Auto-Owners Insurance from your AZ Independent Agent

Auto-Owners Insurance in Arizona is only available for purchase from an independent agent that is appointed with the A++ rated carrier. Based in Lansing, Michigan this preferred auto, home, umbrella, commercial and life insurer consistently receives top scores from customers for claims satisfaction. Founded 103 years ago in Michigan the company is known as the “No Problem” claims service provider.

No matter if you are a long time customer or new to Auto-Owners Insurance you will want to reach out to an independent agent like Foxworthy and Associates.  John Foxworthy and his team at Tucson Insurance have been serving customers in Arizona since 1990. No matter if you are moving to AZ and need a new Auto-Owners agent or if you are insured with the company in Michigan or throughout the 26 states they currently operate in we are honored to help with new policies.

You can get secure online Auto-Owners Insurance proposals here or if you prefer just call our Arizona Auto-Owners agency at 520-797-9900. We can research new policies for you or help transfer in existing policies to Arizona. If you are buying a new home you may prefer Auto-Owners too because you have new protection options that may include:

  1. Service Line Protection – underground utilities like water lines from the home to street. 
  2. Equipment Breakdown – includes major systems like HVAC and appliances.
  3. Guaranteed Replacement Cost to Dwelling
  4. Cyber Protection

We are proud to represent Auto-Owners at Foxworthy and Associates, Inc. and would be happy to introduce you to them and review your auto, home, umbrella and life options. They also offer generous multi-policy discounts and easy online access to your policy info. It just may be time for you to connect with our independent agency in Arizona and see if Auto-Owners Insurance is a better fit for you. You can also see our 5-Star Reviews for TucsonInsurance.com here! We look forward to helping you soon.

The Best Defense Against Mold Is a Good Offense

Recent natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina have once again put mold in the spotlight.  And since flooding can occur in the winter due to the abundance of melting snow and heavy rains, homeowners need to familiarize themselves with the steps to eliminate mold from their homes.

First, it is important to understand the reasons to keep your home mold free.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, exposure to mold poses a potential health risk.  People with mold sensitivity can find themselves with a stuffy nose, irritated eyes, wheezing, or skin irritation.  Those with mold allergies can have difficulty breathing and experience shortness of breath.  If someone with a weakened immune system or chronic lung disease is exposed to mold, they can develop mold infections in their lungs.  The point is to eliminate the problem before it becomes a health issue.

As we know, mold develops because of excessive moisture, so the key to prevention is to identify and eliminate moisture from developing in the first place.  The Insurance Information Institute recommends that homeowners take the following precautions:

Reduce humidity in your home

 

  • Keep the humidity level in your home between 30 and 60 percent by using air conditioners or dehumidifiers.
  • Use exhaust fans in kitchens and bathrooms.
  • Never install carpets in damp areas, such as basements or bathrooms.
  • Never let water accumulate under houseplants.

 

Use mold-reducing products

 

  • Clean bathrooms with bleach or other mold-eliminating products.
  • Add mold inhibitors to paint before application.

 

Keep your home and belongings dry

 

  • Fix leaky pipes, faucets and hoses.
  • Keep gutters free of leaves and other debris.
  • Maintain your roof to prevent water from seeping into your home.

 

Be careful after a flood or other water damage

 

  • ·Properly dry or remove soaked carpets, padding and upholstery within 24 to 48 hours after a flood to prevent mold growth.  Anything that cannot be properly dried should be discarded.
  • Remove standing water as quickly as possible.  Standing water is a breeding ground for microorganisms, which can become airborne and inhaled.
  • Wash and disinfect with bleach, or other mold-eliminating products, all areas that have been flooded.  This includes walls, floors, closets and shelves, as well as heating and air-conditioning systems.

 

If you find that despite your best efforts you have mold problems, there are two options to remediate the situation.  The first is to clean it yourself.  If you choose this option, you should limit your own exposure to the mold and its spores.  The Environmental Protection Agency recommends that you wear certain protective gear during cleanup, most importantly an N-95 respirator, which can be purchased at most hardware stores.  Some N-95 respirators look like a paper dust mask with a nozzle on the front, while another popular style is made of plastic or rubber and has a removable cartridge that traps the mold spores.  No matter what style you use, in order to be effective, the respirator must fit properly.

The second item the EPA recommends is a pair of long gloves that extend to the middle of your forearm.  If you are using a mild detergent, ordinary household rubber gloves are fine.  If you are using a disinfectant, chlorine bleach, or other strong cleaning solution, you should use gloves made from natural rubber, neoprene, nitrile, polyurethane, or PVC.  The third protective piece of equipment you should wear are goggles without ventilation holes. 

