Archive for the ‘Insurance’ Category

How to Protect Yourself From the Damage of Identity Theft

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015

How to Protect Yourself From the Damage of Identity Theft | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County real estate | Barry TwynamThere’s no question technology has improved our lives, whether we live in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County, the Edmonton region or elsewhere. It has streamlined communications, made it easy to buy the things we want, and lets us manage our finances wherever we are.

Technology, however, has also made us vulnerable to hackers and identity thieves who prowl the Internet 24/7, attempting to steal personal information including social insurance numbers, usernames and passwords, driver’s licenses, passport info, signatures, bank accounts and PINs. According to the most recent report from the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, in 2009 more than 11,000 Canadians fell victim to identity theft, with a loss of more than 10 million dollars.

“There are many steps Canadians can and should take to protect themselves from identity theft,” says Ryan Michel, senior vice president and chief risk officer at Allstate Canada. “You can get started by adding personal record management to your annual spring cleaning check-list and by making a point to shred old bills, receipts, statements and personal documents.”

Here are five other suggestions:

  1. Don’t give out personal information over the phone, through mail or the Internet unless you initiated the contact and trust the company.
  2. Don’t carry your social insurance number with you and don’t ever give it out unless absolutely necessary (tax and employment purposes).
  3. Review your credit card and bank statements monthly and look for unusual patterns. If your bills don’t arrive on time, follow up with creditors.
  4. Don’t use easy-to-guess passwords or PINs like your birth date or address. A combination of letters and numbers is best. Change your passwords regularly and consider subscribing to a service that encrypts passwords for added protection.
  5. Speak to your insurance provider about home insurance options that cover expenses associated with identity theft.

And if you do become a victim of identity theft:

• Call the police immediately and ask for a copy of the police report.
• Contact your financial institution and other companies that provide services to you to cancel credit cards and have new ones issued.
• Contact credit bureaus and place a fraud alert on your credit reports.
• Change your online passwords.

Michel points out that additional tips and helpful information are available at www.allstate.ca/learningcentre.

March is Fraud Prevention Month and it presents an opportunity for Canadians to be more proactive about protecting themselves online.  Check out The Little Black Book of Scams from the Competition Bureau of Canada for tons of information about how to protect yourself and your family, and put an end to scammers.

Questions or comments about the information in this article?  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

(Most of the content of this article courtesy of www.newscanada.com)

Apartment Dwellers, You Need Insurance!

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013

Apartment Dwellers, You Need Insurance! | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamWe hear about it all the time but this time the devastation hit a little close to home, affecting the daughter of one of my clients in the Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County and Edmonton region.  On Thursday, May 9, 2013, 36 units of the Sonora Apartments in Stony Plain were destroyed by fire, leaving 50 people homeless and wondering how they’ll survive with all their possessions gone.  $4 million in damage is the estimate, and the probable cause of the fire is “improper disposal of smoking materials.” 

It’s hard to imagine the horror and hopelessness experienced by the victims of this tragedy.  What makes it worse is that most of the people living in the apartment complex did not have insurance which could have minimized a great deal of their suffering. 

If you are a renter, please give yourself the gift of property insurance known as Renters or Tenant Insurance.  The cost is small and the benefit is huge. 

What does Tenant’s Insurance cover?

An excellent pamphlet from the Insurance Bureau of Canada entitled “What is Tenant’s Insurance?” explains that Tenant’s Insurance covers 3 main areas:

  • Replacement of personal belongings of all kinds, if stolen, damaged or destroyed by fire, water and the like.
  • Costs for temporary accommodation, meals, transportation, moving costs, etc. while your home is being repaired.
  • Liability coverage in the event that you cause damage to the property or to people visiting the building.

(Keep in mind that each policy will have its own rules, exceptions and limits as to what is covered and what compensation for damage there may be.) 

How much does Tenant’s Insurance cost?

When you hear how little Tenant’s Insurance costs, you’ll probably be shaking your head as I did, wondering how people could possibly think that not having this type of insurance makes sense.  Or maybe, as Dayle of The Co-operators Insurance Company in Spruce Grove suggests, they just don’t know it exists.  She says that for roughly $15,000 worth of coverage (and that includes some provision for living expenses and standard liability coverage) the cost is only $200 per year!  Surely one’s peace of mind is worth that much, and if you ever need to make a claim, there’s no question that getting your life back to normal quickly has to be worth putting that amount in your budget, right along with food, clothing and rent. 

For more information about property insurance, see my blog article ”Property Insurance: Are You Covered?”   

I welcome your comments or questions.  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here

Should Your Home Have a Fire Sprinkler System?

Thursday, April 18th, 2013

Should Your Home Have a Fire Sprinkler System? | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamHow protected from fire is your home in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County and the Edmonton area?  You have smoke detectors, carbon monoxide alarms and fire extinguishers but should you do more? 

