Are Drones Covered by Maine Homeowners or Business Insurance?

Flying Drone

Innovative Maine businesses use drones to literally get a new perspective on their operations.  Land owners survey lots and buildings. Engineers use photos from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in project work.  Photographers and videographers use drones to capture unique images and videos. Marketers use or hire them to create compelling and disruptive visual content. Even individual hobby fliers own drones now.

 

 

Drones: A Money Saving Investment

High quality drones and UAVs are not cheap. It’s easy to invest $15,000 or more in a good quality industrial setup, including cameras and software. Still, that can be a lot less expensive than renting an airplane or helicopter, and offers much more control and flexibility. It’s also safer than sending an employee up on a ladder or bucket to inspect facilities at height. The price of hobby drones has dropped a lot in the last few years. You can find them for less than $1500.

Legal Issues for Drones in Maine

The FAA requires registration of drones and UAVs weighing more than 0.55 lbs. The maximum weight permitted is 55 lbs. Permitted location and other rules vary between pleasure and business use. A remote pilot airman certificate is required as well.

Drone owners and operators face many of the same liability issues as other aircraft pilots. The low altitude operation of UAVs can also create privacy and property issues. Some examples:

  • Injuring someone, either directly, or by causing an auto accident
  • Damaging property by striking it
  • Invasion of privacy or trespass

Even if a claim against you is not valid, defending yourself can cost many thousands of dollars in legal fees in Maine.

Drones are NOT Covered by Standard Insurance Policies

Because drones are considered unmanned aircraft, and subject to FAA regulation, they are excluded from coverage on homeowners or business liability policies. The Maine Bureau of Insurance recommends that you buy separate insurance for your drone. We agree.

Up to now, few insurers have offered insurance on drones. One of our company partners, Acadia Insurance recently introduced a liability insurance plan for businesses that use drones as an incidental part of their ordinary operations.

If you or your Maine business uses a drone or other UAV, contact a Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance agent in South Portland at 207.799.5541. We’d love to hear how you’re using this innovative technology for fun or business. We can help you manage your risk. We’re independent and committed to you.

Portland Maine Airbnb Landlords: New Law, Same Risks

 

The sharing economy creates opportunity and risk for Maine property owners. Many capitalize on the opportunity and create serious rental income. Mainers collected more than $26 million from 175,000 Airbnb guests in 2016. And that doesn’t include other services like HomeAway and VRBO.

Risks of Property Sharing and Short Term Rental

It’s important to consider the risks of short term rental of your property as well as the rewards. You can be liable for guests’ injuries, Guests can damage your property by abuse or negligence. You can run afoul of condo bylaws that prohibit or limit rental. Your neighbors may complain about the activities of your renters. You may jeopardize your homeowners insurance coverage by converting your home, apartment or condo into income property.

Plenty of Portland Maine area residents have those risks, whether they know it or not. More than 650 Airbnb units are actively offered for rent in the area. Owners hosted more than 50,000 guests in 2016, pocketing $7.1 million in revenue.

Portland Maine Regulation of Airbnb and Other Short Term Rental

Portland City Council has been concerned for years about the effect on housing affordability. Some investors have purchased condos and homes to rent them out short term. Portland area rents are at a historic high as the city becomes a trendy work and play destination. Short term rental of apartments and condos reduces the housing inventory for area residents and workers. City officials admit that they have no way to measure how many units are available short term rental.

That’s why City Council passed a law effective January 1, 2018 limiting short term rental activities on the mainland. Island properties are not affected by the new law. What does the law do? Can you still rent out your home or apartment as an Airbnb? Does it matter if you live in the unit you rent? What if you rent a room instead of the whole unit? Here’s a graphic showing how the new law applies to owner occupied principal residences, multi-family units and income property.

Portland Maine short term property rental laws as of January 1 2018

 

Do You Live in Greater Portland, Maine & Own Rental Property?

If you’re a Maine resident who owns income property, contact a Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance agent at 207-799-5541, or request a quote online. You can’t afford to wonder whether your insurance will be there when you need it, to protect your property and other assets.

