Condo Insurance

Condo or Condon’t — Condo Insurance

You’ve taken the plunge and opted for the condo life.  Now that the papers are signed, it seems like everything is taken care of for you—building maintenance, roof repairs, landscaping, insurance, etc.  It’s time to relax because everything is covered, right?

Not quite.  The insurance policy provided by the condo association typically covers the building structure and common areas, but what about potential damage to your unit (carpet, cabinets, etc) and covering your belongings?  Without a personal condo insurance policy, you could be left holding a large invoice if your unit is damaged in a fire, has water damage from a broken pipe, etc.

Most condos need two insurance policies.

Master Policy:  Generally provided by your condo association, this policy typically covers the physical structure of the building, including basement, roof, walls, elevators, lobbies, etc.  Coverage usually includes both physical damage and liability (for the association). Get a copy of the policy so you know what’s covered.

Personal Condo Policy:  This will cover additional structural damage to your unit, including cabinets, appliances, personal belongings, and more.  This also covers living expenses if you fall victim to a covered disaster and are displaced from your condo.  Many insurance carriers, such as Safeco InsuranceTM, offer enhancements that include personal property protection in your condo insurance policy. Safeco’s Full Value Contents® protection will pay the full replacement cost of your belongings, not just what they are worth today.

Contact us today at the Insurance Center of Milwaukee if you have questions!  Our phone number is 414-744-6614.

Five Ways to Get your Car Stolen

Five sure-fire ways to get your car stolen

 Most people would say their car is one of the most valuable assets they own, however, some people make it easy for thieves to drive off in their pride and joy.

At the Insurance Center of Milwaukee, we don’t want you walking out your door to an empty driveway or leaving Mayfair Mall only to find some broken glass left behind in your parking space. So take care to avoid these five mistakes.

 

  1. Leaving your car running … and unattended. We know it can be chilly in the mornings and who wants to wait in a cold car while it warms up? Well, a thief certainly won’t mind the chill — as he’s driving away in your car while you’re finishing that cup of coffee in your kitchen. If your car is running, you should be in it.
  2. Keeping a spare set of keys inside the car. Law enforcement agencies say this is a great way to turn a car prowler into a car thief. They’re already breaking into your car to get a phone, laptop, etc. What do you think they’re going to do when they find a set of keys?
  3. Leaving valuables in plain sight. Seems simple, but we’ve all made this mistake. You’ll just be in the store for a second, after all, so who cares if you leave your smartphone on the front seat? Or items from your other errands in the back seat? Be smart — if you have to leave items in your car, put them in the trunk, or at least hide them as best you can. And do it before you get to your next destination.
  4. Leaving your car unsecured. The best thieves can work wonders with a window that’s left open even just a crack. While the worst thieves can steal a car that’s been left unlocked.
  5. Assuming nobody would want to steal your car. Think your car is too old or too undesirable for a thief to bother? Scrap metal is worth money, so never assume that your car is safe — even if you think it’s just a “junker.”

 

Keeping thieves away helps to keep everyone’s insurance costs down, so avoiding these mistakes not only will save you hassle, it will save you money as well. So stay safe, not only on the roads, but in the parking lots as well!

Contact Us!

 At the Insurance Center of Milwaukee, we can work with you to make sure you’ve got the coverage you need, while at the same time shopping 12 top rated companies for you. Just give us a call at 414-744-6614 or send us a note at info@insurancecentermilwaukee.com. We want to help you meet your goals, and make sure what’s important to you is protected!

Preparing for Winter Weather

Fall is quickly slipping away, but there’s still time to get ready for winter weather. Extreme cold is always a possibility here in the Milwaukee area, so we at the Insurance Center of Milwaukee have compiled some tips to help you stay safe and limit damage.

Preparing your home

  • Perform basic winter maintenance — insulate your attic, caulk and weather-strip doors and windows, and insulate water pipes that run along outer walls. When temperatures drop, keep the cabinets under sinks open to allow warmer air in.
  • If you use a fireplace or wood stove, have the chimney or flue inspected each year. Make sure your house has working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and test them monthly.
  • Check your emergency supplies and ensure that you have adequate food and water, along with a battery-powered radio, in the event of an extended power outage.
  • Never use gas-powered generators or barbecue grills indoors. These can allow deadly carbon monoxide to build up.

