What You Need to Know About Liability Insurance for Your Massachusetts Home

Liability coverage may be the least understood portion of a typical Massachusetts home insurance policy.  Other standard home insurance coverages — like dwellings coverage or personal property coverage — protect you from losses to your own property. In contrast, liability insurance protects you when you’re legally responsible for someone else’s losses.

How the Liability Portion of Your Home Insurance Policy Works

Liability coverage usually extends to you and family members who live in your household. You’re covered if someone sues you or a family member for causing certain injuries or property loss. Liability insurance pays expenses, such as the cost of your legal defense, court costs, and settlement fees (or damage awards). 

Examples of What Liability Insurance Can Cover

Your liability protection typically includes accidental injuries to someone visiting your home.  For instance, you’re covered if your guest gets hurt from falling on your icy porch steps.

You’re also covered for certain property damage and accidental injuries caused by you or a covered family member that happens away from your home. Here’s an example. Your child is playing baseball in a neighbor’s yard. He pitches the ball, and it accidentally hits the neighbor’s child in the head. The neighbor’s child is seriously injured. Your liability coverage takes care of your attorney’s costs and the settlement fee related to that event.

What Homeowners Liability Insurance Does Not Cover

Liability insurance does not cover intentional acts or injuries. Also, homeowners liability insurance does not cover losses related to the operation of a vehicle or business. You need auto insurance or business insurance for those costs.

Deciding How Much Liability Coverage You Need

For any type of insurance, the coverage limit is the maximum amount of money that the policy will pay out. The coverage limit for the liability portion of home insurance can be as little as $100,000. However, since the median home value in Massachusetts is $426,330, $100,000 is not enough coverage for most Massachusetts homeowners. 

You can and should increase your coverage limit to be equal to or more than your home’s value. Losing your home to pay a settlement fee or damage award is a possibility for homeowners who don’t have sufficient coverage. Contact us today so we can help you find a home insurance policy that has the liability coverage that meets your needs.

These Auto Insurance Companies Are Giving Money Back During COVID-19

couple looking at reduced insurance premiums during shelter-in-place orders

It’s no secret that the COVID-19 global pandemic has caused immense strain — physically, mentally, and financially. While the uncertainty of the coming months continues to weigh heavily on everyone’s minds, more and more stories are coming to light every day about individuals and corporations trying to do what they can to help. The insurance industry is among them. Several companies have implemented plans in recent days that will attempt to lessen the monetary burden their customers are facing for car insurance and other policies. Wondering if your company is one of them? Check out the list below. 

Farmers

Customers with Farmers or 21st Century-branded policies will see a 25% reduction on their premium for the month of April. The discount will be applied as a credit to next month’s billing statement. If you paid your premium in full, it will be issued as a check or direct deposit to the account on file. The reduction is being applied automatically and requires no action on your part. 

State Farm

State Farm policyholders will be apportioned part of a $2 billion dividend from the company. While exact percentages for individual customers will vary by state, policyholders will be credited a percentage of their premium from March 20 through May 1. The company estimates that the average will be about 25% of the premium for that time frame, and customers don’t need to take action to receive the credit. 

Progressive

Policies active with Progressive at the end of April or May will receive a 20% premium credit. The company will notify its policyholders when the credit will appear, and it will be automatically credited toward the balance of their next bill. If you’ve paid your policy in full, then either a check will be issued, or the amount will be deposited into the payment account on file.  

Allstate and Esurance

Through the months of April and May, Allstate and their family company Esurance are offering customers a 15% refund based on their premiums for those months. The money will be directly deposited into whatever account their latest payment was made (or credited to their account) – so no action is required by customers to receive the money. The company is also offering payment relief plans upon request, extended coverage for personal vehicles in certain commercial capacities, and the ability to sign up for free identity theft coverage through 2020. 

Nationwide

For policies active as of March 31, 2020, Nationwide will be offering policyholders a one-time premium refund of $50. When you’ll see the money will vary by state regulatory approval. The company is also offering the ability to suspend some cancellations, defer payments for certain policies, and waive some late fees in certain circumstances due to COVID-19 related hardships. While no action is required for the premium refund, you’ll need to reach out to a representative for additional considerations.

USAA

Every member with USAA who has an auto policy in effect as of March 31, 2020, will receive a 20% credit on two months of premiums without needing to contact the company. Extended coverage, policy leniency, and special payment arrangements are also available upon request. 

