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  • A Hot Price for U.S. Businesses
  • Summer Grilling Fun
    Every year, what should be a fun outdoor occasion for family and friends instead turns into tragedy at nearly 9,000 homes, causing deaths, injuries and tens of millions in property damage. Your Trusted Choice® independent insurance agents can remind you that fire damage and potential liability for injury to friends will be covered by your […]
  • Home-Buying Tips for the Single Guy and Gal
  • Food Trucks: Let Your Food Keep on Trucking!
    Welcome to the world of food trucks! When you picture building your catering business, is the image more truck than tent? The mobile food industry has a long and tasty history in the U.S.
  • Staffing Your Catering Business
    Like many entrepreneurs, you may have begun your catering business as the sole cook and bottle washer. But at some point, you will discover that going it alone not only impedes growth, but is a recipe for burnout and collapse. And you’ll face the question of every successful catering business: How do I find and […]

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I Want to Rent Out My Home. What Do I Need to Do?

Wednesday, June 7th, 2017

Renting is on the rise, and many homeowners are deciding to rent out their old homes rather than sell them. If you fall into that camp, you’ll want to talk to us about changing your current homeowners insurance policy to a rental policy.

Your insurance

A rental policy will protect your home’s structure and a small amount of furnishings in your home. (If you are renting your home furnished, you can add additional coverage for extra furnishings.) So you’d have coverage for your home if lightening ruined its roof or if a visitor slipped and fell on an icy stoop.

Another important benefit is fair rental value. In the event that your home suffers a loss that is covered and your tenant can’t live in your unit until repairs are made, your policy can provide up to 12 months of fair rental value. This means you won’t lose out on the rental income you may rely on each month. And, if you need more than 12 months, there is an endorsement that gives you up to 24 months of this coverage.

A rental policy is important for landlords, and you’ll want to get on in place before your first tenant moves in.

Your tenant’s insurance

Once you get a tenant, it’s a good idea to talk to him or her about a renters insurance policy. A renters insurance policy will protect the possessions your renter brings with them—and it can offer you important protection if you’re listed as an additional insured.

When you ask your renter to list you as an additional insured, the liability protection is extended to you from their policy if something unfortunate happened. For example, imagine your tenant burns a candle, and it causes fire damage in your home. As an additional insured on their policy, you would know they have liability coverage to respond to repair the damage.

You would also have liability protection from their policy. Imagine your tenant’s dog bites someone. The victim could seek reimbursement from your tenant’s policy rather than yours.  Finally, being an additional insured also entitles you to be notified if the policy is cancelled or is modified. For these reasons, you may want to insert wording into the lease about a tenant having a specific amount of insurance.

You can let your tenant know that renters insurance also benefits them in many ways—and it’s very affordable. In fact, sometimes the discount a tenant receives from buying a renters policy from the same company from which they buy their auto policy is enough to cover the renters policy premium.

How Insurance Can Protect You Through the Years

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

They say that the only constant in life is change. And that’s true whether you’re 18, 80 or somewhere in between.

One thing to consider when life changes is your insurance coverage. Here are six common transitions that we can help you navigate.

You’re off to college.

With many policies, full-time students younger than 24 are automatically covered under their parents’ homeowners policy. Part-time students (or students who are 24 and older) may need to take out a renters insurance policy. If you choose to live in an apartment instead of a dorm, think about purchasing a separate renters insurance policy. (Learn more about renters insurance below.) When it comes to car insurance, you don’t need your own policy if you’re taking a family member’s car to school. If you’re a co-owner on the vehicle or if you own your own car, you probably need your own policy.

You’re renting your first place.

You found the perfect place, but since your landlord’s policy doesn’t typically cover your stuff, you’ll want to look into getting your own renters policy. In addition to protecting your belongings, a renters policy also provides worldwide liability protection for a situation like harming someone while riding your bike. If someone is hurt in your apartment, your policy most likely would pay his or her medical bills. A renters policy will often cover additional living expenses if your apartment is damaged and you can’t stay there because of something like a fire. There are many affordable options—plus, you can qualify for a discount if you purchase both a renters and an auto policy. In some cases, the discount can pay for pay for most (or all!) of the renters policy.

You just got married.

If you’re just starting out, you’ll definitely want to look into life insurance. Life insurance can be the most affordable way to help ensure that you or your new spouse is able to carry on if the unthinkable were to happen. Also remember to ask about your auto insurance. You could qualify for discounts, including a multi-car discount if both cars are insured by the same carrier. Finally, you may need extra coverage on an engagement or wedding ring. With a homeowners or renters policy, your coverage for lost or stolen jewelry is capped at $3,000. So if your ring is worth more, you’ll want to consider separate coverage.

You welcomed a bundle of joy.

You may have binkies, diapers and formula on your mind, but another thing to consider is life insurance protection for your family.formula on your mind, but another thing to consider is life insurance protection for your family. Everyone needs financial protection—even a stay-at-home parent. With life insurance, you can provide for your loved ones even if…well, you’re not there.

You retired and are renting a place somewhere warm for the winter.

No penalty for sand between the toes! If you’re going south, an extra policy is not needed in the majority of cases. That said, a lot depends on the policy you already have, how long you’ll be gone and what kinds of things you’ll be taking to your temporary home. For these reasons, it’s a good idea to check in with Melendez Insurance before you head south.

You or a loved one is entering an assisted living facility.

When it’s time for help with care, it’s a good idea to consider a renters policy if you or a loved one is entering an assisted living facility. A renters policy covers belongings—and, more important, personal liability. For instance, renters insurance could cover your loved one if he or she was responsible for injuring someone.

Many people can’t afford to pay big medical bills out of pocket, so definitely contact us before making the move.

