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Reducing the Risk of Basement Flooding

This article is courtesy of the Insurance Brokers Association of Nova Scotia (ibans.com).

Reducing risk of basement flooding, water damage

Weather patterns are changing across Canada causing increased frequency and severity of rainstorms. These rainstorms are resulting in increased water related losses which makes water damage the number one property risk for consumers.

The majority of water damage is occurring in the basement area of homes. Water damage can result in expensive repair bills and can also ruin many of your possessions.

As a consumer there are steps you can take to reduce your risk and protect your home and property.

Steps to take inside your home

  • Move valuable items from the basement to an upper level.
  • Install a sump pump.
  • Use water resistant building materials in basement areas.
  • Install backwater valves or plugs for drains, toilets and other sewer connections.
  • Raise large appliances, furnaces, hot water heaters and electrical panels up on wood or concrete blocks which are above the water level. If an item cannot be raised take precautions and anchor it and protect it with a floodwall.
  • Fuel tanks should be anchored to the floor because a fuel tank can tip over or float in a flood, causing fuel to spill or catch fire.
  • Install flood shields or buildup barriers for basement windows and doors. The tops of the shields should extend above ground level.
  • If flooding is imminent, shut off electricity to areas of the home that might be affected.

Steps to take outside of the home:

  • Ensure proper lot grading. When possible build up the ground around your house so water can drain away from your basement walls.
  • Check sidewalks, patios, decks and driveways to make certain they haven’t settled over time and are causing water to drain toward your house.
  • Landscape with native plants and vegetation that resist soil erosion.
  • Keep water out of window wells.
  • Clear snow away from the house foundation. If the ground is sloped one inch per foot near the house, moving snow just three to five feet from the house will reduce problems.
  • Make sure the downspouts extend at least six feet from your basement wall.
  • Water should drain away from your house and neighbouring homes toward the street, backyard or back lane.
  • Use a rain barrel to catch water runoff.

Insurance coverage

It is important to note sewer backup cover is not automatically included in all home insurance policies, although it is sometimes offered as an optional coverage that you can purchase. There has never been a better time to talk to your insurance broker to find out more about these optional coverages.

Contact us today to discuss your home insurance needs.

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Homeowner’s Insurance: Q&A

Homeowner’s insurance Question & Answer

Q: What’s the difference between vacant property and unoccupied property?

A: Property is deemed to be vacant when the occupants have moved with no intention of returning regardless  whether they left personal property behind. Insurance will not cover vacant property. Property is deemed unoccupied when there is an intention to return to it. Insurance will cover it.

Q: Is my house covered if I am on vacation?

A: Generally speaking, your insurance coverage continues while you are on vacation, but the length of time you are away and the steps you take to protect your home while you are away, can impact whether a loss is covered. If you are planning to be away for more than a couple of days, it is recommended that you contact your insurance broker to determine what action you must take to protect your home from loss and ensure a claim is not denied. This is most critical during colder months. For example, there is no coverage for damage caused by freezing of any part of a plumbing, heating or domestic water container unless you had arranged for a competent person to enter the dwelling on a daily basis.

Q: My car was broken into while I was shopping at the mall. A brand new golf bag and a leather briefcase I had just purchased for my husband were stolen from the trunk. Do I claim these items through my automobile or homeowners’ insurance policy?

A: Your home insurance will cover items stolen from you car that are not permanent fixtures of your car, as long as you have receipts to prove ownership of those items.

Q: Who is allowed to drive my car?

A: Technically, anyone to whom you give permission is allowed to drive your car. This is because your insurance is attached to your car, regardless who is behind the wheel. But, if a driver you’ve authorized gets into an accident with your car it is your driving record that is affected. In Nova Scotia, all licensed vehicle owners must carry liability insurance. Liability coverage is extended to any person who holds a valid license and drives your car with your consent. Insurance companies want to know if there is anyone else besides you who drives your car on a regular basis.

