Tag Archive for: Insurance Safety Tips Boston

Get Renters Insurance and Be Safe Southie

Don’t Be Like All Uncool; Get Renters Insurance and Be Cool.

Living in South Boston, or Southie to you and me, used to be the best-kept secret in Boston. Now that the secret is out, it’s not quite the same old Southie. “Apartments” for rent are now everything from renovated warehouses, churches or new construction tucked away between West Broadway and Congress Street.

Yet with all of the changes, in many ways it is the same Southie we’ve always known; a place many of us still call home, our real home. This is the place where we went to kindergarten, celebrated birthdays, learned how to ride a bike, had our first kiss, got married and had babies.

As your local insurance agent, Lighthouse Insurance has celebrated many of life’s milestones with you; from passing your driver’s license test, to buying your starter home, or, as exciting, renting your first apartment.

Like any good Southie neighbor, we are happy to share our wisdom with newcomers to our town whenever it’s needed. So if you’re just joining our community for the first time, welcome to the neighborhood. Or, if you’re a young Southie native venturing out on your own for the first time, don’t worry we have your back too.

No matter what your situation is, we want to make sure you protect yourself and the place you call home. This means having “the talk,” but this one’s about something not so sexy. However, it is very important. We want to discuss the value of having renters insurance. Was that just a big sigh of boredom from everyone? Okay, now that you have that out of your system, get ready to learn why renters insurance is actually much cooler than you think.

Why do I need renters insurance?

Great question and we are glad you’re paying attention! Of course the Bostonian in us wants to just say, “because we told you so,” but as your local insurance professionals we would be doing you a disservice so we are going to tell you why. Here are the three main reasons getting renters insurance is a smart move:

  • It covers all the personal property you own
  • It gives you a level of liability protection
  • It provides you with additional living expenses

So what does all this mean? Let’s look at each coverage separately. No this is not a waste of time; trust us, we will make this really interesting!

Coverage for your personal property.

Basically coverage for personal property means all the stuff you’ve worked so hard to buy, like your TV, computers, furniture, Xbox, headphones, street/mountain bike, snowboard, fancy handbags, shoes, and other belongings. These are all protected if stolen or damaged due to fire, smoke, vandalism or some other unexpected calamity. You may need a little extra protection for collectibles or jewelry, but that is an easy thing to add on for very short money.

Liability coverage.

Most people think this is something they don’t need, but we’re here to make sure you aren’t one of them. Instead, we are going to tell you why liability coverage is such an important coverage and why we think it’s the coolest part of your renters insurance policy.

Liability coverage protects you financially, no matter how much money you earn or the size of your bank account. When someone sues you they are not checking your bank balance for adequate funds; instead they are going after compensation that they believe to be fair for injury or damages caused by you, whether intentional or not. And no matter how much money you have, or don’t have, one thing’s for sure; you are going to have to find a means to pay for any judgments against you.

Liability coverage can save you from having to borrow money, look for a second job, or cut back on your expenses to pay the legal bills. Specifically, here are some examples of what kind of lawsuits this coverage can safeguard you from:

  • bodily injury you or your family members cause to others
  • property damage that you or your family members cause to others
  • damage your pet(s) cause

Liability protection in a renters insurance policy will also provide you with no-fault medical coverage which means that you can submit medical bills directly to your insurance carrier should someone get injured in your home. Liability coverage will also pay for the cost of defending you in court and for any money awarded to the complainants, up to the limit of the policy.

Yup, we just blew your mind didn’t we? That’s a lot of coverage but we haven’t even gotten to the best benefits of renters insurance yet.

Additional Living Expenses.

Now that you know you have your stuff and your money protected, what happens if you are displaced from your apartment due to circumstances outside of your control? Need an example? Unfortunately, home fires are more common in the city then you think. This past summer there were actually two serious blazes that prompted us to write a blog post about fire prevention for Southie residents, who as you know, live precariously close to their neighbors. But fire is just one reason you may be displaced from your apartment. There are other scenarios that are just as unsettling to think about. Consider what you would do if your upstairs neighbor’s commode burst and water flooded down into your apartment while you were both out of town for the weekend. That would literally stink!

If these or any other type of catastrophe wrecks your apartment, do you have a back-up plan? Well, if you have an extremely cool renters insurance policy, then you can be certain you will not have to go back to mom and dad’s or crash on a friend’s couch. A good renters insurance policy provides additional living expense coverage that could pay for hotel bills or temporary rentals, restaurant meals and other expenses you incur while your apartment is being repaired or rebuilt.

Okay, let’s get real, how much does renters insurance cost?

