Risk of Water Damage is Higher Than You Think

Guess what is the most likely cause of loss on your homeowner’s policy? Fire, wind, flood or theft? Nope. The most likely cause of loss is water damage from an interior leak while you’re away.

I’ve seen a lot of this. Yes, it’s covered by insurance, but it’s still subject to your deductible and is a big hassle and mess. The water flowing from a toilet, washing machine hose or ice maker can go on unimpeded for weeks or months destroying floors, carpets, furniture and cabinetry. Then it seeps into walls where it destroys molding, sheetrock and electrical. If it goes on long enough, mold begins to form. Ugh.

And it’s completely preventable. The old school way is to simply turn off your water while you’re away, and turn your water heaters down to vacation mode.

The high-tech way involves water leak detection systems. They involve a little work, but will protect you at all times. Some insurance carriers will provide a discount if you have them, and other carriers require you to have them before they’ll cover your property.

There are three different types:

Auto Turn Off

These systems are the gold standard because they automatically turn off your water and notify you by smart phone if there is a leak. They most commonly use remote sensors, but a few advanced models detect anomalies in your water flow. They are good if your home is remote and/or it’s not easy to send somebody out to the house quick if there is a leak. They are the most expensive ($500-$2,000) and need to be installed by a plumber.

Water Monitors

These systems are pretty good. They detect leaks from remote sensors and notify your smart phone so if you’re away you can get somebody out to the house. They range from $200-$500 and can be self-installed, or they can be conveniently installed by your alarm company.

Sound Alarm

These blast a sound if they detect a leak. I suppose they are better than nothing, but don’t help if you’re away from your house. Some leaks (like behind a washer) can go a long time undetected and create problems like mold, so even a sound alarm would help. They’re inexpensive…around $10 per unit. Still, I really can’t recommend these as a solution because most damage occurs while the homeowner is away.

So what did I do for my own home? I simply told my alarm company to install water monitors. If I’m gone for several weeks I’ll turn off the water, but for shorter trips I’ll leave it on and trust the monitors to alert me. I’ve got little sensors on the floor around the washer, kitchen sink, water heaters and baths. It was easy. And I feel better because I’ve seen what extended period water damage can do. Nobody wants that.

Make it a great day!

How to contact Desert Insurance Solutions during COVID-19

Hi everybody, I hope this message finds you safe and healthy as we manage through this challenging period. To comply with government recommendations regarding COVID-19 safe distancing, and to protect the health of my clients and employees, I have decided to temporarily close our offices for face to face visits. Be assured we have prepared for this in our contingency planning and will be able to provide service on your insurance.  We just won’t be able to do it “in person” for a few weeks. Continue reading “How to contact Desert Insurance Solutions during COVID-19”

Mama Bear and Her Cubs

When I was a kid my nickname was “Care Bear” which is a twist on my name based on a brand of teddy bears first sold in the 1980’s. Now that I run an insurance business sometimes I feel more like a Mama Bear who tries to keep her client cubs safe.

Where did these client cubs come from? Mostly from you…referrals are my most important source of new business.

Regarding referrals, I’m often asked by business owners to tell my friends about their product or service. I tell them they don’t need to ask. Because if I know what they do and feel good about how they do it I will tell my friends anyway. And if I don’t like how they do it I’m not going to tell my friends no matter how much they ask. 

My goal is for Desert Insurance Solutions to be referable in your minds. So I hope you’ll indulge me by reading the following recap of what we do and how we do it.

What We Do

Desert Insurance Solutions is an independent multiline insurance broker that offers all types of insurance.

In personal lines (homeowners, auto, umbrella) we offer advice and products for across the range of values. We specialize in higher value homes and the issues their owners typically face such as multiple homes in different states, rental properties, higher liability exposures, etc. We have clients nationwide.

For businesses we offer advice and products to clients ranging from mom/pop stores to entities worth more than $100mm. We specialize in the industries typically found in the Greater Palm Springs and Scottsdale regions.

We also provide professional liability insurance and health insurance to groups and individuals.

 

How We Do It

  • Local  We have offices in California and Arizona but in today’s world your lifestyle may have you anywhere at any time. So we define “local” as accessible and responsive real people. We have people you get to know and can contact 24/7. We can easily schedule live or video meetings. We don’t ask you do self-service on the web or deal with strangers in a call center.
  • Experts We understand your situation. We have decades of experience working at major insurance brokers. We have extensive industry contacts to place any type of risk. We analyze differences in insurance contracts, so do not peddle cheap insurance. We do due diligence on carrier quality to provide you with the right insurance.
  • Trusted We are independent so have multiple quality carrier options. We are licensed in all states so can act as your single point of contact. We work for you, not the carrier, so can act as advocate on a claim. We are transparent and honest with you about your situation and the insurance industry at large.
  • Friends Our office is professional but also friendly and fun. We want you to feel like a welcome friend. We do not tolerate anyone who acts mean or abusive. Life’s too short.

