Top Five Safety Gift Picks

As time runs out for buying this year’s presents, remember a gift that could save a life is always in style. That is exactly what you can do by purchasing electrical safety devices. To help you in your last-minute shopping, Safe Electricity has picked their top five gift ideas to help keep your holiday season merry, bright, and safe!

“The holidays are a time to let people know how much you care about them,” says Molly Hall, executive director of the Energy Education Council and its Safe Electricity program. “A practical gift that helps keep loved ones safe continues to say ‘I care about you’ long after the holidays.”

Safe Electricity’s top five safety gift picks are:

strip3Appliance Timer with a Safety Turn-off:                Is there someone on your list who is repeatedly forgetting to turn off a curling iron or other appliance? An appliance timer with a safety turn-off can be found for around $8 and provides an added layer of protection when a small appliance, such as an iron or space heater, accidentally gets left on. It has an auto shut-off timer that helps protect homes from fire or burn hazards.


strip4Portable/Extension Cord GFCI:                    Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCIs) detect and prevent shocks. You may have noticed them in many bathrooms, kitchens, and other places where water and electricity may meet. They are the outlets with red and black buttons. If you know someone who works outside often, a portable GFCI is a perfect gift and offers protection from shock regardless of the electronic or tool that’s plugged into it, helping keep your loved ones safe. Starts at around $25.


strip2Tamper Resistant Outlets or Outlet Plugs:    Young children may put fingers or other small objects in outlets without understanding the dangers of electricity. It is up to you to understand the dangers of electricity and prevent accidents. Tamper Resistant Outlets (TROs) provide a permanent solution. TROs have shutters that stay closed unless a plug with two prongs is plugged in. If you do not have a thorough understanding of electricity, TROs should be installed by a professional. Another option is simple outlet plugs. A TRO costs less than $2. Packs of multiple outlet plugs start at around $3.

strip1Power Strips and Smart Strips:                         Many people will get new electronics for the holidays. Help your friends power electronics safely with a new power strip. Choose a power strip that comes with a circuit breaker that will trip if the power strip becomes overloaded. Overloaded power strips are dangerous and can cause shocks and fires. Power strip prices start at around $7. Smart power strips are another option that add energy savings. Electronics that are turned off sometimes still draw power. So a control unit, such as a television or computer, is plugged into one outlet. The smart strip detects when the control unit is off and shuts off power to peripherals, like DVD players and printers. Smart strips can be found for as low as $22.

strip5Non-contact Voltage Tester:                              This gift is for the do-it-yourselfer. This is an inexpensive tool that detects the presence of voltage without touching a bare wire. The tester uses non-contact voltage detection technology to identify voltage in cables, cords, wires, circuit breakers, lighting fixtures, switches, and outlets. Prices start around $12.


During the busy holidays, Safe Electricity encourages you to take time to keep all of your celebrations safe. For more information, visit

Do You Have Insurance…On Your Storage Unit?

The Self Storage Association notes that one out of every 10 households in the U.S. currently rents some kind of storage unit, including portable on demand storage (PODS). If you’re one of the 10 percent, are you insuring your unit?

mystorageunitWhether you are downsizing to a smaller home, safeguarding heirlooms after a death in the family or just cannot let go of those old mementos, storage units can provide a useful solution for dealing with extra belongings. While storage units may be the answer to de-cluttering your home, adequate insurance coverage is the answer to protecting your belongings, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

“If an item is valuable enough that you are willing to pay for storing it, the item should be financially protected with the proper amount and type of insurance,” says Loretta Worters, vice president for the I.I.I. “Even in the best managed storage facilities, theft, fire and other disasters can and do occur. That’s why before signing a rental agreement, it is important to find out what types of losses will be covered by the storage facility and whether supplemental insurance may be needed.”

