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Windstorm insurance is important for anyone insuring a personal or business property on or near coastal waters. If you’re new to one of Texas’ 14 coastal counties or to the Texas Windstorm process, navigating the maze of windstorm regulations can be as perilous as sailing through stormy waters.

Texas has a unique method of handling windstorm and hail insurance. Unlike many other coastal states that have uniform laws and regulations, Texas favors a market-lead system with varying degrees of regulation between counties. The lack of uniformity and consistency can cause confusion, uncertainty and mistakes – with big costs to home and business owners who fail to get proper certification during construction or renovation projects, then later attempt to obtain windstorm insurance.

This guide examines the most important things you need to know before, during and after obtaining windstorm insurance in Texas.

Beginings of a Tornado.

Overview

There is no requirement for Windstorm Insurance in Texas, but almost any mortgage company will require coverage as part of their terms. Even if you are building your own structure, from your own pocket without use of a mortgage, it is a good idea to build any structure compliant to windstorm specifications. Because inspections can only be made during construction, the Certificate of Compliance is a major selling point guaranteeing code compliance and windstorm insurance eligibility. If you build or renovate a major structure without obtaining a Certificate of Compliance, re-selling the structure down the road can be very challenging as it will be ineligible for windstorm insurance or will require a heavy surcharge to the policy premium.

It is important to have windstorm protection well before a hurricane is projected to come near your home or business. Once a hurricane enters the Gulf of Mexico, you can no longer purchase new or additional windstorm insurance coverage in Texas until after the storm has made landfall and cleared your area.

Flood insurance is equally important to coastal home and business owners, but offers no protection from wind or hail damage. Just as flood insurance doesn’t provide for wind damage, windstorm insurance provides no protection from flooding. Coastal residents would be well-advised to obtain both types of insurance.

COASTAL COUNTY RESIDENTS:

BEFORE You Build, Repair or Remodel Inquire about a Windstorm Insurance Inspection
The Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA) is the state’s insurer of last resort for wind and hail coverage in the 14 coastal counties and parts of Harris County. TWIA provides wind and hail coverage when insurance companies exclude it from Homeowners and other property policies sold to coastal residents or businesses.

If you planning to build or renovate any structure in the counties listed below, then you are advised to contact your insurance agent about the Windstorm Inspection Program in order to obtain or maintain windstorm and hail insurance through TWIA.

Coastal Counties and Areas Effected:

Aransas, Brazoria, Calhoun, Cameron, Chambers, Galveston, Jefferson, Kenedy, Kleberg, Matagorda, Nueces, Refugio, San Patricio, Willacy, or in the following cities if your property is located east of State Highway 146 in Harris County: La Porte, Morgan’s Point, Pasadena, Seabrook, or Shore Acres

While not required for all construction, the following projects typically require an inspection for windstorm insurance purposes:

  • New Structures
  • Additions
  • Alterations
  • Re-roofs
  • Repairs

Windstorm insurance inspections under this program must be made by either a Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) inspector or an engineer who has been appointed by the Commissioner of Insurance.
Important: TDI inspectors are unable to inspect a property after construction is completed. Therefore, all inspections must be made during the construction phase. A good rule of thumb is to call for an inspection immediately after your building material has been delivered and before construction begins.

If you have any questions or need additional information, call your Insurance Agent or visit the TDI web-site at: www.tdi.texas.gov or call the Austin Office or one of the field offices.

Austin  800-248-6032 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 800-248-6032 FREE  end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Beaumont  409-833-3756 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 409-833-3756 FREE  end_of_the_skype_highlighting
LaMarque   409-986-9552 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 409-986-9552 FREE  end_of_the_skype_highlighting or 281-474-5025 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 281-474-5025 FREE  end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Angleton   979-848-0953 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 979-848-0953 FREE  end_of_the_skype_highlighting or 979-244-9451 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 979-244-9451 FREE  end_of_the_skype_highlighting or 361-552-2501 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 361-552-2501 FREE  end_of_the_skype_highlighting
Corpus Christi   361-421-4675 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 361-421-4675 FREE  end_of_the_skype_highlighting or 956-421-467

Inspections Overview

The Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) is the primary government agency involved with windstorm insurance. TDI offers free inspections to new construction and renovation projects. These inspections should be scheduled through your contractor and must be conducted during the construction phase. Once a project has been completed, TDI inspectors are no longer able to grant approval to your structure.