This is really the most awesome part of all! Renters insurance is cheap; hugely important, but, yes, cheap. For as little as $12 bucks a month you can get all the coverage we outlined here. As we like to say, it’s less than a skinny margarita or a craft beer at the trendy bar on the corner. So eliminate one of those beverages a month and you have your renters insurance covered. And if you own a car, you can save even more by combining your auto and renters insurance with the same carrier, in some cases as much as 20% on your auto insurance. Like a wise old Southie neighbor might say, “You can’t afford not to get this kind of protection.”

How many people are covered under one renters insurance policy?

We hear you, you have roommates to consider as well. It’s cool of you, and considerate, to wonder whether your renters insurance policy covers your roommate and their stuff as well? The answer is both yes and no. A single renters insurance policy covers two people, you and your significant other or one of your roommates at no additional cost. However if you live with more than one person, then someone will need to get a second renters insurance policy.

Also, we are going to give you some more neighborly advice about sharing a renters insurance policy; please make sure you trust that person. This might sound obvious; after all you’re living with this person so they must have earned your trust. But we mean really, really make sure you know your roommate or the person you live with. Because when you have to make a claim, any check you receive from your insurance carrier will be made out to all the parties on the policy. This means that even if the check is to cover damages or losses to only your belongings, your roommate will still have to co-sign the check. So choose your policy buddy carefully!

In the event that it’s your roommate that causes damage to your belongings, it’s important to know that these losses will not be covered if you are both on one policy. We can’t stress this point enough; be 100% certain that the person you decide to add to your renters insurance policy is someone you know well and can trust completely.

The big finish

In closing, we want to share one last piece of advice, to #BeSafeSouthie. Protect yourself whether walking home from the local watering hole late at night, driving to work in the morning, or cooking a meal for a group of friends in your cool new apartment. Accidents happen, and if they happen to you, your friends at Lighthouse Insurance want you to have the protection you need. If we’ve left you with more questions than answers, feel free to call us at 617-464-3777. Or, if you have a strong desire to see the faces of the people who wrote this insightful, and admit it, cool blog post, you can typically find us between the hours of 4:30 – 6:00 pm, Monday through Friday at our neighborhood hangout STATS. Where yes, everyone knows our name.

5 Fire Prevention Tips That Will Keep You & Your Neighbors Safe

Living in Southie is awesome. Whether you own or rent, the close proximity to Downtown Boston, the Seaport and the beach are enough positives for many of us who have set up home base here. Then add in all the restaurants, bars, shops and green space, you wonder why anyone would want to live any place else?

We know we’re not telling you anything about Southie that you don’t already know. It’s an outstanding place to live and work, which is why the Lighthouse Insurance team has been here for more than 20 years. But maybe there are a few new things we can offer some perspective on, particularly when it comes to living safely in one of the oldest neighborhoods in Boston.

It’s definitely hard not to get to your know neighbor in Southie. In fact, you probably know a lot more about them than you ever wanted to because living here means you are basically on top of, right next to, and immediately below or above other residents. This close proximity means you share a lot of common space, like walls and stairwells, but also sometimes the backyard, basement and roof deck. You also have a common interest in keeping all the homes in the neighborhood safe.

The most recent Suffolk County Fire Data Analysis Report states that 68% of fires in Boston were in multifamily homes and apartments. Boston also has the second highest rate of structural fires in the Suffolk County, two times the state average. The average loss associated with these fires is $8,239 per structure. Thankfully, most of these fires resulted in no major injuries or deaths.

According to the report, in 2013 the most common causes of fires in Boston were:
• 86% caused by cooking
• 4% heating related
• 3% indoor rubbish
• 3% electrical problems
• 2% smoking

Over the last two weeks, our city has experienced two major fire emergencies. The 6-Alarm fire in Charlestown and the 4-Alarm fire in East Boston are somber reminders that due to the tightly packed neighborhoods of Boston, a fire here can quickly spread from home to home. And unfortunately, the team at Lighthouse Insurance has seen its fair share of loss due to fire.

But we have also seen fires prevented and many lives saved due to proper preparation and attention to potential hazards. Here are five of the best tips we can offer to our South Boston neighbors to protect against a fire in your home:

1. Cook With Care: Cooking is not just the number one cause of fires in Boston; it also tops the list nationally. Make sure any cook(s) in your home know how to prepare food without setting off the smoke alarms! For instance:

• never leave pots and pans on the stove unattended
• always turn the burners off before you leave the room
• clean your oven of excess grease before you use it
• keep a fire extinguisher in your kitchen, or very close by

If, despite your best safety practices and expert cooking skills, a small grease fire does start, do not try and move the pot or pan! First turn off the heat and then, if it’s safe to do so, put a metal lid or cookie sheet on the pan to cut off the oxygen supply to the fire. You do not want to use a glass lid for this because it may shatter from the extreme heat. If a metal lid isn’t an option or doesn’t work, then pour a large amount of baking soda on the fire. And contrary to what your instincts might tell you, never, ever use water to put out a grease fire. Finally, if the fire begins to spread, evacuate your home immediately and call the fire department at once.