If there are still signs of mold after cleaning or if the mold returns, you should choose the second option and have the area cleaned by professionals who specialize in mold removal.

Do You Know How Your Deductible Affects Your Homeowner’s Insurance Premium?

As elementary school children, we were first introduced to the concept of ratios, or how one number relates to another number.  Back then we tended to think that like almost everything else we were learning, ratios were just one more forgettable piece of information we would never use.  Of course, we were wrong.  Ratios are something we constantly come in to contact with, even when it comes to our homeowner’s insurance.

The ratio between the policy’s deductible and the premium is very real.  When the deductible increases, the premium decreases.  With a higher deductible the carrier is transferring more of the risk to you.  Yet, four out of ten Americans carrying homeowner’s insurance do not understand that simple ratio and its consequences.

The Insurance Research Council (IRC) recently conducted a study that indicated only 37 percent of homeowners and 48 percent of renters, who have homeowner’s insurance, knew their policy had a deductible.  These same respondents also answered incorrectly when asked how a deductible increase affects a premium.  They responded that the premium either increased, stayed the same, or they did not know.

The data for the IRC’s report, Public Attitude Monitor 2005, Issue 2, came from a survey conducted by TNS NFO, a market research company.  The survey was designed as a self-administered checklist mailed on January 1, 2005, to selected households in the U.S.  There were more than 55,000 respondents ages 18 or older who answered six questions about homeowner’s insurance.

Many Americans may overlook the easiest way to reduce insurance costs simply because they do not understand the relationship between their policy’s deductible and the premium.  The Insurance Information Institute, in their publication entitled, 12 Ways To Lower Your Homeowner’s Insurance Costs, has this to say about the relationship between the two:

“Deductibles are the amount of money you have to pay toward a loss before your insurance company starts to pay a claim, according to the terms of your policy.  The higher your deductible, the more money you can save on your premiums.  Nowadays, most insurance companies recommend a deductible of at least $500.  If you can afford to raise your deductible to $1,000, you may save as much as 25 percent.  Remember, if you live in a disaster-prone area, your insurance policy may have a separate deductible for certain kinds of damage.  If you live near the coast in the East, you may have a separate windstorm deductible; if you live in a state vulnerable to hail storms, you may have a separate deductible for hail; and if you live in an earthquake-prone area, your earthquake policy has a deductible.”

The next time you review your homeowner’s coverage, be sure to talk with your agent about how increasing your deductible will impact your premium.  It may surprise you just how much you can save.

Uncovering Common Misconceptions About Flood Insurance Coverage

According to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), flooding is this country’s most prevalent natural disaster. In the years between 1995 and 2004, flood losses in the U.S. averaged $867 million annually. There are about 4.7 million citizens who have taken advantage of the government’s flood insurance protection, however large numbers of at-risk Americans still refuse to find coverage.  After hurricane Katrina last summer, when nearly 80% of New Orleans was underwater, it is surprising that people would not seek such coverage, since their homeowner’s policies do not insure them against floods.

Part of the problem stems from the innate sense that if it’s offered by the federal government, applying for it must be: a) tied up in red tape, and b) too complicated due to all the exclusions. Both of these statements, however, are not true. Let’s examine some of the commonly held beliefs about flood insurance:

 

  • You can’t buy flood insurance if you are in a high-risk area.  Flood insurance is available to all homeowners and businesses in any community that participates in the NFIP. You can check to see if your community participates by visiting http://www.fema.gov/fema/csb.shtm. The only issue which would prevent you from obtaining flood insurance is if you reside in a Coastal Barrier Resource System location, or a location that is designated as an Otherwise Protected Area. Land that falls under these two categories are undeveloped areas along coastlines. The flood insurance program doesn’t provide coverage in these areas to discourage settlement where there is an extreme risk not only for flooding, but potential loss of life.
  • You can only get flood insurance if you are a homeowner.  Condominium/co-op owners, apartment dwellers, and commercial/non-residential building owners can purchase NFIP coverage. There is a maximum of $250,000 worth of coverage on a one-family residential building. The maximum per-unit coverage limit on a residential condominium/co-op association building is also $250,000. Contents coverage for any residential building is limited to $100,000. Commercial/non-residential structures can be insured for a maximum of $500,000. You can also insure the contents of commercial buildings up to $500,000.
  • You have to wait 30 days for flood insurance protection to take effect. Usually there is a 30-day waiting period from the time a policy is purchased until you are covered. However, there are some exceptions. There is no waiting period if you already have a flood insurance policy, but need more coverage to increase, extend or renew a loan, such as a second mortgage, home equity loan, or refinance. Coverage is effective immediately, as long as you pay the premium at or prior to loan closing. There is a one-day waiting period when additional coverage is requested because of a map revision. This applies when the NFIP revises the map so that a non-Special Flood Hazard Area becomes a Special Flood Hazard Area. Coverage must be purchased within 13 months following the map revision to be applicable for the reduced waiting period.
  • You can get Federal Disaster Assistance even if you don’t have your own flood insurance policy.  The Federal Disaster Program will only provide coverage to uninsured individuals or businesses if the affected area is declared a federal disaster area, which occurs less than 50% of the time.  Statistics show the awards average about $4000 dollars and most are made in the form of a Small Business Administration Loan, which must be paid back with interest.  Furthermore, the award recipient must carry flood insurance for the duration of the loan.