Geico

 A 15% renewal discount is being offered by Geico for auto, motorcycle, and RV policies set to renew between April 8 and October 7, 2020, for 6-month policies and between April 8 and April 7, 2021, for 12-month policies. The credit is also being extended to new business policies written between April 8 and October 7, 2020.

No action is required on the customer’s end; the discount will be credited automatically upon renewal. Cancellations due to nonpayment have also been paused through at least April 30, 2020, for all states, while some states may get longer windows. You can see if your state has a longer grace period here.  

Liberty Mutual

Liberty Mutual customers with personal auto insurance policies will receive a 15% refund on two months of premiums, based on the premium amount as of April 7, 2020. The refund will be automatically deposited into the account used to make your last payment or by check. When the funds will arrive is subject to individual state regulations, but customers do not have to take any action to receive their money. 

Vargas and Vargas Insurance is here to help you. As local independent insurance agents, we represent many local insurance companies that are also offering to lessen the burden when it comes to your automobile insurance premiums. Contact us with your insurance questions or to get a quote. We’re available during business hours at 617-298-0655, or you can reach out through text and online. We take pride in helping you with all of your coverage needs and look forward to taking care of you today.

Jewelry and Gem Valuations: GIA or Bust!

As Massachusetts insurance professionals, the licensed agents at Vargas & Vargas Insurance are here to make sure your risks are covered. Part of that mission is to educate our customers about the importance of credible paperwork. Today, we’re talking specifically about worthless jewelry valuations and fake appraisals.

older woman giving her adult granddaughter heirloom jewelry

In January 2020, Jewelry Insurance Issues published this article, making all of us in the industry aware that AGA, the “Accredited Gemologists Association” logo has been ripped off and is being used on bogus jewelry certifications. The alarming thing is that AGA isn’t even a gemology lab! It’s a non-profit club whose mission is to provide networking between jewelers, gemologists, and material sources.

So which certificates can we trust? 

Diamond & Jewelry Certifications We Can Trust

The most respected diamond or gem appraisal will come from the Gemological Institute of America, or the GIA. Jewelers and investors around the globe trust GIA above any other source. Many investors and insurers will only accept GIA paperwork. There are a few other sources available for certifications, however, including the following:

  • The retailer or manufacturer may provide a gem certificate when you purchase the piece. These are to be taken with a grain of salt. Some insurers will write a personal articles floater (the type of insurance associated with a fine piece of jewelry) based on this certificate. Others will not. 
  • A professional appraisal from a certified gemologist may also appease an insurer.
  • The International Colored Gemstone Association (IGA) also offers gem certifications. Their reputation isn’t illustrious, however, so an insurer or collector might not accept them.

Personal article floaters (PAFs) for jewelry are written on a case-by-case basis. If you believe your ring is worth $25,000, the best thing you can do is send it off to GIA (through a related jeweler) for a genuine lab report. As of 2020, GIA lab inspections cost around $500 for general consumers, but a GIA certified jeweler can have them done at a third of that price.

The process takes three weeks. Afterward, you’ll have irrefutable evidence of your gem’s value.  

Jewelry Scams Happen

Gem and jewelry “fakes” and “cons” have been around for centuries. If you’ve been conned into buying a fake gem, know you’re not alone. Sometimes a gem can be innocently mislabeled, as in the case of the Black Prince’s Ruby, which is a spinel set in the imperial state crown of England. Yes, the highlight of the crown is an imposter! If your lab report comes back describing your gem as a simulant, lab-created, or of much lower quality than you thought, you may have some options. Speaking directly to the jeweler is your first course of action. A good jeweler will do their best to fix the situation. 

If you purchased your piece from an online retailer or auction house (eBay), you might have protections in place via PayPal or your credit card. The good news is that you won’t be paying to insure a fake!

We hope you’ve enjoyed our discussion of bogus gem reports. We sure enjoyed writing it! If you’d like to learn more about insurance for your most cherished heirlooms, email one of our agents today!

Is Life Insurance A Real Necessity?

Where Does Life Insurance Sit on Your List of Priorities?

We find that life insurance sits very low on most people’s bucket list of things to check into and buy. We find that most of the younger generation feel they are invincible and nothing is ever going to happen to them, like death. Our licensed insurance agents at Vargas & Vargas Insurance view life insurance as a necessity in life, making this an urgent subject to deal with before your next birthday. Everyone is going to die at some point, the question is not if, but when? Are you adequately protecting your family in the event you die?

