Floodplains Outside Your Front Door

Floodplains in Bedford-Stuyvesant? Bushwick? Brownsville? Park Slope? Fort Greene / Clinton Hill? Carroll Gardens? Getouttahere!

Floodplains are everywhere?

Who knew?

Picture this. It’s another beautiful day in the wonderful city of Brooklyn, New York. The birds are singing, the flowers are blooming, and that annoying depression in the middle of the street halfway down the block (which happens to be right in front of your house), suddenly erupts into the most glorious of geysers. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of water burst into the air,  land on the street and your sidewalk, and begins to pour into the first floor, garden level, and basement of your beautiful home.

Well, your formerly beautiful home. I mean, you can still use the upper floors.

You hope.

Strange how you never noticed your block is one of three forming a shallow valley. No matter which point you turn to on the compass, you realize adjoining streets and avenues all slope down to where you stand. In fact, it reminds you of the pictures you’ve seen of floodplains around the country. So that geyser spewing tens of thousands of gallons of water each minute from a broken underground water main, is filling up yours and the surrounding blocks as though they were one huge swimming pool.

And the water is getting deeper by the minute.

You suddenly realize what floodplains are, and your existence in one.

Thank Goodness For City Services

One real positive about living in New York City is how quickly the Department of Environmental Protection, (DEP), reaches your block and shuts off the main which gave life to the geyser, just an hour or two. Once they shut the water off, they set about pumping out the water which collected underground. After that they’ll invite each local utility with underground pipes, tubes and wires in the general vicinity of the water main break to come and check their equipment, making any necessary repairs.

Once this and other work, including repairs to the water main, are completed, the giant crater in the street is repaired, the water service restored, and all will be well with the world again.

Well, almost. You see, several major problems remain.

Property Owner, We Have A Problem

As the water poured into your home, you quickly called your homeowners insurance company to report the claim, only to learn your loss isn’t covered by your homeowners insurance policy.

Flood, as your insurance company’s customer service representative explained, is not covered by the typical homeowners insurance policy. This is clearly discussed in the Exclusions section of each homeowners insurance policy which reads,

“WATER DAMAGE, MEANING:

a.    Flood, surface water, waves, wave wash, tidal water, overflow of a body of water, or spray from any of these, whether or not a result of precipitation; or driven by wind … “

So, even though your property located miles from the coast, and you are not in a high-risk flood zone, you suffered a loss caused by a flood.

Your basement is a disaster. You need to rip out and replace floors, ceilings and walls, and replace your hot water heater and boiler and the freezer. Where will you find the money going to come from for all of these unexpected expenses?

The customer service representative asks you a frightening question. “You don’t have a flood insurance policy with our company. Do you have a flood insurance policy with any other company?”

Will You Get Good News or Bad News?

Now comes the moment of truth. You call your insurance agent to see if you have a flood insurance policy.

Unfortunately, for many homeowners, the answer they receive from their agent or broker will be “No, you don’t have flood insurance. You’re three and one-half miles from the nearest coastline. And if you recall we discussed adding flood insurance coverage to your insurance portfolio and you refused to spend money on a flood insurance policy when you lived in what you considered a very safe flood zone.”

If you think this is wrong, look at the situation in Baton Rouge, where they recently suffered heavy rainstorms which lead to wide-spread flooding. In Baton Rouge and its surrounds, some 82% of the houses suffering flood damage lacked flood insurance.

To make matters worse, some 7,000 plus businesses in the affected area suffered severe flood damage, causing them to at least temporarily, close their doors.

Over 73,000 employees are now unemployed until the affected businesses can secure bank and federal loans to reopen. If they ever reopen.

And some 80% percent of the affected homes and businesses are located in “X” flood zones, the zone where you should only have to worry about floods every 500 years.

Climate Change, Anyone?

This and other past and future flooding events prove there is a new model of what is a “safe” flood zone. Here’s a hint: There are none.

New construction which places concrete and macadam on what was permeable ground, changes the very nature of a community, increasing the flood risk.

Aging infrastructure in the shape of bad roads places more stress on underground water pipes, which themselves are in serious need of replacement, causing more and larger water main breaks.

For properties closer the shore, rising sea levels, and a warmer Atlantic Ocean create hurricanes packing increasingly greater destructive power, resulting in more damage to sandy beaches and dunes, and the homes they were designed to protect.

And the hurricane season, which is ‘supposed’ to only run from the first of June until the first of November, seems to start earlier, and end later, each year.

So please take this simple bit of advice: “Hurricane Season” is no longer just a season, it is a year-round event.

Flood zones are just lines on a piece of paper, and water is no respecter of lines on a piece of paper.

We are all at risk from the danger of flooding, and the rebuilding costs which follow.

Stay dry.

Eustace L. Greaves, Jr., LUTCF is an independent insurance agent and broker based in Brooklyn, NY. Call him today at 718-783-2722 to make an appointment for your personal insurance review of your home, auto, flood, renters, coop, condo, life and disability insurance policies.

You can also reach Eustace with an email to Eustace@insuremeeg.com.

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Tax Tips for Rental Property Owners , Part 1

Time for Rental Property Owners to prepare for next year’s income tax return

With the end of the 2016 income tax filing season, it seems a good time to review two tax tips for rental property owners where there is partial personal use or not personal use of an owned dwelling.

This post will address which expenses are deductible. The next post will address the difference between repairs and improvements and how the different ways each can affect your income tax return.

What are deductible rental property expenses?