I recently watched a disturbing YouTube video entitled The Co-operators and the Guelph Fire Department Sprinkler Demonstration sponsored by The Co-Operators Insurance company and the Guelph Fire Department.  In the video I learned that deaths from fire occur most often in the home and usually when people are sleeping.  Those most affected are likely to be small children under the age of 5 and adults over the age of 60.  It’s one thing to read in the video that fire departments typically respond in as little as 10 minutes but that conditions during a fire can become unsurvivable in under 2 minutes.   It’s a very different impression to watch the video and see the destruction and horror caused by a fire, how quickly it can spread, filling a home with toxic fumes and smoke, and how devastating the damage can be.   

The purpose of the video was to point out the difference sprinklers can make in saving lives and protecting property.  According to the video, damage in a sprinkler-protected home is generally 71% less.  Insurance claims in sprinkler-protected homes run around $1000 compared to $15,000 in those without.  Even more important than the decreased property damage is the life-saving aspect:  an 80% reduction in injury and death in a home with sprinklers. 

The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition’s website  has similar information:  “Most people don’t realize that 8 out of 10 fire deaths occur in the home.  They usually happen at night when people are asleep.  People also do not understand how fast fires spread and how they can go from a tiny flame to total destruction in as little as three minutes.  Fire sprinklers can suppress and often extinguish a fire before the fire department arrives, giving people time to escape.” 

The Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition, based in the US but with Canadian partners, reports statistics similar to those in the video.  The website also contains a wealth of other information and answers to questions people might have about home sprinkler systems:

  • Fires kill more people in the US every year than all natural disasters combined.  And 80% of those fire deaths occur in the home.  When combined with smoke alarms, residential fire sprinklers cut the risk of dying by 82%.
  • Fire sprinklers can save money for developers, builders, homeowners and communities.
  • Only the sprinkler closest to the fire will activate, spraying water directly on the fire.  Sprinklers cause much less water damage than fire hoses.
  • Sprinklers are activated by high heat so sprinklers throughout a home are unlikely to go off.  The website notes that 90% of all home fires are contained with a single sprinkler.
  • Accidental discharge of sprinklers due to defective equipment is extremely unlikely.
  • Homeowners need not worry about the aesthetics of a sprinkler system as the hardware in a home system is small and easily concealed.
  • If installed in a new home, the cost may be about the same as an upgraded carpet, or about 1 to 1.5% of the building cost.  This cost may be offset over a number of years through lower insurance premiums.
  • Home fire sprinkler systems can be retrofitted into existing homes. 

In light of recent house fires in our province that caused tremendous damage and loss of life due to current new homes being built very close together and with flammable materials, the cost of installing a sprinkler system (running about $1.65 per square foot in the US for new home construction) seems well worth it.  I urge you to view the Co-Operators video  to get a feel for the true calamity of a fire in the home, and visit the Home Fire Sprinkler Coalition website for more information about home sprinklers.  You can never be too safe! 

See also my blog articleFire Safety in Your Home”.   

Comments or questions about this article?  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

 

 

 

The Sky is Falling: Meteors and Your Home Insurance

Monday, February 25th, 2013

The Sky is Falling: Meteors and Your Home Insurance | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamAt first, when I heard about the meteor that hit the Urals region of western Siberia in Russia a couple weeks ago, I thought it had to be a mistake.  That is, until I heard the news reports of the hundreds of people injured and the massive amounts of property damage.  And then I got to feeling pretty relieved that it hadn’t landed here, and wondering if that kind of destruction would hit people in their wallets.

An article in the Edmonton Journal reported that the meteor, which was the size of a bus and weighed about 7000 tons, exploded with the force of 20 atomic bombs.  Russia seems to be a bit of a magnet for massive meteorite strikes.  The last big one, in fact the largest impact of its type in recorded history, hit Siberia in 1908, wiping out an estimated 80 million trees with a blast greater than 1000 times that of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima.  

The Journal article quotes Jim Green, NASA’s director of planetary science: “These fireballs happen about once a day or so, but we just don’t see them because many of them fall over the ocean or in remote areas.”  Good to know for those of us who live in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County or the Edmonton region! 

So, what happens if your home is hit by falling space debris?  Or, for that matter, items falling from airplanes, such as chunks of frozen sewage known as “blue ice”, tree limbs broken off in a wind storm, and the like?  Happily for homeowners, this is one less thing to worry about because insurance policies generally do cover such events. 

According to Angeni Jaipaul at Allstate Insurance in west Edmonton, a meteor event of this type would be part of the “Falling Objects” clause of Allstate’s VIP Homeowner Policy which states “This peril means a falling object which strikes the exterior of a building but not objects which strike the building due to earth movement”If your home is damaged in any way by junk falling out of the sky, your insurance will pay for repairs.