 

To learn more about the terms of flood insurance coverage, log on to http://www.floodsmart.gov/floodsmart/pages/faq_policy.jsp.

Source: FEMA Publication F-216 (08/04) and www.floodsmart.gov

Vulnerable Homeowners Negligent About Flood Insurance

Quite a bit of attention is being paid lately to floods and the devastation they leave behind. In the wake of Katrina, more and more questions have been raised about what kind of preventative measures would have lessened the catastrophic effects of such an event.  How well equipped are individual homeowners to handle financial consequences on their own, as opposed to relying solely on agencies like FEMA to provide them with economic assistance? Are Americans taking advantage of the nation’s flood insurance program?

That’s what FEMA wanted to know. The agency worked through the American Institutes for Research (AIR) to commission a study. AIR is a not-for-profit organization that conducts research on social issues and provides technical assistance in the fields of health, education, and workforce productivity. AIR coordinated the study, which was conducted by the Institute for Civil Justice and the Infrastructure, Safety and Environment division of the RAND Corporation. It was intended to be part of an overall evaluation of the flood insurance program.

In the course of their work, the researchers discovered that most homeowners buy flood insurance only because it is required. Only 20% of homeowners living in the areas most vulnerable to floods buy federal flood insurance when they are not required to do so. The study went on to reveal that just 1% of Americans living outside designated flood zones buy federal flood insurance even though the possibility of being victimized by flood is a real threat.

Only 50% to 60% of the 3.6 million single-family homes in the most highly affected areas are legally required to buy federal flood insurance. The remaining homeowners in these areas and the nearly 76 million single-family homes outside these areas are not required to buy flood insurance.

The study put the greatest emphasis on exploring the demographics of flood insurance purchasers. About 63% of homeowners living in areas subject to coastal flooding purchase flood insurance. Approximately 35% of homeowners living in areas that are only affected by river flooding buy flood insurance. The researchers surmised that the disparity might be the result of a perception of having less risk or that coverage available for basements is limited, and basements are prevalent in inland areas subject to river flooding. The report recommended that this aversion to flood insurance by those living in inland areas be studied, to search for an explanation or possible causes.

The study also looked at purchasing habits along geographic breakdowns. In the South, 75% of homeowners who carry flood insurance also have contents coverage. Only 16% of homeowners with flood insurance in the Midwest and 49% in the Northeast have contents coverage.

Clearly homeowners everywhere need to reassess their exposure to flooding.  If you have questions about obtaining flood insurance for your property, please give us a call.

Protect Your Home from Power Surges This Summer with Surge Protectors

The arrival of summer can mean several welcome events: a return to outdoors living, an opportunity for vacation, and more time with the family. One of the issues people may not associate with summer are the power surges that often occur due to the tremendous demand for energy, especially to cool homes. A power surge is a brief spike in electrical power. While on the surface it may not seem like much to be concerned about, power surges can cause serious damage by burning up electrical circuits inside appliances. They can also damage electrical outlets, light switches, light bulbs, air conditioner components, and even garage door openers.

You can protect your valuable electrical appliances from the damaging effects of power surges. The most cost effective way is by purchasing surge protection strips. You can plug in your television, DVD player, and stereo into the strip and it should provide adequate protection against most surges. It’s a good idea to pick up a surge protection strip for the kitchen counter so that you can protect small electrics like the toaster, blender, food processor etc. You can also find surge protectors that fit into electrical outlets that will protect your phone and answering machine. You can buy most types of surge protectors in any local hardware store.

When it comes to your PC, however, you will have to be a bit more selective about protection, because of the delicacy of its internal components. Back-up power packs that are specifically designed to protect your hardware can be found in stores that sell computer accessories as well as in many electronics chain stores. They can be somewhat expensive, but are certainly less expensive than replacing your entire system.