Most storage facilities require that you maintain insurance for the full replacement cost of the contents of your storage room and ask to see a copy of your homeowners or renters policy. One way to satisfy your insurance obligation is by purchasing insurance through the storage facility. However, most storage facilities limit the value of property that can be stored in a unit, basing it on the size and the amount of your rent (usually up to about $20,000). If your property is worth more than the assigned amount, some storage facilities will allow you to increase the assigned value of the property in your unit. There are also exclusions including art, antiques, jewelry, furs, watches, money, securities and other documents of value. Be sure to check your homeowners or renters insurance policies first to determine whether your contents may already be covered.

self-storageStandard homeowners and renters insurance policies that include off-premises protection provide coverage for property in storage facilities from theft and damage from fires, tornadoes and other disasters listed in the policy. Much like storage facility insurance, homeowners and renters policies do not cover damage caused by flooding, earthquakes, mold and mildew, vermin or poor maintenance. Some insurers may limit the off-premises coverage for personal possessions to 10 percent of the overall amount of homeowners insurance you have. Other insurers may offer higher coverage limits for personal possessions stored off-premises, so check with your insurance agent or company representative before renting a storage unit. Also keep in mind that insurance through your home or renters policy will be more comprehensive than storage facility insurance and is regulated by your state insurance department.

If you intend to store valuable property such as art, antiques, jewelry or furs, there may be dollar restrictions under your standard homeowners or renters insurance policy for theft. Ask your insurance professional about adding a floater or endorsement to your policy in order to fully cover these items. There are also specialized storage facilities available for these types of items, as they often need to be kept at specific temperature and humidity levels. Small items such as jewelry can also be kept in a bank safe deposit box; insurers will generally charge less to cover an item stored at a bank.

insuranceOne of the best ways to substantiate the value of your personal property is to create a detailed home inventory of all your possessions, including those in storage. If your property is stolen or damaged, an inventory can help speed the claims process and substantiate your loss. It will also help you determine how much insurance to buy to adequately protect your possessions.

The I.I.I. offers the following tips for choosing a storage company:

  • Look for a secure facility. Fencing that secures the entire property and access control are the very minimum that a storage business should offer.
  • Consider the safety of the immediate area surrounding the facility. Does the storage building have onsite security features such as 24-hour video surveillance cameras and coded security pads to access the building? If so, does the code work only for your floor or for the entire facility? Are there video cameras throughout the building or just at the entrance? An informed manager should have the answers you need.
  • Look for a unit with climate control options. This will ensure your appliances and furniture are not in a harmful environment. Very high or low temperatures, as well as dampness can quickly cause damage. And make sure that rising ground water from snow or rain is unable to penetrate your storage unit.
  • Select a company that offers insurance along with their space. If you do not already have coverage your renters or homeowners insurance, look for a storage company that offers insurance, and make sure you fully understand how their insurance will cover any potential damage. Find out about the facility’s procedures in cases such as fire, flood, etc. and keep in mind that any facility should also have their own insurance to cover damages or injuries that occur on their premises.
  • Check that the storage facility is clean and well-maintained. If a storage facility is not routinely and thoroughly cleaned, there is a good possibility no one is monitoring for bugs and rodent infestations. Verify that the facility has a permanent, reliable pest extermination contract in place before you trust them with your belongings.
  • Investigate the reputation of the storage company. Check with friends and neighbors who may be familiar with the facility, or ask the storage company for referrals.

Superstorm Cleon Reminds Homeowners about the Importance of Storm Preparedness

cleon2In the aftermath of the first ice storm for 2013, many Americans are reminded about the importance of storm preparedness. Volatile weather can strike at anytime, anywhere in the country. From hurricanes and tornadoes, to snow storms and high winds, all homeowners need to be prepared for severe weather events.

(Side Note: Cleon was a Greek, Athenian statesman and warrior during the Peloponnesian War and died 422 BC.  He was the first prominent representative of the commercial class in Athenian politics, although he was an aristocrat himself. This is the first year that the Weather Channel is naming the winter storms.)

Here are the top seven tips to help homeowners prepare for storms, power outages and other emergencies.