5 things to know about home insurance, an article published on the Toronto Star website,  offers a few more bits of insurance wisdom:

  • Be aware of your responsibilities as a home owner.  Insurance will usually cover you for events that you could not have foreseen or prevented (stuff dropping from the sky that wrecks your roof), but you won’t be covered if damage is the result of your lack of maintenance.
  • Read your policy carefully and be sure to ask questions of your agent.  Do you have a comprehensive all-perils policy, or a basic named-perils policy?  All-perils policies will protect you against most risks; a named-perils policy will cover specific risks, such as fire, lightning, wind.  (But be careful:  the term all-perils might be misleading because most of these policies don’t cover damage from floods or earthquakes unless you have specifically purchased that type of coverage.)
  • Update your policy.  Let your insurance company know when you renovate your property or make substantial changes to the contents.  Keep an inventory of what you own.  One suggestion is to use your phone to make a video of the rooms and their contents.  

See also my other blog articles on the topic of home insurance:

 “Property Insurance: Are You Covered?

Home Inventory: Do You Have One?

Comments or questions about this article?  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here

 

Spring Run-off

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Spring Run-off | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamAh, spring.  Warm sunny days, robins returning, snow disappearing – and water everywhere.  As a home owner in Spruce Grove, Stony Plain, Parkland County, the Edmonton region or elsewhere, you do everything you can to protect your property.  Would it surprise you to learn that the leading cause of damage to property is not break-ins or fire or wild winds, but water?  In fact, more than half of all insurance claims, about 1.3 billion dollars’ worth in Canada, are due to water damage.  This type of claim is likely to increase as infrastructure ages, the climate changes, and home owners finish every square foot of their dwellings.

We’ve all seen the stories in the media about flood damage in Manitoba and parts of the US, but that type of large-scale catastrophe is less common than all the other ways water can ruin a home.  And most of the everyday type of water damage, caused by a leaky roof, backed-up sewer or spring run-off, is preventable.  Here are a few things you can do to minimize water problems:

  • Walk around the entire outside of your home, keeping your eyes open for all the places water could get in.
  • Does the grade slope away from your home without any dips where the ground has settled?  There should be no area where water drains back toward the house.
  • Do the downspouts from eavestroughs extend at least 6 feet from the house?
  • Do all doors and windows fit snugly without any cracks where water could seep in?
  • As spring approaches, are you diligent about clearing snow and ice away from your home?
  • On the roof:
  • Inspect the roof for missing or damaged shingles and repair any problems.  If your roof is older than 15 years, it might be time for a whole new roof.
  • Are the eavestrough gutters free and clear of debris so that water can flow freely off the roof?
  • Check seals around chimneys, skylights and vents to ensure they are water-tight.
  • Inside your home:
  • Regularly check all plumbing (including your hot water tank) and appliances for leaks, and for trouble signs such as rust around a faucet or corrosion around the washing machine hose.  One trick for testing whether a toilet is leaking:  Add food coloring to the tank.  If the color seeps into the bowl after about 20 minutes, you have a leak.
  • Burst pipes can cause a major mess.  Besides checking for leaks, check that insulation in these areas is adequate.
  • Consider installing a sump pump, backwater valve or water sensor, if you don’t already have these items.
  • Examine all ceilings for stains which could indicate spots where water has gotten in.
  • If you store valuable items in the basement, put them in plastic bins up off the floor.
  • Don’t run appliances such as dishwasher or washing machine when nobody is home.

A few other suggestions:

  • When you leave on vacation, even for a long weekend, have someone do regular checks of your residence.  Check all taps and faucets before you leave (turn off the water to the washing machine!), and consider even turning off the main water valve.
  • Review your insurance coverage to make sure you are covered for water perils such as sewer backup and the like.
  • If your home is starting to show its age, consider hiring a home inspector to go over your home with you, looking specifically for problem areas before they develop into full-blown trouble.

I love to hear your comments or questions!  Call or text me at 780-910-9669, email me at barry@barryt.ca, or contact me here.

 

 

 

 

Property Insurance: Are You Covered?

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Property Insurance: Are You Covered? | Spruce Grove Stony Plain Parkland County Real Estate | Barry TwynamThe recent Slave Lake fires have a lot of people in Stony Plain, Spruce Grove, Parkland County and the Edmonton area thinking about home insurance.  It’s a good idea to review your coverage annually with your insurance agent, and be sure to ask the right questions.  Never assume you are covered against a particular peril!