Because TWIA processes and rules are not flexible under any circumstances, it is important that you hire a builder/contractor who is familiar with and follows the guidelines. Cutting financial corners during construction can cost you more money in the long run. Likewise, the TWIA policy and procedures for writing and binding coverage correctly are very specific and do not allow for any exceptions to their rules. It is also important that, when selecting an Insurance Agent, you choose someone who is very familiar with TWIA to be sure you have the proper coverage and endorsements.

How to Write a Will | Farmers Insurance

When it comes to topics that aren’t fun to think about, our own mortality ranks among the worst, right up there with getting audited by the IRS. Of course, death and taxes are paired together for a reason: They’re both as inevitable as they are unpleasant.

Unfortunately, admitting it’s a rather unsettling topic doesn’t make it any less important to plan for the inevitable, and that means making sure you always have an updated will. If you were to die, you can have peace of mind now, knowing your assets will be passed to your loved ones according to your wishes.

Here are the steps to take and the elements to keep in mind when you draft your will:

The Basics

1. Understand what a will is

You’ve probably heard the term before, but a will is a legally enforceable document that provides instructions as to how you want your property distributed after your death. This may include, but not be limited to, instructions on:

  • Where your money should go.
  • Who will take ownership of any real estate you own.
  • A guardian for your children.

2. Know how you write a will

Wills can be as basic or as elaborate as you wish. You can even write out your will right now on a sheet of paper, although without witnesses or a notary, it might not be legal in your state. There are other, more professional means, though. Dozens of computer programs and templates are available to help you write a will, and many attorneys specialize in wills, probate and estate law.

To be safe and legal, though, it’s important to:

  • Work with a lawyer to draw up your will.
  • Have at least two witnesses there to verify that you signed it yourself.
  • Have the will notarized.

For a will to be valid, you must be in sound judgment and mental capacity at the time you sign it, and, in most states, you must be at least 18 years old. You don’t have to file it with any government agencies, but be sure it’s clearly marked as your will, and kept in a safe, but not hidden, place.

 

Elements of a Will

1. Your Assets, or What are you willing?

Whether it’s a long list or a short one, it’s important to make a list of all the assets you own. Include all of your:

  • Bank accounts
  • Credit cards
  • Investments
  • Retirement funds
  • Properties
  • Money that will be paid from your life insurance policy

Keep in mind that this list can and should be updated frequently as your assets and life changes.

You can even account for social media in your will just as you would any other property. You can appoint an online executor – someone to manage or close your email accounts and profiles. Your executor should have a list of any websites where you have a profile, along with your user names and passwords.

 

2. Your Beneficiaries, or Who are you willing to?

The people whom you designate to receive your assets are called your beneficiaries. In most cases, these include your spouse, children and immediate family. Beneficiaries can also be organizations that you want to support, life-long friends, or even total strangers. Just remember to include both primary and secondary beneficiaries in case the primary ones die before you or don’t meet the conditions for getting your assets.

You can get as specific as you need to in your will, to make sure that your son inherits your heirloom pocket watch or your granddaughter gets your car. You also have the right to specify certain conditions for getting your assets. Now, you might not be able to make your cousins stay one night in a haunted mansion, but you can set aside money for your daughter contingent on her graduation from high school or for your nephew to start that small business he’s always wanted. Specifics like these may not be legally binding in some states, which is one reason you should consult a lawyer.

2.5. What about your kids?

If you have minor children, you need to decide who will become their guardians. In most cases, that’s the surviving parent, assuming you share custody, but it still needs to be specified in the will. You’ll also need to pick a legal guardian should something happen to both parents. This decision should not be taken lightly and, just as importantly, it should be discussed with the potential guardians.

 

3. Your Executor, or Who makes sure this happens when you’re gone?

What good are all these decisions and wishes if no one carries them out? That’s where the “executor” comes in. This person is named in the will, and ensures that your estate is divided up as you will it. For obvious reasons, this should be someone you trust. He or she will also be responsible for paying any debts that are associated with your estate and distributing your remaining assets. According to USA.gov, the executor is legally obligated to follow the wishes written in the will. You can consult an attorney to help you determine who is the best choice to be your executor.

 

Important Questions to Ask

What happens to your will after you die?

