Uncategorized – HomeownersInsurance.org http://www.homeownersinsurance.org Homeowners Insurance Tips and News Fri, 28 Jun 2013 15:01:02 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.1 Canine Companions: Homeowners Insurance & Liability http://www.homeownersinsurance.org/dog-homeowners-insurance-liability/ http://www.homeownersinsurance.org/dog-homeowners-insurance-liability/#respond Fri, 29 Jun 2012 16:30:57 +0000 http://www.homeownersinsurance.org/?p=1722 Dog bites are an uncomfortable subject for homeowners with canines. Nobody wants to believe that their sweet, playful pooch is capable of hurting another creature, especially a human. Often, homeowners and renters insurance policies have liability coverage for dog bites in the scenario that the victim seeks compensation for medical costs as a result of the bite. But deferring to this coverage can result in skyrocketed premiums or even dropped coverage. Data released by the Insurance Information Institute shows that dog bites make up more than one-third of all homeowners insurance liability claims paid out last year, with the average claim amounting to more than $29,000. Not only do dog bites result in pricey claims, but knowing that your pet has marred another human being can weigh heavily on your conscious, especially if they require plastic surgery to deal with the scarring. Most states hold the dog’s owner automatically liable for their dog in the case of a dog bite, but some have special exemptions depending on the circumstance.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 4.5 million people are dog bite victims every year, with 800,000 Americans requiring medical attention for dog bites annually. Of the serious cases, 386,000 end up needing emergency services and there are 16 fatalities per year on average as a result of dog bites. Most attacks target children between the ages of five and nine, although they can happen to anyone.

Dog-Bite Liability Laws

There are three kinds of laws that hold the dog owner liable for their dog’s behavior. A dog-bite statute dictates that the dog’s owner is automatically liable for any damage incurred to another human or property as a result of their dog. The one-bite rule stipulates that the owner is only responsible if they knew beforehand that the biting dog was inclined toward aggression. The victim must be able to prove that the owner had prior knowledge of the dog’s aggressive history. Negligence laws also come into effect when an owner allows their dog to bite or destroy property as a result of being unreasonably careless when trying to control the dog. Most insurance policies provide $100,000 to $300,000 in liability coverage, but if that amount is exceeded, the dog’s owner is responsible for any expenses accrued as a result of injury caused by their dog. In some states, dogs that bite are either classified as dangerous or vicious, depending on the severity of the attack. Vicious dogs may need to be put down in accordance with local animal control.

Ohio state law recently changed concerning dangerous dogs. Originally, state law in Ohio stipulated that only Pit Bulls could be designated as dangerous dogs, a label that prevented the breed from being adopted out of shelters and resulted in many Pit Bulls being euthanized. However, state law now says that any dog breed may be classified as dangerous if it bites someone, and the dog’s behavior is the determining factor in whether or not the dog is deemed as dangerous, not its breed. When a dog is classified as dangerous, the owner has ten days to contest it in court before they must take several pains to ensure that others know about their dog. First, they must post “dangerous dog” signs outside the home, warding off potential strangers that might approach the dog in the yard. They must buy a $50 “dangerous dog” tag, which will dangle alongside their regular tag. The dog must be permanently identifiable with a microchip, it must be spayed or neutered, and it must be kept in a locked, fenced-in yard or other enclosure while on the property. If the owner wants to take their dog out, they must be leashed with a lead no longer than six feet. The long list of precautions may seem strict, but if your dog bites someone, there must be consequences.

In fact, in some places, if you don’t let people know that your dog is dangerous, you could wind up with a nasty lawsuit. In Tacoma, Washington a woman was attacked by two neighborhood Pit Bulls in her own home. The pit bulls’ owners were sued, as was the county for failing to note that the dogs were categorized as dangerous under a local ordinance. The woman won and was awarded $100,000 in medical bills and $2.1 million for pain and suffering. The county appealed the verdict. While nobody wants to admit that their dog may be a hazard, taking precautions with your dog may be necessary to ensure that you don’t swallow your words later on. In this scenario, the attacking dogs were likely aggressive as a result of owner neglect. The woman, Sue Gorman, had left the dog door in her home open for her own dog’s use when the Pit Bulls entered her home already worked up into a frenzy. They attacked her, her dog, and a neighbor’s dog that occasionally took respite at her home. The neighbor’s dog was killed and Gorman required 27 stitches on her face from dog bites. Neighbors testified that the Pit Bulls’ owners subjected them to obvious neglect, both mistreating them and failing to offer them food or water. Michael McKasy, the winning attorney, noted that “bad owners have bad dogs.”

