The information below was copied directly from the NFIP website on Thursday, February 8, 2018. Here is how a government shutdown could affect flood policyholders:

Congress must periodically renew the NFIP’s statutory authority to operate. On January 22, 2018, the President signed legislation passed by both houses of Congress that extends the National Flood Insurance Program’s (NFIP’s) authorization to 11:59 pm on February 8, 2018.  The legislation also authorized FEMA to honor all policy-related transactions inadvertently accepted between January 20, 2018, and January 22, 2018.

Congress must now reauthorize the NFIP by no later than 11:59 pm on February 8, 2018.

FEMA and Congress have never failed to honor the flood insurance contracts in place with NFIP policyholders. In the unlikely event the NFIP’s authorization lapses, FEMA would still have authority to ensure the payment of valid claims with available funds. However, FEMA would stop selling and renewing policies for millions of properties in communities across the nation. Nationwide, the National Association of Realtors estimates that a lapse might impact approximately 40,000 home sale closings per month.

As affected communities recover from the devastating impacts of the 2017 hurricanes, a timely, multi-year reauthorization is critical for insured survivors and businesses. Policyholders need confidence not only that FEMA can pay flood insurance claims, but also that the NFIP will be able to sell and renew policies to help them protect against future flooding. Flood insurance – whether purchased from the NFIP or through private carriers – is the best way for Americans to financially protect themselves from losses caused by floods.

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AIUA recently announced significant changes to their homeowners insurance policies which will become affective June 1, 2016. AIUA has typically been seen as the “insurer of last resort” due to the majority of their lower premium programs being offered having an Actual Cash Value, or ACV, settlement method. An ACV settlement method means the insurance company will pay you the depreciated value of your property (home, contents) in the event of a claim. That means that many property owners would not be able to afford to pay to rebuild or repair their homes in the event of a storm because the depreciated value is so much lower than the actual cost to repair or replace. Alabama Department of Insurance Commissioner, Jim Ridling, was quoted as saying: “If you drive from here to New Orleans, you get a good view of what happens when people cannot afford to rebuild. There are still abandoned homes, slabs, blue tarps and abandoned businesses from the Mississippi border to New Orleans. I do not want that to happen in the state of Alabama when we have a storm.”

The more favorable settlement method, and that used most often sold by SSIA is the Replacement Cost Value, or RCV, settlement method. This settlement type pays you for the cost to replace your property with items of like kind in the event of a claim. Check out our quick, 2-minute video which describes the two settlement types.

The policy changes which AIUA has just announced will provide policyholders with the option of purchasing the RCV settlement method for a smaller fee than previously offered, however the coverage the AIUA policies offer is still very limited as compared the policies that can obtained through the many carriers writing coverage along the coast. SSIA’s experienced agents can walk you through the benefits of obtaining better coverage while also finding you the best rates available with an RCV settlement method. Don’t let your property go under-protected, as the cost savings you see now may come back to haunt you in the form of high deductibles or inadequate settlement payment after a storm.

Why wait until June to look at changes? Obtain a fast, free, real-time insurance quote in just 5 minutes or less with no personal information via our online quote portal: www.ssiaquote.com.

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South Shore Insurance Agency is proud to announce our recent appointment with Safeco Insurance.Safeco Insurance

Originally founded in 1923, Safeco Insurance is an industry leader, providing comprehensive personal lines insurance products, including homeowners insurance, as well as auto, boat and RV insurance, at competitive prices. SSIA is proud to offer Safeco products to our customers because they share our mission – to not just provide the best product options at the best price, but to help educate and grow with our customers as their lives and needs change.

Contact one of our agents today to learn more about insurance options with Safeco Insurance – 251.923.4463 or email them directly at admin@sshoreins.com.

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TurkeySSIA is proud to once again sponsor the Great Turkey Drive. This 2nd annual fundraiser helps us raise funds to provide a turkey and holiday meal families seeking assistance through Catholic Social Services Mobile and Baldwin Counties. And SSIA will once again MATCH every donation “turkey for turkey” until we feed every family CSS serves this holiday.

Every $15 donation received provides the following to a needy family:

  • One 10-12 lb turkey
  • 2 sides of Corn
  • 2 sides of Green Beans
  • 1 side of Stuffing
  • 1 side of Cranberry Sauce
  • 1 side of Potatoes

Commitment forms are available by clicking here. Please complete the form and return as indicated by Monday, Dec. 7th via email to anne@sshoreins.com or fax to 251.923.4464.

Cain’s Piggly Wiggly has been kind enough to provide all products purchased at cost for this year’s Turkey Drive. Please try to support them with your patronage.