We can advise you about the local insurance market and help you evaluate your options. Whether you own a home Cape Elizabeth, apartments in Portland, a camp on Sebago Lake, a cottage in Boothbay Harbor or a Sugarloaf ski condo, we know the insurance market. We represent many different insurance companies, so we can survey the market to find the best fit and value.

We’re independent and committed to you.

What are the Highest Rated Insurance Companies in Maine?

 

If we recommend an insurance company you haven’t heard of, it’s natural to ask how good they are. Noyes Hall & Allen represents many insurance companies. Some are more well-known than others.

Because our companies sell through independent agencies, they advertise very little. By contrast, Geico, Allstate and State Farm advertise nationally to create brand awareness. Geico alone spends $1 BILLION on advertising – about 1 out of every 6 insurance advertising dollars in the U.S.

Good rates are important, but that’s only one reason for choosing an insurance company. Will they pay your claims? Are they easy to work with? At Noyes Hall & Allen, we’ve curated a group of insurance companies that we can stand behind. We work closely with them on behalf of our clients.

How to Choose a Good Insurance Company

There are three important considerations when you evaluate a potential insurer:

  • Financial solvency – Can the insurance company can pay claims, even in a disaster? Fortunately, A.M. Best studies insurance companies and rates each one for you. Noyes Hall & Allen only chooses insurers rated “A-” (Excellent) or better.
  • Customer Satisfaction – Feedback from other customers is helpful when evaluating a new insurer. Any company can have complaints; but those with repeatedly good reviews are a better bet to provide good service to you.  The J.D. Power national claims satisfaction survey compiles consumer claim feedback every year. But they focus on big national insurers. That excludes many regional insurance companies, which are so important in the Maine market.

    The Maine Bureau of Insurance indexes home and auto complaints by insurer. It includes Maine’s most important insurance companies. The drawback: the Bureau doesn’t get many complaints each year. That small sample can skew results. The Bureau weighs the ratio of complaints against each insurer to that company’s volume. This weighting levels the playing field. An insurer with an index below 1.00 is “better than average”. Anything above 1.00 is “worse than average”. We’ve included a chart with a recap of those scores below.

  • Fit with Your Situation – If you insure your beach house with an insurance company that has great financials and terrific reviews, but that company doesn’t like property close to the coast, it’s not going to end well. Some insurers specialize. Others are generalists. Some are comfortable insuring rental properties, or snowmobiles. Others focus on high risk drivers.

 

Complaint Index – 2016 – Maine Home and Auto Insurance

We compiled this table from data published by the Maine Bureau of Insurance. It shows the 2 year average of home and auto complaint indexes for the top 25 homeowners and auto insurance companies in Maine (by volume). We assigned a “green light” to the companies with ratings in the top 33%, yellow to the middle 33%, and red to the bottom third. Remember, customer satisfaction is only one way to evaluate an insurance company. The companies with the highest satisfaction may not write the kind of insurance you need.

 

source: Maine Bureau of Insurance. Compiled by Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance

How to Get Quotes from Many Insurance Companies at Once

Noyes Hall & Allen has access to the companies shaded in blue. That’s 11 out of 25, covering more than 50% of the volume in this list. The insurance companies we represent have a complaint index of 0.91 – much lower than the 1.00 average. By the way, insurance agencies have online reviews, too. We’re proud to show the reviews that our clients have left for our agency.

When you contact a Noyes Hall & Allen agent, you’re checking 11 companies at once, backed by our knowledge of where each company excels. Your agent can customize advice to your situation, proposing a solution built just for you.

That’s what we mean we we say we’re “Independent and Committed to You”.  Request a Maine insurance quote today, or call us at 207-799-5541.

Can My Insurance Company Charge Me For a Not at Fault Accident?

You may have heard stories of people whose auto insurance went up after an accident that they say wasn’t their fault. In some cases, the other driver’s insurance company even paid for the damage to their car. Do insurance companies really do that? Is that legal? Is it ethical?