Life insurance is very cheap when you are younger age, meaning, you can buy a higher amount of coverage with lower monthly premiums. Perhaps you can buy enough insurance to pay off a mortgage, a car, college education, and have enough left over for the end of life bills and funeral costs, leaving no financial burdens on the family. 

However, as you age every year your monthly premiums rise and these higher insurance amounts may become too expensive for you after retirement age. We service retired clients at our location in Dorchester, MA area who want life insurance settling for just the cost of their funeral so that it leaves no financial burden on family members. Seldom there is little to nothing left to apply towards the end of life expenses such as medical bills. 

An Urgent Call to Action

Life insurance financially takes care of those you leave behind. Death without life insurance can wipe out a family’s savings and finances for a long time to come. If you have no life insurance our agents in Dorchester, MA would like to talk with you about this vital life decision. 

Give us a call today, at Vargas & Vargas Insurance, or stop by for a visit. Access our website for more information on life insurance, our many other available services, and the locations of our five available locations. Seeking information costs you nothing and is free with a no-obligation quote. 

Understanding Homeowners Insurance: What Is Loss of Use Coverage?

happy couple planning home repairs

As Massachusetts insurance agents, the best part of our day is helping first-time homebuyers get a home insurance policy. It’s an exciting and stressful time for young families, and Vargas & Vargas Insurance is here to help.

If this is your first time shopping for home insurance (or if you’ve been a homeowner for years but haven’t read your policy), then it might seem a little overwhelming. We’re here to explain some important points about your policy, and why it’s crucial to have a strong insurance policy in place. In this article, we’ll discuss Coverage D, Loss of Use.

What Is Loss of Use Coverage/Living Expense Coverage/Coverage D?

A strong home insurance policy will protect your investment from a covered loss, like fire. 

Imagine your home was to burn down to the ground. If it’s a smoking pile of debris now, then you’ll need to rebuild your home from the ground up. Coverage D is there to pay for your living expenses elsewhere while you rebuild. It will cover things like:

  • Meals at restaurants
  • Hotel stays
  • Renting an apartment

All you need to do is let your claims adjuster know that you’re staying elsewhere and keep copies of all your receipts. 

Loss of use coverage will also protect you if you suffer a partial loss. Examples would include:

  • The city’s sewer system overflows while you’re gone on a business trip overnight. You come home to a basement full of raw sewage. So you can’t stay in the home — it’s a health risk. Coverage D will pay for your hotel stay and meals. 
  • Your neighbor’s house burns down completely, and one wall of your home is burnt and damaged. If you can’t stay in the home while a wall is replaced, then your coverage will pay for your living expenses somewhere else.

How Much Loss of Use Coverage Do I Have?

Loss of use coverage is based on a percentage of replacement cost (Coverage A). Most basic policies start at 10%. For example, a home valued at $200,000 replacement cost may have $20,000 coverage for loss of use. But every policy is unique, so talk with a licensed insurance agent to understand yours.

As a homeowner, you must understand which coverage you have and what each element does. Read your declarations page carefully, and give us a call at 617-409-0329 if you need a homeowners insurance quote today.

Does Your Renters Insurance Cover Your Side Hustle at Home?

A side hustle is an excellent option for most people to generate extra income. If you run a side hustle from your home, you may not have insurance to cover the business. Without proper insurance, you could find yourself at a loss if you get sued or if your property is damaged.

woman working on her side-hustle in her home office

Renters Insurance

Your renters insurance policy covers an extensive range of property inside your home. It can help you recover laptops, computers, tablets, projectors, and printers after theft or damage. Sometimes, renters insurance can cover items you keep outside and use for deliveries such as a bicycle. In some cases, you can cover your side hustle by adding a rider to your current policy.

However, there are exceptions. Most renters insurance policies cover items you use at home and not for business. Some policies might not extend to cover items used outside the home. For example, if you are a photographer with expensive equipment that you use outside the house, a standard renters policy might not help you.

If your policy provider chooses to cover property that you use for business, the limit might be lower than one provided under a business policy. When the business item you want to include in your renters insurance is not part of your current contract, talk to your provider about an endorsement.

How to Know When Your Side Hustle Needs Insurance

When you are considering finding separate insurance for your side hustle, there are several questions you should ask yourself. Those include:

  • Do customers come to pick products from your home?
  • Do you handle critical and private information?
  • Do you handle people’s children or pets?
  • Could anyone get sick as a result of your business?
  • Would a lawsuit leave you broke?

