Spring season is now in full swing, and soon summer will be here. In our latest blog, we mentioned higher than average temperatures would engulf us these upcoming months. Consequently, higher energy costs. According to the Department of Energy, Americans spent an average of $2000 on energy costs in 2014. As climate continues to change, so can our energy expenses. But how can we stay cool and still save on these? Here are some ways we can keep our cool as the season heats up:
1. Keep Heat Out- Close blinds and curtains to prevent heat gain through the windows. About 30% of a home’s heating energy is lost through the windows. Upgrade your windows; Use window covers, choose insulating window shades, or add new ones, install window awnings. Energy efficient windows can reduce energy costs by up to 25%. Enhance your doors, an energy efficient fiberglass door without a window is five times more insulating than a wooden door, and these energy efficient doors can save up to 15% on energy bills.
2. Keep Cool In- The choice of roofing material has been revealed as having a critical role in determining internal living temperatures. Roofs account for nearly 25% of heat loss for a typical house. Although changing your roof may not be at the top of your home improvement to-do list it is something worth looking into because as we mentioned, waves of heat are only expected to worsen. Choose a lighter color for your roof. Most efficient roofs can reflect more than 65% of solar energy away from your home and improve the insulation under the roof. Consider an alternative to asphalt shingles. Asphalt shingles are only 30% reflective. Improve the ventilation; your roof should have one square foot of ventilation for every 300 square feet of ceiling. Consider using metal roofs, metal roofs are incredibly durable and can last up to 100 years. A cool roof can lower the temperature of your roof by up to 50 degrees. Roofing that reflects the sun’s energy and releases it into the surrounding air keeps the upper floors of a home cooler, and less energy is required when cooling a home. Inside your home use ceiling fans when you are in the room to create a wind chill effect; you’ll feel a lot more relaxed, and your energy bill will thank you for it. Whether you’re ready to make the change or want to explore your options, our roofing experts are always prepared to provide your family with our free roof inspection.
3. Maintain Cooling System- Schedule a summer cooling system tune-up, If your central air conditioning unit is older than 12 years, consider replacing it. Change your filter every one to two months during the cooling season. Clear the area around outdoor condenser coils by removing debris and trimming. Ensure there are at least two feet around the condenser for proper airflow. For room or window air conditioners, inspect the seal between the air conditioner and frame to ensure the frame contacts the unit’s metal case. Upgrade your thermostat to a smart or programmable one to increase the temperature when you’re away and return it to a comfortable level before you’re home. This change can save you up to 10% per year on energy bills.
4. Take advantage of Technologically Advanced Appliances – Home appliances including washers, dryers, refrigerators, etc. can account for 20% of your electricity bill. Replacing your machine for an ENERGY STAR appliance can save you up to 10-50% on your bill. Though at first, you may be questioning this decision you’ll later notice the savings on it.
5. Small Steps Can Go a Long Way- More efficient technological advances to better building materials have facilitated a system in which energy efficient homes are more readily available than ever before but let’s also remember that any change begins with us. Other practical improvements that will save you are Weatherizing or sealing air leaks around your home. The most common source of air leaks into your home are vents, windows, and doors, prevent these leaks by ensuring there are no cracks or openings between the wall and vent, window or door frame. Consider switching to CFL or LED bulbs, disconnect any electronics, not in use, use smart power strips and overall, change your habits you more than anyone else has control of how energy is consumed at your home.
An energy-competent home saves money by reducing energy use, offers a higher level of comfort, and increases the resale value of the property, not to mention preserves the environment. The Department of Energy has developed the Home Energy Score providing homeowners, buyers, and renters measurable results about a home’s energy use. Visit https://betterbuildingssolutioncenter.energy.gov/home-energy-score to find out how to get yours and begin saving.
Storm devastation is unpredictable and whether it’s from heavy rains, high winds or hail our roofs are left with a short warning. Repairs following the destruction can be costly but luckily preventable.
In addition to the immediate precautions shared by your local authorities, we have compiled a set of pointers that will have you and your property ready for any disastrous natural event.
Know your roof, and what to look for to ready it for the disturbance. Your roof just like any system is composed of various elements working together to provide you with the protection and comfort your family needs.