Some insurance companies require that their clients sign liability waivers for reportedly aggressive dogs, saving the insurance company from losses accrued by repeated dog bite claims. They might not trust that their clients’ dogs will stay docile. Others will only cover a dog if the owner agrees to take them to a training class to modify their aggressive behavior. Liability waivers don’t always have solid footing, though. In California, for example, some daycares may require parents to sign liability waivers for their children while under their care. But if a child is bitten by a dog while at the daycare, that waiver is void against public policy and the daycare provider is held accountable.

Nature or Nurture

There are debates as to whether dog bites stem from innate aggression with certain breeds or if they are simply the result of humans misunderstanding dogs. Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, Chow Chows, and German Shepherds are often regarded as being predisposed towards aggression. In reality, these breeds almost always must be trained toward aggression or provoked before they will express violent behavior. According to the American Temperament Test Society, small, feisty breeds such as Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, and Schnauzers are actually less even-keeled and likely to express aggression without being provoked. The American Temperament Test takes into consideration things like the breed’s behavior towards strangers, reaction to auditory and visual stimuli, aggressive behavior, and antisocial behavior. On the other hand, terriers and other small dogs will likely not do the same kind of damage as a large, provoked dog.

Melissa Berryman, author of People Training for Good Dogs: What Breeders Don’t Tell You and Trainers Don’t Teach, notes that dog bites are not caused by “bad dogs,” but that humans merely misinterpret a dog when it is trying to communicate with you. If you approach a dog, it will give very clearly signals as to whether it wants to be approached. Yet, people may misunderstand the dog, resulting in dog bites. Often a dog will stiffen if it doesn’t like something. A human can engage with the dog by first patting their side, speaking in a high voice, and remaining friendly to show that they are not a threat to the canine. If the dog wants to be left alone, you should not continue to interact with it. Some dogs are protective of their food and shouldn’t be approached while they are eating. If a food-protective dog senses that you might take their food away from them, they may bite to ward you off.

Likewise, dogs are pack animals, and dog bites can occur even in your own home when certain protocols aren’t adhered to. Your dog likely sees your entire family as its pack, with possibly smaller children below it in ranking. If your children step out of line, a dog may nip them at the heels as part of their herding instinct. A herding bite is generally not hard and won’t break the skin, but may scare a child into running, which will prompt a dog to instinctively chase them. Dogs may also be trained to bite when an owner uses their hand as a form of punishment to the dog. If a dog gets swatted every time they have an accident in the house, for example, they may learn to fear a human hand and will react with biting. The dog can’t differentiate between an owner using their hand to punish and a small child approaching with a hand out to pet the dog. This is why so many abused dogs are perceived as more aggressive in nature. In truth, they are fearful because of how they have been treated from other humans. Even if a current owner hasn’t personally abused their dog, they may have adopted the dog from a shelter where previous owners subjected the animal to neglect.

Lastly, a dog that hasn’t been spayed or neutered may show more signs of aggression than a dog that’s been fixed. According to the American Humane Association, un-neutered dogs are 2.6 times more likely to bite than neutered dogs. An intact dog has biological instincts, which can lead to aggression and anxiety if they are not fulfilled. Neutering produces a calmer, more agreeable dog. It also stops the dog from breeding unnecessarily, reducing the amount of strays in the general dog populous.

Homeowners Insurance and Pets

If there are a slew of dog bite incidents in your neighborhood, your insurance rates could rise even if you don’t own a dog. Such is the case in the tri-state area, according to KEPR News. Some insurance carriers will even flat out deny you home insurance if you own one of the commonly thought of as aggressive breeds. If a dog bite occurs in your yard, you might be liable even if neither the dog nor the victim is affiliated with you, merely because it took place on your property.