Commercial Policies

Let’s face it, your side hustle may be safe for now, but there is no assurance. When tragedy strikes, you need to be prepared. Finding commercial insurance for your business will provide better coverage than your current policy. There are various commercial policies available depending on the risks of your business.

Looking for Insurance?

To find the right insurance cover for your side hustle, contact Vargas & Vargas Insurance today!

How to Protect Your Personal Assets When You’re a Landlord

Let’s say that you inherit or purchase a house and end up with two properties. At this point, you have some very big decisions to make. You can sell the extra home or use it as a rental property. Either choice can have immediate benefits, but with rental properties, you have risks as well. These risks may include lawsuits and claims for personal injuries or damages to your tenants. Therefore, before you decide to start your new job as a landlord, we suggest you prepare for the ‘what-ifs.’ You need to know how to protect your personal assets when you’re a landlord. 

homeowner evaluating how to protect his rental property on his home computer

Understanding Your Risks as a Landlord

There are some things that you cannot be held liable for as a landlord. If your tenant suffers a personal injury while jumping on a trampoline that they brought on the property, you most likely will not be held accountable for it. This is especially true if you were unaware that they had a trampoline or you felt that they were grown up enough to play safely while on it. 

The problem arises when you, as a landlord, know that there is a risk of danger to the property or the people who are renting from you. For instance, you may be held liable if:

  • You know that dangerous animals or pets are nearby.
  • You are aware of improper maintenance, water damages, or faulty wiring issues and fail to repair them.
  • You know that criminal activity in the area creates a risk for the personal safety of your tenants.
  • You are aware that the home is in violation of local laws or building codes.

As a property owner for a rental property, you have to fix the issues that you know are there. The shortlist above is only a few of the things that you could be held accountable for. 

How to Protect Your Assets as a Landlord

To protect yourself, you must put effort into securing your personal property. This can be done in several ways. Some of the most common include:

1. Create an LLC for Your Business

The term LLC means that you are a limited liability company. Many homeowners don’t think about the fact that they are a business when they become a landlord, but it’s something to consider. LLCs give you protection from potential problems. The term LLC basically gives you a buffer so that a tenant cannot go after your personal assets — just the business’s assets. 

2. Hiring a Skilled Property Management Company

When you have rental properties, you may not know all that you are responsible or accountable for. A property manager can help you sort through applicants, avoid fair housing violations, and more. They have a full understanding of what is involved and can help you ensure your property is operating legally in every way. 

3. Limit Potential Areas of Liability

If you know that there is a particular risk involved with the property, do everything you can to lessen it. For instance, if you know there is a family of feral cats roaming near your property, contact animal control to help you catch them. Remember that storm last year? If there is any chance that it caused roof damage, have the roof inspected before you rent it out. The more prepared the property is, the safer you will be.

4. Protect Your Assets with Insurance Coverage

When you have a rental property, you need to protect yourself with proper insurance. The minimum protection for you should come from adding a rider or extension to your home insurance. It can help you cover the cost of something going wrong with your rental property. An umbrella policy may also be wise since it can protect you from possible lawsuits.

Along with this, it is important that you inform your tenants that your policy does not cover them. They should purchase their own insurance to protect their personal property. 

If you would like more information on your options as a landlord and protecting what is yours, we are here for you. You can contact us anytime for a quote. Vargas & Vargas is also available via phone calls or text. If you need help during business hours, call us at 617-298-0655.

Paying for your insurance during COVID-19 Crisis

Paying for your insurance during COVID-19 Crisis video

Some of our insurance companies are offering leniency guidelines for the payment of premiums due to the COVID-19 virus. The premium leniency varies from company to company and not all carriers are offering assistance.
 
If you are in need of payment assistance or have any questions, please contact our office with an email to customerservice@vargasinsurance.com or by calling our office at 617-298-0655 and asking for a customer service representative to obtain details on your specific insurance company.

Or, Click here to access our online customer service center available 24 hours a day 7 days a week to view your insurance policies, print insurance ID cards, update your contact information, download documents, and so much more.

We recommend you contact us with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your policy with Vargas & Vargas Insurance. 

Please remember that should you suffer an AFTER HOURS emergency that cannot wait until we open up for business, call our 24 hours 7 day a week emergency number: 617-322-5289.

