Protect Property from Weather-Related Damage

Protect Property from Weather-Related Damage
By Sue Quimby, CPCU, AU, CIC, CPIW, DAE

Winter weather takes a toll on houses, commercial buildings and other outdoor property, including fences, patios, pools and sheds. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), winter storm damages exceeded $2.1 billion in 2019, down from $3 billion the year before. Weather-related damage may not be covered under a homeowners or commercial policy, making it even more important to prevent damage as much as possible. Helping clients with sound weatherproofing practices is another value-added service of the professional insurance agent.
There are many preventative measures that can be taken – preferably before the cold weather arrives. Outdoor plumbing and irrigation systems should be drained and insulated where feasible. Remove and drain all hoses. Most outdoor faucets have a local shutoff valve in the house, which should be closed, and the faucet turned on to get rid of the water. Shut off the faucet after draining – or at least before the shutoff valve is opened again in the spring as water in the pipes and faucet can freeze and expand, cracking the pipe or faucet. In the spring, check all outdoor faucets. Even if care has been taken to prevent freezing, cracks can still happen and may not be apparent until water is turned on again.
Tree limbs and shrubs that could break or fall under the weight of ice and snow and damage property should be pruned. This is especially important when property of others is in danger of being damaged. If a neighbor’s property is damaged and the insurance company determines that proper maintenance and care could have prevented the loss, the claim might be denied. Pruning must be done at the proper time of year to avoid injuring the plant. Weather and other damage to trees and shrubs is generally excluded under insurance policies, so proper care is important to protect the investment. Mulch and burlap or other wrap can protect plants from the cold. Fencing and repellents can keep animals from destroying prized plants.
Weather damage to in ground pools is generally not covered under insurance. Heavy snow and ice can destroy the cover. When possible, use a broom to remove the snow. A shovel can tear the liner creating a bigger problem. If there is standing water on the cover, a sump pump can be used to keep the water from freezing.
While some wooden or metal furniture is designed to be left outdoors, not everything should be. Plastic furniture, for example, can become brittle so it should be brought inside during colder months. Aluminum and wrought iron equipment can be coated to prevent rust.
Melting snow puts added strain on sump pumps. Care should be taken to ensure that the discharge end of the pipe is free of obstructions. Back up of sewers and drains and sump pump overflow are optional coverages and must usually be specifically added to the policy.
Gutters and drains should be checked and maintained at least annually to be sure they are secure and working properly. Annual roof inspections for all structures are also important. In areas with significant snowfall, it may be necessary to clear the roof. This must be done carefully to avoid damage to the roof or injury from falling snow and ice, or falling off the roof. A snow rake with an extendable handle can clear the roof and gutters and prevent ice damming. It can also be used to knock down icicles to avoid injury to passersby. Heating coils can help melt snow from roofs and gutters. Proper attic insulation can also prevent ice buildup on roofs and gutters.
Clearing walks, driveways, patios and decks can also be a challenge. Salt is commonly used to melt the ice, but it can damage concrete and wood. In addition, the salt may be harmful to the environment as well as pets.
Storm losses not covered by insurance may still be tax deductible. Proper documentation is essential in the event of any property loss. Pictures of the damage as well as receipts or appraisals are a big help. Of course, everyone should maintain an inventory of their possessions that can be used as documentation in the event of any type of loss.
Proper maintenance is essential for any home or business owner to prevent or at least reduce damage from weather and other causes. Helping insureds understand the need for and develop such a plan is another value-added service of the true insurance professional.
This article was previously published in the Insurance Advocate® and is provided courtesy of MSO®, Inc. (The Mutual Service Office, Inc.) for non-commercial use only. For any other licensing requests or permissions, please contact © MSO®, Inc. 2021.