Your insurance premiums may vary depending on the dog’s size as well. If you have a smaller or medium sized dog, the rates will likely be less than they would for a large dog. Large dog owners may gripe about this, considering their dog a “gentle giant” while their neighbors own tiny, ankle-biting dogs. It may take some research to find an insurance provider that doesn’t unfairly discriminate against your dog based on size. If your insurer refuses to cover your dog, an umbrella policy may be considered. This could cover things outside your regular insurance, such as canines. Some brokers also offer separate canine liability insurance.

Dogs aren’t the only animals that raise your homeowners insurance rates, though. Insurers will charge more for exotic pets as well, given that wild animals are just as — if not more — likely to cause an injury. Some of the pets on the Exotic Pet Index include snakes, chinchillas, sugar gliders, skunks, alligators, or wild feline cubs. Of course, the owner must first ensure that they are complying with the law in terms of owning an exotic pet and that they have the proper licensing. Mitch Kalmanson, a Florida exotic pet insurer, sells multimillion-dollar policies to his clients so that they can have animals like tigers living next door to regular people. “I’ve got circuses, I’ve got fairs, zoological facilities, private facilities, some people who just want to have exotic animals because they have an interest in it,” Kalmanson told ABC’s Nightline.

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10 Insurance Scams Homeowners Frequently Try to Pull http://www.homeownersinsurance.org/10-insurance-scams-homeowners-frequently-try-to-pull/ http://www.homeownersinsurance.org/10-insurance-scams-homeowners-frequently-try-to-pull/#respond Sat, 17 Dec 2011 14:34:40 +0000 http://www.homeownersinsurance.org/?p=1344 Many homeowners fudge values a bit or make less-than-honest estimates when filing a claim with their homeowners’ insurance carrier with the attitude that they’re only taking back money that they’ve already paid. This attitude is not only criminal, but also costs the community money in raised premiums across the board. Here are some of the most commonly filed bogus homeowners insurance claims.

  1. Overstating Value – In the event of a break-in, determining the value of your stolen possessions can be difficult. Overstating the value of a family heirloom or other object with more sentimental than monetary value can be tempting, but it’s important to remember that doing so is insurance fraud.
  2. Storm Damages – When a home sustains damage from storms or other events that are covered by their policy, some homeowners are tempted to blame damages that occurred through non-covered events on the storm as well. Unscrupulous homeowners may also damage their own property to receive a settlement.
  3. Staged Fires – The idea that a homeowner could set fire to their own home is a shocking one for most people, but it does happen. When facing foreclosure or other financial devastation, some desperate homeowners have been known to resort to arson. In addition to criminal insurance fraud charges, they almost always face arson charges as well; this can add up to hefty fines and significant prison time.
  4. Salesman-Induced Fraud – This common scam is typically perpetrated by a salesman with most clients being unaware of the legalities; touting the ability of their equipment to detect “microscopic siding damage from hail” or other damages, these shady salespeople bill insurance companies to replace virtually undamaged siding or other surfaces.
  5. Underwriting Fraud – Most homeowners don’t realize that being dishonest on insurance applications or refusing to disclose important information is considered fraud, and can carry criminal penalties. Fudging the truth to get a better premium may be common, but it’s unethical and illegal.
  6. Inflated Claims to Avoid Deductibles – For cash-strapped families, covering the deductible to make repairs can be a challenge. When less-than-reputable repairmen suggest inflating the claim to avoid the expense, some homeowners will jump at the opportunity without considering legal ramifications.
  7. Orchestrated Vandalism – Offering a portion of the proceeds from an inflated claim to someone who carries out a solicited act of vandalism is a common type of insurance fraud. This willful breaking of the law for financial gain is a serious offense.
  8. Selling or Removing Insured Property – Selling, giving away or hiding insured property for the purpose of filing an insurance claim is a common scam that homeowners pull, despite how easily discovered it can be.
  9. Filing a Claim on Property That Never Existed – In a cousin to the overstating scam, some homeowners will file claims for damaged property that they never owned in the event of a catastrophic loss, due to the difficult nature of tracking losses in such situations.
  10. Taking a “Kick Back” From Contractors – Unscrupulous contractors sometimes offer homeowners a “kick back” from the insurance claim in return for using their services for repairs. In addition to being fraudulent and illegal, this also puts homeowners in the position of trusting a disreputable contractor to perform essential repairs to their home. Should the contractor default on an agreement or provide shoddy work, the homeowner is left with no legal recourse due to their own unethical and illegal behavior.

