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Baldwin / Welsh & Parker

Baldwin / Welsh & Parker

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

 

 

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.

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."

Ohio was hit by tornadoes in mid-May. New Jersey was under tornado watches at the end of May. After 376 consecutive weeks (more than seven years), the California drought has officially ended. Earlier in the year, Governors declared states of emergency in Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri, and North Dakota, and thousands of flights were canceled or delayed due to extreme weather in the midwest that caused devasting floods in the region.

Here at home, New England experienced the rainiest spring on record. And now we have to think about the Atlantic hurricane season? The natural question is, what’s in store of us here in New England?

 

It's Atlantic Hurricane Season. Are You Ready?

Hurricanes are massive storm systems that form over warm ocean waters and move toward land. Potential threats from hurricanes include powerful winds, heavy rainfall, storm surges, coastal and inland flooding, rip currents, tornadoes, and landslides. The Atlantic Hurricane Season begins June 1st and ends November 30th. And now is the time to prepare.

Thursday, 23 May 2019 13:10

How to Pack for a Move [Video]

Moving day can be an exciting time for your family. But if you haven't planned ahead, the task for packing can be overwhelming. Here are three tips for a smooth packing process.

Anyone who has moved likely can tell you a tale or two about boxes packed at the last minute, perhaps when the moving truck was already parked out front: boxes where the contents of a cabinet got swept up in one fell swoop, never to be opened again, a perfect pre-move time capsule. Don’t let this happen to you!

Having a good packing system is your friend when it comes to a move. If you follow a three-step process, you’ll eliminate what you don’t need, organize what you choose to keep and then label it so that you can find it when you arrive at your new home. Our packing tips for moving:

Step 1: Pare Down Your Belongings

Moving more than you need wastes both time and money. You may be forced to pay to dispose of furniture that’s a poor fit at your new home, when with a bit of advance planning, you can sell it before you move. Be honest with yourself about what should make it onto the moving truck.

Organize your possessions into four categories:

  • Trash/Recycle. Start by weeding out all of the things that you clearly don’t need, such as old toiletries, broken appliances, piles of newspapers and magazines, stained clothing unfit to donate and outdated electronics.
  • Sell. From old sporting equipment to a spare sofa, there may be a market for your unwanted items. Allow time to post them for sale, find a buyer and arrange for timely pick up.
  • Donate or give away. Ask family and friends if they are interested in taking extra items, or contact a non-profit. Some will arrange to pick up furniture and other household items in good condition. 
  • Pack. These are things that you can’t live without. Think useful, valuable or sentimental. Remember that the single best moving tip is to reduce the amount of things you have to move. That takes time, so get started early and stay committed to being organized. 

Once you have divided your items into these categories, act quickly before you change your mind.

3 steps for moving list graphic

Step 2: Organize Your Items

Create an inventory to track the items that you will move. This will help you estimate the moving cost with the moving company and keep track of items during your move, including documenting lost or damaged items. Your inventory can include the condition and value of items, as well as the room where they will go in your new home.

Organize items by areas of the house, their material and the frequency of their use. Pack decorative wall hangings and items that are rarely used first, with other similar items that are used in the same room. As you pack, remember that household items, including socks and t-shirts, can also make for handy, and free, packing materials to help keep dishes and other breakables safe. 

As you pack, number each box and track the numbers on your spreadsheet, so you know that the coffee maker is in “Kitchen – Box 11,” not just in one of a dozen boxes labeled “Kitchen.” You can download moving apps on your smartphone to guide you through building an inventory and creating bar codes that you can print out and place on boxes help keep track of your items.

Step 3: Label Everything

Gather your packing supplies, including boxes, packing tape, scissors, newspaper, markers, and labels. Consider using color-coded electrical tape to help you quickly identify boxes. Label the tops and sides of boxes by number, category, and room in your new home. Clearly mark boxes containing breakable items as “FRAGILE.” Label boxes that should be opened right away and others that can wait until you are more settled.

It’s helpful to create an “open first” box with key items that you’ll need first, such as a change of clothes, tools and a first aid kit. Also set aside a moving documents folder, with the contract for the moving truck, tip for the movers, and any other paperwork you might need on moving day. That way, when the moving truck pulls up out front, you’ll be ready to roll.  

Following a process that helps you be organized for your move can help ensure a smoother experience as you transition from one home to the next.

When you’re ready to take the next step, click here to get a homeowners insurance quote or call us at 800-590-5383 for a renter's or homeowners insurance policy quote.

 

 

Ever wonder what dictates the rate you’re being charged for the insurance on your home?

Every insurance company rates differently, but here are some factors your insurer could be taking into consideration.

