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10 Tips for Preparing Your Vehicle ...

In New England, the winter season typically means frigid temperatures, blustery winds, and snowy roadways. While winter weather can create hazardous driving conditions, it can also wreak havoc on your vehicle. To help you avoid long-term damage and costly repairs, we’ve put together 10 tips for getting your car winter-ready.

  1. Measure tire tread and inflation levels. Tires low in air or short on tread can prevent you from getting the traction you need to drive safely on ice and through even the smallest amount of snow. CarCare.org gives some great tips on how to maintain your tires’ fluctuating PSI levels in the winter.
  2. Replace your windshield wipers. Cold weather, ice build-up, and salt/sand can cause your wipers to break down much faster in the winter than in other seasons. Check their condition more frequently in the winter to make sure they are free of rips and gouges.
  3. Regularly fill windshield wiper fluid. Check your levels frequently and consider using a winter-rated fluid that is less likely to freeze.
  4. Keep your fuel level up. Your tank should be at least half full in the winter to prevent fuel line freeze-ups and to make sure you can keep yourself warm longer should you become stuck on the side of the road.
  5. Maintain all other engine fluid levels. Antifreeze, oil, radiator, power steering, and transmission fluids should all be maintained per the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations.
  6. Check your battery. Batteries work extra hard in the winter, battling against cold engines, heat and defrost demands, and sluggish fluids. Have your engine’s battery tested often during the winter to make sure it will get you through the season.
  7. Remove all snow and ice. Not only should you remove any ice and snow on your windows to help you see clearly, but you should also remove it from the rest of your vehicle for your safety and those around you.
  8. Review your insurance coverage. Winter is an especially good time to check in with your insurance agent to make sure you have adequate coverage and explore add-ons like roadside assistance coverage and gap insurance.
  9. Have your brakes inspected. While there are different rules for using your brakes on ice and snow, you should still make sure they are in top shape for when you do need them.
  10. Prepare a winter emergency kit for your car. Having a few essentials in your car can come in handy in the event of a roadside emergency. To help keep you and your passengers safe this winter, assemble a kit with the following items:
  • Flares
  • First-aid kit
  • Blanket
  • Cell phone charger
  • Small shovel
  • Traction assist material, like kitty litter or sand
  • Bottle of water
  • Snacks (energy bar, trail mix, etc.)
  • Flashlight with spare batteries
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Extra pair of gloves
  • Lock defroster
  • Ice scraper
  • Snow brush
  • Jumper cables
  • Insurance information card

For more great tips on how to navigate the icy and snowy roads during the winter months, check out this AAA guide. As always, feel free to contact us should you have any questions on your insurance.

What You Should Know Before You ...

If you have a slope-side vacation home at Attitash or a chalet in Jackson, you might have been tempted to earn some extra money or offset the costs of the home through short-term rentals during ski season. With the influx of vacation rental websites like Airbnb and VRBO, renting your home out has never be easier. Enter some personal information and data about the home, upload some pictures, and voila! You’re one step closer to replenishing your bank account. As easy as it sounds, though, we urge you to keep several considerations in mind before temporarily handing the keys to your home over to an overnight guest.

Do I need more insurance?

 Your co-worker Fred and his family want to stay at your house in North Conway, NH for a week during the ski season this winter and insist on paying. If you rent your house out only that one time, you likely don’t need special insurance. However, if you rent it out for a few weeks every winter to several different parties, you will need to explore what options are available to cover your increased exposure to risk.

While many of the online vacation rental websites now offer insurance to those who rent their homes, coverage varies and some policies are more comprehensive than others. The only way to truly know you have the right amount of coverage is to contact your insurance agent ahead of time.

I’ve decided to list my property as a vacation rental. What should I do next?

Check local regulations. Many towns and cities are enacting ordinances to restrict short-term rentals. Violations can result in large fines and even jail time. If your second home is a condo or part of a co-op, make sure your short-term rental does not violate any of the HOA by-laws.