The Insurance Information Institute estimates that fraudulent claims on homeowners policies cost insurers up to $30 billion per year. As a result of incurring this staggering expense, insurance companies raise premiums and rates; committing insurance fraud isn’t just stealing from your insurance carrier, but also from your neighbors.

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Christmas Tree History, Safety, and Decorating Tips http://www.homeownersinsurance.org/xmas-trees-facts/ http://www.homeownersinsurance.org/xmas-trees-facts/#respond Wed, 15 Dec 2010 16:30:44 +0000 http://www.homeownersinsurance.org/?p=1291 The Christmas tree is a decorated evergreen coniferous tree, real or artificial, and a tradition associated with Christmas. The Christmas tree is often brought into a home and can be decorated with lights, ornaments, garlands and tinsel during the days around Christmas. An angel or stars often placed at the top of the tree, representing the host of angels or the Star of Bethlehem from the Nativity.


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The Most Expensive ‘Home’ in the World http://www.homeownersinsurance.org/antilia-details/ http://www.homeownersinsurance.org/antilia-details/#respond Tue, 14 Dec 2010 18:40:07 +0000 http://www.homeownersinsurance.org/?p=1283 Antilia is a building completed in Mumbai for Indian businessman Mukesh Ambani, Chairman of Reliance Industries. Here’s a look at what your house could be like (if you were a billionaire with a hunger for the extravagant).


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The New Bed Bugs Epidemic http://www.homeownersinsurance.org/bed-bugs-infestation/ http://www.homeownersinsurance.org/bed-bugs-infestation/#respond Mon, 22 Nov 2010 14:49:50 +0000 http://www.homeownersinsurance.org/?p=1256 Bed bugs are small wingless insects that feed solely upon the blood of warm-blooded animals. They are nest parasites and that means that they live around the areas their hosts sleep. They can crawl, run and climb, but they do not fly or jump. Infestations are becoming so common that exterminators can barely keep up.


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Green Heat http://www.homeownersinsurance.org/green-heat/ http://www.homeownersinsurance.org/green-heat/#respond Fri, 12 Nov 2010 18:34:14 +0000 http://www.homeownersinsurance.org/?p=1278

These days, everyone is encouraging you to go green. And by going green, we don’t mean rooting for Michigan State or Baylor University football. We mean, of course, choosing technologies which leave less of a carbon footprint on the environment. The good news is that there are actually some green home heating technologies which could save you money on your heating bill over the winter. One in particular-heating with corn-will cost you a little extra in your homeowners insurance, but the cost is more than outweighed by the amount you will save in natural gas or propane.

Corn burning stoves and furnaces are readily available at home improvement stores as well as specialty stores which only deal in pellet stoves and corn burners. They provide a very pleasant heat while saving you a great deal of money on your utility bills.

We have a couple of friends who installed corn burners. They both claim that they can shut their furnaces off for most of the winter and heat their homes entirely with corn. One of them even claims that the house gets so warm, he has to open up windows. And the cost is a fraction of what they would pay to heat their homes with natural gas.

Perhaps the best part of heating your home with corn, however, is that it is an entirely renewable resource. Consider this:

  • When you burn natural gas, you use up a resource that is not replenishable.
  • When you burn wood, you are cutting down trees which take 20 years or more to grow,
  • When you burn corn, you are burning a product which can be grown again and again, year after year, in the same field. If the demand for corn grows, farmers would have little trouble increasing output to meet the demand. Not only is this good for the environment, but it can also be good for the agricultural community.

