Opinion: Portland Water District’s Interior Plumbing Plan is a Bad Deal

 

Portland Water District has contracted with HomeServe to sell service plans for underground exterior supply and sewer pipes for several years. We’ve posted our advice on these before (see “Should I Buy Water Line Coverage from My Water District?”).

Today, we saw a new offer from PWD, also from HomeServe. It’s called Interior Plumbing and Drainage System Coverage. Here’s how it works: If you have a water or sewer backup inside your home, Homeserve sends a contractor to clear the backup or replace the pipe if necessary. They’ll cover the cost up to $2,500 per visit (max 2 per year).

Like HomeServe’s exterior pipe program, this is NOT INSURANCE. It’s a “service agreement”. The cost is $9.99 per month, about $120 per year. If you own a multi-family, you have to buy a separate agreement for each apartment.

Should You Buy This?dollar sign

For most people, we don’t think so. Here’s why:

  • Most backups are caused by system overflow or blockages in the sewer or drain. Pipes themselves are very rarely damaged;
  • The program doesn’t cover the pipes outside the walls of your home. You have to buy the separate agreement to get that coverage;
  • It doesn’t cover the most expensive parts of a water or sewer backup:
    • damage to your home or belongings;
    • clean up costs to remove water or sewage from your home.
  • You don’t get to choose your own plumber. You have to use the HomeServe contractor;
  • It’s expensive. A typical plumber’s bill to clear a blocked line is $100-$150. Unless you have frequent drain issues, you’re better off putting the $10 a month aside to pay your own plumber if the need arises. Within a year or so, you would have enough to pay for a typical plumber’s visit.

Is This Already Covered by Your Homeowners Policy?

In short, no. “Off the shelf” homeowners policies cover neither damage to pipes; the cost to unclog them; nor property damage from a water or sewer backup.

Most insurance companies sell optional water or sewer backup coverage. This doesn’t cover the plumber’s bill in case of a backup, but it does cover the resulting water or sewer damage to your property. That can cost a LOT more than the $150 plumber’s bill. Yet, the insurance costs much less than PWD’s HomeServe offering. Most companies charge $60-$75 per year.

We do recommend buying water or sewer backup coverage, especially if you have:

  • a finished basement;
  • a sump pump or drain in your basement;
  • a sewer cleanout or other plumbing in your basement floor.

If you have questions about water backup or any other insurance questions, contact your insurance agent or Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance. We’re independent and committed to you.

 

5 Portland Maine Restaurant Owners’ Nightmares – Solved by Insurance

 

Portland Maine is a foodie town. In a city of 65,000, our city hall issues about 600 food prep licenses. Between Beard Award finalists, dining savvy locals and travel magazine-inspired foodie tourists, Portland  is a popular – and challenging – town to run a successful restaurant. The stiff competition raises the bar for everyone. There’s little room for error or bad luck. menu of restaurant disasters

The Unfriendly Fire

You’re careful with your life’s work. But no matter how often you clean your filters, or get your Ansul and fire extinguishers checked, fire is a threat every day. Oils, high temp grills and gas ranges are a delicate combination. The danger doesn’t go away when you close up for the night. Appliances can be left on. Lighted candles can be forgotten. Appliances and extension cords can short out. After a fire, officials will force you to throw out any food for fear of contamination.

The Problem Neighbor

Food bloggers and tourists call Portland “quaint and cozy“. What that really means is we’re wedged into a tight peninsula. It’s not unusual to have 3 or 4 restaurants in one city block – even more in the Old Port. Plus, apartments and offices above. No matter how careful you are, you can be done in by one of your less careful neighbors. A frozen pipe upstairs that leaks into your dining room, or a fire  up the block can shut down YOUR restaurant.

CLOSED, for…?

Diners are fickle. If you’re off line for just a few weeks, even your regulars can find a new spot in a restaurant town like Portland. It can take months – or longer – to get business back to pre-shutdown levels. Meanwhile, you have bills to pay. An estimated 25% of businesses never re-0pen after a disaster. In the restaurant business, that’s probably a lot higher.

The Difficult Diner

No matter how good your restaurant is, not every customer experience is flawless. It isn’t always food-related. People can trip on a carpet or fall on stairs or on the sidewalk. They don’t even have to be your customers. Someone can be injured in your parking lot. Of course, the food business has its own unique hazards. A customer’s stomach flu can sometimes become “food poisoning”; a broken tooth attributed to a piece of shell in their meal.  It’s expensive to defend against these accusations – and expensive to make the situation right if you were in the wrong.

Drinking and…?

Most Portland restaurants have a full bar or good beer and wine list. Alcohol sales can be the difference between a profit and a loss. Of course there are plenty of regular bars in town. That means your diners may have drinks before they arrive at your place, and more after leaving. If they get into an accident on the way home and are found to be over .08, people they harm might sue any business that served the negligent driver. Even if you’re blameless, that lawsuit can be expensive to defend.

Restaurant Insurance to the Rescue

A thoughtful Maine restaurant insurance program can protect your business from all of these nightmares and more. Insurance may not make your worries disappear, but it can help you sleep better after a long night’s work. And, it can keep a terrible day at work from destroying your business. If you own or run a Portland Maine area restaurant, food truck, bakery or other food prep business, call a Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance agent at 207-799-5541. We’ll work with you and your budget to keep your nightmares at bay, so you can focus on what you love most: creating great food.

