Are You Sure That The Personal Property Is Fully Accounted For?

When was the last time that you looked at or updated your personal homeowners insurance policy?

Have you made upgrades to your property, purchased new art or jewelry? Do you know what value your property is currently insured for? Have you taken into account the current market more importantly the major increases in building and material costs?

Heller Kowitz Insurance Advisors, Partner, Steve Heller explains what scenarios would call for a change in your homeowners policy as well as what 5 minute step that you can take to make sure that you are protected and your personal belongings are accounted for in case of a loss.

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10 Common Insurance Myths Debunked

At Heller Kowitz Insurance Advisors we hear a lot of misconceptions about insurance and how it actually works. We wanted to help debunk some of those myths, so you can feel more confident in choosing the right policy for you, your family, or business in the future.

Insurance is necessary to protect you in today’s world, but it’s not always easy to understand. In fact, there are many misconceptions about insurance, whether it be auto, homeowners, life, or business. Here are some answers to a few common insurance myths. We hope this helps.

Auto Insurance

Myth: A brand new car will save me money on auto insurance.

Fact: Buying a brand new car does not automatically mean savings on an auto insurance policy. In fact, insurance premiums can be more expensive for new vehicles, even with a new vehicle discount applied.

Myth: If your car is totaled in an accident, you’re off the hook for car payments.

Fact: Actually a vehicles value depreciates quickly and your car can sometimes be worth less than what you owe on it regardless of worth.

Home Owners Insurance

Myth: All water losses to my home are covered.

Fact: If a pipe bursts in your kitchen or rain comes in through a wind-damaged roof, you are covered. Unfortunately, most policies exclude damage for flooding, sewer backups and below ground water.

Myth: If your old stuff is destroyed and you file a claim and you will recieve brand new replacements.

Fact: As it turns out, there is a real difference between Actual Cash Value and Replacement Cost Value when it comes to replacing contents during a claim.

For example, if your 10-year-old television is destroyed in a fire, you will need to have Replacement Cost coverage to actually be able to cover the cost of buying a new one.

Myth: Homeowner’s insurance only needs to cover the market value of your home.

Fact: Actually, that’s not the case. The cost to totally rebuild your home is usually much more than its market value. You’ll need to consider today’s construction and labor costs when thinking about homeowner’s insurance. With the current inflation on parts and labor prices it’s a good idea to have your policy updated.

Life Insurance

Myth: If you have health issues, you can’t get life insurance.

Fact: Although insurers typically use your health to calculate rates and coverage amounts, it doesn’t mean you can’t get life insurance with a pre-existing condition.

Myth: If you’re single and have no dependents, you don’t need life insurance.

Fact: Life insurance isn’t just for the breadwinners of the family. For example, if a parent or guardian co-signed on your student loan, a new car or your first mortgage, life insurance can help protect the co-signer from taking on the debt if you pass away.

General Insurance

Myth: You will always be paid the stated value for your “scheduled” items.

Fact: No, that’s not always the case. If you have a high-value personal property item (say jewelry) and “schedule” it with a stated value of $10k and it’s lost or stolen, you may only be covered for the current Replacement Cost Value up to the stated value. Think of the stated value as the limit instead of a guaranteed dollar figure.

Myth: I can negotiate my insurance rates

Fact: Insurance providers actually calculate your rate using a proprietary algorithm. Your data — including the vehicle you drive, your annual mileage and your driving history — is filtered through that algorithm. The rate at which a company arrives is the rate it can offer you. That being said, there are usually discounts that can be applied whether it be multiple policy, military, etc.

Myth: Working with a direct insurance company is always cheaper than going through a local agency such as Heller Kowitz Insurance Advisors?

Fact: Although direct insurance companies can save money on agent commission fees….that doesn’t necessarily mean they pass those savings on to you. Many direct auto insurance carriers put those savings back into marketing their products. In the meantime, agencies such as Heller Kowitz often have access to multiple carriers so they can shop the market on your behalf to not only get exceptional coverage but at the best price.

