snow conditions. Battery-powered signals are valuable too and have the benefit of staying lit longer than a flare.

5. A flashlight with extra batteries

Save the battery power on your cell phone and use a spare flashlight instead.

6. A way to charge your cell phone

Being able to use your cell phone is going to be a huge help in any emergency. Whether you carry a portable charger, power pack, or adapter, make sure you have a reliable, remote way to charge your cell phone when your battery gets low.

7. Jumper Cables

It’s important to have them in your vehicle year-round. Jumper cables should be at least 10 feet and coated with at least 8-gauge rubber.

8. A first-aid kit

A basic first-aid kit with bandages, gauze, a cleaning agent, and pain relievers is a must-have for your car kit in every season.

9. Warm clothes and a blanket

If you need to use your car as a temporary shelter, you won’t be able to run the engine for heat indefinitely. Bring extra layers that can keep warm (think knit hats, a pair of socks, gloves, and a warm blanket). Hand and feet warmers are also easy to store and can help keep you toasty in case of emergency.

10. Snow socks or chains

If you get stuck and need that little bit of extra traction to get your car moving, snow chains or snow socks (which are easier to install than chains) can help give you the grip you need.

This list is a great starting point for any vehicle winter driving kit. You also need to grab household items, such as litter, rock salt, matches or a lighter. Remember, there are a multitude of additional items that can be added to individualize the kit to your personal needs. If you have your dog with you often, make sure to account for that. If you have kids, make sure that your vehicle emergency kit is prepared for any and all passengers. Keep safe this winter, be prepared for any and all weather. Drive safe!

 

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