Preparing your car

  • Have your vehicle serviced according to manufacturer recommendations. Check the antifreeze level.
  • Keep the gas tank at least half full, which helps avoid ice in the fuel tank.
  • Replace wiper fluid with a wintertime mixture.
  • Make sure your tires are in good shape and have the proper air pressure.
  • Check to confirm your battery has a good charge, your heater and defroster are working well, and that your emergency lights are functional.

Preparing yourself

  • Always wear temperature-appropriate clothing, such as hats, gloves, scarves, etc. Remove any wet clothing immediately. And keep spare clothing or a blanket in your car trunk throughout winter in case you are stranded.
  • Stay hydrated. You might think this is more important when it’s warm outside, but it’s just as vital in winter.
  • Be mindful of physical exertion and the amount of time you’re spending outdoors. Shoveling snow is hard work, so don’t overdo it!

Winter is a lot of fun, and we’re looking forward to snowmobiling and skiing as much as you are. So get your house, car, and body ready, so you can have a great season!

Contact Us!

 At the Insurance Center of Milwaukee, we can work with you to make sure you’ve got the coverage you need, while at the same time using all possible credits and discounts to make that coverage affordable. Just give us a call at 414-744-6614 or send us a note at info@insurancecentermilwaukee.com  We want to help you meet your goals, and make sure what’s important to you is protected!

Driving after Dark

A little extra caution can go a long way while driving at night

 Summer has ended, and while fall and winter have their own pleasures — including football, skiing, holidays with family — longer nights mean increased danger on the roads.

You might drive well at night, but consider this, nighttime driving accounts for just 23% of vehicle miles traveled, but more than 50% of fatalities for vehicle occupants 16 and older occur between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., according to the National Safety Commission (NSC).

We’re big advocates for safety at the Insurance Center of Milwaukee and thought it would be helpful to take a look at why night driving is more dangerous, and what you can do to decrease that danger.

What’s dangerous about night driving?

  1. Decreased vision. We won’t go into all the biological details, but parts of the eye work differently at night. Your peripheral vision is actually slightly improved, but it’s more difficult to focus on objects ahead of you. Traveling between well-lit areas and darker roads creates issues as well.
  2. Driving too fast for your headlights. Depending on vehicle speed and headlight setting, many people “over-drive” their headlights. That means, by the time they see something on the road, it’s too late to stop in time to avoid it.
  3. Impaired judgment. Whether due to drowsiness or the use of alcohol or drugs, it appears that drivers at night often don’t use good judgment. According to the NSC, 66% of fatalities at night involve vehicle occupants who weren’t wearing seat belts.

So what do you do?

Sometimes, there’s no way around driving at night. Here are some tips to help you make a safe trip — whether you’re just running to the store, or you’re headed all the way to the Dells for a weekend.

  1. Make sure your vehicle’s lights are in good working condition. Headlights, turn signals, taillights, etc.
  2. Avoid speeding. Leave a bigger cushion between you and other cars than you would during daylight hours and give yourself more time for the trip.
  3. Be more aware of your surroundings. You shouldn’t be using your phone, messing around with the radio, or trying to find something on the floor while you’re on the road during the day — and distractions are even more deadly at night.

 Of course, if you’re not comfortable driving at night, the best thing is to avoid it altogether. There’s nothing wrong with asking for a ride from a trusted safe driver or waiting for the sun to come out!

We’re open during the day!

When you’re driving around during the day, stop in at the Insurance Center of Milwaukee for a review of your coverage. We won’t keep you after dark, we promise. Or just give us a call at 414-744-6614. We’re here to help!

Motorcycle Safety

A different season means different dangers for motorcyclists

 Fall is a wonderful time to be outside on your bike, thanks to the crisp, cool weather and changing colors of the landscape. Staying safe on the road in autumn requires some special precautions. We at the Insurance Center of Milwaukee want you to be around to enjoy the beauty of the open road, even in the Fall, so we’ve put together some great tips for you.

Be vigilant about visibility

When Fall rolls around, the days are getting shorter, which means your late-afternoon ride can turn into an evening ride very quickly. Carry proper reflective gear, along with replacement bulbs, and any other basic equipment that can help ensure your visibility. Keep in mind that the sun is lower in the sky, so the glare may make it harder for you to see the road – and for other drivers to see you.