Certain rental property expenses can be deducted from your rental property income to determine your profit or loss for a given tax year. Some of the expenses you can deduct in the tax year you pay them are:

  • Mortgage interest
  • Real estate taxes
  • Property insurance
  • Utilities
  • Cleaning and maintenance costs
  • Supplies  (For example, garbage bags, brooms and mops used only to maintain the rental property. No fair bringing your broom from home to take care of the rental property)
  • Pest control
  • Lawn care and landscaping
  • Trash
  • Repairs, including the cost of labor
  • Credit and employment checks for tenants
  • Management fees if you use the services of an outside property manager
  • Legal or professional fees
  • Travel expenses (Keep records of automobile mileage, and taxi, train, and bus fees for all of those trips to Home Depot or to your local hardware or plumbing supply stores)
  • Advertising (The cost of placing ads for rental apartments in local papers)
  • Utilities (National Grid, Consolidated Edison, New York City Water and Sewer, and payments made to your oil company.

Why you need a separate checking account for your rental property

Owning a rental property is completely different from owning a one-family home. To make sure your experience as a rental property owner is a profitable one, get a separate checking account which you will use only for all of your rental property income and expenses. This account will accomplish two important tasks:

  1. All income and expenses for the rental property will flow into and from this separate account, making it easier for you to track what you spend to maintain the property and the income you’re receiving. This is easier than trying to remember if a certain Home Depot entry was for the book-case in your living room, or a new ladder for your rental property.
  2. Once all the income and expense information for your rental property is in one place, gathering the information necessary to prepare your income taxes is much simpler.   Since the 75 days of income tax preparation season are not the time to finally try to make sense of your financial life for the past year, I give a small discount to those clients who come in with all of their expenses on one or two pieces of paper.. If I must do client recordkeeping, the client will pay a premium for the extra time and energy I must expend to complete their return.

The costs of maintaining your one-family personal home are not deductible.

It’s important to know how the owners of a one-family dwelling they personally occupy are limited about how certain expenses affect their personal income tax return. With a one-family home, you can only itemize your mortgage interest, and real estate taxes. It is imperative to keep records of any improvements made to the house as this will increase the basis when the house is sold, resulting in a lower possible tax bill.

You can find more about this subject in Publication 527 on the Internal Revenue Services website, https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p527.pdf .

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8 Tips To Save Money On Your Auto Insurance

Ah, as the cool nights of autumn become the, well, the warm days of winter, and holiday joy becomes the pain of looming credit card payments, you, like many others, may begin an annual search of finding ways to save money on everything from the cellular phone bill to food. Let me help with these 8 ways to save money on your auto insurance.

1. Many companies will charge more for an automobile insurance policy if you cannot show evidence of being currently insured for at least one (1) to three (3) years prior to your application. So, even if you don’t own an automobile, consider the purchase of a Non-Owned Automobile Insurance Policy. You can also join an organization like ZipCar for about $19.00 each month, which includes liability coverage limits of $300,000. Either way, you can save thousands of premium dollars.

2. Take a Point and Insurance Reduction Class. You’ll automatically
qualify for a 10% discount on your personal liability, no-fault and collision
coverages. And make sure your children, and anyone else who regularly drives your car (and is hopefully listed on your automobile insurance policy as a driver),
takes the class.

3. If you have children in high school, and they are trying to choose between a college  88 miles away, and another one at least 100 miles away, choose the school at least 100 miles away. As long as both schools offer similar need-based tuition plans, you will save money by sending your offspring just another 10 or so miles away. Why? Many companies offer a “Student Away At School” discount, and depending on the company, you premium will either not increase, or only suffer a small increase.

You child must simply go to school at least 90 miles away from home.

4. If you have high-schoolers on your current family policy, encourage them to maintain at least a “B” average, so you will qualify for the Good Student discount. And they still get to live indoors.

5. Purchase your automobile and home, renter, condo or coop policies
from the same company. You’ll qualify for multi-policy discounts, which can
save you at least 10% on each policy.

6. Before you actually purchase a car, call your agent and ask them to give you the symbol for the vehicles you are considering. One young lady was going to purchase a car with the letters “XL” in the model name. I told her the model with only an “L” was two symbols lower, which would result in much lower comprehensive and collision insurance premiums. The major difference between the two models of the same car? One had sun visors with extensions, and the other did not. So, she purchased the “L” model, ordered the fancier sun visors from the dealership, and installed them herself, saving a ton of money on her auto insurance.

7. Improve your insurance credit score. The higher your insurance
credit score, the lower your premium will be. And do everything you can to
avoid having any of the “Five Deadly Insurance Credit Score Sins” on your credit report in the last five years.

The “Five Deadly Insurance Credit Score Sins”are:

a. Foreclosures

b. Judgments

c. Repossession

d. Bankruptcy, or filed for bankruptcy

e. Liens

Always remember, ‘the higher your insurance credit score, the lower your premium’ and the reverse, ‘ the lower your insurance credit score, the higher your premium.’ Any of the “Five Deadly Insurance Credit Score Sins” can hurt your chances of qualifying for a lower automobile insurance rate.

8. Lastly, whatever you do, never, never, never let your automobile
insurance, or any insurance policy for that matter, lapse due to the
non-payment of premium. This alone will disqualify you for coverage with
many preferred companies for several years.

Eustace L. Greaves, Jr., LUTCF is an independent insurance agent and broker based in Brooklyn, NY. Call him today at 718-783-2722 to make an appointment to check your home, auto, flood, renters, coop, condo, life and disability insurance policies.

You can also reach Eustace by sending an  email to Eustace@insuremeeg.com.

 

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