Q: Why should I carry higher liability limits?

A: Court awards for personal injury are climbing all the time. You don’t want to be in a situation when you have an accident where the court awards a payment higher than what your insurance policy will pay. If this happens, you will be required to make up the difference from your savings and the sale of your personal assets.

Q: I travel a lot and usually end up renting vehicles. Do I need to buy the coverage offered by car rental companies?

A: If you frequently rent cars in Canada or the United States, it may be in your best interest to purchase additional coverage from your insurer that extends legal liability protection for you, your spouse and other named drivers to rental cars. Also, some credit card companies provide certain types of collision coverage for car rentals charged to that card; find out if your credit card comes with car rental insurance options. If you do not have additional coverage from your insurer or credit card company, or are renting in a country other than Canada or the United States, then you should consider taking the protection offered by the car rental company.

Q: Why is my oil tank causing problems for insurance?

A: Your oil tank isn’t causing problems for insurance; but one day it might cause problems for the environment. The cost of oil spill cleanup from leaking or bursting home oil tanks has risen dramatically in recent years.

The average cost is now about $65,000, with many coming in between $100,000 and $200,000 as environmental clean-up must take place.

Remember, your insurance might not pay for the cost of a spill on your property, only the neighbouring property. In the absence of tough provincial legislation requiring oil tank inspection and replacement, it is up to you to inspect your tank regularly for leaks and to replace it in a timely manner. Call your home oil company to find out how to inspect your tank properly. And always call your broker to find out exactly what your policy covers.

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Crime Prevention Tips for Your Home

Crime Prevention Tips for Your Home
Burglary is always a crime of opportunity. Here are some interesting facts you should know about burglary: Studies show that most burglars attack during the daytime when dense bushes and trees protect them from view, and the building appears unoccupied

  • One-third of burglars enter from the basement
  • One-third of burglars force entry through a window or door
  • One-third of burglars gain access from an unlocked/open door or window

To best protect your home, look at it from a burglar’s perspective. What are the vulnerable parts? If you take a few simple and inexpensive steps to make sure your home is not an attractive target, you’ll greatly reduce your chances of becoming a victim.

The following are some tips to help you prevent a burglar from entering your home:

Tips for Inside your Home
The goal of indoor crime proofing is to secure your premises, and to make them appear occupied at all times. Here are a few simple tips:

  • Secure your premises
    • Close blinds and curtains at night so that a burglar can’t scope your belongings.
    • Lock all doors and windows before leaving.
    • Lock windows so that they can’t be opened from the outside. If they can’t be locked, you can pin them by drilling a hole through both window frames and inserting a bolt or metal pin. The pin must be easily removable for emergency situations.
    • Home burglar alarm systems are a great deterrent. Even if you have an alarm system, don’t neglect the other security measures available to you. An alarm provides an extra layer of security, but is no replacement for good common sense. Alarm owners should still do what they can to make sure their home is not an attractive target for thieves.
  • Make your home look occupied at all times
    • Use timers to maintain normal lighting patterns.
    • Leave a radio on when you are away from your home for short periods of time.
  • Protect you valuables
    • Consider marking your valuables indelibly (engraved) with your drivers licence or social insurance number.
    • Take an inventory of your home with a videotape and/or photographs.
    • Keep jewellery and negotiables in a safety deposit box or an unlikely place (i.e. Not your bedroom).

Tips for Outside your Home
There are many things that you can do to the exterior of your house or in the yard to deter burglars and make it more difficult to force entry.