If you have any questions or concerns about your insurance policy, feel free to reach out to Heller Kowitz Insurance Advisors for a complimentary review at


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Better Check Your Homeowners Policy

Heller Kowitz Insurance Advisors, a partner of Unity Insurance is recommending that all homeowners check their insurance policies after unusually high inflation levels this past year.

Standard policies only account for 1-2 percent increases on the value of your home every year. We are currently seeing home value’s rising closer to 9 percent, which means if you have to file a claim that your coverage might be less than what it would actually cost to rebuild your home.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact Unity Insurance partner Heller Kowitz for a no-obligation review at

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Several States Consider Long-term Care Tax

In early January, the state of Washington was the first to pass, the Long Term Care Trust Act. This this means that all residents living in the state of Washington now have to pay 58 cents for every $100 they earn into the states trust for long-term care.

Although Washington state is the first in the country to offer this social-insurance program, it looks like they will not be the last. 12 other states are considering adding this tax. Is Maryland next?

In Washington, residents will have to pay into the state fund for ten years to be able to claim their longterm care insurance benefits in the future. The funds are intended to be used to cover the cost of assistance, whether it be with eating, dressing, bathing etc. There is one big problem with this program though, in addition to having to wait ten years to tap into their benefits, this new state insurance will only pay up to $100 at day with a lifetime cap of $36,500. If anyone has ever had to pay for a nursing home or for part/full-time adult care for their loved one, you know that this number doesn’t even make a dent in the costs.

To avoid paying this long-term care tax, residents can secure their own insurance policy giving them many more benefits and flexibility for its use in the future.
There are also tax advantages to buying your own long-term care insurance. Currently the state of Maryland provides each person who purchases a long-term care insurance policy, a one time tax credit up to $500. The federal government also provides additional tax advantages to buying a qualified long-term care insurance plan.

If you have any questions about purchasing a long-term care insurance policy or want us to review your current policy please feel free to reach out to Unity Insurance partner Heller Kowitz Insurance Advisors for a complimentary quote at

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Article from Philadelphia Insurance

Cold weather freeze-ups can cause vital fire protection systems to malfunction. Cold temperatures can cause sprinkler piping to burst resulting in major water damage to buildings, contents, and equipment. Pipes bursting can also impair automatic sprinkler systems and leave a major portion of your facility without fire protection. A fire during this situation may result in a major interruption to your business and a huge loss.

In the interest of preventing water damage claims for your property, designated key personnel should be aware of freeze protection and emergency preparedness procedures. Utilize the Winter Weather Precautions Checklist to assist with your risk control program.

Best Practices include:

Building temperature should be monitored, documented, and maintained at 55° F or higher

Perform freeze protection   inspections and be cognizant of shutdown procedures
Have a contingency plan with   contractors and suppliers
Pre-emergency planning for fire,   water damage, and snow removal should be established
Boilers, furnaces, heaters, and   flues should be serviced regularly
24 hour building surveillance
Enforce a no smoking policy
Safeguard flammable or combustible   liquids

Water Supplies

Tanks should not leak and pressure   should be checked
Water temperature should remain at   42°F or above
Check fire hydrants for proper   drainage by outside contractor or water department
Buried sprinkler control valves   and valve pits should be marked in the event of heavy snowfall
Fire pump room should not drop   below 70°F
Post indicator valve, OS&Y   valve, and test header to pump inspected regularly

Wet Pipe Sprinkler Systems

All areas of buildings with   sprinkler systems should maintain a temperature of 40°F or above
Cold weather valves should be   closed while all others remain open
Windows, skylights, and doors   should be in good condition and sealed tightly
Check temperatures with   thermometer

Dry Pipe Systems

Dry lines should be checked for   proper drainage so trapped water doesn’t cause breakage
Check drains located in cold   places for freezing
Dry-valve clapper should be   properly set with temperature maintained at 40°F or above
Low air pressure alarms should be   provided, calibrated and connected to constantly
attended locations
Low pressure switches should be   set at 5 psi which is above trip point of dry pipe valve
Air pressure checked regularly   with records maintained to indicate normal pressure
Air drying equipment available to   supply air to system as designed

Snow and ice build up can wreak havoc by placing additional loads on roofs, and supporting bearing members. Snow and winter storm event severity can be hard to predict depending on the location and geography of your facilities. It is best practice to plan ahead to have a written plan in place when the snow or ice arrives.