Keep cool, but not too cool

In Wisconsin, conditions can change quickly. Even on a warm day, a cold night might be just an hour or two away. So pack your cold-weather gear when you head out, and beware of frost and ice on roadways – particularly on bridges.

Consider the conditions

Roads in the Fall can present a number of dangers. Rain can make roads slick, and standing water can cause you to hydroplane or lose control. Lower temperatures can bring frost, ice, or even snow.  Those beautiful autumn leaves can be a hazard when they start to fall off the trees and onto the road as well.

Beware of deer

Fall also brings an increase in deer activity, so be extra vigilant, particularly in rural areas. Deer tend to be most active around dawn and dusk when visibility can be limited. Pay attention to deer crossing signs and always be alert to your surroundings.

Fall can be one of the best times to ride, but also one of the most dangerous. So take a little extra care and maybe a little extra time. Doing so will help you stay safe while you take in the scenery.

Other safety resources

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation (http://www.msf-usa.org) is a great resource to learn more about safety gear and motorcycling in general, as is the American Motorcyclist Association (www.americanmotorcyclist.com). Remember, we’re here to help too! If you have questions about insurance coverage for your bike, or want more safety resources, give us a call at 414-744-6614 or email info@insurancecentermilwaukee.com !

Fall Home Safety

Household safety tips change with the season

As days get shorter and nights get longer, our habits begin to change. Most of us typically spend more time at home and less time outside. That usually means resuming favorite fall pastimes like watching football games and drinking hot cocoa on the sidelines of our little ones’ soccer games.

Arriving along with the season of autumn is a host of safety hazards we didn’t have to think about over the summer, creating the need for a little extra vigilance. As the temperatures drop and you settle in for the approaching cold spell, consider the following pointers for ensuring you and your family stay not just warm, but also safe!

Warm up carefully. All types of heating units can be dangerous. If you use a wood-burning fireplace, secure it with a screen to prevent sparks, and make sure the fire is completely out before you retire for the night. In addition, make sure a qualified chimney sweep inspects and cleans your fireplace flue once per year. If you depend on your home’s furnace, make sure it has been inspected before you start to use it again. If you have any space heaters, make sure they are in good working order (no frayed cords) and out of the reach of children.

Enjoy ambiance safely. If you use candles to add a warm glow to a cold night, make sure they are safely out of reach of children, can’t be overturned by pets, and are not close to flammable items such as blankets, paper, or furniture. If you’re known for falling asleep before heading to bed, extinguish all candles early in the night to avoid an unsafe, all-night burning situation.

Exercise yard safety. If you’re going to be pruning trees and shrubs, hanging Halloween decorations, raking leaves, or engaging in other yard activities, use caution: be careful on ladders, avoid power lines, and put away yard tools when you’re finished.

Be grounded. Have weather-friendly shoes and boots handy for the whole family. This is the season for slippery driveways and walkways. Without proper footwear, you can find yourself on your back or in the hospital.

At the Insurance Center of Milwaukee, we wish you a fabulous fall season!

Contact Us!

We can work with you to make sure you’ve got the coverage you need, while at the same time using all possible credits and discounts to make that coverage affordable. Just give us a call at 414-744-6614 or send us a note at info@InsuranceCenterMilwaukee.com. We want to help you meet your goals and make sure what’s important to you is protected!

Renters Insurance

The Importance of Renters Insurance

If you live in a rental or apartment, there is a 60% chance that you don’t have the proper insurance. Despite the fact that rented homes are more likely to be burglarized than owner-occupied properties, nearly 60 percent of renters don’t have renters insurance.

Why does it matter?

“If you rent a house or apartment and think that your landlord is financially responsible when there is a fire, theft or other catastrophe—think again,” warns the Insurance Information Institute*. Landlords may have insurance to protect the building, but your landlord’s policy won’t replace your personal possessions. The best way to protect yourself financially against theft, fire, etc. is to buy a renters insurance policy.  Renters insurance can cover your possessions, liability, and additional living expenses. Let’s take a look at these three types of protection:

 Possessions

Standard renters insurance protects your personal belongings against damage from fire, smoke, lightning, vandalism, theft, windstorm, water, and other disasters listed in the policy (see the policy for details) – floods are not covered. There are “special form” policies available as well and they cover many more perils than standard “broad form” policies.