MSO provides advisory services for all property and casualty lines except workers compensation. This includes customized forms and manuals for insurers, MGA’s and agents/brokers. Additional information is available at

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The Benefits of Insurance

September 22, 2020

The insurance industry has long had an image problem. Even though insurance is essential to life as we know it, too often the negative stories, such as claims being denied or delayed, make the headlines. Insurance providers are not always comfortable promoting all the benefits the industry provides. Helping clients understand the true value of insurance is another value-added service of the professional insurance agent. Insurance, especially auto insurance, is often perceived as a commodity, one that can easily be purchased at the click of a button. However, there can be significant differences in policy language regarding what is covered and excluded. Insurance can be complicated. In many cases, cheaper insurance means less coverage. Unfortunately, this is not always realized by the entity purchasing the insurance until after the loss. In this age of increasing automation and less person to person contact, access to the knowledge and service provided by insurance professionals remains essential. These professionals help their clients navigate the intricacies of the coverage they may or may not be required to have. The importance of insurance far outweighs the claims dollars received for premiums paid. Without insurance, life would be vastly different. Insurance is a mechanism to spread risk among a large group, thereby reducing the exposure of any one individual person or business. Insurance provides the guarantee needed to take a loan to purchase a home or business, or start a construction project. Insurance offers protection when unexpected losses happens. Peace of mind – knowing that a home or business will be rebuilt after a fire or hurricane, or that a vehicle will be repaired or replaced after a crash, is something that is difficult to put a value on. The actual monetary value is also significant. For example, after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the insurance industry paid out nearly $32 billion in claims to affected parties. S&P Global Market Intelligence reports that homeowners claims paid in 2018 were $56.2 billion. For employers, providing a comprehensive package of benefits, including life and health insurance, as well as group discounts on homeowners and auto coverage, is a means of attracting and retaining quality employees. Health insurance in particular is essential. Access to preventative care helps avoid higher cost treatment down the road. One uninsured hospital stay for a heart attack could cost over $20,000. Extended stays and treatment plans, such as for cancer, could easily bankrupt a family. Life insurance comes into play during stressful times of loss. When an income earner dies, especially if it is prematurely, many decisions must be made quickly. Life insurance provides a tax-exempt cash benefit at a time when it is most needed. The money can be used to pay off debts, such as credit cards, medical bills and mortgages, which allows the surviving family members to stay in their home and maintain their lifestyle. In addition to the coverage and security provided by the insurance product itself, insurance companies and employees give back to their communities. A McKinsey and Company report found that the industry’s charitable giving is $500-600 million per year. Insurance is an essential but often underappreciated component of society. Helping clients understand the true benefits of insurance is another sign of the true insurance professional. This article was previously published in the Insurance Advocate® and is provided courtesy of MSO®, Inc. (The Mutual Service Office, Inc.) for non-commercial use only.  For any other licensing requests or permissions, please contact © MSO®, Inc. 2020.  MSO provides advisory services for all property and casualty lines except workers compensation. This includes customized forms and manuals for insurers, MGA's and agents/brokers. Additional information is available at

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The History of Windsor-Mount Joy Mutual Insurance Company