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The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has placed more than 20,000 communities in the United States into a category of flood zones. Each community is able to participate in the agency’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), with premium rates determined by the risks of flooding. To indicate the risks in different parts of the country, FEMA has assigned a character from the alphabet to each zone.

The most hazardous flood zones are V (usually first-row, beach-front properties) and A (usually, but not always, properties near water).

V Zones

According to FEMA and the National Flood Insurance Program, any building located in an A or V zone is considered to be in a Special Flood Hazard Area, and is lower than the Base Flood Elevation. V zones are the most hazardous of the Special Flood Hazard Areas. V zones generally include the first row of beachfront properties. The hazards in these areas are increased because of wave velocity – hence the V designation. Flood insurance is mandatory in V zone areas.

Living in a V Zone

If your home is in a “V” zone (this includes VE and V-1-V-30), adhere to the following recommendations:

  • • The bottom of the lowest horizontal structural member of the lowest floor elevation must be at or above the Base Flood Elevation (BFE).
  • • Enclosed areas below the lowest floor cannot be used for living space. The building must be elevated on piles, piers, posts or column foundation.
  • • Electrical, heating ventilation, plumbing, air conditioning equipment and other service facilities must be elevated to or above the BFE.

A Zones

A zones – the next most volatile of the Special Flood Hazard Areas – are subject to rising waters and are usually near a lake, river, stream or other body of water. Flood insurance is mandatory in all A zones because of the high potential of flooding. A-zone maps also include AE, AH, AO, AR and A99 designations, all having the same rates. The different A zones are named depending on the way in which they might be flooded.

Living in an A Zone

If your home is in an A zone (includes AE, A1-A30, AH, AO, AR) follow these important recommendations:

  • • Enclosed areas below the lowest floor cannot be used for living space.
  • • Electrical, heating, ventilation, plumbing, air conditioning equipment and other service facilities must be elevated to or above the BFE.

Other Zones

  • • X zones are minimal-risk areas where flood insurance is not mandatory.
  • • D zones are areas that have not been studied, but where flooding is possible.

Finding Your Zone Information

There are several ways to find out which zone applies to you. You can determine your risk online by visiting floodsmart.gov. You can also go to your town hall or city hall, where employees responsible for issuing building permits in your area have access to flood zone maps. If you are buying a home, your Realtor and your insurance agent should be able to help you. Also, you can view your flood map by visiting the FEMA Map Service Center website at http://msc.fema.gov or by calling (800) 358-9616.

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There are so many insurance providers in the marketplace today that searching for the right fit can become overwhelming to consumers. Not only is securing the right coverage for your home, car, or business an important process, but selecting who will assist you with obtaining that insurance coverage is just as critical. Many consumers are unaware of the difference between independent insurance agencies and captive agencies, but knowing what each can provide is very important.

Independent insurance agencies are just that – independent from any one specific insurance company. This means they can provide you access to a variety of insurance products from numerous insurance carriers. Independent agencies can shop the marketplace and choose to partner with the insurance carriers who offer the products their customers need. For example, an independent agency may have access to five different carriers for homeowners insurance. What does this mean for the consumer? Simply put, it means they can provide more choices. By shopping coverage through multiple carriers, independent agents can seek out the carrier that offers their customer the best coverage, premium, and payment schedules.  An independent agent will often provide the customer with multiple options for their coverage.

The independent agent is often a one-stop-shop for multiple types of insurance – everything from homeowners to life insurance to auto coverage. And since insurance isn’t a one-size-fits-all industry, having more choices allows the consumer to make the most of their time by having their agent search the best options for them. It’s like having a personal shopper!

Captive agencies typically sell for a single insurance provider – you often see their national advertisements on TV. These providers offer a variety of insurance products; however, these products are only those underwritten by their parent company. The downside to this arrangement is that captive agents don’t have multiple insurance carriers from which to seek coverage. Think of captive agencies like a big box store that only carries one specific brand. They offer great products, but only from their own brand so there isn’t as much variety.

Independent agencies serve an important role to property owners along the Gulf Coast. Many standard carriers cancelled all of their coastal policies and stopped writing any new business after hurricanes Ivan and Katrina, which made it difficult for consumers to find coverage. However, many independent agencies were still able to offer coverage as they had a much larger pool of carriers at their disposal.  Many of the standard markets that are currently offering coverage in our area are doing so without coverage for wind, thus forcing the homeowner to seek out an additional Wind & Hail policy from another carrier.

As an independent agency, South Shore Insurance Agency prides itself on not only finding the correct coverage for our customer, but also educating the consumer on the policy details with words one can understand. An insurance policy is not all about the bottom line premium, but rather the coverage that you will or won’t receive when the unthinkable happens. Simply put, the loyalty of the independent agent lies with the consumer, not with a big box captive agency.