To decide how much insurance to buy, you need to know a ballpark value to replace of all your personal possessions—including furniture, clothing, electronics, appliances, dishes, and even towels or bedding (most people insure their “stuff” for $20,000-$100,000). There are two types of settlement options for your possessions if there is a claim:

Actual Cash Value pays to replace your possessions minus an amount for depreciation up to the limit of your policy.

Replacement Cost pays the full cost of replacing your possessions (with no deduction for depreciation), up to the limit of your policy. The price to add replacement cost coverage is minimal, so always ask for replacement cost.

Note that most renters policies offer only limited coverage for items such as jewelry, guns, etc. If you own these items, you may want to supplement your policy with an endorsement. An endorsement is added to the policy providing additional insurance for valuables and covers them for perils not included in your policy such as accidental loss.

Liability

This coverage is not what you typically think about when you think renters insurance.  Renters insurance policies usually provide liability protection in the event you unintentionally cause injury to others or damage their property.  It also pays for damage or injury caused by your pets.  If you are sued, the liability portion of a renters policy may pay for both the cost of defending you in court and for the damages, up to the limit of the policy. Liability limits generally start at about $100,000.

Additional Living Expenses

Many people are pleasantly surprised to learn that Additional Living Expense (ALE) coverage is typically included in a renters insurance policy. If the home or apartment you are renting is damaged or destroyed and you need to live elsewhere while it is being repaired or rebuilt, renters insurance will cover your additional living expenses—namely the difference between your regular living expenses and the additional costs incurred by having to live away from your home, such as hotel bills, temporary rentals, restaurant meals, etc.

A typical renters policy costs $10 – $40 per month. Contact us today at 414-744-6614!

*Insurance Information Institute, September 30, 2009

Preparing for College

Insurance Tips for Back-to-School Time

College is expensive enough without finding out that an accident or theft isn’t covered under your current insurance policies. As you get your children ready to head off to school, there’s one vital item to add to your list – a review of your insurance coverage. It’s important to keep in mind that policy language varies from state to state, and there are never “one-size-fits-all” situations, but below is a general guide. If you have questions about Wisconsin policies, or want to go over your insurance needs, don’t hesitate to contact us!

HOMEOWNERS (may vary by state and individual policy)

  • Coverage of personal property: Most homeowners policies provide 10% of Coverage C (Personal Property) for property owned by an insured that is at a residence other than the insured’s.  For example, if the contents of a policyholder’s home are insured for $100,000, a student’s property up to $10,000 would be covered if living in a dormitory – provided the damage is caused by a covered peril and the student meets the definition of an insured.
  • Liability coverage: There usually is an exclusion for damage to property rented to an insured, so generally damage to a dorm room or apartment would not be covered.  See your specific policy language for details.
  • Ensuring adequate coverage:  Contact us to get specific answers and information about Wisconsin coverage. It’s a great idea to create an inventory of the items your student is taking to school by keeping photos and/or receipts.
  • Renters insurance: For apartments or houses off-campus, renters insurance is strongly recommended if a particular homeowners policy does not cover a student’s personal property. Certain items, such as jewelry or expensive electronics, may require special coverage, or a “rider.”  Landlord policies generally only cover the structure, not the possessions of renters.

AUTO (may vary by state and individual policy)

  • Coverage without a car at school: If your student will continue to drive while at home on school breaks, they should continue to be listed on your auto policy. If they are attending school more than 100 miles from home, and are not taking a vehicle with them, he/she may qualify for a distant-student discount.
  • Coverage with a car at school: In most instances, a car registered to parents and listed on their policy will be covered if used by a student (listed as a driver) while away at school, however, you should check with your insurance company to make sure. And note that a change to the principal location of the vehicle could result in a change in premium.
  • Driving a friend’s car at school: Students generally would be covered while driving a friend’s car if the students are listed on their own policy or their parents’ policy and do not have regular use of the vehicle. The coverage would likely be secondary in this case, as the carrier for the friend’s vehicle likely would be the primary coverage.
  • Coverage discounts: In addition to the possible distant-student discount mentioned above, students may qualify for a good-student discount. To qualify, most insurance carriers require that a student be enrolled as a full-time student at an accredited college or university and meet certain academic qualifications (typically a 3.0 GPA).