1. After you die, your executor will file paperwork with the local probate court. (Probate is a legal process that takes place after someone dies.)

2. During probate, your executor proves your will is valid.

3. Once that’s been validated, he or she will inventory your property, pay debts and taxes, and distribute the remaining property as the will (or state law, if there’s no will) directs.

An important difference between wills and life insurance is that the distribution of life insurance proceeds can’t be contested. Life insurance is a contract between you and the life insurance company and the death benefit will go to your beneficiaries (with few exceptions) – not probate.

 

What can happen if you don’t have a will?

Dying without a will (known as dying “intestate”) can be a problem for your loved ones, and make the pain of dealing with your passing all the more frustrating. Laws vary from state to state. In most situations, the bulk of your property goes to your next of kin, usually your spouse or children. However, depending on the state, your property may:

  • Go to your spouse, even if you have children together.
  • Get divided up among your spouse and descendants.
  • Become a battle between parents and siblings.

Even if you told everyone in your family what you wanted, if it’s not in writing, your wishes may not be followed.

Discussing what will happen after your death is not pleasant, but it’s an important thing to do. When you feel the time is right, talk to a lawyer and start drawing up your will. Remember, it can be changed or updated at any time. Then have a chat with your family to make sure they know what to expect after your passing.

How to Maintain a Chimney | Farmers Insurance

There’s nothing quite like getting cozy around a roaring fireplace at home. But over the course of a year, soot, debris, and even animal nests can build up and block your chimney. And that can cause all kinds of problems, from fires to carbon monoxide poisoning!

Make sure to have your chimney professionally cleaned every year. Consider scheduling yours in late September before you plan on using your fireplace…so you’re sure the chimney is clear for the big guy with all the toys:

 

It’s probably the smallest room in your house, but you spend a ton of “quality” time there. That’s why bathrooms have always been one of the most popular rooms to renovate. After all, if you’re going to be in there a lot, starring at the walls, the shower head, or yourself in the mirror, you might as well like what you see right?

If you’re thinking of renovating or remodeling your bathroom, you’ve probably got at least a few ideas in mind. Maybe it’s a color scheme, a tile design, or a super modern bath fixture you saw at the Jones’ house (so jealous!).

But where do you start?

Do you hire a contractor first? Buy all your fixtures and tiles together? What about budgeting…how much should you spend?

To get the bathroom of your dreams, and not go completely insane, it’s important to follow these three major steps:

1. Plan Ahead

Research:

•Measuring! Measure your bathroom top to bottom. Measure dimensions of your shower, toilet, and vanity.
•Know what you want before you buy. Go online, walk around hardware stores, talk to friends, and browse renovation magazines. Use everything at your disposal to find the colors, fixtures, tiles, shower heads, and accoutrements you like.
•Find a good contractor in your area.

Budget:

•According to Remodeling.com, in 2014, bathroom remodeling cost on average $16,128, and netted about $11,688 in resale value. Hard numbers like that can be misleading though, since pricing variables (like material prices, labor costs, etc.) range widely across the country. Generally speaking, you should plan on spending about 12-15% of your home’s value on a really good, full bathroom renovation.

Schedule and plan:

•Define the duration and scope of your renovation. Know exactly what you want changed. And keep in mind that timing depends more on how many renovations or fixtures you’re replacing, than the size of your bathroom.
•Order materials ahead of time. Materials (especially custom-built ones) can take time to arrive. Build that into your plan so your fixtures are available when your contractor needs them.
•If your house only has one bathroom, plan ahead! Have a place where you can shower and “go” when you need to.

2. Design the space

Picking Fixtures:

•Fixtures can be your biggest expense. So to keep costs down, but still get what you want, make a list of “must-haves.” There’ll be a few splurges along the way, but find the best prices for your essentials.
•Don’t get overwhelmed. Focus on a single area of the bathroom at a time, pick your fixtures for each area, and then move onto the next.
•Blend style and functionality. Remember, you’re actually going to be using this room…so find fixtures that make life easier and look good at the same time.

Flooring and Tiling:

•Find the right balance between durable and design tiles. Ceramic, marble, and stone tiles are good for durability and water-resistance. Mosaic and glass tiles are better for color and style
•Use expensive tiles strategically. To cut costs, use fancy tiles as accents or borders, around less expensive, more durable tile. Get creative and make unique patterns!
•Make sure flooring and tiles are well sealed. This is a wet room, and you don’t want to worry about costly water damage later on.