Our goal is to be referable. If you have an insurance issue, or even a suggestion to make us more referable, I invite you to contact me.  Whatever your issue is, let’s fix it now.

If you do find us referable, that’s awesome! 

Here’s a list of reasons people are referred to Desert Insurance Solutions:

  • No special reason; my friend, family member or business colleague said you were good
  • My CPA, lawyer, financial adviser or mortgage lender sent me
  • My friend had a good experience dealing with your staff
  • I’m buying a home or starting a business
  • My home is worth over $1mm, but I currently have a middle market insurance carrier
  • I have multiple agents and carriers all over, my friend said you could help organize
  • I think I need a risk review, my friend said you were a pro
  • My original agent retired and I don’t care for the new agent I was assigned
  • My other agent isn’t licensed in the right states
  • My other agent couldn’t place the insurance I need
  • My other agent doesn’t return calls and made some errors
  • I need some options to manage the increasing cost of my insurance
  • My old insurance was cancelled or non-renewed

Whatever the reason, there’s always room for more cubs at Desert Insurance Solutions!

Claims Do’s and Don’ts

If you never have an auto or homeowner’s claim, you’re a lucky person. If you aren’t that lucky and have a claim, it’s likely to be stressful and might even be hard to think straight. 

In this newsletter I share some thoughts on claims so you’ll be better prepared if you have one. Keep in mind that actual insurance coverage is always determined by the policy contract…this newsletter is for educational purposes only.

I think about the claims process as three steps: stabilize, decide and proceed.

Auto Incident

Stabilize

  • If possible, move your vehicle to a safe location
  • Call police
  • Get information from the other driver (take photo of license and insurance card)
  • Don’t discuss the incident with the other driver. Don’t admit fault or disclose your policy limits.
  • Take photos of the scene, damage and other vehicle license plates
  • Later, get a copy of your police report

Decide

  • If the damage is above your deductible, or if there are other parties involved, you should file a claim with your carrier
  • If you’re not sure you should file a claim, call me

Proceed

  • If filing a claim, call the insurance carrier
  • Secure a rental car if desired
  • Find and engage a body shop (carrier will recommend some they stand behind, or you can choose one recommended by your dealer)
  • The body shop will bill your carrier

Homeowner’s Incident

Stabilize

  • Mitigate damage (e.g. call fire department, turn off water, arrange temporary repairs, stop things from getting worse)
  • Determine extent of damage…get a professional repair estimate

Decide

  • If the damage is below the deductible or it’s not covered, don’t file a claim.  In general, sudden/accidental damage is covered but wear/tear is not.
  • If you’re not sure if you should file a claim, call me. What is covered can be tricky, like a sudden leak from an old roof where interior water damage is covered but the old roof itself is not.

Proceed

  • If filing a claim, call your insurance carrier
  • Make alternative living arrangements if necessary
  • Find and engage a contractor for repairs
  • Your carrier claims adjuster will coordinate payment

Your insurance carrier is equipped to walk you through the claims process step by step. 

Don’t Join This Club

If you have a large, legitimate claim, insurance carriers try to be helpful, pay the claim  and move on…that’s their business. But if you file multiple claims, or frivolous claims, even if they are not paid, the carrier could asterisk you as a problem client and either cancel or non-renew your insurance.

Here are some ways to get that problem client asterisk nobody wants:

  • Multiple or frivolous claims
  • Live in a high risk wildfire zone
  • Consistently pay premiums late
  • Fail to take risk management steps required by your carrier
  • Be rude or threatening to your carrier or agent employees

Now carriers can’t cancel your insurance for just anything. In California there’s a one year temporary reprieve from cancellation due to fire zone. Also in California carriers aren’t supposed to use credit rating for underwriting. And in any state it’s hard to be cancelled just for being rude. But you can get the asterisk for any of the things on the above list. Then later, when you make a payment one day past the grace period, they can and will cancel you for non-payment and will not reinstate you like they might a typical client.

All the carriers I choose to represent have good to excellent reputations for resolving claims. But disputes occasionally occur. The reality is in a claims dispute you have limited leverage because  carriers aren’t  sad to see disputing claimants leave. And  captive agents have limited leverage to help because they take orders from the carrier.  But an independent agent like myself has leverage to help you as claims advocate because carriers want me to continue supporting their products over their competition.

Now you might think if you’re non-renewed, you’ll just go with a different carrier. Not so simple. Insurance companies share information. And insurance applications include a question that reads “has your insurance ever been cancelled or non-renewed?” If that question is answered yes alarms go off and you will be paying higher rates, sometimes much higher. If that question is answered no when the real answer is yes that would be considered a “material misrepresentation” and future claims may be denied.

So remember that insurance is about sweating the big stuff. Insurance carriers pay big claims every day. But it doesn’t pay to push the envelope with questionable little claims then get into a fight with your insurance carrier. If you feel you’re not being treated fairly on a legitimate claim, call me and we’ll work together to get you what you deserve.