Going away to school is an exciting time for students and their parents. Making sure you’ve got the right insurance coverage can help you protect your assets as you invest in your child’s future. We’re happy to discuss your coverage and options — just give us a call (414-744-6614), email (info@insurancecentermilwaukee.com), or stop at our office!

Check for Storm Damage

How to Check Your Property for Damage After a Storm

 When a big storm hits in Franklin, New Berlin, Milwaukee, etc. you hunker down inside, relying on your home to protect you and your family. Once that storm passes, it’s time to repay the favor — identifying damage and protecting your home from further issues.

The National Storm Damage Center has a number of resources and tips for homeowners. Here are three major things the agency (and the agents at Insurance Center of Milwaukee) – recommends you check after a storm:

1. Your roof: If you see missing shingles on your roof or if you notice leaking inside or out, it’s a good idea to have a qualified inspector come assess the situation.

2. Your exterior: Aluminum/Vinyl siding, brick and stucco are all vulnerable to storm damage. You’ll want to look for cracking, chipping or dings in the siding, and for holes in stucco. Look closely and at different times of the day. Some homeowners don’t notice damage until it’s too late to file a claim, and different lighting can reveal damage you didn’t see before.

3. Trees: According to the National Storm Damage Center, fallen trees and limbs cause more than $1 billion in damage annually. Check roofs, vehicles, fences, etc. for fallen limbs that may have caused damage or could pose a risk. Clean up what you are safely able to clean and rely on a reputable tree removal service to handle the rest. Depending on the circumstances, your homeowners insurance policy may help with tree removal and damage repair costs – if you experience a covered loss, that is.

A few more helpful tips:

Keep trees well maintained and trimmed. Keep limbs a safe distance from your home.

Know your insurance. Take a look at your policy so you know what’s covered, what your limits and deductibles are, etc. This will prevent any surprises during the claims process.

Take pictures. Photographs can help you show the cause and extent of any storm damage that occurs.

Of course, if you’ve suffered damage from a major storm, don’t hesitate to call us at the Insurance Center of Milwaukee at 414-744-6614 for help with an insurance claim or with finding a professional property inspector.

Avoid Parking Lot Accidents

5 Ways to Avoid Parking Lot Fender Benders in the Metro Milwaukee area

We love the convenience of parking lots in front of our favorite stores in Oak Creek, New Berlin, Shorewood, Milwaukee, etc., but they can be hazardous places.  When people are driving too fast, backing out of spots without looking, and cutting across the parking lot.

That behavior just so happens to be the cause of many a door ding and irritated driver. Even worse, careless behavior can cause a collision or injury. Let’s all slow down and follow these five tips to make parking lots safer for everyone:

  1. Don’t Speed
    Speeding decreases the amount of time you have to react when a child runs out in front of you, another driver stops suddenly, or a car begins backing out unexpectedly. Is a collision – or even a fatality – really worth the price of getting to your destination 30 seconds sooner?
  2. Use Your Eyes – and Mirrors and Cameras
    Lookout for perils at all times, even if the lot seems empty. When you’re pulling into a spot, watch for doors being opened. When backing out, look all around, in your mirrors and in your rear-view camera, and proceed slowly.
  3. Give Yourself – and Others – Some Space
    Parking in between the lines and in a spot sized for your vehicle may help to minimize dings and scratches. Better yet, park in a less-crowded area of the parking lot and enjoy the extra stroll into the store – just don’t park where you feel unsafe. Always park away from stray carts.
  4. Expect the Unexpected
    Assume things will happen. That someone will dart out in front of you or that someone backing out of his/her spot won’t see you backing out of yours. When you’re on guard, you’re better prepared for those who aren’t.
  5. Be Respectful
    A little kindness goes a long way in a parking lot. So stop for pedestrians, don’t cause traffic jams waiting for a spot and, above all, don’t lose your cool.

Remember, stay alert! Many times the slow speed of a parking lot will cause people to pay less attention and to start multi-tasking while driving.   If you’re actually watching for dangers, you have a better chance of avoiding them. Call us, 414-744-6614, at the Insurance Center of Milwaukee to make sure you are properly protected before an incident does occur.