Knowing your roof can begin by checking your attic and ceiling. In your ceiling, if you see any water stains, this could mean there is already a leak in your roof! Don’t let this worsen as this will only slow down the storm readiness process. When checking these water stains, you noticed the stains are fresh, if they are the damage can be from a pipe; however, if the water appears dirty, the casualty is coming from your roof. Now will now be a good time to inspect your attic then if there is also any daylight coming through roof boards; it is time to have it checked by a professional.
When walking the roof, you or your inspector notice a spongy feel and or trampoline bounce this means the underlayment decking is weakened from moisture. Roof underlayment is a water-resistant material directly installed onto your roof deck; it is the extra layer of protection that shingles alone can’t match.
Shingles are what sits on top of the underlayment and form the barrier against any harmful precipitation. Ensure they are properly nailed down and none are broken, cracked, curled or losing granules as this may mean they are past their life expectancy or are defective. Shingles with any of the mentioned signs are now susceptible to unwanted water damage inside and outside your property.
Checking your gutters will also help you determine the state of your shingles as the granules often clog them. Drain spouts and gutters are designed to direct the water away from your property to minimize wear and tear on the roof and to minimize the chances of pervasive water damage. Clogged gutters can also break away from the roof and drag pieces of the roof with it.
Flashings, metal or plastic waterproof liners are designed to divert water. Assure they are not cracked or damaged as this will not allow them to deviate precipitation away from your roof correctly.
If you spot any of the mentioned or you’re unsure if any other known damages pose an immediate threat, it’s time for a roof assessment and have one of our professionals assist you in determining the next plan-of-action to counter any further damage precisely during these times.
To avoid dealing with all or some of these problems maintain your property. Most roofs have a span of 25-30 years, and although you may only be thinking of preparing for the next storm during these times, you should also keep in mind that normal weather also deteriorates your roof as it is exposed to direct sunlight.
These tips are all things that are completed in anticipation. However, it is also essential to know that during the storm keeping all doors and windows closed is a must as the air pressure inside your house can rise leading it to potentially lift your roof upward and leave you in the worst scenario that you were in, to begin with.
Tree trimming is an effective way to maintain, shape, and cleanup trees surrounding your home. While this often results in a more beautiful appearance, it also helps protect your family as well as your home. Trimming helps maintain a tree’s health and longevity which means they are less likely to lose branches or fall down as a whole. There are serious repercussions to a tree falling near your home which could result in damage to your assets. According to the Department of Agriculture, trees need to be pruned first for safety, next for health and finally for aesthetics. Below is a list of each of these benefits.
Safety- Removing branches that may cause damage to property or people if they fall can be a primary reason for tree trimming.
Tree Health- Cutting dead or diseased branches may help benefit the overall health of the tree. In addition, pruning may also encourage trees to develop stronger core structures to help withstand elements.
Aesthetics- Trimming a tree may help accentuate the physical appearance of the tree and improve flower or fruit production.
How Often Should You Trim Your Trees?
It is suggested that pruning or tree trimming is done once per year during a dormant season. There are several circumstances such as the ones below that would prompt immediate tree trimming:
The growth obstructs visibility for pedestrians or vehicles
The tree’s growth may threaten your home or property. If you feel a tree needs to be pruned because it may cause damage to your home, it’s important to contact an arborist to discuss the trimming
With the Fall and Winter months quickly approaching, an additional safety consideration to make is for power lines that may stand around your property. Dead branches can get caught in wires and trees can fall on top of them, causing serious danger to your home as well as other homes in your neighborhood.
Overall, trees are constantly growing and evolving as seasons pass, ongoing care is essential to keeping everyone safe and keeping your yard looking beautiful.
After a storm, a huge obstacle homeowners face when looking to fix or replace their roof is choosing the right company to do the job. Time is of the essence, especially after a natural catastrophe occurs. However, that does not mean the process of picking the right contractor should be taken lightly. You need to be sure to do your research. Below are several rules to follow to ensure that you find a reputable contractor post-storm.
Get referrals. To avoid scams that are often caused by fly-by-night contractors, ask your friends, family, and neighbors for local, reputable companies. When you have compiled a decent list of contracting contacts, take a moment to research each individual company and investigate what they have to offer.
Licensed and insured. It is important that when you hire a roofing contractor, they are licensed and have worker’s compensation. Make sure that they provide you with proof. Not having proper insurance and workers’ comp can create liability for you if a contractor employee sustains an injury while working on your property. All of this can be avoided by hiring a legitimate company to do the job.