Is It Legal for My Insurance Company to Charge Me When the Accident Wasn’t My Fault?

The Maine Bureau of Insurance does allow auto insurance companies to charge for not-at-fault accidents. How does that happen? Insurance companies must file rate requests with the Bureau of Insurance. The Bureau requires insurers to show that the proposed rates are adequate, not excessive, and not unfairly discriminatory. They must prove that with data. Some insurers have apparently successfully proven to the Bureau that people who’ve been involved in accidents – even if they’re not at fault – are a higher risk than those who haven’t. Insurance companies are very protective of their proprietary data. We haven’t seen any of that documentation.

Does Every Maine Auto Insurance Company Charge for Not-At-Fault Accidents?

No. Of the nine major auto insurance companies in our agency, 6 charge for not-at-fault accidents; 3 do not. Just a few years ago, none of the insurance companies we represent did. It’s hard to say whether the three that don’t charge will start to do that for competitive reasons. But, for now, those 3 insurers may have a public relations advantage with consumers who feel that it’s unfair to surcharge for a not-at-fault accident.

Why Would I Do Business With an Auto Insurance Company That Charges Me for a Not-At-Fault Accident?

Even though your insurance company surcharges you for an not-at-fault accident, they may still have the best rates. How could that happen?

Let’s assume that your insurance company’s experience shows that people who’ve never had any kind of accident – at-fault or not – are much lower risks: 15% less likely to have a claim. Your insurance company wants to attract as many of these drivers as they can. So they file special rates for these folks 15% less than any other insurer, and expect to still make a profit. At the same time, they file a 15% surcharge for not-at-fault accidents. Even if you get a surcharge, you’re still paying no more than you would with any other insurer.

Is It Fair to Charge for Not-at-Fault Accidents?

We understand your outrage. You’re paying more for insurance just because you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s bad enough that you were inconvenienced or hurt because of the crash. Surcharging your insurance policy afterwards adds insult to injury.

Some states, including California and Oklahoma, have refused to allow the surcharges. But the Maine Bureau of Insurance thinks it’s fair for insurers to charge for not-at-fault accidents. Many other insurance regulators do, too.

Are You Paying More Than You Should For Maine Auto Insurance?

Here’s one way to find out. If you live in Southern Maine, contact a Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance agent at 207-799-5541 for a no-obligation review. We will review your situation and present you with the best fit we have available. If your current insurance is the best deal, we’ll let you know. If we have something better, we can work with you to change if you want to.

Not ready to speak to a human yet? You can compare up to 6 insurance companies on our web site. If one of them looks good, you can let us know.

How Much Does Lawn Care / Landscaping Contractor Insurance Cost in Maine?

 

Maine’s growing season is short. Landscapers and lawn care contractors only have a few months to earn money. That means they must watch expenses carefully to be profitable. Too much overhead can be the difference between profit and loss for a Maine contractor. 

How Much Does Landscaping Liability Insurance Cost?

Prices vary depending on:

  • Whether you specialize or not – pesticide or heavy tree work specialists pay more for insurance.
  • How much experience you have – seasoned businesses with good experience pay less than start-ups.
  • How much you make – higher revenues means higher insurance costs. 
  • If you plow in winter – If you take on lots of commercial plowing jobs, you’ll pay more for coverage.

If you’re a single operator in Maine with a mower or two, you’ll probably pay less than $1500 a year. If you have heavier equipment to insure, you’ll pay a bit more.

 Do I Need Workers Compensation Insurance for My Landscaping Business?

If you have employees, yes. If not, you may or may not have to buy workers’ comp, depending on the legal setup of your business. For example, if you’re a “dba”, you can choose to cover yourself under workers compensation, but you’re not required to.


 

Related Post: Who Needs to Buy Workers’ Comp Insurance in Maine?


 

How Much Does Lawn Care Equipment Insurance Cost?

