Flood Insurance – Protecting Your Home From Flash Floods

7 Quick Facts About Flood Damage and How to Better Protect Your Home and Business.

The massive flood damage around the Birmingham metro area on April 7th, 2014 caught many residence by surprise. Based on the national Weather Service, more than 7 inches of rain was measured in Vestavia Hills, while other locations in the area reported 5 – 6 inches of rain.

The National Flood Insurance Plane (NFIP) was created by the U.S Government to help with the high cost of flood related losses of both buildings and property.

Seven Important Facts About Flood Insurance:

1. No one is safe. – People outside of high-risk areas file nearly 25% of National Flood Insurance claims. In high-risk areas, there is at least a 1 in 4 chance of flooding during a 30-year mortgage. Poor drainage systems, rapid accumulation of rainfall, and broken water mains can all result in flood. Properties on a hillside can be damaged by mudflow, a covered peril under the Standard Flood Insurance Policy.

2. I have Homeowner’s/Renters Insurance policy. – Flood damage is not typically a covered peril by most homeowners/Renters insurance policies sold in the U.S.

3. Can I purchase Flood Policy in Birmingham? – If you live in a community that participates in the NFIP, you can get flood Insurance. Birmingham, Hoover, Vestavia, Homewood, Mountain Brook, Alabaster, Chelsea and many more municipalities are participating in the NFIP.

4. How much coverage is allowed by the NFIP? – Residential homes structure limit is $250,000, and content is limited to $100,000. Business Structure limit is $500,000 and $500,000 limit for business content. Renters Contents limit is $100,000.

5. Does flood insurance cover flood damage caused by storms, rivers, or tidal waters?

Yes, provided that, if confined to your property, the flood water covers at least two acres. A general condition of flood also exists if two properties are affected, one of which is yours.

6. What are Flood Zones? – Flood zones are land areas identified by the FEMA. Each flood zone describes that land area in terms of its risk of flooding. Everyone lives in a flood zone-it’s just a question of whether you live in a low, moderate, or high risk area.

7. What is covered in my basement? – Flood insurance covers your home’s foundation elements and equipment that’s necessary to support the structure (i.e. HVAC, Water Heater, Etc.). Flood Policy does not cover basement improvements, such as finished walls, floors, ceilings or personal belongings that may be kept in a basement.

Don’t Invalidate Fire Insurance

We have all had a dishwasher that puttered out or a washing machine that sat idle with clothes floating in a well of water. Fixing creaky old appliances can be costly, and it often seems there is no way of avoiding such expenses. However, many owners and renters have found a solution: purchasing a condo warranty.

Unlike insurance-which covers natural disasters, calamities, and theft-a warranty is a service contract that, among other things, covers major appliances for members of a condominium. These warranties are specifically designed to work within the existing support structure and services provided by your association, so you only pay for the protection you need. Here are four ways a condo warranty can benefit you.

Covers Major Home Appliances and Systems

While the definitions of major systems and appliances may vary from policy to policy, a condo warranty will typically cover HVAC, plumbing, electrical, hot water heaters, garbage disposals, dishwashers, stoves and ovens, washers and dryers, and garage doors. Refrigerators are often covered when they are in the property at the time of purchase. This can be even more beneficial in the event that a retailer or chain goes out of business and/or any coverage you have on the product lapses.

Enhances Market Value

Condo warranties are, in general, cost-saving tools when it comes to maintenance. However, they can also be an enhanced benefit in a competitive seller’s market because they increase a unit’s marketability. According to the National Home Warranty Association, units on the market that covered by warranties tend to sell about 50 percent faster than homes that are not.

Protects from Potential Post-Sale Legal Disputes

Warranties generally protect the condo’s seller from post-sale legal disputes. They allow for the purchaser to invest with confidence, as they are given more security than what is offered by a statute of limitations, which, in most cases, only lasts four years. On the flip side, sellers can avoid legal disputes based on faulty or dysfunctional appliances and systems because they are covered. Of course, reviewing the fine print for specifics is always highly encouraged before purchasing a property.

Provides Peace of Mind

Out of the nine most crucial appliances in the home, at least one is expected to break down at some point in its 13-year average lifespan. A new buyer is assured some peace of mind in knowing that if something goes awry with any of the condo’s major appliances or systems, they will likely be covered by the warranty.

Should Your Insurance Company Offer Cyber Protection?

Cyber security has become a growing concern for U.S. companies over the past couple of years, and for good reason. Information breaches have not only become increasingly common, but also much larger. Nothing illustrates the state of modern web security quite as well as the most recent breach, which saw hackers target the IRS by exploiting faulty security to compromise over 100,000 taxpayer records.

Similar breaches have also affected much smaller companies, and it’s common to see a forward-thinking insurance company racing to adapt. Here is what you need to know to determine if, first, you’re actually in need of cyber insurance and, second, what you should look for in a policy.

Are You At Risk?

If you work with customer information of any kind, then the answer is likely yes. The term to look out for here is Personally Identifiable Information, or PII. It’s not a technical term, but rather a legal term that carries some teeth if you have to deal with it.

At its root, PII is any piece of collected information that could potentially allow a third party to identify a business’s individual clients. Given how good the Internet is at leveraging even tiny hints to track down a person, that definition is awfully broad. Full names, email addresses, site nicknames, and (sometimes) even web cookies can all qualify as PII.

