PA Driver's License Changes
PA instituted Act 81 effective December 27, 2011. This changes the law with respect to junior driver's licenses in an attempt to have junior drivers get more comprehensive training, ease driver distractions and improve safety by increasing the use of safety restraints.
The act requires that learner's permit holders under the age of 18 have supervised behind-the-wheel skill building for a minimum of 65 hours (up from 50 hours). 10 of the added hours need to consist of nighttime driving, while the other 5 must be driven in poor weather conditions. As of December 27, 2011, for the first six months after receiving their junior driver's license, a driver is not permitted to have more than one passenger under age 18, who is not an immediate family member, in their vehicle unless they are accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. If they are accident- and violation-free after 6 months the number increases to 3 passengers. If responsible for an accident or receiving any convictions while under a junior license, they are once again restricted to one passenger.
Drivers and occupants under the age of 18 must wear a properly adjusted and fastened seat belt and children under the age of 8 must be securely fastened in a child restraint system. Failure to comply to this rule is a primary offense, meaning that a driver can be pulled over and cited solely for that violation.
Personal Lines Rate Update
We wrote in our last newsletter about Mutual Benefit rate increases for auto and homeowner's. The homeowner's rate increase was effective in January 2011 and the automobile rate increase was effective in April. Most of these renewals have been processed and reviewed. We have moved some of this business to other markets including Penn National, Travelers, Encompass, Hartford, Foremost and Progressive. The Hartford has a special program targeted to the 50+ market and we have included notice about this program in our newsletter. In many cases, the Mutual Benefit rates remain competitive as a package. Travelers has implemented a rate increase to their homeowner's insurance program which is also not uniform. Flat roofs are targeted for higher increases in the new Travelers rates. The Travelers auto insurance program rates have also changed and renewal policies can be rewritten to a policy with a lower rate. We are looking at most renewals and rating options. Feel free to contact us also to discuss your options. We remain committed to low cost coverage for your personal insurance needs.
Avoiding HVAC Unit Theft
Theft of heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) units has been a growing problem for several years. In fact, some companies are reporting that 25% of all theft claims are from HVAC unit thefts. Why is this? HVAC units contain copper coils, and with the rising price of copper, thieves are working hard to get hold of this valuable metal. Although the stolen copper rarely sells for more than $100, the cost to repair or replace the unit averages $6500. So what can you do to avoid this?
Something as simple as a sign warning of surveillance and alarms may help. In order for a thief to steal the unit, the power must be shut off. If you have a locking power box, or move the power box indoors, this makes it more difficult. Some business owners install their HVAC units on their roof to restrict access, while others suspend the HVAC unit on the side of a building. Cages are available to protect the unit and keep it secure, but should be well designed and not impede service personnel or block necessary HVAC airflow. Finally, various types of alarm systems are available, such as motion sensors and refrigerant pressure alarms. These can be set to alert a security company immediately, and can be used with a camera to send a video clip of the event that triggered the alarm. While more expensive to install, they may save you thousands in the long run.
TR Insurance was proud to be Platinum Sponsor for the Perkiomen Valley Chamber of Commerce Holiday Party on December 8 at the Spring Ford Country Club. This event honors clergy, police, firefighters, civic leaders and public officials and "kicks off" the holiday season with great food and networking.
TR is also proud to be the title sponsor for the Community Music School's Little Night Music concert series. This series of 6 concerts is in its sixth season, bringing outstanding performances by world-class musicians and wonderful art exhibits in the CMS gallery. Visit cmsmusic.org for more info, or to purchase tickets. Hope to see you there!
Heather Frederick is now Heather Coletta - Heather and Mike Coletta were married on November 11, 2011. They live in Spring City with Jacob, Heather's son, and are awaiting the arrival of a new baby in late March, 2012. Congratulations to Heather, Mike and Jake!
Heather and Sue Frederick both completed the CIC course in Personal Lines in September. This is one section of the five part course leading to the Certified Insurance Counselor designation.
Your Building in Winter
Winter brings the threat of freezing temperatures and harsh conditions for both residential and commercial buildings. Following are some common winter threats, and what you can do to avoid them.