Here are a few things to consider about home insurance:

  1. Most home owner policies protect against fire, vandalism and theft – but how much coverage do you actually have?   Are you covered for replacement value so that you could rebuild your home from the ground up with all its contents at today’s prices?   
  2. What is the coverage for other free-standing structures on your property, such as a storage shed or detached garage?
  3. Is your coverage “All Risk” or “Named Perils”?  Be especially aware of things that you might not be protected against.  For example, some companies require policy owners to purchase special coverage for sewer backup.  Some other common exclusions:  wear and tear, settling, rust, snowslide (kind of important to know about this in Alberta!), landslide, flood, water damage to property while the home is vacant or unoccupied, mechanical breakdown, damage caused by insects or rodents.   Ask your agent what your policy does NOT cover!
  4. Limitations on theft coverage are common.  If you own expensive jewelry, furs, artwork, silverware, coin or stamp collections, a boat and motor, cameras, bicycles, business books and tools, you’ll probably need additional coverage, known as a “rider”, on your policy.
  5. What kind of proof of value might you need in support of a claim?  The experts recommend making a list room by room in your house of everything you own, and assigning a value to each item, or group of items.  If you have sales receipts, especially for big-ticket items, add these to the file.  Take photographs of everything, or better yet, a video.  Nowadays, all this can be posted online for free, so your information will always be available even if, like the residents of Slave Lake, all your property is destroyed.
  6. If you submit a claim against your insurance, you will be expected to pay a deductible,  a certain amount of the cost of damage before the insurance payment kicks in.  Discuss with your insurance agent the advantages and disadvantages of increasing or decreasing your deductible.
  7. What if extensive re-building requires you to move out temporarily?  Does your policy have a clause to cover the cost of hotel rooms and food?
  8. Property insurance doesn’t just cover your own belongings.  What happens if someone is injured while in your home, or their property is damaged?  Some liability insurance is standard in every policy, but consider if that amount is adequate for your situation.
  9. Ask about coverage of your belongings when they are not in your home.  What about belongings stored off the property, such as in a rented storage facility?   Are you covered when you travel?   What if your car is stolen with your computer in it; can you claim for a new computer?  (This is a special situation where you might have to submit two different claims:  one against your auto insurance and the other against your home insurance.  Did you know that many companies not only offer a discount if you have both your home and auto insurance with them, but will only charge you a single deductible in a double claim situation?  Good to know!)
  10. Educate yourself about coverage in special situations.  If you have a child living away from home, are that child’s belongings covered?  When you’re moving to a new home, what kind of coverage do you have between the two dwellings and on your belongings in transit?  If your home is going to be vacant for a significant period of time (for example, you’ve sold your home but the possession date for the new owners is several weeks or months away), do you need special coverage?  Do you need special insurance during home renovations?  If in doubt, contact your insurance agent!
  11. Condo owners may require special insurance to protect not just their personal investment but also their share of the common property in the condominium development.  Ask your insurance agent about “loss assessment”.  Also, take the time to read carefully what’s included and covered in the condo corporation policy; that way, you’ll know what you need to include in your personal policy.
  12. Renters and tenants should have property insurance as well.  Like home owners, you need to protect your own belongings, and guard against liability if someone is injured while in your rented space, but you also need to protect yourself in case of accidental damage you, or your guests, might cause to the landlord’s property; for example, forgetting to turn off a tap while you’re away for the weekend, causing water damage to your own suite and others.
  13. Landlords have special insurance needs also.  Maybe you rent out a room in your home.  You might not have thought about it, but this represents a risk to the company that might even void your policy if the company is unaware of your tenant or boarder.  Be sure to let your insurance agent know so that your coverage can be amended.  If you own a revenue-generating property, ask your insurance agent if your home property insurance extends to cover it.  You might also wish to consider Landlord Insurance which is designed to cover the rental income of a property if it remains vacant because of loss.  Again, the Slave Lake situation comes to mind.
  14. Be sure to ask about discounted rates.  Some companies offer lower rates depending on whether you have multiple policies with that company, age of the policy owner, number of years claim-free, non-smoking property owner, special security features such as alarm systems, security bars on basement windows, etc.

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Companies selling home insurance want you to contact them for a quote since policies are tailored to individual situations, and very few publish detailed information online.  A few helpful websites with information about home insurance:

TD InsuranceHome Insurance Learning Centre

MelocheMonnex:  About Standard Home Coverage

Canadian Direct InsuranceHome insurance coverages offered in Alberta

Kanetix.ca:  Standard home insurance coverages

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For a list of insurance companies in Spruce Grove and Stony Plain, check out our Welcome Home Moving In Package

Comments or questions about this article?  Contact me here, phone me at 780-910-9669, or email me at barry@barryt.ca.

 

Barry Twynam, Realty Executives Leading
#1 14 McLeod Avenue, Spruce Grove, Alberta, T7X 3X3
Tel: 780-962-9696 Cell: 780-910-9669 Fax: 780-962-9699
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