You can insure tools and equipment like deck mowers, weed trimmers, hand mowers and hedge trimmers on a contractors package policy. The price varies with the value of the equipment. It usually costs less than $3.00 per $1,000 of value. Some policies offer replacement cost coverage (new for old). Other policies cover depreciated value. Ask your agent what they’re quoting.

How Much Does it Cost to Insure My Landscaping Truck and Trailer?

Business vehicle insurance costs more than personal. For a brand new 1/2 ton pickup, budget about $1500 per year – more if you plow commercially. Even though it’s more expensive, it’s still a good idea to buy the business policy. You want to be covered properly.


Related Post: Should a Maine Contractor Insure Vehicles in a Business Name?


 

Can I Store My Lawn Care Stuff in My Garage at Home?

Storing fuel or equipment in an outbuilding  can VOID COVERAGE for that building on your homeowners policy. If you have gas cans and mowers in your detached garage, and a fire starts, destroying the garage, your homeowners policy will NOT cover the rebuilding cost – even if the mowers or fuel had nothing to do with the fire.

Talk to your homeowners insurance agent about how your policy deals with this. Another option: insure your garage on your contractors policy. You want to make sure you have insurance help to rebuild after a disaster.

Have questions about contractors insurance for Maine landscaping or lawn care business? If you live and work in the Portland Maine area, call a Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance agent at 207-799-5541. We represent many insurance companies, so we can recommend the best value. We’re independent and committed to you.

Portland, Maine: Green Living in a Small City

 

The news is out: Portland, Maine (pop. 66,000) is a hot little city. Big city dwellers move here for the walkable, livable scale and good schools. Small town folks are attracted by our density of entertainment options, from music clubs to minor league sports. Outdoor lovers can ski, boat, hit the beach, climb a mountain, or kayak to an island, all within an hour of downtown Portland. Of course, our foodie and beer culture are well-known, for good reason.

Perhaps the thing that ties it all together is Portland’s green sensibility. Residents appreciate the natural beauty and resources of Southern Maine and Casco Bay. We celebrate and protect it. We put our money and volunteer hours into it. Many of us incorporate green living into our lifestyle.

Here are a few things that make Portland a green little city:

Portland’s Farm-to-Table Game is Strong

Most surrounding towns have weekly farmers markets. Portland Farmers’ Market sets up shop seasonally on Saturdays in Deering Oaks and Wednesdays in Monument Square – the heart of downtown Portland. There’s also a winter market. Portlanders like to eat fresh local food, whether at home or dining out.
Portland’s world-class restaurants and grocers celebrate fresh seafood and locally grown produce and meat. We even have potato donuts. Forbes says Portland ranks #1 in the U.S.  for microbreweries per capita. Many more breweries dot the region just outside the city.  The New York Times documented Portland’s locavore culture. But the secret was out long before that.


We Buy Local

The cool kids in Greater Portland support local merchants and locally-owned business. Sure, we have our share of big box retailers and chain restaurants near the highway. But as you wander the neighborhoods of Portland, you’re struck by the lack of homogeneous “I could be anywhere” sprawl. Even our downtown buildings advertise names recognized here, but not everywhere.
Popular business groups like Portland Buy LocalSouth Portland Cape Elizabeth Buy Local and the Portland Downtown District lead the charge of local business owners. In addition to the usual supermarket chains, Portland has many produce stores, butcher shops, fish mongers and bakeries. Ethnic markets and bodegas offer Asian, Halal, and Central American specialties.

Portland’s Green Non-Profits and Government Cooperate

Non-profits like Portland Trails (70 miles of nature trails in the city), Maine Island Trail Association (America’s first water trail, linking 200 islands), Bicycle Coalition of Maine and Friends of Casco Bay are well-connected to city and regional governments. Organizations like Cape Elizabeth Land Trust work to protect and preserve wild spaces. We have an award-winning private community composting service, Garbage to Garden. Portlanders even discuss green living over beer every month at Portland Greendrinks.
Government is committed to being green, too. Bike corrals and bike lanes are visible and growing on city streets. Both Portland and South Portland have sustainability coordinators on staff. Both cities are converting landfills to solar farms. The City of South Portland has a small fleet of electric cars. Portland’s Metro buses run on natural gas and have bike racks. Hadlock Field, where the Portland Sea Dogs play baseball, has convenient bike racks, and is right on the bus line.