Before you purchase any surge protector, there are certain features you need to look for. The first feature to look for is a surge protector that is labeled with the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) logo. The UL logo tells you that the unit has been tested to determine if it meets certain standards. Any product that is UL tested will be labeled as a “transient voltage surge protector,” which means that it meets or exceeds the minimum standards required to be an effective deterrent against power surges.

A surge protector’s performance is rated in three ways. The first is clamping voltage, which is the level of voltage surge that has to occur before the surge protector kicks in and diverts excess voltage from the item being protected. You want to find a surge protector that has a low voltage number so that it takes less of a surge to activate it. Look for a protector with a clamping voltage of less than 400 volts.

The second way to rate a surge protector’s performance is response time: the amount of time it takes for the surge protector to respond to the surge. You should look for a unit with a response time of one nanosecond or less.

Just like any other appliance in your home, your surge protector will eventually wear out. The third performance-rating factor is energy absorption, or how much energy the unit will absorb before it fails. For the longest lasting performance, look for a unit rated between 300 and 600 joules. Remember, the higher the number, the longer the life of the surge protector.

Safety Experts Say Smoke Alarms Are Decreasingly Effective

In early 2006, a federal jury ruled that the design of ionization smoke alarms was defective in a fire that trapped 56-year-old William Hackert Jr. and his 31-year-old daughter Christine in their house near Albany in 2001. However, even before this ruling, safety experts were already questioning whether this type of smoke alarm is adequate to deal with the threat of fast-burning synthetic materials prevalent in American homes.

Ionization alarms, which use radioactive material to detect smoke, react earlier in fast-burning flaming fires. Photoelectric alarms, which detect changes in light patterns, react earlier in slow smoky fires. Experts agree that both types save lives. However, a problem arises because the time needed to escape has shortened significantly because of fast-burning synthetics used in furniture and carpets. Smoke alarm use standards may need to change to accommodate this phenomenon.

In 2001, Consumer Reports recommended that homeowners install at least one of each type of alarm on every level of a house to provide sufficient warning time for different types of fires. A recent report from the Public/Private Fire Safety Council noted that some test escape times were “tight or insufficient” with either alarm for bedroom or living room flaming fires. The group suggested that Underwriters Laboratories (UL) modify its standard to require faster detection of smoldering fires. Current UL smoke alarm standards require alarms to respond within 4 minutes of a flaming fire and in a smoldering fire before smoke obscures visibility by more than 10 percent per foot.

In today’s homes, the synthetics in furnishings, fabrics and carpeting smolder longer, but burn faster than natural materials like wood and cotton, which char as they burn. Synthetics melt and pool which produces significantly more energy when they burn. This has shortened the time between first flames and combustion of an entire room due to accumulated heat and gases to approximately 2 to 4 minutes. The average time between first flames and complete combustion 30 years ago when the UL standard was developed was 12 to 14 minutes.

In February of 2006, UL began studying the smoke characteristics from 40 materials commonly found in homes in the effort to make alarms more effective. Also under study are the byproducts of today’s smoke, which can be lethal. Results of these studies are expected by the end of the year.

Another reason for UL concern is the increase in U.S. fire fatalities in the past 12 months to a rate of about 3,500 annually. One likely factor is the increasing use of candles as mood lighting. Candles now cause about 18,000 fires a year, triple the number five years ago.

Is Your Homeowner’s Coverage a Mystery to You?

If you feel in a quandary when you look at your homeowner’s insurance, take heart; you are not alone. In fact, a recent study conducted by Harris Interactive for Travelers Insurance shows that a large number of American homeowners are unsure of their coverage specifics. Many of these homeowners are underinsured and the smallest disaster could send them into a financial hardship.

The researchers questioned more than 1,300 homeowners to determine exactly what they knew about their coverage. They also asked the study participants how often they reviewed their policy to ensure they maintained appropriate coverage and how they conducted their review.  According to the survey data, more than 44 percent of those surveyed had not examined their insurance coverage in the past year. Some respondents had not reviewed their insurance policy in the last 10 years.

The “Travelers In-synch Homeowner’s Insurance Study” also indicated that nearly 27 percent of these homeowners weren’t sure whether their policy would cover the cost of rebuilding their home. Thirty-six percent didn’t know whether their policy would cover damage caused by a hurricane. Forty-two percent were unsure if they had earthquake coverage. Twenty-six percent didn’t know if they had coverage against flood damage, and 37 percent didn’t know whether their policy would cover a prolonged hotel stay if their home were damaged.

Many items impact the amount of homeowner’s coverage you need. That’s why it is important to review your coverage frequently. Here are some criteria to use in your review:

 

  • Have you recently remodeled your home?