  1. Marital Status – history shows married couples are less likely to file a claim, which means a married couple might get a lower rate than a single homeowner.
  2. Dog Breed – certain dog breeds are considered more dangerous and more likely to injure someone on your property, so your home’s liability insurance may cost more if you own a dog of a particular breed.
  3. Age and Type of Roof – newer and certain types of roofs hold up longer and protect your home better. That means that if you have an older roof or a roof of a certain material, your home could cost more to insure.
  4. Age and Structure of Home – older homes and those built with certain materials are typically harder and/or more expensive to replace and could result in a higher rate.
  5. Distance to Nearest Fire Station – the closer your home is to a fire station, the quicker they can get to you in an emergency. So if you live close to a fire station (or fire hydrant), your premium may be lower.
  6. Property Amenities – pools, hot tubs, and trampolines all raise the likelihood of someone getting injured on your property. Some insurance companies will raise the amount you’re charged for liability insurance on your home if you own items of this nature. Others may not even insure you.
  7. Claims History – studies show the more claims you’ve filed in the past, the more likely you are to file new claims in the future. The cost of previous claims is also important. The claim history on your home is probably one of the most likely rating factors your insurer is taking into consideration.

The deductible amount, replacement cost, and liability limit on your policy also play a part in your premium rate. These factors differ from others because you have some control over them when setting up your policy.

Remember, every insurance company rates differently so your insurer may not look at all of these factors and could be considering others not mentioned. To learn more about rating factors, talk to your independent insurance agent.


Source: https://www.insurance.com/home-and-renters-insurance/home-insurance-basics/5-factors-that-affect-rates.html_

 

On December 21, 2018, Massachusetts Governor Baker signed a statute requiring registration and taxation of short-term rentals of residential properties in the state which must be a period of less than thirty-one consecutive calendar days. The following is a snapshot of the new law and how it affects those who rent rooms or properties through websites such as Airbnb, VRBO and others. 

"…an owner-occupied, tenant-occupied or non-owner-occupied property including, but not limited to, an apartment, house, cottage, condominium or a furnished accommodation …where: (i) at least one room or unit is rented to an occupant or sub-occupant; and (ii) all accommodations are reserved in advance…"

Tuesday, 23 April 2019 12:10

Disrupting Distracted Driving

You've heard about the typical distractions, such as texting while driving, chatting with friends, changing the radio station, but how about these crazy reasons for distracted driving accidents?

  • Susan Laine was driving down the street and saw a man balancing his laptop on his steering wheel.
  • Someone scared the living daylights out of Darnell Martin when the driver of the car he was riding in took his eyes off the road to reach into the back seat for a slice of pizza while traveling about 40 mph.
  • Imagine the surprise Jessica Bryant had when she saw someone painting their toenails while cruising down the road.
  • “Someone I knew took a lovely photo of the sunrise doing about 75-80 mph in the fast lane on I-75,” Lori Gillespie said.
  • “I shaved my legs while driving to a wedding once,” Kay said in her post. “The nicks alone were enough to teach me a lesson.”
  • Andrea Grace said she tried to open a package she received in the mail and realized the combination of trying to drive and see what she had just didn’t work out too well.
  • And there are more instances of distractions such as changing clothes, opening mail and packages, steering with a knee or an elbow, reading, and shaving -- all behind the wheel while driving.

While these accounts from motorists seem outlandish, and even silly, they happen more than most of us would care to admit. And they are dangerous. What's worse, is that these occurrences of distracted driving are not uncommon -- they are just a small sampling wide-ranging distracted driving actions.

Everyone Can Play a Role in Preventing Distracted Driving

More than 37,000 people died on U.S. roads in 2017 — a staggering number. Policymakers, law enforcement, and victims' families point to distracted driving as an important contributing factor. However, contrary to popular belief, distracted driving does not have to involve a phone. In fact, the phrase 'distracted driving' refers to a broad range of activities -- any activity that distracts your brain from the task at hand.


Distracted Driving Isn't Just About Texting While Driving

Three Travelers executives relay how everyone on the road can combat distracted driving:

When you rent a vehicle do you familiarize yourself with the controls, such as the lights and windshield wipers, while you’re driving? Do you ever eat a burger or have a cup of coffee while you’re behind the wheel? All of these behaviors can be distractions that force drivers to take their eyes off the road.

“Distraction isn’t just about texting,” said Pete Gulbrandsen, Vice President of National Auto at Travelers. “It’s really anything that distracts you; even just your brain wandering.” Gulbrandsen is one of several Travelers leaders taking part in the Travelers Institute® Every Second Matters℠ symposium series, which is raising awareness about distracted driving risks through events on college campuses across the United States and Canada.