Buying Materials:

•There are generally two ways to buy your fixtures and materials before a job. You can purchase them yourself and look for discounts and good buys on your own. Or you can go through your contractor, who usually gets deep discounts on materials, but may charge a mark up to you.
•Purchase and receive all your parts and fixtures before the work starts!

3. Do the work

Sequence the job:

•First of all, let the contractor do the work. If they’re experienced and trustworthy, you can trust them to do the job well and within the time you’ve agreed on.
•As a good rule of thumb, have your contractor work top down. That means starting at the ceiling, working on the walls and fixtures, and then finishing with the floors. This helps to keep things ordered, timely, and helps protect new components as the job goes on.

The information contained in this page is provided for general informational purposes only, and is not meant as professional or expert advice. Every attempt is made to ensure accuracy and timeliness, however all content is presented without guarantees.

How to Hire a Good Contractor | Farmers Insurance

It may not be a life or death decision, but choosing the right contractor for your remodeling job can mean the difference between a gorgeous renovation and an expensive, endless, stressful nightmare.

You hire a contractor because you want your renovation done on time, with the right materials, and for the right price. But trust the wrong person, and your renovation could get out of hand. So take control of your home and learn how to hire a great contractor.

So when remodeling your home:

1. Conduct a thorough search for contractors

Find a few contractors to choose from and have options:

  • Talk to friends, family, and neighbors…anyone that’s done some renovation in the past.
  • Take a trip to the local lumberyard or quarry. People there see a lot of contractors and often know who has experience and buys quality materials.
  • Look in the Yellow Pages™ and make a few phone calls.
  • The internet is another great resource, but don’t trust everything you read. Sites like Angie’s List™ and the Better Business Bureau® are helpful resources.
  • Get a list of licensed contractors in your area from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

2. Check credentials and work history

When you hire a new employee, you check their resume, contact past employers, and look at their work history right? Well when it comes to hiring a contractor, you’re the boss and your home is the job. So do your research.

You may want to consider looking only for contractors who:

  • Have at least 7 years of experience.
  • Are licensed/bonded in your state.
  • Have a good reputation in your area and with the Better Business Bureau®.
  • Have liability and workers’ compensation insurance.
  • Have no court records for liens, lawsuits or complaints if your state licensing bureau provides that information.

3. Ask important questions

If this is your first time doing renovations, you may not know exactly what to ask or how to protect your interests. And unfortunately, there are dishonest people out there, more than happy to take your money, do shoddy work, and bill you for more. So to weed out the scammers, consider asking important questions like:

  • How long have you been doing business in the area? (Get a list of subcontractors and references)
  • Who are your suppliers? (Talk to the people that supply their materials)
  • Do you usually take on projects this size? (Consider a contractor that’s done this before.)
  • How many other projects do you have going at the same time? (Know they’re not spreading their resources thin)
  • Can you provide a list of other completed projects? (Talk to other people who’ve worked with the contractor or view other properties they’ve worked on)

4. Get multiple bids

Ok, by now you have a smaller list of contractors who are hopefully on the up and up. Speak to each one face-to-face. Give them each the same project specs, pictures of fixtures, lists of materials, blueprints, and anything that will give them a full picture of the job. Then ask them for a bid and a cost breakdown so you can compare price.

A quick note: Consider tossing out lowball offers. It’s good to save money during a renovation, but most of the time, lowball offers don’t mean value; they often mean cutting corners. Remember, this is your home! So focus on quality over price, as long as it’s in your budget.

5. Break down costs and payment schedule

After you’ve decided on a bid and a contractor, know exactly how you’re going to pay them and where your money is going. Ask for a full itemized list of costs for expenses, materials, fixtures, and labor. Then agree to a payment schedule built around specific and measurable project milestones.

As a good rule of thumb, for large projects consider putting 10% down at contract signing, three payments of 25% spread out over the project, and 15% when it’s finished.

6. Review and sign a contract

Before you start the job or put any money down, consider requesting a written contract. Generally speaking, you never want to get any work started or agree to anything that isn’t formalized in a contract, even if you trust the contractor. Don’t run the risk of being taken advantage of. Spell out timetables, required work, materials…everything, in a contract. Then have your lawyer or a trusted adviser review it before you sign.