If you’ve improved your home, chances are you’ve increased its estimated replacement cost.

 

 

  • Has the inflation rate increased since your home was last appraised?

Certain conditions, such as severe weather, can increase the demand for labor and materials, which raises costs beyond the normal inflation level. It is important to update your coverage each year to account for changing inflation.

 

 

  • What factors influence building costs in your area?

Replacement costs are directly proportionate to factors, such as the availability of labor, the current demand for labor, and the cost of construction materials. Adjusting your coverage regularly can ensure your policy will provide the money you need to rebuild.

 

To determine whether you have adequate coverage you should know your home’s estimated replacement cost. Keep in mind that your replacement cost could be higher or lower than your home’s market value. You should also consider the building materials used to construct your home. The more difficult the building materials are to find, the higher your replacement cost. Your coverage needs to reflect these increased costs.

The best way to stay ahead of changing costs is to contact your insurance agent annually to discuss your current coverage and your changing needs. They can help you manage risk by updating your coverage so there won’t be any surprises should your home be damaged.

Protect Yourself When Taking on a Remodeling Project

Due to sustained record low interest rates, many homeowners have elected to take on major home remodeling projects.  According to the National Association of Home Builders, approximately 26 million Americans spend more than 180 billion annually on home improvements.   In many cases, however, homeowners are not updating their insurance at the same time, leaving themselves extremely vulnerable.

Making sure you are appropriately insured should begin at the very start of a project.   A contractor should not be hired if they cannot produce their certificate of insurance.   The contractor should provide you with a copy of their certificate, which shows the type and amount of their insurance coverage.  This should include general liability, workers’ compensation and auto coverage, and the policy must be current. 

It is equally as important to make sure that any subcontractors that your contractor brings in to the job are similarly insured.  This is particularly important now, as insurance rates for the construction industry have recently risen significantly.  You want to make sure a member of your remodeling team didn’t choose a coverage lapse over a premium increase.

When you choose to take on a remodeling project yourself, you must review your own coverage for liability and property damage issues, particularly when bringing in subcontractors to help with the work.  As the homeowner, you may be liable if they are injured during the scope of your project.  Even if your current policy covers any injuries related to the renovation, we often recommend that homeowners carry umbrella liability coverage, which would cover a claim beyond normal limits.

In addition to liability issues, it is key to increase your homeowner’s coverage based on the added value to your home.  Kitchen and bathroom renovations are the most common and tend to be quite costly.   They also substantially increase the value of a home.

Homeowners should use caution not to over-insure themselves.  Don’t increase your insurance based on the cost of the remodel.  You should determine how much it would actually cost to rebuild your home with the added improvements.  This replacement cost is the amount that needs to be insured.  The cost to remodel also includes tearing out old materials.  Therefore, in some cases, the cost difference to rebuild the home may be less than the actual renovation cost itself. 

The most important item to consider is to contact your insurance agent to increase your homeowner’s limits before, not after, a renovation project.  This will ensure that you are covered should any fire or damage occur during a renovation.

Avoid Sewer and Drain Damage to Your Basement

Millions of dollars are spent every year repairing damage to basements caused by sewer and drain backups.  There are some ways these problems can be avoided, instead of having to repair the mess from a sewer or drain backup. 

Make sure your drainage systems are working properly.  The downspouts from your gutters should extend beyond the foundation of your home so that water is not left to trickle down basement walls.  Along those same lines, your yard should gradually slope away from the foundation, so surface water drains directly to the street.  Keep drain lines clear, especially if your gutters connect to storm sewers. 

There are several types of anti-backflow devices that can help reduce the chance of basement flooding.  Check-valve devices allow water and sewage to flow away from the drain, preventing backup into the drain.  Gate-valve devices close and shut off the flow of water and sewage, preventing backup.  Anti-backflow devices are either manually or automatically operated.

Sump pumps are another option to consider.  Single and dual-level sump pump systems are available, and a battery or generator can be used to power the pump in case of a power failure.  Sump pump systems should be checked monthly.  Check local building codes or consult your plumber to ensure your sump pump is connected properly.  Sump pumps should not be connected to your home’s waste plumbing system.

Despite your best efforts, sometimes water will still get in your basement.  Keep storage items off the floor and keep furniture on casters or shims, away from floor drains.  If your basement is finished, ensure that you consult plumbing and building professionals to design a drainage system that will prevent damage to your finished space. 

Despite the amount of damage backups can cause, many homeowners’ policies do not include coverage for sewer and drain losses.  Check with your agent to determine if an additional endorsement can protect you from this costly problem.