Roofs collapse mainly due to weather patterns that produce a cycle of 2 events:

a rapid freeze
a rapid thaw

This rapid freeze and thaw cycling produce weighty snow/ice buildup that places excess stress on your roof. Flat roofs are especially prone to excessive accumulation and build up by the lack of natural grading, pitch and lack of runoff.

Best practices include:
Maintain all roofs and keep current with repairs. Winter weather will only further damage any underlayment and the damaging effects of water infiltration will be costly and may cause business interruptions.

Arrange to have all roofs cleared of snow especially where snow drifts are visible. Hire a competent contractor for this dangerous task.

Request contractor to clear any and all roof drains to allow for runoff and limit ponding especially on flat or relatively shallow pitched roofs. Clear pathways to the eaves in situations where there is a pitched roof without drainage pipes.

Removal of accumulation of snowfall from your driveways, sidewalks and entryways is essential to maintain safe access to your facility by emergency responders.

Clear all driveways, sidewalks, parking areas, access ways, bulkheads, portals, entryways and exits to allow for emergency to safely access your premises.

Onsite fire fighting workers enhanced if hydrants are accessible and clearly marked with colored marker flags in high snow drifts.

Unoccupied buildings:
Vacant, idle, or otherwise “unoccupied” buildings or large buildings with unused space (compartments, floors, rooms, or basements, etc.) present another set of hazards that an organization must consider for best practice winter weather controls.

Inadvertent releases of water, left unchecked or allowed to flow unnoticed, usually results in extensive interior damage. Best practices for these situations involve:

Maintain fire protection services   including water based fire protection services (sprinklers) – consult your   contractor to maintain these systems in service
Maintain interior heat at 40°F or   greater
Maintain remote (electronic)   monitoring of indoor temperatures
Visit and survey daily to verify   conditions of building or space
Install water alarms to detect of   release of water, burst pipe, etc.

Unheated Space:

Close main water valves with   potable/domestic water
Contract a plumbing professional   to drain all piping from water heaters, faucets, and supply piping
Notify proper   authorities when plans call for fire protection system   (sprinkler) impairment

House Bill 315

 By the Mid-Atlantic
Real Estate Investors Association


Our Elected Representatives Are At It Again!

Courtesy of the Property Owners Association, this is an alert that there is yet another attempt to start the process of rent control and increasing tenants’ power.

House Bill 315 Contains Provisions Harmful to Landlords

This bill has a number of provisions that would change existing law to make it more difficult to be a profitable landlord in the state of Maryland.

The proposed law does the following:

1.    Prohibits a Landlord from requiring a Tenant to have Renter’s Insurance.

2.    A landlord cannot increase the rent more than 5% per year.  This provision applies only to lanlords with more than 4 units.  The provision does allow a landlord to raise the rent more than 5% to account for property tax increases, utility increases, or based on the actual cost of capital improvements to the property.

3.    The Landlord may not evict a tenant, nor refuse to renew a lease soley because the landlord wants to raise the rent more than 5%.

4.    This applies to houses, apartments, mobile homes and mobile home lots.

5.    Prohibits a landlord from evicting a tenant without “just cause”.
Click Here for a copy of the actual bill, House Bill 315.

We oppose this bill as it further restricts our ability to use good business judment as a landlord and see this bill as a first step towards statewide rent control.

Please make the time to come to Annapolis on Thursday.
Even if you do not say anything, the presence of many landlords at the hearing will send a strong message of opposition and will be very effective.

Here is the hearing information:

Thursday, February 14, 2013 at 1:00 p.m.

