Insurance Blog

Items filtered by date: June 2019

You’ve decided it's time to replace your outdoor deck and you’re ready to take it on as a DIY project, or you’ve decided to work with a licensed and bonded contractor for the heavy lifting. Before you start on such a critical project, it’s important to know that decking options have grown over the last several years, bringing new choices in composite plastic and wood products from which to construct your deck.

While they often cost more than wood, composite materials offer the promise of greater durability and less maintenance. Wood is still the most common choice for deck material,1 but it doesn't last forever. Composites may be more durable, but they might lack the natural look and color you are looking for. 

In June 2016, CBS News reported that while wood products still have a command on the market, composites are growing in popularity. Synthetic wood commands about 16 percent of the $7 billion-per-year deck market and appears to be gaining some traction.2

From cost to maintenance and durability to look, there are many things to think about as you decide between composite or wood for your next deck. Here are some pros and cons to consider before you decide which product to buy.

Published in Homeowners
Thursday, 27 June 2019 14:40

Massachusetts Cooling-Off Periods

Many consumers who call our hotline mistakenly believe that after they purchase a product they have a “cooling-off period” during which they can cancel the contract.  THIS IS NOT TRUE.  Massachusetts law only provides for cooling-off periods in extremely limited situations.

1. Door-to-door sales: if you make a purchase of goods or services for over $25 at a place other than a
merchant’s usual place of business, you have three days to cancel the contract.  This does not include purchases made completely online, by mail or phone.  It also does not apply to sales for emergency home repairs, or for real estate, insurance or securities.

To cancel the contract, you must notify the seller in writing no later than midnight of the third business day after you signed the contract.  The seller must return your payment within ten business days after receipt of your cancellation notice.  You must allow the seller to pick up the goods at your house, or if the seller requests and you agree, you may ship them at the seller’s expense and risk.

2. Health club contracts: you also have three business days to cancel a health club contract no matter where it was signed.  Health spas, sports clubs, weight control centers, and martial arts schools are all considered health clubs.

The health club must include a notice of your right to cancel in the written contract.  Deliver or mail your written notice to the club within three business days of signing the contract.  The club must refund your money within 15 business days of receiving your letter.

3. Time shares: you have three days to cancel a contract for a time share.

Send a notice of cancellation to the seller no later than three business days after signing the contract.  If you paid by check, a refund must be made immediately, as long as the check was not yet deposited into the seller’s account.  If the check has been deposited, it must be refunded within seven days.  If you paid by credit card, a credit must be made to your account immediately.

4. Credit repair organizations: you may cancel the contract until midnight of the third business day after signing it.  Your payment must be returned within ten days of the organization receiving your cancellation notice.

To be sure the seller received your cancellation notice we suggest you send the notice by certified mail.  And remember, if you buy a good at the retailer’s store or on the internet there is no cooling-off period.

 

For more information on your shopping rights, click here.


 Source: 

 

 

Published in Homeowners
Thursday, 27 June 2019 14:31

Hiring a Contractor Checklist and Tips

As you plan your next home renovation project, choosing the right contractor for the job is a critical first step in your planning process. You want to make sure you vet the quality of their work in advance, spell out in writing what work you want to be performed and agree upon the scope of the project, and inquire whether the contractor is properly licensed and insured in case something goes wrong.

This checklist compiles the top 10 tips to consider when selecting a contractor:

1. Get Multiple Estimates

Talk to several contractors and get written estimates from at least three. Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples when you get multiple estimates. Look at building materials, work methods, timelines and other factors that may vary by contractor. Be cautious of estimates that are too high or too low.

2. Hire Local, Licensed Contractors Whenever Possible

Local contractors are easier to contact if problems develop with the work in the future, and they are more likely to be familiar with building codes in your area. Ask the contractor for their local, physical address. Be suspicious of anyone who goes door-to-door or refuses to leave a contract overnight.

3. Check Their Past Work

How has their work turned out in the past? Do they specialize in the kind of work you want to be done? Check references about the quality of their products, their workmanship, and their customer service. Inquire about their professional reputation and years in business with the Better Business Bureau. A contractor with more than five years of experience is preferable.

4. Take Your Time Making a Sound Decision

Get multiple bids before making a decision. Don’t be pressured into making an immediate decision, particularly with regard to signing a contract. Be cautious when asked to pay a large deposit up front. Make sure to read the fine print on all estimates and contracts. If you’re having emergency repairs done and don’t have time to thoroughly research a contractor, ask neighbors, family or friends to see if they have had a good experience with an emergency services contractor.