In Portland It’s Easy Being Green

Most of Portland’s business, dining and entertainment is on the downtown peninsula, 2 miles long and 1 mile wide. That makes it easy for downtown dwellers to leave the car at home and walk or bike (albeit with a few hills). It’s easy to walk from work to dinner to a show without breaking a sweat (thank you, Casco Bay breezes!). Even our finest restaurants and theatres are quite casual; you’ll fit right in with your sensible shoes and outerwear.

Buses, car-shares and taxis cover the city effectively. High school students ride the Metro Bus to school, allowing some families to avoid getting a separate vehicle. Portland’s neighborhood elementary schools are within walking distance for most students.

It’s even easy to get out of Portland without a car. Our airport (PWM) is 4 miles from Monument Square (30 min./ Metro, 12 min. / taxi). Concord Trailways and Amtrak offer several trips daily to Boston. Concord also operates 2 trips a day to midtown Manhattan. Both leave from the Portland Transportation Center, 2 miles from the city center.

 

If you’re looking to live in a city big enough to keep you entertained (and employed) and small enough to live a low-impact lifestyle, it’s tough to find a better place than Portland, Maine.

What’s Causing U.S. Auto Insurance Rates to Go Up?

 

U.S. auto insurance rates increased 7.5% between January 2016 and January 2017. That’s after more than a 5% increase in 2006. What’s driving the increasing cost of car insurance? More accidents? More highway deaths? We hear about 4 major factors combining to make the cost of car insurance go up even faster than overall inflation.

auto & home insurance inflation

Medical and Labor Costs

Insurance pays for two big expenses: auto repairs and medical expenses.  Medical expense prices increased about 32% in the 8 years between 2005 and 2013. Auto repair labor costs have increased too. Also, it costs more to fix a newer car than an older one (see #3 below).

More Crowded Roads

Even if you aren’t driving more miles, your neighbors are. It’s not your imagination: the roads are more crowded. More cars on the road means an increased chance of a crash. Americans drove more that 3 trillion miles in 2015, a 3.5% increase from 2014. That’s the largest annual increase in 25 years. Why? Economists say an improving economy and low gas prices were the main reasons.

Lots of Newer, Hi-Tech Vehicles

Car makers are selling lots of vehicles. And many of them are computers on wheels. Americans bought 17.5 million new vehicles in 2015, a 5.7% increase from 2014. Newer cars cost more to fix than older ones. They also have advanced tech features. Rear bumper cameras are very common now. Front bumper radar and other safety features are available on many models. Even a side mirror likely has “blind spot warning” hardware. If you do get in an crash, chances are the insurance company will have to pay more to fix the other car than it would have a few years ago.

Distracted Driving

You may be the same safe driver you’ve always been. Unfortunately, many others on the road aren’t paying as much attention. A 2013 AAA study found that 2 out of 3 drivers reported using a mobile phone while driving. More than 25% admitted sending a text or email while behind the wheel. The National Safety Council estimates 26% of all car crashes involve cell phone use. Distracted driving increases the risk of a crash as much as driving drunk.


Related Post: Why Did My Maine Auto Insurance Go Up?


Should You Shop Your Maine Car Insurance?

Maybe. Every insurance company files their own rates based upon their experience and appetite. If your insurer had lots of claims in another part of the country, it could be affecting your rates. If you live in Southern Maine, contact a Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance agent for a review at 207-799-5541. We represent many different insurers, so you can compare with one phone call.

Not ready to talk to a human yet? You can still compare prices from up to 6 Maine auto insurance companies online on our web site.

When you chat with us, we can provide personalized, custom, professional advice. As a Trusted Choice insurance agent, we are independent and committed to you.