July 17, 2020

Stepping through the doors of the Windsor-Mount Joy Mutual Insurance Company, one is awed by the nautical theme and intricate model ships scattered throughout the building. Former company manager and the namesake of G.R. Klinefelter Underwriters once owned and operated a cruise ship in the Chesapeake Bay. The 4-masted schooner, which he called the Grace G. Bennett, sailed the Chesapeake from 1946–1951. His time operating the Grace G. Bennett would eventually inspire a book of insurance business that included ocean marine policies. Before taking charge of the Windsor Insurance Company, G.R. Klinefelter had been serving on the Board of Directors for the Berks & Lehigh Mutual Insurance Company. At the time, he was running G. R. Klinefelter Insurance Agency from his basement. When the Windsor and Mount Joy Insurance companies were founded in their respective towns, their mission was protecting the interests of businesses and families in their communities. The Mount Joy Company was founded on August 4, 1844, and the Windsor Company followed shortly after. The rich histories of the two companies came together when Klinefelter pushed for the merger in 1963 that formed the Windsor-Mount Joy Mutual Insurance Company. Klinefelter’s leadership at the company is as apparent through the scrolls of its history as it is in the walls of the building. At one point, he was managing ten companies, including casualty relief organizations and other small mutual companies. Following the merger of the two troubled companies from Windsor and Mount Joy he led the company to consolidate business and target the Mid-Atlantic region. Over the years that followed, the company would go on to consolidate management of the Allen Mutual Insurance Company in 1965, the Eastern Shore of Virginia Fire Insurance Company in 1966, the Farmers American Mutual Fire Insurance Company of Bucks County in 1969, and the Towamensing Mutual Insurance Company in 1975. The company today sits on the main street of downtown Ephrata, PA. Since moving on July 1, 1982, this location has represented the history of creative underwriting at the companies that formed the Windsor-Mount Joy Mutual Insurance Company. Throughout the history of the company, they have shown a strong ability to compete with larger carriers by finding niche markets to serve. Since moving to Ephrata, the company has continued to expand by acquiring the Farmers Mutual Insurance Company of Dug Hill in 2009, the Washington Mutual Fire Insurance Company of Lawrence County, PA in 2010, and many others. While many of the same principles apply to insurance as they did in 1844, the methods of delivering coverage and determining risk have changed. The company has always been proud to offer high-quality customer service, and now with a focus on competing in the digital era, they can be closer to clients than ever before. The leadership of Windsor-Mount Joy, Michael Klinefelter, President and CEO, Douglas Underwood, Chief Operating Officer, and their colleagues, are taking the company forward by utilizing technology and metadata to assess risk better, allowing agents to write and learn about policies offerings remotely, and providing 24/7 coverage when a claim occurs. Technology has allowed the company to communicate with policyholders, agents, and employees in ways that make the business of insurance stronger and improve customer relations. Behind the technology is a knowledgeable staff that understands the needs of their customers and are available to provide expert assistance throughout the claims and underwriting processes. The winds of change have steered the vessel that is Windsor-Mount Joy Mutual Insurance ever forward with a focus on creative policy offerings, strong underwriting practices, and flexible dedication to serving their policyholders' distinct needs. Interested in working with Windsor-Mount Joy Mutual Insurance and G.R. Klinefelter? Click here to get in touch with their team today. This article was originally featured in Pulse by PAMIC

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Credit Freezes - Pros and Cons

July 5, 2020

The recent revelation by Equifax that the personal records of more than 145 million Americans were potentially compromised has caused a lot of concern about who can access an individual’s credit information. In addition to personal identification information, such as Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers and addresses, credit bureaus monitor payment and loan information for existing accounts. While freezing credit records may seem like a good idea, there can be negative implications as well. Helping clients decipher the credit check process is another value added service of the professional insurance agent. The federal Fair Credit Reporting Act imposes strict limitations on who can legally access credit information, such as those you give written authorization to or those you have a credit relationship with. Reasons that companies check a person’s credit extend far beyond the obvious ones of buying a home or applying for credit. Credit scores can come into play when purchasing or renewing insurance, including life insurance. For example, an insurer may run a credit check to write or renew an auto insurance policy. If the insurer is blocked when trying to run the credit check, the lack of information may bump the insured into a higher rating tier. Potential employers also routinely check credit reports. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates that victims of identity theft spend an average of 6 months and 200 hours of legwork to restore their identity. The fraudulent charges and defaults can remain on the credit report for years. Free resources are available on the FTC website. ( Some credit card companies offer free credit monitoring, and others offer free credit scores. Identity theft recovery services provide assistance in repairing credit history when an identity theft has occurred. Beware of scammers who call offering such services. Also, use care when entering website address information as there may be fraudulent sites with very similar addresses. Credit monitoring is not the same as a credit freeze. Credit monitoring services notify you when an account has been opened in your name. A credit freeze blocks all access to credit information. The freeze will not impact your credit score, nor will it block access to your report from existing creditors or debt collection agencies acting on their behalf. Anyone with existing credit freezes prior to the Equifax incident does not need to do another freeze, but having a freeze did not prevent the information in the account from being compromised. A separate credit freeze must be requested from all three bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. A PIN is needed to unfreeze the account, and there may be a charge associated with freezing and unfreezing. This fee is waived in instances where someone has been the victim of identity theft. When requesting a freeze, either online or over the phone, be prepared to write down and save the PIN since you may not have another chance to hear it, and unfreezing the report is significantly more difficult and time consuming without the PIN. Not all potential employers or lenders check all three bureaus, so a freeze should be placed with all three. Having information compromised does not necessarily mean the identity has been stolen right away, or at all. If it does occur, victims of actual identity theft should contact one of the three credit bureaus to place a fraud alert in their report. The selected bureau will notify the other two bureaus. Data breaches and exposure of personal information can be a costly, time-consuming and scary situation. Helping clients understand the credit report process, and ways they can protect their information, is another sign of the true insurance professional. This article was previously published in the Insurance Advocate® and is provided courtesy of MSO®, Inc. (The Mutual Service Office, Inc.) for non-commercial use only. For any other licensing requests or permissions, please contact © MSO®, Inc. 2020. MSO provides advisory services for all property and casualty lines except workers compensation. This includes customized forms and manuals for insurers, MGA's and agents/brokers. Additional information is available at