House Environmental Matters Committee

House Office Building–Room 250

6 Bladden St, Annapolis MD  21401

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5 Winter Tips


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Buying a car? When to tell your insurance company

 This is a great article written by Emily Terriquez from the Legal Examiner.  

As you probably know, it is against the law to drive a vehicle without the required insurance. Issues frequently arise when individuals purchase new vehicles. While state law generally gives you thirty days to transfer the title and register the vehicle with the state, that does not mean you have that much time to let your insurance company know. The specific deadlines for acquiring additional coverage will be in your insurance policy, but most policies only allow 10-14 days to notify the company about these so-called “newly acquired vehicles.” If you do not notify your insurance company within their time frame, then coverage will only start when you contact them. In the meantime, you are driving uninsured. If you are in an accident during this time, that can be a huge problem.

Recently, I spoke to a man with severe injuries from a motorcycle accident. He had owned the motorcycle for about three weeks, but hadn’t gotten around to contacting his insurance yet, thinking he had thirty days. The driver that struck his motorcycle was uninsured. So, the potential client sought coverage from his own underinsured motorist insurance. Unfortunately, his insurance policy required notification of new vehicles within 14 days. Because he failed to contact his insurance company promptly, he was left without coverage for this collision.

Beware—there are other traps besides timing. If you are not listed as one of the insured on the policy, you cannot just add another vehicle with a phone call. In addition, if the vehicle is not of the same type, you cannot just add coverage under the policy. For instance, most automobile insurance policies do not cover motorcycles. Thus, even if you have a valid insurance policy, you must specifically purchase motorcycle insurance before you can legally ride a new motorcycle. It all depends on the definitions in your policy. When in doubt, call your insurance agent to ensure you have coverage before you start driving that new vehicle on the road.

Most car dealerships require some proof of insurance before you leave with a new vehicle, but they don’t necessarily call to make sure you have coverage on the vehicle you are purchasing. If you are thinking about purchasing a vehicle, it is a good idea to let your car insurance company know ahead of time. That way you can ensure you have coverage from the moment you sign the paperwork for your new vehicle. Problems more often arise when you purchase a vehicle from a private party.

If you do happen to be in an accident before you have a chance to call your insurance company, you are likely covered if you are replacing a previously insured vehicle. But, there are exceptions. Review your policy, and plan ahead when you’re purchasing a vehicle to make sure you’re protected.

We encourage all of our policy holders to purchase auto insurance which carries a minimum 30 reporting requirement when purchasing new cars. Please feel free to contact our office at 410-526-6690 for a no obligation review of your coverage.

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 Enclosed is a great article written by  Lanier Upshaw Risk Managers.

A study by the Workplace Bullying Institute in 2010 revealed in a U.S. workforce of 200 million people, 37% allege they were the victims of cyber bullies. This means for every ten people, at least three have been the victim of cyber-bullying.

What is cyber-bullying?

Cyber-bullying happens when the Internet, cell phones or other devices are used to send or post text or images intended to hurt or embarrass another person.

An example of this would be when an individual asks someone to stop sending them inappropriate or threatening emails. The perpetuator refuses to stop and continues to threaten his co-worker via email.

Another platform used by cyber-bullies is social media. The bully could post a derogatory remark on Facebook where ten people add to the problem by leaving their own comment. This creates a situation where the victim feels ganged up on

What does this mean for business owners?

It means businesses must proactively address this problem. Failure to do so can be costly. In minor instances cyber-bullying leads to loss of productivity and morale but in extreme cases cyber-bullying could be fatal.

Kevin Morrissey, a 52-year-old managing editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review, committed suicide on July 30, 2010. According to an ABC News report, Morrissey was the target of cyber-bullying and was seeking protection from his employer.

The report alleges the university may not have responded in a timely manner to the employee’s plea for help. In the two weeks prior to his suicide, Morrissey’s phone records, obtained by ABC News, showed calls to the human resources department, the ombudsman, the faculty and employee assistance center, and the university president.