If you’re storing anything that falls under the PII umbrella, you’re at risk of a breach. Breaches are enormously costly, both for affected customers and for the company responsible for the loss. Companies in the healthcare and retail industries are obviously at an increased risk, but when it comes down to it, any business that makes a habit of collecting information should ask their insurance company about cyber policies.

What Your Cyber Policy Needs

You’ll need to look for a few things in any cyber insurance policy. As you may expect, a good policy should cover the financial damages directly caused by a breach. However, cyber attacks can cause financial damage in a wide variety of ways. In particular, make sure that your company is protected against:

– Losses caused by lost time and productivity. A major hack can cause company gears to grind to a halt. Find an insurance company that guarantees coverage for the revenue lost during this period.
– Indemnification caused by a third party. Few modern companies handle their data on their own. Outsourced IT support or other companies can fall victim to a breach that affects your customers.
– Loss of Reputation. Breached companies, even those that have done their due diligence, almost always take a PR hit in the wake of an attack. A good policy offers some cushioning against the customer losses that generally ensue.

Finally, also try your best to work with an insurance company that has an educational component. Some plans will also come with training to avoid a breach. As nice as protection is, it’s safe to say that it’s best left unused. Installing a set of best practices can help keep you from having to rely on a safety net in the first place.

3 Effective Ways to Avoid Inheritance Conflicts

These issues come up mostly while talking with those who have gone through conflicts in their families during property division process in any of their estate settlements. In most of the cases there are references to the input from one of the members of family “once removed”, and not necessarily the ones who are the so called immediate heirs. These other people who are usually spouses or grandchildren don’t always have the similar emotional connection when compared to the ones who are immediate heirs. In most of the cases this may be unintentionally done. But, when children or spouses have things they want and they make demands, they often end up creating situations that finally result into conflicts.

Here are 3 ways that can help in avoiding such conflicts.

Understanding the Personality of other Heirs: It is very important that you try and understand what kind of people the other heirs who are also involved in the settlement issue are. Analyse their basic traits and find out the way to communicate with these heirs. This approach often resolves most complications even before they arise and clears off lot of misunderstandings. Personality difference is often the main cause behind a conflict concerning settlements. It will become more and more difficult to avoid conflict or maintain peace without understanding the differences.

Keep the Home Untouched before Formal Division: It is very important that you don’t claim your right on something that logically belongs to other heirs. It can also mess with their emotional sentiments and can further complicate the case for you. This is why it is important that the house remains untouched or undisturbed till a legal division is announced. An in-depth scrutiny of the property is important before there is any legal division and you can contribute to the process by not disturbing anything. Without the consent of other beneficiaries or heirs if you remove items from an estate or a home it is very much possible that the issue will get complicated. Very often we see people making this mistake of just going into a property and picking what they want without any consent with the concerned people and such actions are often justified by them through some facts or instances of the past. That being said, legally it will only complicate the case.

Only Beneficiaries or Immediate Heirs should be Part of the Property Division: Property division is a sensitive case and hence it should not be made a mass trial. Only immediate heirs or beneficiaries should become part of the process and other outside influences like children of heirs, grandchildren, in-laws, spouses etc should be kept away from the process. This is particularly more important at the beginning of the division process.

10 Steps To Reduce Your Debt: Do-It-Yourself Debt Reduction

Getting into debt is easy and worrying about it won’t do much in relieving you from your debt. The best you can do when you have already run into debt is to start working towards reducing or clearing the debt and staying out of debt in every possible way. You can find your own strategy to deal with the debt, but there are several DIY debt reduction strategies and tips you can use to get over your financial woes.

1. Evaluate the debts. Start by collecting all financial documents and printing credit reports so you know exactly where you are with the debts. Most times people get scared just thinking of how hefty the debts are but you will never know until you take the courage to evaluate the debt so you can start somewhere with the recovery. Include all personal loans, auto loans, credit cards and payday loans in this evaluation.

2. Check your current earnings and budget. With the clear debt information, you then must start working towards debt reduction. Calculate the monthly income you get after taxes and basics like mortgage or rent, groceries, utilities and insurance. This way, you will get to find out how much you can spare for paying off the debt.

3. Find ways to increase pay off amounts. Sometimes when you subtract all basics from your income, you might find that you have very little amount left you can use on the debts. If the amount is too small, try and come up with ways through which you can reduce spending. Carpooling is one of the temporary methods you can use to cutback the expenses.

4. Create a plan. Now that you have some money to use on the debts, create a plan of how you are going to handle the debts and pay off. Will you start with one debt or pay a little every month for every debt you have? You might find it helpful to start with debts with highest interest rates or highest balance.

5. Negotiate repayment with your lenders and creditors. Agreeing to negotiate terms will be a plus to your credibility and your lenders or creditors will be more than willing to strike a deal with you.

6. Keep up with the debt reduction plan. Commitment is your only ticket out of debt so keep up with the plan.

7. As you continue with the repayment plan, avoid adding any more debts on top of what you already have.

8. Find better ways to deal with your financial issues besides getting loans. You can for instance, avoid making purchases for those that are not urgent.

9. Leave your credit card at home when going out unless you are going shopping. It will keep impulse buying at bay. In case you are going to shop, make a list of everything you need and stick by it no matter how tempting things in the store appear.

10. In case you take up a loan again, be consistent with your repayment and avoid piling loans. Try and have one loan at a time.