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IPS / Lighthouse Insurance Group Blog: michigan renters insurance

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When renting a home, you walk a fine line between personal ownership and leasing. The homeowner owns the property, and likely has a lot to do with its upkeep. However, you live in the rented space, and probably put a lot of work into keeping it nice. Not only that, the property’s owner likely won’t take anyimage of girl in new apartment responsibility for your own possessions.

When you move your belongings into the rental, they still belong to you. You want to protect these items in case they sustain harm. Usually, you can do so with your renters insurance's possessions protection.

Determining What to Claim on Possessions Protection

Your renters insurance policy will likely come with possessions coverage. This protection can cover your personal items in case perils like fire, theft or weather hazards damage them.

Many insurers will allow you to declare an approximate value of your personal items. Your insurer will likely use this value as your policy’s limit. This is the maximum compensation you might receive from a claim.

So, to make sure you get appropriate limits, take a close look at the value of your possessions. The key here is to get enough money to replace your most valuable possessions. However, you might be better served to keep certain possessions off your estimates. If you can keep your limits as low as practically possible, you might be able to keep your renter insurance premiums lower. However, don't cheat yourself and neglect getting coverage that might make replacement easier.

Items to include in your value estimate might be:

  • Furniture
  • Clothing
  • Food values—about 1-2 weeks of grocery bills
  • Electronics—computers, tablets, cell phones
  • Medication or medical device costs (even if you have health insurance)
  • Appliances owned by the renter (not by the homeowner)
  • Tools
  • Novelties like toys, books or movies

Items you might be able to leave off your possessions coverage includes easily replaceable items like toiletries, undergarments or other items of lesser value.

Keep in mind that your policy will likely come with a maximum limit on possessions coverage. Furthermore, possessions coverage might exclude particularly unique items. For example, you might not be able to cover jewelry or artwork within standard possessions coverage. You might have to invest in policy riders to extend coverage to these exceptionally valuable items.

Therefore, when looking for renters insurance, talk to your insurance agent. Ask them to help you determine the adequate value of your possessions coverage. Keep documentation of your possessions’ values, such as appraisals or receipts, to help justify these claims. Let Insurance Planning Services help you with your renters insurance and possession coverage, get started today by calling 734-421-9900 or 800-220-5582.

image of couple in new apartment

Your rental home comes with the same personal responsibility as any other property. While you are in the home, you want to make sure that it is safe and sanitary. You also want to make sure the home doesn’t pose a threat to anyone who visits.

It is usually your landlord who makes a home code-compliant and oversees maintenance. However, you are responsible for the home’s day to day safety upkeep. You have a lot of things to consider when making your home's environment safe.

Part of most renters insurance policies is liability coverage. Liability coverage could protect you if you are liable for property damage or injury to another person. If a dog bites your neighbor, the neighbor may sue you to cover their medical bills. If you cause a kitchen fire, your landlord may want you to cover the damages. Liability coverage can sometimes help you in these situations.

Every renter needs to consider investing in liability coverage. If you do so you can protect your assets should you face a liability lawsuit.

As you consider how much renters liability insurance you need, keep these steps in mind:

  • Know what risks your home faces. Could you potentially cause an accidental fire or other damage? Is your pet a bite risk? If so, you might need higher levels of coverage.

  • Consider how much you can afford to pay for damages. You might need higher levels of coverage in case an accident would stretch your finances.

  • Think about the possibility of accidents, how likely are they to occur in your home? Is there a significant fall risk? Could your child or animal inadvertently damage a neighbor’s property?

  • These considerations can help you get the correct liability coverage in your rental.

    You might wonder why you need such high coverage limits. Shouldn’t another person’s insurance help them in case of an incident? 

    The answer is no, not always. That person’s insurance may not fully cover the damages. The affected person may still seek compensation from you. The good news is that many renters insurance policies can cover your legal costs should you have to go to court.

    As you contemplate Michigan renters insurance, know what levels of liability coverage you need. Insurance Planning Service can help you find appropriate levels of renters insurance. You can also call us today at (800) 220-5582 for more information.

    I came across an article while reading our July 2012 issue of Rough Notes magazine and I felt it was important to share a few thoughts with our customers and blog readers.  This article is one of those that can cause a person to swallow hard and take a deep breath.