If you live in a state that requires contractors to obtain a roofing license, make sure the contractor you are choosing has one. As part of your due diligence, it is also important to check their company website as well as the National Roofing Association or Better Business Bureau. Look at online reviews to see how a company conducts themselves when a problem arises and what they do to solve them.
Pay your deductible. Any contractor who claims they can “waive” the fee without having the homeowner pay their insurance deductible is committing fraud and will be placing you as the homeowner at risk.
Know your choice of materials. You should always do a material and color select with the contractor that you choose to hire. A contractor who does not offer you different shingle options is not looking out for your best interest. If covered by insurance, this is the perfect opportunity to upgrade or pick a color/style that better suits your tastes.
Sign a written contract. It is always good to have everything written down in a contract before the work begins. The contract should include the duration of the work, materials used, cost, when the cost is due, who is responsible for the waste and clean-up form the job, and the length of your roofs warranty.
This is a guest post written by: Kevin Pollack at Merlin Law Group.
Established in 1985, Merlin Law Group is a leading insurance litigation law firm committed to assisting policyholders receive fair and just outcomes from their insurance companies. Property insurance law is a highly complex and specialized area of law and our firm represents policyholders when claims are denied, delayed or underpaid. To learn more about Merlin Law Group visit: www.merlinlawgroup.com.
It is not uncommon to see claims where an insured’s lender makes an already difficult property insurance claim even more problematic. Generally, this occurs where:
an insured’s deed of trust requires the insured to name the lender as a loss payee on their property insurance policy;
a loss occurs;
the insurance company issues claim payments naming the lender and insured as co-payees; and
the lender refuses to release the insurance proceeds to the insured in a timely manner.
Without the insurance money, many insureds do not have the resources to begin repairing property or resume business. Where the property damage is severe, insureds are often forced to incur substantial costs to rent other property, and cannot afford the rental costs on top of their mortgage. Things can quickly spiral out of control and the insured’s mortgage can go into default.
In situations like this, do insureds have any recourse against their lenders?
Like insurance policies, deeds of trust are contracts that contain an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.1 Although most deeds of trust give lenders the right to be named on insurance checks earmarked for property damage, a lender’s right “to apply insurance proceeds to the balance of a note secured by a deed of trust must be performed in good faith and with fair dealing. . . .”2
Courts have found that where the security is not impaired, the lender must release the insurance proceeds to the insured so that the insured may repair/rebuild their property. In the context of the rights of the parties to the insurance proceeds after an insured loss, when the insured demands the proceeds to repair the damage, and the deed of trust requires the insured to repair the damage, the covenant of good faith and fair dealing requires the lender to relinquish the proceeds to the insured for payment of the costs of repair, unless the lender needs the proceeds to protect its legitimate interests (i.e., where its security is otherwise impaired).
When the insured’s loan is in good standing, impairment will normally involve a factual inquiry into whether the market value of the trust deed property still adequately secures the insured’s indebtedness. This is because the purpose of a deed of trust is to provide the lender with sufficient recourse should the insured default on the loan.3
Courts have found that lenders that refuse to release insurance proceeds to fund repairs before the loan is in default can be found to have violated the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.4
Lender told the Presslers that they had to front 33% of the costs-a condition found nowhere in the Deed-and though such an arrangement could be reasonable depending on the parties’ understandings and negotiations, nothing in the current record explains why it was here. See Pressler Decl. (dkt.22–1) ¶ 4. Then[…], after two years of a generally productive partnership to rebuild the house, Lender fell silent for four months after construction had ceased. Then, Lender conditioned its continuation of the funding on a new “pay as you go” scheme, which, like the 33% out of pocket condition, was not in the Deed.
It makes sense that a lender should not be able to withhold insurance proceeds from an insured to cause a default on the loan and take possession of the insured’s property. This is because the parties (lender and insured) intended that the purchase price would be paid in the ordinary course of events, and that insureds would have the use of their property during the full period of the long-term loan.5 Insureds who (1) face property damage claims, are (2) not already in default on their loans at the time of the insurance claim payment, and (3) face lenders reluctant to release insurance proceeds, may pursue claims against their lenders for breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing.