SSIA is a Trusted Choice®Independent Agency – click here to learn more about how this partnership can benefit you.

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Fortified Homes

Carriers are rewarding customers with discounts for building and renovating homes to be more structurally sound – and these building standards make a significant difference in a storm. According to www.disastersafety.org, “FORTIFIED can be affordable at every price point and uses a unique systems-based method for creating stronger, safer homes. The program employs an incremental approach toward making new and existing homes more resistant to damage from hurricanes, tropical storms, hailstorms, high winds and wind-driven rain associated with thunderstorms. With three levels of FORTIFIED Home™ designation available – Bronze, Silver and Gold – builders can work with homeowners to choose a desired level of protection that best suits their budgets and resilience goals.”

The links below provide downloadable fact sheets explaining in greater detail FORTIFIED Homes in Alabama:

What Is FORTIFIED?

FORTIFIED Homes for Existing Structures

FORTIFIED Homes for New Homes

 

 

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Gavel on Booksby Morgan Smith, Assistant Editor at IA Magazine

 

Your client hires a babysitter for the night, a chef for a dinner party or a gardener for a weekend. Do they understand their potential liability?

Many families form close relationships with their household employees, which makes having a conversation about coverage for domestic staff awkward and difficult to initiate. But the potential liabilities are too big to go unnoticed—and they don’t just apply to high net-worth homeowners. Anyone who hires in-home staff like nannies, butlers, chefs, housekeepers, gardeners, home health care workers and tutors all face liability.

“When an insurer looks at their risks, they think about if their house is insured properly or if they have auto covered, but they’re not realizing that they need to be aware of these additional areas that require liability insurance” says Julie Sherlock, vice president and national underwriting manager at ACE Private Risk Services. “Anybody who looks to employ somebody that’s going to have any type of exposure to their personal possessions, and/or their family, should look into coverage.”

A March 2012 whitepaper published by ACE reported that while 54% of high net-worth survey respondents employed domestic staff, 31% did not have appropriate employment practices liability coverage (EPLI) despite a high level of concern about being sued by an employee for injury on their property. Risks include injuries on the job through car accidents, criminal behavior such as identity theft or kidnapping and lawsuits for wrongful termination, sexual harassment or discrimination.

But protection and risk management practices can start before work even begins for both domestic contractors like nannies and one-time chefs and domestic employees who work on a regular basis multiple days a week. To minimize risks of employing household staff, Sherlock offers five tips to share with your homeowners clients:

  1. Check references. You find out who people are through word of mouth and through friend recommendations, but you still want to be sure you know exactly who you’re employing.
  2. Do a professional background screening. Look at criminal records, verify references, view credit reports and check motor vehicle reports.
  3. Do another professional background screening. If you’re hiring somebody for a short time, completing one background check is fine. But if you’re bringing somebody on long-term, make sure you’re checking their reports at least every other year.
  4. Maintain a clear employment contract. Outline responsibilities, payment terms, requirements and causes for termination. Be clear on what employees can and can’t do, or what they can and can’t be fired for—this will hopefully minimize the potential for a wrongful termination lawsuit down the road.
  5. Review that process on that a regular basis.

 

When first discussing domestic staff coverage with a homeowners client, Bill Burbine, vice president and personal lines manager at Fred C. Church, Inc., suggests gaining a general understanding of what protection measures they’ve already taken and then educating them on best practices. “In the initial risk assessment, talk about employment relationships they have from part-time handy work to full-time domestic staff and then seek to understand what they’ve done in the past to document and protect themselves,” he says.

Although potential liabilities can fall under general property, homeowners and auto policies, added EPLI and workers comp coverages might also be useful. (Note that EPLI does not apply to domestic contractors such as babysitters or one-time chefs.) For these additional coverages, David Wall, vice president at Mississippi-based SouthGroup, suggests looking at state regulations about whether workers comp for domestic employees is required or available—and then closely reviewing the language on ISO forms for bodily injury coverage. For EPLI, “most of the markets I’ve seen thus far will limit that endorsement as a limit to the policy,” Wall says, noting that some carriers provide coverage for up to five residential staff members based on seniority.

According to Sherlock, who advises gaining insight into a client’s lifestyle in order to help mitigate potential exposures, “when talking about liability in general, you really want to look to understand not just the value of what your tangible assets are but investable assets as well.” Veiled coverages include crisis reputation coverage—used to mitigate name and reputation damage for clients in the public eye—or counsel shadow defense cover—used for personal attorneys to shadow the insurance company’s attorney.