5. Check Their Insurance and Bonding

Make sure the contractor is properly insured and bonded. Ask the contractor for a certificate of insurance (COI), which should provide the name of the insurance company, policy number and policy limits the contractor carries. You can contact the insurance company directly to verify the coverage and make sure the policy is still in effect. Do not do business with a contractor who does not carry the appropriate insurance coverage. If the contractor is not insured, you may be liable for accidents that occur on your property.

6. Get Everything in Writing

Secure a comprehensive contract before work begins. Get everything in writing, and make sure the contract is clear and well written. Consider having a lawyer review the proposed contract for your protection before you sign it if the project involves substantial costs. The contract should include:

  • A detailed description of the work to be completed and the price of each item.
  • A payment schedule – for example, one-half down and one-third when work is partially completed, and the balance due upon completion of repairs.
  • The estimated start date and completion date on larger projects.
  • Any applicable guarantees, which should be written into the contract and clearly state what is guaranteed, who is responsible for the guarantee, and how long the guarantee is valid.
  • Signatures from both parties. You should never sign a contract containing blank sections.

Changes to the contract should be acknowledged by all parties in writing. Ask the contractor for confirmation that he or she has obtained all applicable building permits. If you decide to cancel a signed contract, you should follow the contract’s cancellation clause. Written notification of the cancellation should be sent by registered mail to ensure you have proof of the cancellation.

7. Understand Your Right to Cancel

Federal law may require a “cooling-off” period, in which you can cancel the contract without penalty. Check with the Federal Trade Commission and the laws of your state to understand your rights. Be sure to follow applicable rules during the cooling-off period. If you do cancel, consider sending the notice of cancellation by registered mail to ensure you have proof of the cancellation.

8. Don’t Pay Up-Front

Don’t pay for the entire project before it is completed. Make sure you make checks payable to a company, not an individual and do not pay in cash. For larger projects, it is standard practice to pay one-third of the estimated costs as an initial payment. That way, you can retain your cashed check as a receipt.

9. Anticipate Delays

Delays happen, and may not be the fault of your contractor. In spite of the timeline outlined in your contract, circumstances such as weather may prevent the work from remaining on schedule. Be realistic and prepare to adjust your plans accordingly.

10. Keep a Job File

Keep your contract and all the supporting documents in one folder. Your file should also contain any change orders, plans and specifications, bills and invoices, canceled checks, and certificates of insurance and any letters, notes, or correspondence with the contractor.

Ready for the Next Step?

Baldwin | Welsh & Parker specialize in customized insurance plans to fit your unique needs. We focus on understanding you and providing competitively priced plans so that you'll feel right at home working with us. If you’re ready to take the next step, click here to get a quote.

Source: Travelers

 

 

Published in Homeowners
Wednesday, 26 June 2019 16:43

FTC Announces Victories Against Robocalls

While the Federal Communications Committee (FCC), U.S. Senators, and telecommunications companies are making progress in the fight against robocalls, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced their own progress against illegal robocalls.

  1. They stopped the operator of a series of sham charities called "Veterans of America," an organization that falsely claimed it was a charity and that donations were tax deductible.
  2. Three individuals who were part of a scam that sent false robocalls to small business owners to get their money agreed to a ban in the case against Point Break Media.
  3. There was a double victory in the NetDotSolutions case: three defendants who provided autodialers to place illegal robocalls are now banned from supplying autodialers to telemarketers.
  4. Defendants in the Higher Goals Marketing case agreed to a telemarketing ban after operating a credit cared debt-relief scheme. Several of the defendants had previously worked another closed and similar operation, Life Management Services case.

Although the FTC is successfully stopping some illegal robocalls, it is clear that it's not enough. As in the case of Higher Goals Marketing, some of the people who worked there utilized their tactics again with Life Management Services, proving that new operations can be set up by those who worked at formerly banned companies.

Published in Scams

This article is an update to our October 2019 post about ways to reduce the number of annoying robocalls.


Congress And Government Agencies Move Toward Stopping Illegal Robocalls

In early June, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed a ruling that allows and encourages phone companies to block robocalls by default. USTelecom, a trade group that represents telecommunications providers, applauded the FCC's proposal. "The criminals that are scamming consumers with this flood of illegal robocalls must be confronted by industry and government head-on," the group's president and CEO Jonathan Spalter said in a statement. "This is a big and bold proposal by the FCC that can bolster our industry's cutting-edge call blocking and authentication efforts and do something important: stop unwanted calls from reaching consumers in the first place."

Published in Personal Safety

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