2. Make S’Mores Indoors: Did you know that in 2014 the Boston City Council amended the Fire Prevention code to prohibit the use of “outdoor patio and space heaters, outdoor decorative heating appliances and outdoor fireplaces such as chimney, fire pits or outdoor fireplaces using solid fuel including charcoal, wood, fuel pellets or any non-gaseous fuel”? We love the idea of sitting around a fire pit on a cool fall evening as much as you do. But rather than protest this regulation, we think it’s a really smart one as well as potentially life-saving one. Open-air fires create significant risks, especially in densely populated areas. So put aside your dreams of an outdoor fire pit in your small backyard for now, but do so knowing you could be saving your life and those of your neighbors, plus saving yourself from thousands of dollars in possible property damage, legal and medical fees should you be the cause of a fire.

3. Be The Grill Master: While we are on the subject of outdoor fire, the City also banned the use of charcoal and gas grills on roof decks, fire escapes, covered decks and any other structures not on the ground. But that doesn’t mean you can’t grill outdoors in the city; you can still enjoy your traditional backyard barbecue. However, like cooking indoors, you should follow some basic safety tips, including:

• Keep your grill away from the house and low hanging tree branches. The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) recommends you create a three foot virtual ring around it to keep your home, kids and pets safe.
• Open the lid of your gas grill before you light it, check the connection for gas leaks frequently and clean your grill after every use by scraping off old grease.
• Never leave your grill unattended.
• If you are using a charcoal grill and want to dispose of the coals then make sure you have a safe place to put them, like a dedicated metal trash can with a lid.
• Do not keep any disposal device on your deck or porch and store it a safe place away from combustibles

The City Of Boston actually has a section of great BBQ safety tips on their website that we recommend you read.

4. Thank You For Smoking Safely: In May of this year there was a rooftop fire in Southie that started when someone put out their cigarette in an outdoor planter. Thankfully nobody was hurt, but seven people were displaced from their homes, and the fire spread to both neighboring buildings before the fire department was able to get it under control. So, if you are a smoker, these next few tips are specifically for you:

• Never smoke in bed.
• Use a clean, large ashtray to dispose of smoking materials. More importantly, do not use a wastebasket, potted plant, outdoor planter or anything that is not fire proof.
• Keep all matches and lighters stored away where children cannot access them.

5. “From a Tiny Spark, May Burst A Mighty Flame” (Dante): Early this month 500,000 hoverboards were recalled after their motors overheated, subsequently burning riders and damaging property. Boston had its first such mishap on May 9th in the North End when a hoverboard caught fire in an apartment causing over $100,000 in damage and displacing three families from their homes. When it comes to electrical fires, toys typically are not to blame, but this just goes to show you how unpredictable fire is and how important it is to be vigilant with safely storing or using electrical items. In general, electrical fires are caused by improper use of items, such as:

• portable heaters
• appliances like coffee makers and microwaves
• extension cords, which by the way are intended for temporary use only

In fact, never use an extension cord for any heat-producing electrical units. Also, the USFA recommends you use one electrical outlet per heat-producing appliance. We know it’s a drag to plug and unplug something if space doesn’t allow for this ratio. But believe us, it’s worth it, especially in the older multifamily homes in Southie where the electrical wires may not have been updated in this century.

Please know that these safety tips only cover the surface when it comes to preventing a fire in your South Boston home. One of the best ways to alert you, your roommate and your family if a fire was to break out in your home is to have working smoke detectors. And we know you’ve heard this before, but we recommend you change the batteries when you change the clocks each season. You can also stay vigilant and use common sense. If your inside voice is telling you it doesn’t sound like a good idea to throw hot cooking oil into your trash, then don’t do it.

We haven’t even mentioned the best way to keep everyone in your family safe: Have an emergency plan. The Lighthouse Insurance website has a helpful tip section where you can find resources on creating an apartment or condo fire evacuation plan, along with many more useful tips.

Closely knit neighborhoods like Southie are what make Boston what it is – a city with a huge heart – but it also means you need to take extra steps to safeguard your home. Like using the tips we’ve provided above and having the proper renters, condo or homeowners insurance to protect you should you ever experience a loss due to not just a fire but also theft or vandalism. We certainly hope it never comes down to that, but if it does, you can count on your Southie agent and neighbor to be here to help.