1. Assemble a dedicated storm box or bucket. If you are not told to evacuate, having items on hand like batteries, candles, matches, flashlights, AM radio, water, and even extra cash can be useful if your area loses power. If told by officials to evacuate your home, leave well in advance. Make plans for a safe route and destination where someone will be expecting you at a predetermined day and time.

2. Create a storm to-do list. This list reminds you of the important things you need to do before the storm hits. Things like getting prescription drugs, filling propane tanks, going to the bank, and filling your car with gas can be essential. cleon3

3. Compile a list of important phone numbers. Essential phone numbers to have on hand can include: utility companies, insurance company, bank, doctors, radio stations and local police. Also, have at least one hard-wired landline phone in the house.

4. Protect your chilled and frozen food supply. Before the storm hits, pack your most commonly consumed items like milk, cold cuts, and leftovers in a cooler with ice. Turn your refrigerator/freezer settings to the highest levels to chill remaining food as much as possible. Keep your refrigerator door taped closed to prevent unnecessary opening during a power outage.

5. Store water if you are on a well system. Store plenty of drinking water in clean containers. Also, store water in your bathtub so you can flush the toilet with a bucket of water when needed.

6. Inspect your basement sump pump system before the storm. During a major storm, heavy rains can flood your basement, so make sure your sump pump is plugged in and fully operational. Inspect the pump switch float ball on your sump pump to make sure it’s operating smoothly. Also, make sure the drain line is not blocked and extends at least four feet away from your home’s foundation. Finally, get a battery backup for your sump pump in case of power loss. cleon1

7. Look into an automatic standby generator system. A standby generator is permanently installed outside your home and hooks up to existing gas lines (propane or natural gas). If power is lost, a standby generator will automatically start up and restore power to your home. It can power lights, heating/cooling systems, refrigerators, sump pumps, home security systems, computers and more. With the addition of a standby generator, most issues you face during a storm can be eliminated.

I lost power at my house for 3 days during Cleon’s path thru Dallas and wish I had list list handy before the Ice Age came to Dallas this past week!

Co-Signing a Lease? 5 Legal Considerations

Right Facing Red For Rent Real Estate Sign in Front of Beautiful House.Are you co-signing a lease or rental agreement, or thinking about it? If so, there are many legal considerations that you should think about first.

When you co-sign a lease, you are essentially signing the lease as if it were your own. This means that you are exposing yourself to full liability on the lease. You won’t be the back-up person, but the main person.

Co-signing a lease for someone is definitely not a decision to make lightly, even though you won’t be a tenant. Here are five legal considerations to keep in mind:

  • Your credit score. Co-signing a lease means that you’re agreeing to assume the financial liability of the lease. So for example, if the tenant is unable to pay rent, then that responsibility falls on you. If you can’t make those payments, or are facing some kind of financial crunch, you could default. This, in turn, could adversely affect your credit score.
  • Damages. As a co-signer, you could also possibly be held liable for paying for any damages to the apartment. Depending on what the lease specifically says about security deposits and damages, you should be prepared to cover a whole host of payments if the tenant can’t.
  • Subleases. Depending on what the lease says about subleases, you as a co-signer mayrent2 also be responsible for any sublessees who move in. That means when a tenant assigns or sublets their rented unit to someone else, you could still be liable if the sublessee fails to make payments.
  • Other roommates. If the person you’re co-signing with has a roommate or multiple roommates, you may want to reconsider signing the lease, or at least taking a good look at the terms in the lease. While you may trust the family member or friend who’s asked you to co-sign, you just never know how other roommates will act and whether or not they’ll be a huge liability.
  • Legal claims. Lastly, don’t forget: When you co-sign a lease, you’re assuming not only financial responsibility, but opening yourself up to legal liability as well. If a landlord wants to, he can exercise the option of going after a co-signer, as opposed to the actual tenant, regardless of whether or not all other alternatives have been exercised first.

To learn more and better prepare yourself for the process of co-signing, you may want to consult an experienced landlord-tenant attorney near you.