5 Essentials for Portland Maine Apartment Owners & Landlords

 

Portland Maine has more rental units than any other city in the state – more than 19,000 units according to the 2000 US Census. Portland’s very low vacancy rate – as low as 1% by some estimates – makes it an attractive place to own residential income property.

But landlords know that owning an apartment building is more than just sitting back and collecting rent. From property damage to liability concerns, apartments can threaten your net worth as well as increase it. Here are 5 essentials for you to consider to protect your investment in habitational income property.

Doors, Windows and Locks

It’s basic, but surprising how many landlords ignore the first line of security defense: doors and windows. Make sure the entry doors to your building and each unit are solid wood or steel, with a deadbolt lock. Windows on lower levels should also have solid locks. To protect your tenants and your property, re-key the entry lock every time a tenant moves out. A door peephole is also an appreciated safety feature to allow your tenants to see who’s at their door without opening it.

Intercoms, Alarms and Security Cameras

Maine law requires every rental property to have working smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. That’s just a start. If you own a building with a locked main entry, an intercom is another valuable security feature. Some intercom systems have built-in cameras. Whether you have an intercom or not, a security camera system is also a good idea.Security Camera

Security cameras with a recording device:

  • Provide added security for your tenants;
  • Deter vandalism;
  • Protect you in liability cases, by recording a fall or incident;
  • Document any criminal or nuisance activity.

Proper Tenant Screening

Rental property management companies do a good job of screening potential tenants. If you choose not to use a property manager, you’ll want to use a professional rental application. A proper application asks about job history; income level; pets and number of occupants; and personal references, including prior landlords. The application should also give you permission to do a background check on prospective tenants, including criminal history and a credit check.

If the initial background information report indicates that someone is a desirable tenant, you may want to conduct a quick interview. Of course, the Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination based upon color, disability, race, national origin, gender or sexual preference, religion or family status. But, you can ask potential tenants about pets and their behavior; what hours they work and sleep; smoking; and roommates and frequent guests.

apartment building in Portland Maine

A Good Rental Contract – including a Pet Policy

A good lease agreement spells out the responsibilities of both landlord and tenant. It also outlines grounds for eviction, which will be critical if your tenant turns out to be a payment or behavior problem. Keep signed rental agreements in a secure place.

Your rental agreement should include a pet clause, which limits animals by type, number, size or breed – or prohibits them altogether. Even if your prospective tenant has no pets, their lease should include this clause. They may want to get a pet after they move in.

We recommend that all landlords require renters’ insurance policies. Many renters think that their landlord’s insurance protects their belongings. It doesn’t. Moreover, if someone is injured in your tenant’s apartment and the tenant has no insurance, you can easily be sued for damages. For a more detailed description, read “Should a Portland Maine Landlord Require Renters Insurance?”

Solid Insurance

Even the best managed Maine income properties can still create costly losses for their owners. Good landlord insurance can make the difference between a financial disaster and a manageable expense. At a minimum, your insurance should protect you against:

  • Damage to your property – with an insurance limit sufficient to replace or rebuild.
  • Liability Suits – including injury, damage to others’ property, wrongful eviction, invasion of privacy and slander.
  • Loss of Rental Income – caused by damage to your property

Many landlords set up LLCs or other ownership entities for their real estate. Make sure that the legal owner of the building is an insured on the policy. Depending on your property’s location and characteristics, you might also consider flood or earthquake insurance.

If you have questions about Portland Maine landlord insurance and Maine income property insurance, contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance at 207-799-5541. Noyes Hall & Allen is a partner organization of the Maine Apartment Association, which offers helpful information and member benefits for apartment owners. One of our insurance agents, Dave McKenna, is currently a Committee Member of the MAA. Noyes Hall & Allen is independent and committed to you.

What is Hazard Insurance? Maine Home Insurance Explained

 

Whether you’re buying a home in Falmouth, a condo in Portland or income property in Scarborough, if you’re borrowing money, your lender will ask for proof of “hazard insurance”.

What is Hazard Insurance?

Hazard insurance is just the bank’s term for property insurance. The bank wants to make sure that if a disaster strikes, they will be protected at least up to the amount of your loan. Typical types of hazard insurance in Maine include:

  • Homeowners insurance (sometimes called an HO-3 or HO-5);
  • Condominium Unit Owners Insurance (aka HO-6);
  • Renters insurance (HO-4);
  • Dwelling Fire policy (often used for rental property or camps).

How Much Hazard Insurance Do I Need on My Home?

The bank would prefer to have 100% of your loan protected by property insurance. Sometimes, that’s too much insurance. After all, your insurance will only pay to rebuild your home. Insurance doesn’t cover items such as land, site work, landscaping or other items that are included in the purchase price. Your Maine homeowners insurance agent should help you

  • estimate the cost to rebuild your home;
  • provide cost estimates based upon the coverage you need;
  • provide proof of insurance that will satisfy the bank.

A good insurance agent can help you avoid buying too much – or too little – insurance.

If you have questions about Maine investment property insurance, or protecting your home, camp or condo, contact a Noyes Hall & Allen agent at 207.799.5541 today. We offer a choice of many of  Maine’s preferred property insurance companies, so we can do your shopping for you. As we like to say: “we’re independent and committed to you.”