Minimize your liability.

  • Hire a professional snow removal service that can help you maintain your property during the winter. The service should remove ice and snow from walkways and driveways, and also clear pathways for oil or propane delivery, if applicable, as well as remove ice and snow from vents and meters.
  • Warmer days may cause snow and ice to melt, but it might refreeze overnight, causing a hazard. Leave ice melt at the home in a convenient location so the renters can spread it if necessary.
  • Those cameras you placed in your living room to monitor for break-ins can expose you to privacy lawsuits with renters. Remove cameras before renting or disclose their location(s) in the rental agreement.
  • Drain hot tubs. You might think a hot tub makes your rental more attractive, but it only increases the chances of a liability claim. What if your renter is intoxicated and slips and falls in the hot tub? Who will clean the hot tub and ensure the water’s pH balance is maintained so your renters don’t contract skin infections?
  • Maintain your systems. Have your boiler, hot water heater, and appliances checked on an annual basis.
  • Turn the hot water down. Hot water heaters are typically set at 140 degrees Fahrenheit by default; yet, adjusting the temperature to 120 degrees will still kill bacteria while reducing the chances of scalding.
  • Replace batteries in the smoke detectors and CO2 detectors yearly. Replace the entire units every 10 years.
  • Make sure all small appliances—coffee pots, clothes irons, toaster ovens—have auto shut-offs.
  • Check out each renter. While each short-term rental site (Airbnb, VRBO, etc.) will perform a minimal check to make sure renters are actual humans with valid email addresses, you will want to perform your own background check to make sure the person or people staying in your home are up to snuff. Google their names, check them out on social media, and ask for references to determine whether they are quality renters.

Protect your assets.

  • Theft coverage is limited or sometimes not covered at all, so if you are renting out your entire house, consider removing your personal items from the premises or placing items you don’t want the renters to use into a locked owner’s closet.
  • Everyone at Mason & Mason loves pets. However, as an insurance agency, we know that some pets aren’t as well trained as others and you could have issues with dog bites or destruction of your property. Does your policy cover this?
  • Create and share a clear set of house rules. Spell out whether or not you allow smoking and where, how many guests can be in the house at one time, when noise should be kept to a minimum, etc.
  • Hire a trusted cleaning company. Not only will they keep your property looking good, but they’ll also let you know immediately when something is amiss or missing.

More Questions to Ask Your Insurer

If your renter knocks over a candle and a small fire causes smoke damage, what happens next? Does your insurance cover the cost to professionally clean your furniture? Does it cover the cost to professionally clean your renter’s personal belongings? What if the renter has to stay elsewhere for a few days to allow repairs to be made? Who covers the cost of a hotel? Ask your insurer detailed questions about different scenarios so you can understand what is and isn’t covered before an incident occurs.

Renting your vacation home can be an effective way to offset costs and make extra money; it can also expose you to liability. Contact us before you hand the keys to your house over to someone else. We’re happy to answer any questions you might have or explore insurance alternatives that will protect you in case something goes wrong.

Mountain Top Music Center and the ...

Our friends and neighbors at the Mountain Top Music Center plan to renovate and revitalize the historic Bolduc Block in downtown Conway Village. After a crippling fire in 2005, the building has gone unused but stood in the heart of the village with great potential. Then, just a few short years ago, Mountain Top Music Center was authorized to purchase the building in order to preserve it and secure it as a musical hub for the community. Their vision is to revitalize and utilize the entire property, returning it to its former glory—and, more importantly, to its role as a community gathering place for Conway and a vibrant center for performing arts activity.

Substantial renovations are needed in order to realize their vision. The organization is looking to improve energy efficiency as well as meet the current standards and codes of the town of Conway. To accomplish this they must upgrade windows and doors, as well as other systems within the building. They aim to meet the cosmetic and functionality standards of the 21st century.

Join us in supporting the Mountain Top Music Center and its revival of the downtown Conway Majestic Theater!