While burning corn will save you a good deal of money, as well as giving you a very warm house, there are a couple words of caution we should mention:

  • The smoke from a corn burner smells like popcorn. If this smell bothers you, and you don’t want to deal with it outside in your yard, a corn burner is not for you.
  • Corn burners require a certain amount of upkeep and maintenance. If you aren’t someone who is willing to deal with any inconvenience, they probably aren’t for you.
  • Many cities won’t allow you to use a corn burner as the only heat source in your home. In such cases, you will also need to have a traditional furnace in your home.
  • In many cases, your homeowners insurance will be slightly more expensive with a corn burner, much like it would be if you used a wood burning stove.
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Cool Things You Can’t Do in an Apartment http://www.homeownersinsurance.org/cool-things-you-can%e2%80%99t-do-in-an-apartment/ http://www.homeownersinsurance.org/cool-things-you-can%e2%80%99t-do-in-an-apartment/#respond Wed, 10 Nov 2010 18:27:28 +0000 http://www.homeownersinsurance.org/?p=1270

There are tons of articles written about the relative merits of renting versus buying your own home. While we’d be the last ones to suggest that renting isn’t fine for some people, we believe there are plenty of good reasons to shell out a little extra money for property taxes, homeowners insurance, and home repair. And most of them have absolutely nothing to do with equity or whether or not buying a home is a good decision financially speaking.

The fact is that there are some things you can do in your own home that you simply can not do in most apartments. True, you have to do more of the work by yourself in your own home (or hire someone to do it), but we believe that , all things considered, it’s well worth the price. After all, if you live in an apartment, you’re not likely to be able to:

  • Paint the walls any color you like. Landlords have an odd fascination with white. It can make you feel like you’re living in a sanitarium at times. Even those rare landlords who will allow you to paint the walls generally insist that you get all color schemes OK’d before you start painting. And what fun is that?
  • Camp out in the Back Yard. First of all, most apartments don’t even have a back yard. And if they do, it’s generally way too small to camp out in. And even if you do have an apartment with a larger yard, the landlord might not want you pitching a tent there.
  • Get a big dog. Or horse. Or polar bear, or any other kind of pet you want. Well, maybe you shouldn’t actually have a polar bear, whether you buy your own home or not, but you get the picture. Most apartments are too small for big dogs. And who wants a yappy assed little dog? A big house with a big yard gives you all the room you need for any kind of dog you want, and you won’t need to pay extra or ask the landlord’s permission to have him.
  • Make some noise. There are some things you just can’t do in an apartment, even if there’s no specific rule against it, because the neighbors would complain and you’d be left discussing the noise with the landlord. As an example, you probably can’t start a garage band out of your apartment, even if you do happen to have a garage (which most apartments don’t). If you’re the drummer, you can’t even practice for your garage band in your apartment. Heck, you’ll be lucky if you get away with playing Rock Band on your PlayStation. We don’t know about you, but for us, this alone makes buying a home and homeowners insurance worth it.
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The 100% Carbon-Neutral Home http://www.homeownersinsurance.org/carbon-neutral/ http://www.homeownersinsurance.org/carbon-neutral/#comments Wed, 03 Nov 2010 16:11:06 +0000 http://www.homeownersinsurance.org/?p=1211 With the assistance of new technologies, green building advocates believe it may be possible to build a carbon-neutral home, making no net release of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.


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5 Homes You Wouldn’t Want to Pay the Insurance Premiums For http://www.homeownersinsurance.org/5-homes-you-wouldn%e2%80%99t-want-to-pay-the-insurance-premiums-for/ http://www.homeownersinsurance.org/5-homes-you-wouldn%e2%80%99t-want-to-pay-the-insurance-premiums-for/#respond Tue, 02 Nov 2010 22:21:20 +0000 http://www.homeownersinsurance.org/?p=1222

Most of us dream of having a big house someday. A huge yard with rolling hills and a stately mansion in whatever style you like best may be on your wish list, but even if you could afford one, you probably wouldn’t want to pay the high homeowners insurance premiums.