We’ve all heard about distracted driving studies and listened to warnings issued from the NHTSA, National Safety Council, and a slew of car insurance companies. Distracted driving is responsible for millions of auto accidents and thousands of deaths per year.

So why don’t we just stop, put down our phones, and focus on the road? For many drivers, it's not easy to change habits. Yet the struggle against distracted driving is bigger than statistics and public service announcements. We all need to pitch in to help stop distracted driving. Here are five easy ways to do that.

#1 Be an Example: It sounds easy, but in today’s digitally connected world this is very difficult for many. If you want your friends and loved ones to stop using their mobile phones and indulging other dangerous habits behind the wheel, the change starts with you. Make sure while driving that your phone is silenced and stored in a place where you won’t be tempted to check it, even if you have to store the phone in a closed compartment. Your friends might think you’re nuts, but your devotion to their safety and focus on the road will wear off on them!

#2 Insist on Safety: You might have to endure some eye rolls and heavy sighing, but it is worth it. Every time you get in the car as a passenger, encourage others, especially the driver, to silence their phones. We don’t want to cost you any friends but insisting that the driver silences his or her phone is pretty important. You could also volunteer to drive, which will continue to reinforce your good example to the people around you and help alleviate some eye rolling.

#3 Slow Your Roll: We all know driving too fast is dangerous, but these days, we are in such a rush that we forget to “get ready” before we drive off down the Turnpike. Before you put the car in drive, make sure you are prepped for the trip. Set your GPS destination, find your favorite radio station, finish eating, and finalize those last minute grooming needs all before you begin rolling. A little preparation can go a long way toward saving a life.

#4 Know Your Distractions: There is no doubt about it, some of us are more easily distracted than others, and we each have unique trigger points for distraction. Knowing and understanding what gets you easily distracted can help you avoid those situations, including too many friends in the car, the urge to eat hot french fries from the take-out order (next time put the order in the trunk), or your dog panting in the backseat. Keeping yourself out of these situations before they start will keep you and your passengers safe.

#5 Make Driving Your Quiet Time: Need a little quiet in your life? Consider making your commute your quiet time. Turn off the radio, power down your phone, and don’t be afraid to tell your passengers to zip it.

April is Distracted Driving Month. While the use of cell phones is down, it's not a statistically significant decrease. we must continue the commitment to drive without distractions. https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812665

Sources: Plymouth Rock Assurance

 

Spring has sprung and your home is due for a thorough cleaning but there are a few tasks you should add to your spring cleaning checklist to lower your risk of having an insurance claim while you’re at it. These 10 spring cleaning tips from Central Insurance Companies will improve your home and help prevent home insurance claims.

Spring cleaning your house:

  1. Change and Test Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors. Spring is a good time to change the batteries in your home smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. It is also a good idea to test these units (once a month is recommended) while you are replacing the batteries to ensure they are still working correctly before it is too late.

  2. Clean the Dryer Vent/Hose. It is good to clean the lint hose on your dryer once a year, as some lint may get past the trap. Clean the dryer exhaust duct and under the machine as well. This will help reduce the likelihood of a fire starting and it can even save you money, as you won’t need to run the dryer as long.

  3. Change Heating System Filters. Filters should be changed several times a year, not only during the winter season.

  4. TuneUp Air Conditioner. Have a professional tune up your AC before summer temperatures rise. This could help your AC run better and cooler, and will ensure there are no issues that will come up.

  5. Inspect Water Heater. Check your water heater for leaks or corrosion that need to be repaired. Fixing these issues as they arise will keep repair costs low and help prevent any major damages.

  6. Inspect Window and Door Seals. Before you head outside to start your yard work, check all the seals on your windows and doors to see if there are any cracks in the caulking, where leaks can form and cause damage. If you find any dried out seals, re-caulk them to keep out moisture.

Spring cleaning the outside of your house:

  1. Trees: Trim any dead branches that may be on your property or near powerlines to prevent them from causing damage as the result of a storm. Trim any healthy trees to keep them under control and away from wires.

  2. Roof: Check for any damages that may have been caused during the winter from ice or snow and repair them to reduce the chance of leaks.

  3. Gutters: While you have the ladder out to check the roof, it is a good idea to clean out the gutters too. This will keep the water flowing away from your house and prevent the possibility of water damage and leaks.

  4. Shrubs: Trim any shrubs or bushes near or around your house to deter thieves. Home break-ins increase during the summer months and bushes that are untrimmed provide coverage for criminals.

While these tips will help to prevent any serious damage that could lead to a claim, the best way to guarantee you are protected in the event of an accident is to have the right coverage for your specific needs. And the best way to ensure that you have the coverage you need is to call and speak with our knowledgeable insurance experts at 800-590-5383 to review your current policy or get a free, quick quote.

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