One of the most common causes of damage during the colder months is freezing and bursting pipes. If you have a vacation home that you don't use during the winter months, you may want to avoid having to heat the property when no one is there. But failing to keep adequate heat in the building can cause pipes to freeze. One option is to drain the lines so there is no water to freeze. Some pipes are not very well insulated, passing through unheated areas such as crawlspaces, basements or garages. These can be wrapped in pre-molded foam rubber sleeves, fiberglass insulation, or heating tape to keep them from freezing.
As winter recedes, melting snow and ice bring new concerns for building owners. Runoff can bring flooding concerns - in many areas of the country snowmelt is the greatest threat for flooding. The bad news is that flooding from snowmelt is still flooding, so it's not covered by standard commercial or residential insurance policies. You will need to purchase flood insurance coverage to handle this loss. To prevent the loss, be sure to remove snow from your roof whenever possible and keep snowpiles away from your home or commercial building. Make sure that sump pumps are all functioning and that items stored in lower levels are protected from water by storing in plastic containers or elevating them on shelves.
Damage caused by ice, sleet or snow
Ice, sleet and snow can be incredibly destructive to property. The best way to avoid this damage is to be vigilant about removing the ice or snow as soon as possible and keeping your building in good physical condition. Repair any loose shingles on the roof or loose siding on the building. Be sure that windows are sealed properly, and that tree limbs are not hanging over the building - loaded down with ice or snow, limbs can cause substantial damage.
Protecting your building from harsh winter conditions takes a great deal of care. Sometimes despite everything you do to prepare, Old Man Winter packs a little more punch than you bargained for. For help in making sure that your insurance policy provides the correct coverage to handle these weather situations, contact our office.
Mutual Benefit Adds Online Payment Options
Mutual Benefit has introduced a new 24/7 online payment option which became available in January 2012. The bill payment tool is available at Mutual Benefit's public website. Press the rectangular button labeled "Make a Payment." You will have the option to make a onetime payment without registering your policies and payment accounts. The onetime payment option allows payments from a checking or savings account or payments by Visa or Mastercard. You will also be able to register with a user name and password.
Once registered, you can add multiple policies and information for multiple payment accounts. You can initiate payments for one or more policies in a single transaction using a group payment option. You can also enroll online for automatic monthly payments from a checking or savings account. Clients already enrolled in EFT will be registered for the new system automatically and will receive a user name and password by mail.
Registered users can sign up to receive alerts and notifications about their accounts. Registered users can also view payment history, view documents online and make changes to personal and account information. Registered users will be able to schedule a payment for a date in the future (this option is not available for onetime payments). Installment charges remain at $6 per payment for direct bill plans and $2 per month for EFT. The installment charges apply per policy.
We can assist you in registering at the site and in enrolling for automatic monthly payments. Give us a call if you have questions or need assistance.
TR Insurance Group Names Douglas Cook Vice President Of Commercial Insurance
Former Arthur J Gallagher Area Vice President Will Oversee Growth Of Insurance For Area Businesses
COLLEGEVILLE, PA; January 5, 2012. TR Insurance Group, providing a full line of insurance products and services, has named Douglas Cook of Collegeville, Vice President of Commercial Insurance.
Mr. Cook has over two decades experience insuring businesses throughout southeastern Pennsylvania and will be relying on this experience to help TR Insurance Group enhance its ability to serve the insurance needs of area businesses.
"The enhancement of our capabilities of offering commercial insurance will permit TR Insurance Group to assist a larger number of area businesses and their complex insurance needs," noted Randy Riegner, President of TR Insurance Group. "Doug's background with both business and personal insurance and his years of volunteer work in the Collegeville community will greatly benefit TR Insurance Group, our clients and the community."
Before joining TR Insurance Group, Doug was with Arthur J Gallagher, the fourth largest insurance broker in the world. Prior to Gallagher, he held a variety of positions with Liberty Mutual, a Fortune 200 insurance carrier headquartered in Boston, MA.
Mr. Cook has a strong business acumen with an MBA from the University of New Hampshire, BA from Rutgers University, an inactive CPA license and is a Certified Insurance Counselor.
Doug and his wife Mary have been vital residents of Collegeville since 1999.
HSA Contribution Limits for 2012
For 2012, HSA (Health Savings Account) contribution limits increase to $3,100 for individuals and $6,250 for family coverage. Individuals who attain age 55 before the close of 2012 are eligible for an additional contribution of $1,000.