  • Keep your shrubbery cut back so that it doesn’t block windows and doors.
  • Secure window air conditioners from the inside.
  • Illuminate as much of your property as possible.
  • Exterior doors should be solid, not hollow. Metal doors provide the best protection against forced entry.
  • Use a fencing style that would not conceal a burglar’s activities. Remember if you can’t see out, others can’t see in.
  • Secure any glass that is less than 40′ from a door lock. Either coat exterior glass with an acrylic or polycarbonate to strengthen, or replace with laminated or tempered glass.
  • Door hinges that are on the outside should have a non-removable center pin that can’t be tampered with.
  • Install deadbolt locks.
  • Dogs are great deterrents to burglars. Even a strategically placed “Beware of Dog” sticker can make a burglar think twice. Of course, vicious dogs are never a good idea. If your dog bites someone, you might find yourself in court. A dog that barks is better than one that bites.
  • Place hinged security bars over basement windows. Remember to keep the key nearby for emergency exits.
  • Pin sliding patio doors together when closed. Another easy security step is to drill a hole in the upper track and insert a screw that extends out into the runner to prevent the door from being lifted up and out of its track.
  • Ensure that a burglar cannot access the roof from high trees or a ladder left outside.

What NOT to Do

  • Don’t put up a nameplate outside of your house with your full name. A burglar can use this information to look up your number in the phone book and call to see if you are home.
  • Don’t leave a note on the door or in the mailbox telling a friend/family member that you aren’t home.
  • Don’t leave spare keys in an obvious place such as the mailbox or under the front door mat. This makes it very easy for a burglar to rob your house quickly without forcing entry.
  • Don’t leave cash and handbags in view in your home.
  • Don’t leave any doors unlocked when you are at the other end of the house or in the yard.

Going on Vacation
If you are going on vacation it is especially important to make your home appear inhabited. To fully protect your home you will need to enlist the help of trusted neighbours, family and friends. Here are some things that you can do:

  • Stop all mail delivery.
  • Arrange for a neighbour to cut the grass or shovel snow.
  • Cancel all deliveries during the time you will be away.
  • Maintain normal lighting patterns by using electronic timers.
  • Ask a neighbour to put one of their garbage bags in front of your house on collection day.
  • Leave a radio on, with a timer if necessary to simulate normal use.
  • Ask a neighbour to park in your driveway.
  • Arrange for neighbours to pick up flyers.
  • Don’t talk about your vacation plans with strangers or service people. *This includes posting it publicly on social media sites.
  • Use your work address on your luggage tags so a potential burglar won’t know where your empty house is.
  • If practical, remove valuables from your home. Small valuables should be stored in a safety deposit box.
  • Lock garage door.

Note: Before you leave, you should tell someone you trust:

  • That you will be away
  • How long you will be absent
  • Whether or not you will have a house sitter
  • The number where you can be reached

What to do if Your House is Broken Into
Despite your best efforts, a burglar may still penetrate your home. If you return to find that your house has been robbed:

  • Don’t stay – Always think of your safety first
  • Never confront a burglar or block the exit route
  • Go immediately to a neighbour’s home or nearby location and phone the police
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Group, Health and Living Benefits for your Nova Scotia Business

Save on commercial and business insurance.

Strum Insurance compares quotes from all insurance carriers to get you the best commercial or business insurance coverage at the best rate.

Group Insurance Benefits Plans

A ‘group benefits insurance plan’ is an insurance that covers a group of people, usually the members of or employees of a common employer, or professionals in a common group. Group coverage can help reduce the problem of adverse selection by creating a pool of people eligible to purchase insurance who belong to the group for reasons other than for the purposes of obtaining insurance. In other words, people belong to the group not because they possess some high-risk factor which makes them more apt to purchase insurance (thus increasing adverse selection); instead they are in the group for reasons unrelated to insurance, such as all working for a particular employer.

A Group Benefit plan can help you attract and retain valuable employees or members. Our flexible, innovative plans featuring benefits like healthcare, dental care, out-of-country, and disability, plus convenient on-line services can be tailored to fit the specific needs of your organization, whether it is large or small. A full analysis, design, costing (market survey), implementation and servicing of your plan will be conducted. Premiums for Group Benefit plans are a tax deductible business expense and the benefits are received tax free.