Of course, there are mansions, and then there are mansions. While most of us aren’t totally out of our gourds to dream about someday having our business take off or hitting the lotto and finally buying that million dollar house on a hill, here are 5 houses that are beyond most of our wildest dreams. Imagine paying the homeowners insurance premiums on one of these babies:

  1. Antilla. Located in Mumbai, India, this $1 billion (that’s right, billion, not million, but billion) dollar home has more stories (27) than many smaller mansions have rooms. The home, which is dog ugly and looks like a glass and steel version of a Jenga game gone wrong, is the only house in the world valued at or above the billion dollar mark. It’s owned by Indian oil tycoon Mukesh Ambani.
  2. Franchuk Villa. It was a girls’ school for years, but the opulent Victorian mansion, valued at over $160 million is now the home of Elena Franchuk, who is known for her philanthropic work with causes relating to AIDS research.
  3. Villa Leopolda. Located in the beautiful Cote d’Azur region of Belgium, this $525 million mansion was constructed in the early 20th Century for Belgian King Leopold II. For all its opulence, though, the chateau only has 19 bedrooms. What it lacks in bedrooms, however, it does make up for in landscaping and amenities.
  4. Fairfield Pond. The largest home in the United States, this 29 bedroom home, located right on the beach in The Hamptons, would sell for a cool $170 million. If you can’t afford that, you might consider purchasing one of the tubs. They’re only $150,000.
  5. Dracula’s Castle. Yes, there was a Dracula, and yes, he did have a castle. It’s worth $135 million, which is pretty impressive value retention for a home which was built in the 1300s. It has more than 50 rooms, 17 bedchambers, and (rumor has it) one vampire, which can be convenient for eliminating unwanted guests. Of course, adding a vampire rider to your homeowners policy is a bit cost prohibitive for most.
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Winter Landscaping Ideas http://www.homeownersinsurance.org/winter-landscaping-ideas/ http://www.homeownersinsurance.org/winter-landscaping-ideas/#respond Wed, 27 Oct 2010 18:45:13 +0000 http://www.homeownersinsurance.org/?p=1162

During the warmer months, it’s easy to come up with beautiful landscaping ideas that will make your home more attractive. During the winter, however, landscaping is still important. Just think how drab everything tends to look when that pretty new snow melts to reveal a brown carpet of grass. Try out these ideas to make your home more beautiful all winter long.

  • Ornamental grasses. Tall grasses that sway in the breeze can give a breath of life to your winter landscape. You can plant them to mark certain locations, such as the end of your driveway that may be covered in snow, or plant several close together to create a privacy screen.
  • Lily-of-the-Valley shrubs. These evergreen shrubs, which are also known as Pieris Japonica or ‘Andromeda,’ lend their texture to snowy landscapes, and blossom in early spring.
  • Evergreen shrubs and conifer trees. They aren’t just used for celebrating Christmas. Evergreens can also be planted in the yard as part of an overall winter landscaping design. Be sure to have trees and shrubs of various sizes for the best effect.
  • Beech trees. These trees keep their leaves longer than other deciduous varieties, and offer a gorgeous shape when covered with a layer of snow.
  • Bird feeders. Attract some winter birds to your back yard with a bird feeder. Make sure you know what local birds eat in winter, and install specialized feeders for the kinds of birds you wish to attract. Bird watching can be a fun family pastime in winter, and something that children particularly enjoy.
  • Wishing wells. If you’re thinking of installing a wishing well, you’ll need to break ground before it gets too cold. Wishing wells and other standalone landscaping features can beautify your lawn all year round, but are especially nice in winter months, since they are set apart from the rest of the snowy cover.
  • Juniper trees, bushes and groundcovers. Junipers offer a wide variety of textures and colors. Consult a professional landscaper to see how you could use them in your design. Landscape consultants may be found in your local telephone book, or you could contact your homeowners insurance company for a referral.
  • Don’t forget the lighting. Winter months tend to be darker as the days get shorter and shorter. Make your landscape magical by adding lighting to highlight walkways and other features.
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