Stories like this are a good wake up call for business owners who want to minimize risk in their workplace. Here are four ways you can do just that.

4 ways to minimize risk of cyber-bullying

1. Recognize the signs

Signs of cyber-bullying can include: a high turnover rate, threatening emails and text messages, someone being ganged up on, or an employee becoming abnormally withdrawn from the group.

If you notice these warning signs it’s better to investigate the cause instead of letting things get out of hand. The better communication with your team the less likely these things will go unnoticed.

2. Create awareness

Just like other forms of harassment, cyber-bullying needs to be talked about. It must be clearly communicated to employees what it is, how to recognize it and what to do when confronted with it. Consider incorporating cyber-bullying into your existing anti-harassment policies.

You may also want to share stories, like the one earlier, to help shed light on this problem. People may not remember your anti-harassment policy verbatim but they will remember an emotional story.

3. Work with your IT department

Since cyber-bullying happens over email, text or social media it can be easier to monitor than other forms of harassment. You may consider pairing up your IT and HR departments and ask them to brainstorm ways to monitor cyber-bullying in emails, discussion groups and social media.

4. Establish an anti-bullying policy in writing

Most employers have created an acceptable use policy (AUP) regarding electronic communication but many of these policies fail to address cyber-bullying. Make sure your AUP clearly states what manner of communication is not acceptable and also the consequences of partaking in such behavior.

Social media is a relatively new place that people hang out. So your AUP needs to outline acceptable parameters on places like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus.

Creating a harmonious environment

Bullying in the workplace is not a new, but recent technology has created new ways for this to happen. As an employer you cannot afford to ignore the potential risks associated with using digital communications.

We all know there will be interpersonal conflicts in the office but it’s the job of the managers and leaders to address certain problems before they escalate and infect the whole team dynamic.

Remember, this problem affects 37% of employees in the US – so don’t assume it’s not happening in your business. Instead create an effective plan so your workplace is safe for everyone.

If you are interested in learning more about how to protect your business from cyber bullying please contact our risk mangement department at 410-526-6690.

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59% of Homes Are Underinsured

Did you know that 59% of homes are under insured? Unfortunately one of the most valuable tools to protect your home is often times the most neglected. Your home insurance policy. Enclosed is a great article written by Valeria Weber.

According to Marshall & Swift/Boeckh, a leading provider of building replacement cost data, nearly two out of every three American homes, or 59 percent, are underinsured. The definition of underinsured is that homeowners, on average, have only enough insurance to pay for 78 percent of costs to replace or rebuild their homes.

One of the reasons this startling statistic has arisen is that many homeowners do not update or periodically increase the coverage on their homes. When homeowners remodel and improve their homes, they often fail to follow through with a call to their insurance agent to update their coverage.

Another contributor is the surging price of building materials, energy and labor, all which have increased replacement costs up by over 7 percent a year since 2001. If you’ve been in that home for five years, your homeowners’ insurance has been reduced to two-thirds coverage of the home by those increases alone.

Consumer advocates say that part of the problem lies in the way that homeowners insurance is sold. In the competitive marketplace, the last thing an agent wants is for the customer to run down the street to a competitor because they got a quote for $50 a year less.

They say many agents provide quick quotes to close a sale, lack the training to properly asses the value of the homes they insure and often rely on over-the-phone interviews to estimate the amount of coverage for a customer’s home. The result is that homeowners buy cheaply priced coverage that they mistakenly believe will replace their home in the event of a full loss.

That is not entirely fair to the insurance industry. Many homeowners have made home improvements and neglected to inform their insurance broker. The increase in labor and material costs has come into harsh focus during the rebuilding efforts following Katrina and Rita. Homeowners who are rebuilding after storm damage of that magnitude also find themselves facing new building code clauses that didn’t exist when the home first went up.

We invite you to contact our office for a no obligation review of your current home coverage. RMS has the tools to properly assess the replacement value of your home. That way in the event of loss you’re policy will work for you.

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