The Ultimate Guide to Fire Extinguishers

Friday, July 8th, 2016

FireExtinguisherAfter a close call in my apartment–who knew olive oil is bad for high-heat cooking? – it dawned on me that I had never used a fire extinguisher. I’m no fire chief, but learning on the fly while your smoke detector is blaring seems like the wrong time to figure that out.

Fortunately, I removed my smoking pan from the heat before anything could ignite—but the experience left me reeling.

Don’t wait until the heat of the moment to wonder about fire extinguishers. Here’s what smart homeowners (and renters) need to know.

Do I need a fire extinguisher?

Short answer: Yes.

It’s a good idea to have at least one, although many experts, like the National Fire Protection Association, recommend having a fire extinguisher on each floor. Place yours near an exit, in an easy-to-grab spot.

A fire extinguisher can make a big difference in an emergency, but it can’t replace your most important safety tools: working smoke alarms and a fire escape plan.

What if I rent?

If you rent, your landlord is typically responsible for providing smoke detectors in each unit – but not necessarily fire extinguishers. That depends on your state and local fire codes, so ask your landlord to be sure. If you end up buying one, it generally won’t break the bank. Fire extinguishers typically run from $20 to $70, depending on the type.

Types of fire extinguishers

Not all fires are the same, and neither are fire extinguishers. The letters A, B and C on the label refer to the types of fire the extinguisher is capable of putting out.

  • Class A extinguishers are effective on fires in paper, wood, textiles and plastics. (Think “A” for “ash.”)
  • Class B extinguishers are effective on liquid fires, like those involving cooking oil, paint, gasoline or kerosene. (Think “B” for “barrel.”)
  • Class C extinguishers are effective on electrical fires and live wiring. (Think “C” for “current.”)

The best choice for your home is a multi-purpose extinguisher like ABC, which can be used on all types. You can opt for a single-use or a rechargeable model.  A rechargeable fire extinguisher is filled with either water or a powdered chemical—check your extinguisher’s label to see what to refill yours with.

Typically, fire extinguishers are sold in 2-pound, 5-pound or 10-pound canisters. Larger sizes pack more punch, but choose a size that you can lift easily. If it’s too heavy, you’re not doing yourself any favors.

How to use a fire extinguisher

First things first: If there’s a fire of any size in your home, call 911. Remember that fire spreads rapidly – even if you end up extinguishing the fire yourself, it’s a good idea to have the pros on the way to check your work.

If you do need to use your extinguisher, the National Fire Protection Association uses the handy acronym PASS:

  • Pull the pin. Grab the extinguisher, point the nozzle away from you and release the locking mechanism.
  • Aim low, pointing the extinguisher at the base of the fire.
  • Squeeze the lever slowly and evenly.
  • Sweep the nozzle from side to side.

Use your extinguisher on a small fire that’s not growing – for example, a fire contained in a wastebasket. When fighting the fire, keep your back to a clear exit so you can make an escape if you need to. If the room fills with smoke or the fire grows, leave immediately.

If you’d prefer a hands-on learning experience, call your local fire department. Most offer training on how to use a fire extinguisher.

When to replace a fire extinguisher

Fire extinguishers don’t last forever. All models can lose pressure over time. Depending on the model, they last between 5 and 15 years – even if no expiration date is listed.

To make sure your fire extinguisher is in good working order, check the pressure gauge monthly. If it’s in the green, it’s functional. If it’s in the yellow or red, it will need refilled or serviced. Replace yours ASAP if you notice any of these things:

  • The hose or nozzle is cracked, ripped, or jammed.
  • The locking pin is unsealed or missing.
  • The handle is missing or unsteady.
  • The inspection sticker or service record is missing.

Also talk to an insurance professional at Melendez Insurance. He or she  can help make sure your home has the right homeowners insurance in case a fire happens despite your best efforts to prevent one.

How to Insure Fine Art

Monday, February 29th, 2016

InsuringArtMost of us will never own a Picasso or a Rembrandt. But we may own (or someday own) a pricey piece of art. And that brings up the issue of how to insure fine art.

When you think of separately insuring a pricey item, many people think of engagement rings and other kinds of jewelry. But extra coverage can also come in handy for anything from a valuable stamp collection to an expensive fur to—you guessed it—fine art.

Typically, your art coverage is included in your personal property limit on your homeowners policy or renters policy. That should be sufficient for the vast majority of people who own fine art.

Yet maybe you inherited or bought a piece by a real master. If that’s the case, you’ll want to consider a separate endorsement for your fine art.

Even if your fine art is covered under your homeowners or renters policy, you may still want to endorse it under your policy. Doing so can let you choose a different deductible for your fine art than the regular policy deductible, modify the coverage or change how a loss would be settled.

Getting your fine art appraised

When it comes to how to insure fine art, one thing you’ll definitely want to do is get it appraised. An appraisal can help ensure that you’d be properly compensated if your art was stolen or damaged.

An appraiser may authenticate your art to make sure it’s not forged. There are several ways to check a painting’s authenticity:

  • Examine the signature
  • Check the artistic style and ability
  • Look at the construction and back of the canvas (A forged painting often has irregular or uneven paint on the edge of the canvas and is stark white on the back—forgers typically don’t vary the heaviness of paint used.)
  • Assess the past history of sale (known as the provenance) and any certificate of authenticity

A similar process is used if you own an original, limited edition print. An extra step an appraiser will check is the fraction number at the bottom of the print that indicates how many prints were made.

It’s a good idea to get an appraisal every few years since fine art prices can fluctuate. Make sure to save any appraisal documents with the bill of sale, certificate of authenticity and past history of sale. It’s also a good idea to take some photos of your art and include them in your home inventory.