    The primary point of my thoughts is:  Always know what your children are doing online – what they’re saying on social media sites, what they’re tweeting about and who they’re talking about.  If they are involved with cyberbullying, it can cost YOU (the parents) your life’s savings, your home, cars and personal possessions.  All too often, parents learn about the actions of their children after-the-fact … when the legal proceedings begin. 

    So, what is cyberbullying anyway?  According to the article's author, Donald S. Malecki, CPCU; “Cyberbullying usually occurs because some youths, particularly those with greater strength and power than their victims, think it is a lot of fun to torment others.  The more these bullies are successful in what they do, the more they continue to do it.  They often persuade their friends to participate.”  Victims of cyberbullying can suffer emotional distress, mental injury and, unfortunately, even take their own lives rather than face the resulting embarrassment and trauma.

    A big danger to parents is that a lawsuit stemming from this disturbing activity is not likely to be covered by homeowner’s insurance and could leave you personally responsible to pay the high cost of legal defense and any damages that are awarded to the victim.  The amounts of money can be staggering.

    The homeowner’s policy provides personal liability coverage for “bodily injury or property damage” and “bodily injury” is defined within the policy to mean “bodily harm, sickness or disease”.  The definition does not include things like emotional distress, anxiety and mental injury which are often the result of cyberbullying. 

    “Personal Injury” coverage can be added to most homeowner policies for a very small additional premium and it respond to things like mental anguish, libel, slander and false arrest.  So, you may say; “If I spend a few extra premium dollars to add Personal Injury coverage I will be protected if my child gets a little out of line online, right?”  WRONG!!

    Being the insurance nerd that I am, this is where a lump began to form in my throat and the article really caught my attention.  In October 2000, the Insurance Services Office (ISO) released an update to the homeowner’s policy form HO-00-03, more commonly referred to as the HO-3.  This form is used by many insurance companies as the basis of the homeowner’s policies they offer.  The HO-3 contains an exclusion for loss resulting from “Expected or Intended Injury” to another person…and rightfully so.  But, one little word in this exclusion had changed.  The word “the” was replaced with the word “an”.  At first glance, one would think this is no big deal.  However, this was not a mere correction in grammar or an attempt to save ink by shortening a word.  The consequence of this seemingly minor tweak changes everything when it comes to a loss resulting from a child’s cyberbullying activities. 

    Let’s say, for example, that your 15-year old teen engages in cyberbullying activities.  The victim then sues you (the parents of the cyberbullying teen) for the grievous mental anguish and embarrassment that resulted. With that, keep in mind that the homeowner policy defines the “insured” as the person named on the declarations page of the policy, a spouse who is a resident of the home, a relative that is a resident of the home, and others under the age of 21 who are under your care and a resident in your home. 

    In earlier versions of the homeowner’s policy, the use of the word “the” in the “Expected or Intended Injury” exclusion provided for a separation of insureds.  While the word “the” was in the exclusion, the parents, who are legally responsible for the acts of their minor children, would have coverage under their homeowner’s policy because they were not “the” insured that performed the intentional act that caused the injury.

    Now, dial forward to the newer homeowner policy form that uses the word “an”.  The definition section of the newer policy now states: “…when the word an immediately precedes the word "insured", the words an "insured" together mean one or more "insureds".”  Ouch!  There is no longer a separation of insureds.  All household residents are now treated collectively as one insured and, since the child is “an” insured and the parents are “an” insured, and the act was created by “an” insured, there is no longer any coverage!

    As cyberbullying and other Internet-related harassment or intimidation activities become more prevalent, insurers will likely continue to seek ways avoid getting involved with them.  In fact, even now, some homeowner’s policies in the northeastern states are beginning to include an exclusion called an “Electronic Aggression Exclusion”. 

    While this article focuses on the act of cyberbullying, the “Expected and Intended Injury” exclusion in the homeowner’s policy extends far beyond electronic communication by encompassing expected or intended injury resulting from any act or omission.  Some insurance companies have even changed the word “an” to “any” which further clarifies the serious intent of this exclusion.  For example, the language used in one policy we reviewed says; “… does not apply to bodily injury or property damage which is expected or intended by the “insured” or which is the foreseeable result of an act or omission intended by any “insured”…”.  Another company’s policy clearly targets the acts of children in the household by saying there is no coverage for; “Bodily injury or property damage caused by the willful, malicious, or intentional act of a minor for which an insured person is statutorily liable.”