Want more information? Contact us. We’ll be pleased to help!

Disability or Income Protection Insurance

Income Protection Insurance (IPI) is an insurance policy, available in Nova Scotia, paying benefits to policyholders who are incapacitated and hence unable to work due to illness or accident. IPI policies were formerly called Permanent Health Insurance (PHI).

The lifestyle you enjoy, your children’s college education, and your savings for a comfortable retirement all depend on your ability to earn a living. If you were suddenly unable to work and had less money coming in, plus additional money going out to cover medical expenses and other bills related to your disability, where would the money come from to replace your lost income?

With your own private plan, you can customize the plan to suit your needs, choose your benefit period (how long you will receive benefits), choose your elimination period (how soon you will receive benefits after the disability occurs), choice of premium options to fit your budget or career stage, purchase additional benefits to add further protection against inflation, for retirement funding, or a return of premium in the event no claims are made. Considering 1 out of 3 people will become disabled for over 90 days before the Age of 65 and that the average disability that lasts over 90 days is 2.9 years, protecting one’s income in the event of accident or illness should be a top priority.

Business Insurance Benefits

Income protection insurance. policies offer a number of benefits in comparison to other insurance policies such as accident, sickness and unemployment insurance or personal accident and sickness (PAS):

    • Benefits are payable when the policyholder becomes incapacitated and after the deferred period has passed and continue until the earliest of death, recovery of health, retirement or the term of the contract.
    • Benefits are paid regularly (usually weekly or monthly) and are free of tax. The insurance company cannot cancel or refuse to renew the policy provided that the policyholder continues to pay the premiums.
    • A waiver of premium option may be provided whereby premiums for the IPI policy are not required while benefits are being paid from the policy, but the policy cover continues as normal.

Critical Illness Insurance

Critical illness insurance or critical illness cover is an insurance product, where the insurer is contracted to typically make a lump sum cash payment if the policyholder is diagnosed with one of the critical illnesses listed in the insurance policy. Critical Illness Insurance was designed to provide financial assistance in the form of a lump sum, tax free payout to help you cope with the stress and difficulties associated with such an event.

The benefit is paid on first diagnosis of one of a list of critical illnesses. Coverage can be issued from $10,000 up to $2,000,000. There are no stipulations on how the money is used. You can use it to pay off debts and mortgage, supplement income, pay for experimental treatments not offered in Canada, to get quicker treatment outside of Canada, take an extended vacation or to make alterations to your home that may be necessary because of your new condition.

There are 23 covered illnesses; the four illnesses that make up most of the claims are Cancer, Heart Attack, Stroke, and Coronary Bypass Surgery.

The average age of people who make a claim is only 49.

Heart Disease, Stroke and Cancer are the leading health issues facing Canadians today. In fact, 39% of Canadians will develop cancer during their lifetimes, there are over 70,000 heart attacks each year, and every 10 minutes, one person in Canada has a stroke. Medical advances have dramatically improved Life Expectancy, but we all remain vulnerable to possible illnesses. Odds are you or somebody you know will experience a medical setback at some point and survive.

Make sure you are aware of the potential costs of care and recovery and that your benefits will meet your needs or you will have to rely on your hard earned savings and investments to bridge the gap. Here is the best part: if you are fortunate enough to have never made a claim, your premiums will be returned to you any time after 10 years, 15 years or at the Ages of 65 or 75.

Long Term Care Insurance

Long-term care insurance (LTC or LTCI), an insurance product sold in Nova Scotia, helps provide for the cost of long-term care beyond a predetermined period. Long-term care insurance covers care generally not covered by the traditional or provincial health insurance.

There is a real chance that at some point in your life you may need to enter a long term care facility or receive special medical care in your home. This type of care does not come cheap, and depending on the level of care you may want or need, the cost may not be provided by your government health plan.