Established in 1985, Merlin Law Group is a leading insurance litigation law firm committed to assisting policyholders receive fair and just outcomes from their insurance companies. Property insurance law is a highly complex and specialized area of law and our firm represents policyholders when claims are denied, delayed or underpaid. To learn more about Merlin Law Group visit: www.merlinlawgroup.com. When disaster strikes, stress and the feeling of being overwhelmed and unfamiliar with the process can make your property damage claim a lot worse.
Some incredible wind storms in various parts of the nation have caused a spike in claims. It is not uncommon for homeowners who are far away from the coast to go decades without ever having to file an insurance claim. But now with wind damaged properties, the insureds have a significant loss and are in a distraught state in this unfamiliar territory.
One call from last week prompted me to give some basic advice on what to expect in the very stages of the claim. The homeowner’s claim was in the early stages of the adjustment and she just wanted to understand the guidelines of how the process will work. She had questions (enough to contact an attorney) but she was also unsure because this was an entirely new process for her and her family. The windstorm and severe weather took down a large tree and the tree smashed into her home at about four in the afternoon. Even to the untrained eye an evaluation revealed there was significant roof damage and her minivan was totaled. This loss happened just moments after her husband had parked the van in the driveway. Wires and cable lines came down and crossed her road, closing it to traffic. She was so thankful that her husband had made it inside before the storm. Reality, though, did not allow her much time to be idle. She had to act because of the downed wires and make her reports.
Now, the carrier has had inspections but she didn’t know what would happen next. There was talk about the insurance company fixing the property for her but she wasn’t sure about the basics. When there is building damage to the property that the insurance company will indemnify you for under the policy, it is important at the very least that a formal written request is made by you for the complete policy and the scope or estimate of all the building damages that are included.
It is imperative that the insured have every form and endorsement along with the main body of the policy. Often the agent sends just the new renewal forms after a loss. However, those renewal forms modify the base policy and all these documents need to be read in tandem. Bottom line: you need both sets of documents.
Not sure what you are reading? Most states allow you to hire a public insurance adjuster to help you navigate this claim process. Check out http://www.napia.com or your state specific public adjuster group to find a licensed and qualified adjuster.
It is also imperative that you are provided the scope and estimate of damage that the insurance company has set forth. If you blindly sign an authorization with an insurance company or a preferred vendor and don’t insist on the scope of damages, how will you ever know what the insurance company is covering and what the contractor is supposed to be doing?
You need the scope and estimate to make sure that your property is being returned to its pre-loss condition and that the estimate replaces the items with like kind and quality materials. What you do not want to have happen is that the contractor determines there is more to fix but turns to you for payment because the carrier is not agreeable. Sorting all of this out before hammer and nail is the best practice. If construction and building components are not in your wheelhouse, a public adjuster can also assist. Generally, public adjusters have the same software to estimate the damages used by your insurance company, but public adjusters do not work for the insurance companies, they work for you.
Never blindly sign documents. Yes, there is a lot of stress but if there is one wise piece of advice that serves everyone, it is to understand what you are signing before you sign. Do not let the carrier’s urgency pressure you into dismissing the significance of your signature.
For more tips about insurance claims, a great resource comes from United Policyholders. These ten tips of insurance claims should be reviewed by anyone with a property claim whether it is going well or going south. While Tip 8 is critical, Tip 4 must also be highlighted. Remember: someone who is friendly is not the same as someone who is advocating for you. The insurance adjuster works for the insurance company and long after your claim is over they have a boss and a review process that makes a difference in their everyday lives. Thank you, Amy Bach, Esq., and United Policyholders for this helpful resource.
Top 10 Insurance Claim Tips
Be pro-activein the claim process.
You’re not on a level playing field when you’re dealing with an insurance claim.
Think of your insurance claim as a business negotiation—you’re dealing with a for-profit company.
Give your insurance company a chance to do the right thing, but don’t mistake a friendly representative for a friend.
Document and support your claim with proof, details and estimates.
Present clear requests in writingthat explain what you need, when you need it, and whyyou’re entitled to it.
Don’t pad or exaggerate your claim.
Don’t sign legal documents without consulting with a qualified attorney.
Try to resolve problems informally but complain in writing, go up the chain of command and/or use government agency help when necessary.
Get specialized professional help when you need it, start in the “Find Help” section of www.uphelp.org.