    The best defense against any type of risk is to avoid it completely - know what your children are doing online – what they’re saying on social media sites, what they’re tweeting about and who they’re talking about.  For risks you can't avoid, call Insurance Planning Service at 800-220-5582 or contact us using our easy online CONTACT form.   We can help you with an insurance program that will be there for those unfortunate times when it is needed the most.

    Article by: Richard D Bernard

    As water becomes more of a scarcity in parts of the U.S., people are learning to better conserve their use of this priceless resource. One thing that can greatly help with conservation is changing a property’s landscaping from that beautiful lush green grass to a yard that uses more drought resistant plants, or even no plants at all. Lately, more people are going drought resistant with their lawns, and with some beautiful results. Part of the inspiration for this, of course, is that as water bills go up, we look for ways to save. So here are some notes on the issue and some ways you can make a difference for the environment and your wallet.

    Now, I’m going to quote statistics and numbers from Southern California areas, but your area may be different. However, these numbers will at least give you some items to consider.

    First, the average single family home uses about 130,000 gallons of water per year, with half of that going to exterior landscaping if you have a grass lawn. Grass uses about 30-45 gallons of water per year, per square foot of grass , so if you have a 1,000 square feet of grassy area, it uses more than 30,000 gallons of water each year to stay green and nice.

    While water costs vary, in Southern California, for example, they may be around $.01 to $.02 per gallon, which means that 1,000-square-foot grassy area costs $300 to $600 per year in water usage. And it’s not just that, it’s mowing it too! That might add another $50-$100 per month to your bill, causing the costs of maintaining that lawn to add up over time. More importantly, as water becomes scarcer and the population grows, water rates are eventually going to go through the roof. So let’s think through how we can use less water with respect to our outdoor areas.

    One negative issue to note is that it costs money to make your lawn drought resistant, and this can cost you thousands of dollars, depending on what you do. And if you run the numbers, you’ll probably realize it’s actually less expensive to just leave the grass in place and pay the monthly costs
    associated with not making any changes. However, as the cost of water increases, and simply on a “let's work to save the environment” basis, you'll hopefully make the decision to move towards a lower water usage environment.

    One option is to replace your grass with fake green grass . The newer types of faux grass really do look awesome, and it uses no water and never needs to be mowed. It does, however, cost quite a bit to install. With professional installation, it can run up to $15.00 per square foot, so that 1,000 lawn area might cost up to $15,000 to redo.But to reduce that cost, you might just replace some of the grass and leave the outside areas as bare dirt or put in some drought resistant plants to fill in the gaps.

    Wood chips are also another good option. You could scrape the grass, put down weed blocker paper mesh, and cover the entire area with wood chips. You can do this yourself if you want to save some money, but just be ready to spend a few weekends on the job. As a plus, the metal mesh clamps that hold it in place and the wood chips are going to cost a lot less then the fake grass. You’ll need to drop a few new bags of wood chips on the area each year as the existing ones fade, but they are only about $5 per bag at home improvement retailers.

    Another option is to do the same preparation as the wood chips above, but have some nice stone dropped on the area instead of wood chips. They are usually purchased by the cubic yard and dropped by a dump truck at your house. Check the Internet for a local stone retailer. They are a little expensive, but still much less so than the fake grass, and in general, need no maintenance.

    Lastly, you could employ any or all of the above and leave some areas as dirt with some natural plants that don’t use much water and grow slowly. Jade plants, ice plants, birds of paradise, lantana ground cover plants, etc. are all lower-water-use plants that can look incredible in the right configuration. You might even want to have a landscape architect design it for you. But even if you don't want to go and replace your entire lawn, you can still help conserve water and lower your bills by doing a sprinkler check up. You want your sprinklers to hit the grass, work at night when the sun won’t burn off the water, and water the grass just enough to keep it looking nice instead of excessively. Sprinklers are a pain and sometimes the controller units are pretty confusing, but give it a good shot to work
    towards getting them to use only the amount of water needed for the task. That alone will save lots of water and some money.