With the benefit of long term care insurance you may not have to withdraw your savings, or fully rely on other sources of funding. If a person requires assistance to perform 2 or more of the 6 activities of daily living (Bathing, Dressing, Toileting, Continence, Transferring, and Feeding) or if continual supervision is required because of deteriorated mental condition, then they would qualify for benefits between $150-$2000/week.

Given the current demographic situation and the fact that life expectancies are on the rise these plans are becoming more and more an essential part of retirement planning.

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Home Insurance Tips

Home Insurance Tips

What to Look for In a Home Owners Insurance Policy – Understanding Home Owners Policy

When shopping for insurance, it is important to understand what you are getting when you purchase a home owner insurance policy. Some people decide to buy insurance online by using popular online insurance quote websites and some stay with a local agent. Whatever choice you make, knowing and understanding your home insurance policy coverages is important.

A Home Owners Insurance Policy is designed to protect home owners against certain perils. There is usually a deductible when filing a home insurance claim unless noted. Individual home insurance policies are determined by named perils and exclusions in a policy. Consult your agent or insurance company regarding any exceptions that may apply.

Whether you buy your home owners insurance policy online or with a local agent, the typical home owners insurance policy is divided into 2 parts:

  1. Part I: Home Insurance Property Protection
  2. Part II: Home Insurance Liability Protection

If one was to look at a home insurance declarations page, which is usually the first page in a home owners insurance policy, they would see Part I: Property Protection. This protection is usually broken down into four additional sections:

  1. Dwelling
  2. Other Structures
  3. Personal Property
  4. Loss of Use

Coverage A. Dwelling typically covers your house, attached structures, fixtures in the house such as built-in appliances, plumbing, heating, permanently installed air conditioning systems, and electrical wiring.

Coverage B. Other Structures typically covers detached structures such as garages, storage sheds, and fixtures attached to the land including fences, driveways, sidewalks, patios, and retaining walls. Detached structures used for business purposes are not covered under a personal home owners insurance policy.

Coverage C. Personal Property typically covers personal property including the contents of your home and other personal items owned by you or family members who live with you. This protection can be based on actual cash value or replacement cost. Home insurance policies may provide limited coverage for small boats, however, most home insurance policies do not cover motorized vehicles unless they are unlicensed and used only at your home. Some items may have coverage limits such as firearms, artwork, business property, electronic data, jewelry, and money. Extra coverage is usually available by adding endorsements to your policy.

Coverage D. Loss of Use typically covers living expenses over and above your normal living expenses if you cannot live in your home while repairs are being made or if you are denied access by government order.

There are also Additional Property Coverages home owners insurance polices may provide such as the removal of debris along with damaged trees and shrubs, fire-department service charges, property removal, theft or illegal use of credit or transfer cards, collapse of buildings, and glass breakage if caused by a covered perils.

Endorsements can also be added to your home owner insurance policy at an additional cost to provide extra protection. Examples of endorsements include:

  1. Guaranteed replacement cost coverage will pay the cost to rebuild your home as long as you have met the requirements of your home insurance policy.
  2. Extended replacement cost coverage insures your home for a specific value and usually adds a 20-25% extended limit if reconstruction costs run over.
  3. Inflation Guard increases the amount of your home owner insurance to keep up with inflation so that you can maintain adequate coverage to replace your home in the event of a loss.
  4. Scheduled personal property protects articles such as jewelry, furs, stamps, coins, guns, computers, antiques, and other items that often exceed normal policy limits in your regular home owners insurance policy. It often provides coverage that is broader than the coverage in the home insurance policy. There normally is not a deductible for this coverage. Increased limits on money and securities provide additional coverage for money, bank notes, securities, and deeds.
  5. Secondary residence provides protection for a second home such as a summer residence.
  6. Theft coverage protection broadens the theft coverage to include personal contents in your motor vehicle, trailer or watercraft to be covered without proof of forcible entry.
  7. Credit card forgery and depositor’s forgery coverage provides protection against loss, theft or unauthorized use of credit cards. It also covers forgery of any check, draft, or promissory note. No deductible applies to this endorsement.Also called “riders,” endorsements are additional (sometimes optional) enhancements that allow you to customize your car insurance policy by increasing or even reducing the amount of insurance coverage you would receive in special situations.