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An Introduction to Hold Harmless and Indemnity Agreements

June 30, 2020

Transfer of risk is a key component of most contracts. “Indemnify” and “hold harmless” are terms that are commonly seen, and often misunderstood, in contractual agreements. These agreements may be made between companies, individuals or a combination of the two. Helping clients decipher what hold harmless provisions mean and how they are used is a sign of a true insurance professional. An indemnity or hold harmless agreement offers protection against financial loss for claims resulting from certain activities. For example, a general contractor (GC) may require their subcontractors to hold the GC harmless for damages due to the subcontractor’s activities. A hotel may require a group to hold the hotel harmless while renting the hotel for an event. In most cases, the funding for the hold harmless agreement comes in the form of an insurance policy. In general, there are three different forms of hold harmless or indemnity agreement: limited, intermediate and broad: With a limited form, the contractor (Party A) is held proportionally responsible for their liability for negligence or activities. Party A agrees to assume liability for any damages that are due to Party A’s sole negligence and for which Party B may be held vicariously liable. Under the intermediate form, the contractor (Party A) or subcontractor accepts liability for their own activities and negligence, but not those of others, such as the general contractor (Party B). Party B would still be protected if they are held vicariously liable for the acts of Party A. In the broad form, one party (Party A) accepts liability for actions of others, including negligence, even if Party A had nothing to do with the activity that caused the damage or claim. There is a generally held perception that these agreements are coercive in nature; i.e. that Party B will not hire Party A without the broad form agreement. For that reason, this type of hold harmless agreement is sometimes determined to be illegal ( Hold harmless and indemnity agreements may be unilateral or mutual. In a unilateral agreement, one party agrees to waive their rights of recourse against another party. For example, subcontractors are routinely asked to hold the general contractor harmless for any and all activities. In a mutual or reciprocal agreement, the parties agree to hold each other harmless. Often found in oil and gas operations, the mutual hold harmless means that each party agrees to pay for damage to their own property and injury to their own personnel, including any consequential losses. This is usually done in cases when there is a low risk of loss, or the parties are equal in terms of bargaining power ( The agreements may be created and signed either before or after an event happens. Some insurance policies stipulate that the hold harmless must be signed prior to the event. An exception to this requirement is in the case of a landlord/tenant relationship. Why might one need a hold harmless or indemnity agreement? The reasons are numerous. Any time you enter into an agreement where there is risk of financial loss, a hold harmless or indemnity agreement may be required: for example, when renting a location for an event, or signing a lease. Sometimes the terms “indemnify” and “hold harmless” are used interchangeably. This is not always accurate. An agreement to indemnify means that the indemnifier agrees to reimburse the indemnitee for liability that arises out of certain circumstances. The indemnitee may first be required to pay for and provide their own defense and settlement. In contrast, under a true “hold harmless” agreement, the party that is held harmless does not have to respond to a claim – the responsibility is transferred to the party holding them harmless. This can have a significant financial impact on the indemnitee. Careful review of the contract wording is essential to clarify the parties’ responsibilities. A properly crafted hold harmless agreement is especially important in cases of joint and several liability. Joint and several liability means that one party can be responsible for paying the entire judgement – even if they are only minimally responsible for the damage or injury. Indemnification and hold harmless are common terms in contractual liability, and may be found in all aspects of society. Helping clients understand their use is another value-added service of a professional insurance agent.

This article was previously published in the Insurance Advocate® and is provided courtesy of MSO®, Inc. (The Mutual Service Office, Inc.) for non-commercial use only.  For any other licensing requests or permissions, please contact © MSO®, Inc. 2020.

MSO provides advisory services for all property and casualty lines except workers compensation. This includes customized forms and manuals for insurers, MGA's and agents/brokers. Additional information is available at

Read More