We look forward to the day that we can open our doors and you can visit our offices.  

Stay healthy, remember our elderly neighbors!

❤️

Carloscvargas@vargasinsurance.com
www.vargasinsurance.com
617-298-0655

Home Insurance FAQ: Purchase Price vs. Replacement Cost

couple looking up home insurance information in their kitchen

Here at Vargas & Vargas Insurance, our goal as licensed insurance agents is to provide competitive homeowners insurance policies to Massachusetts families. Part of our job is educating first-time homebuyers and investors about how homeowners insurance works. 

This article is going to address a home’s purchase price versus replacement cost as it pertains to insurance. We’re also going to answer two specific questions we get all the time:

  1. Why am I insuring a home for replacement cost instead of the purchase price?
  2. What is “dwelling replacement cost,” and how does it work?

Why Am I Insuring a Home for the Replacement Cost, Not the Purchase Price?

Homeowners insurance is designed to help you replace a home and its contents from the ground up in the event of a loss.

Imagine your home burns down to the ground. Homeowners insurance is there to rebuild that home completely and replace your belongings. Replacement cost is our best estimate of what it will take to rebuild that home, in your neighborhood, per square foot.

However, it’s important to know that the purchase price of a home is not equal to replacement cost. Purchase price includes the land the dwelling is sitting on, for example, which doesn’t need to be replaced after a fire.

What Is Dwelling Replacement Cost, and How Does It Work?

We figure every dwelling’s replacement cost individually with a formula: square footage by replacement price (sqft x rp). Replacement price depends on factors like:

  • Your location
  • Current labor costs
  • The expense of materials like wood, brick, carpet, and roofing

As a result, dwelling replacement cost changes from time to time. We also consider:

  • Special enhancements like moldings, architectural finishes, columns and more
  • Fireplaces and stonework
  • Systems like central heat and air, central vacuuming, and sprinkler systems
  • Anything else special or unique about your home

In many cases (but not all), a home’s replacement cost is higher than the purchase price. This is good news for you as a buyer. If there is a total loss, you will come out financially ahead if you have a mortgage.

If you’re buying a home for the first time, congratulations! It’s a tremendous accomplishment. The staff at Vargas & Vargas Insurance is ready to help you get the homeowner’s insurance you need. Reach out to us today at 617-409-0329 for a homeowner’s insurance quote, and check out our blog for more great Massachusetts insurance topics.

Making an Informed Choice About Accessing the Cash Value of Your Life Insurance Policy

It’s important that you’re well-informed before you access all or part of the cash value of your life insurance policy. After all, you took out the policy to provide for your survivors. That’s why the agents at Vargas & Vargas Insurance work hard to have the answers our clients are looking for. You need to know what impact accessing these funds could have on their future and your own. 

couple sitting in their house and discussing life insurance policy options

Life Insurance Policies that Accrue Cash Value

Cash value life insurance policies are sometimes referred to as permanent life insurance policies. This category includes whole life, universal life, and variable life. One of the biggest differences between these policies and term life insurance is that the latter policies do not accumulate cash value.

Common Ways to Access Cash Value

Policy Loan

Benefits: The life insurance company may offer you a lower interest rate than you can get with a conventional bank loan or by taking a cash advance on your credit card. A policy loan does not qualify as taxable income. You’re typically not required to repay the money since you’ve basically borrowed your own funds.

Drawbacks: However, policy loan repayment is to your beneficiary’s advantage. After death, the insurer usually deducts the amount you borrowed and the accumulated interest from the death benefit.

Withdrawal

Benefits: When the amount withdrawn is not greater than the total of paid premiums, the withdrawal is not taxed. The rules governing a withdrawal depend on your policy. Some policies allow dollar-for-dollar withdrawals.

Drawbacks: With other policies, a withdrawal reduces the death benefit by an amount greater than what the policyholder withdrew.  Withdrawals that exceed premiums paid are usually taxed.

Policy Surrender

Benefits: You’ll receive the policy’s cash value. 

Drawbacks: Your insurer may charge a surrender fee. If you owe any debt from policy loans, the insurer also subtracts your debt from your cash value. Generally, the income from a policy surrender is taxable. Most importantly, you’re effectively canceling the policy. Your survivors will not receive a benefit from the policy.

We’ve provided this information as a general introduction to accessing the cash value in your life insurance policy. If you have specific questions about life insurance policies, contact our team for assistance.