One example of an endorsement is the popular Family Protection endorsement, which provides significant financial protection—up to the limits of your liability coverage—if you or your eligible family members are injured or killed in an accident caused by an uninsured, under insured or unidentified (e.g. hit and run) at-fault motorist.

Home-based business owners

Home-based business owners need to pay attention to liability limits in order to protect their personal and business assets as well. That’s why your liability limits and deductibles are major factors in how much you’re going to pay for auto insurance. The higher your car insurance limits and the lower your deductible, the higher your car insurance premium rates will be. When determining your car insurance premium, auto insurance companies typically look at the number of miles you drive, who drives your vehicle, your driving record and your claims history.

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Car Insurance Tips

Car Insurance Tips

“Bundling” really works. Get a Multi-line discount when you combine coverage.

Insure both your car and home with the same company Insurance company and you will be eligible for savings anywhere from 10% to as much as 40% of the combined insurance policy premiums! When you get your car insurance quotes from us, be sure to ask how much of a discount you can receive, or check the “Multi-line discount” box in the car insurance quote app.

Increase your car, home and other insurance deductibles

Increase your car insurance deductibles. The higher your deductibles, the lower your auto insurance in Nova Scotia premiums. Insurance was really meant to cover you for damages you could never afford on your own. If you can afford a $1,000 repair job, then raise your deductibles to $1,000 and pay less for your insurance.

Drive more carefully

Seriously, this is the number one way to ensure you get cheap car insurance in Nova Scotia. Just drive carefully and see how your auto insurance goes down each year. Why? Your driving record is one of the most influential factors in determining your auto insurance rate. Tickets affect your insurance rates for up to three years and accidents stay on your record for at least six! With a bad driving record, you can find yourself paying much more.

Drive a “Low-Risk” Car

Drive a “low-risk” car Insurance rates for cars are based on the previous claims history for that vehicle. The more likely a car is to be stolen or in an accident, the more you pay for insurance. If you are buying a new car, check with the Vehicle Information Centre of Canada or compare quotes to see how your dream-car rates. This may influence your purchase?

Have an anti-theft device installed on your car

Have an anti-theft device installed in your car Most insurance companies recognize that your car is less likely to be stolen if you have an anti-theft device installed in your vehicle and offer an “Alarm or anti-theft discount” . If you already have an approved, factory-installed alarm in your car, this is already taken into account when determining your rate.

Drive an older car

Do you have an older car? You might want review your collision coverage If your car is getting up there in age, you may want to think about dropping the collision coverage on your auto insurance policy. You need to think about this one though – it’s not always a clear-cut decision. You need to weigh the cost of the collision coverage with the value of your car and your chosen deductibles. Just call and speak to our of our auto insurance brokers, we’ll be happy to provide you with comparable rates on different deductibles.

Multi-vehicle discount

Make sure all your cars are on the same auto insurance policy. Most insurance companies in Nova Scotia offer a Multi-vehicle discount for customers who insure more than one car on the same policy. This may be more than one car that you own or many cars in the same household. You can save up to an additional 20% on your auto insurance rates.

Don’t drive to work

The more you drive on the road, the more you increase your chances of getting in an accident. Car Insurance rates are higher for people who commute to work. Taking public transportation or sharing a ride and commuting will not only help you save on parking and gas, but will help lower your auto insurance premiums.

Take a driver’s training course

New driver? Take a driver’s training course Licenced drivers who have completed an approved drivers training course in the last 3 years will pay lower car insurance premiums, especially in Halifax or Nova Scotia. Remember, safer drivers pay lower car insurance rates.