Underestimating the potential of a liability lawsuit from a domestic employee and misunderstanding affordability of effective protection can be irreparable. Says Burbine: “This is an opportunity for independent agents to differentiate themselves, reinforcing the independent agent model and providing value to their clients by bringing these exposures to the table.”

- See more at: http://www.iamagazine.com/markets/read/2014/11/24/is-your-ho-client-s-babysitter-a-liability-#sthash.663ldEmK.dpuf
 
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Insurance for Property Managers

Insurance for Property Managers

A property manager is a person or firm hired by an owner to manage the rental and/or maintenance of a property. These individuals/firms add value by coordinating bookings, maintenance requests, and management of an owner’s property on their behalf. With this, property managers face specific risks and should be knowledgeable about what coverage they need to protect their business and employees. Here are the top five recommended coverage types for property managers:

 

  1. Professional Liability Insurance also known as E&O Insurance (Errors & Omissions):  Professional Liability or E&O Insurance is important for anyone who provides a professional service and/or regularly gives advice to clients. One of our A-rated carriers indicates that covered risks can include: alleged or actual negligence, defense costs, personal injury (including libel or slander), copyright infringement, temporary staff and independent contractors, and claims arising from services provided in the past. Professional Liability / E&O can also protect against wrongful eviction or tenant discrimination claims. We cover more about E&O on our website.
  2. Workers Compensation: If a business has more than 5 employees, state law requires the business owner to carry work comp coverage. Even if that company does not have 5 employees, the exposure still exists. This makes it critical for property managers with temporary staff or independent contractors to be knowledgeable of the work comp coverage carried by anyone working for them as an independent contractor. We recommend that any independent contractors carry their own work comp coverage. This can help to reduce premium costs for the property manager’s work comp exposure. Learn more about and Work Comp on our website.
  3. General Liability Insurance: Business owners purchase general liability insurance to cover legal disturbances due to accidents, injuries, and claims arising out of negligence.  General Liability insurance policies protect against bodily injury, property damage, medical expenses, libel, slander, the cost of defense, and settlement bonds.  They can also cover the premises and operations exposures arising out of the location of the business as well as damage from defective products or operations performed.  Other related coverages may also fall under general liability insurance. Coverage amounts are typically expressed in terms of $1,000,000 increments and form the corner stone of any business asset protection plan. If independent contractors carry their own GL insurance, this can also help reduce the property manager’s insurance premium.
  4. Property Insurance: We’ve mentioned Property Insurance coverage in previous blog posts. Business Insurance Now suggests that commercial property be one of the first types of coverage a new enterprise should look into.  “This coverage protects you from some of the risk that the property your company owns could be lost stolen or damaged.  If you don’t own the building where you do business, you’ll only need to cover the building’s contents.”  Business personal property insurance protects items such as fixtures, furniture, office equipment, inventory, and supplies that are housed on or off site.  Another critical property coverage is Business Income, which will reimburse a business owner for lost income due to a property loss.
  5. Cyber Liability: For property managers who handle any of their bookings, leases or rentals via the Internet, cyber liability coverage is incredibly important. According to www.irmi.com, “cyber and privacy policies cover a business’ liability for a data breach in which the firm’s customers’ personal information, such as social security or credit card numbers, is exposed or stolen by a hacker or other criminal who has gained access to the firm’s electronic network.” They indicate that cyber liability policies “can cover expenses such as notification costs, credit monitoring, costs to defend claims by state regulators, fines and penalties, and loss resulting from identity theft.” Cyber Liability is not to be confused with technology E&O insurance.

 

At SSIA, our account executives are well schooled in the types of coverage property managers should carry, and we are happy to provide a complimentary business review to make sure you are covered properly.  Contact us to learn more (251) 923-4463!

 

Sources: http://www.hiscox.com/small-business-insurance/professional-business-insurance/property-management-insurance/; http://www.irmi.com/online/insurance-glossary/terms/c/cyber-and-privacy-insurance.aspx

 

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South Shore Insurance is proudly sponsoring a Great Turkey Drive!

2014 Great Turkey Drive

Every $15 donation received will enable us to donate one 10-12 lb. turkey to feed a family at Christmas. South Shore Insurance will match all donations “turkey for turkey” until we provide a turkey for every family Catholic Social Services currently serves in our area.

 

Catholic Social Services benefits any needy family or individual, regardless of religious affiliation. To participate, complete the Turkey Drive Commitment Form and return to mindy@sshoreins.com by Wednesday, December 3rd. You can also fax the form to (251) 923-4464. Donations may be paid via check or credit/debit card. Thank you for your help in providing meals to needy families!

Cain’s Piggly Wiggly has been kind enough to provide turkeys at cost for this year’s Turkey Drive. Please support them with your patronage.

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