    Either way, stopping excessive water use is the goal to help the environment and your pocket book too!

    Stay tuned to Insurance Planning Service to get more helpful hints and tips about your home or rental unit.  For more information about any type of insurance, call us today at 800-220-8852 or use our online contact form today!

    Image source:

    There are many issues casting a shadow over the U.S. housing market these days. It’s not just our unemployment rate and foreclosures, nor the $16 trillion dollar U.S. debt.  It's also economic issues in the European Union, such as the problems in Greece, instability in the Middle East, the upcoming November elections and stagnation in Congress, and all kinds of other issues that impact one’s decision making and confidence in the economy.

    When people are concerned, stressed, or have uncertainty in their lives, they shy away from making big purchase decisions. And that is happening a lot today. This is especially true for younger individuals who naturally have more insecurity about jobs and life, as well as less life experience than those who have been through many past economic downturns and are taking it in stride.

    Luckily, the past has proven that our economy and country are very resilient and our citizens will always fight for a better future. And over the next few years, many of the uncertainties in our lives will hopefully be resolved. Unemployment will drop, the foreclosure crisis will settle, and our nation’s finances — and our personal finances — will even out and stabilize.

    So what is a potential home buyer, who can get financed and afford to buy, to do today? First and foremost, remember to take your time, as there is no rush to buy a home, even if you are able to do so. And here are a few things to consider as you mull over one of the biggest decisions you’ll ever make in life


    • Buy the right property. The most important and wealth-building strategy in real estate is long-term ownership. If you buy a property that you love and that fits all the right reasons you want to own property, you’ll probably own it for a long time and be happy there. So find that near-perfect property that fits your needs and desires.
    • Don’t overspend on a house. Home owners know that there are many more expenses then one ever imagines in conjunction with owning a home. Just because a mortgage lender determines that you are qualified for X dollars for a house doesn’t mean you should buy that expensive of a property. A house is only an asset if you can comfortably afford the payments and all your other bills. Otherwise, it’s a liability if you are stretching each month to keep your head above water. Buy assets!
    • Stay away from fixers. Many people think it will be fun and romantic to buy a fixer-upper and make it their own, but most regret that decision. Renovating properties usually involves a never-ending stream of cash outflow and the property often ends up costing several times the amount that a non-contractor buyer estimates it will cost. Instead, try to buy a house that someone already renovated for themselves to live in, but had to sell. You want a house that's already in good shape.
    • Stay away from external nuisances. There are many seemingly non-issue things that can become a problem down the road. Houses should be next to houses, not non-residential use properties. Vacant retail sites, empty lots, industrial next to residential, religious uses, etc. may not mix well with a nice quiet place for you to sleep at each night. Too many buyers disregard the negative consequences of these, so survey the area for potential nuisances and be cautious.
    • Keep renting until you are sure. Don’t buy real estate unless you are sure you want to stay in the area, that your job is secure, that you won’t be transferred, and that it’s a decent and economically viable area. If you are not sure, keep renting instead. You’ll save yourself from a lot of potential hassle and financial pain in case any job or city issues go against your favor.
    • Don’t obsess over the price. A house price is important, but it should be secondary to finding a place you love (within reason). If you own real estate for a long time (which you should), years down the road, you won’t care what the house originally cost you. And by keeping it a long time, you’ll probably earn plenty of equity that will keep a smile on your face. So spend more (though again, within reason) to get that great place you love.
    Keep those things in mind as you take your time and educate yourself regarding real estate ownership. And when you are ready, you will be able to find a great house to fit your needs.

    Whether you are still renting or have decided to take the leap into homeownership, Insurance Planning Service has the expertise and knowledge to help you find the right Homeowner's or Renter's insurance policy.  Call us today at 800-220-5582 or use our online contact form.


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    Lighthouse Group Main Office in Grand Rapids, MI
    Mailing Address | P.O. Box 530009, Livonia, MI 48153

    Phone: 734.421.9900 | Toll Free: 800.220.5582 | Fax: 734.421.9911

    Also serving these Detroit area communities in Michigan: Livonia, Farmington Hills, Ann Arbor, Southfield, Plymouth, Canton, Westland, Northville, Novi, Dearborn, South Lyon & Walled Lake