Hoarders and Home Insurance Coverage

Being an advocate for homeowners in an insurance world that is filled with twists and turns is challenging – and fulfilling – I even have to consider the impact of risk for families who experience the nightmares of hoarders.

Today, while I was pondering what to write about that is interesting, yet important, my mind wandered to the protection policyholders might need – simply from increasing their awareness of hoarding and the intrinsic risks created for the homeowner. I don’t know that we all sit glued to our seats when the reality show about hoarding comes on, but I am pretty sure everyone knows someone who qualifies… and sometimes that person may be a resident in our own home. Consider the following story; although fiction designed to raise your awareness, it is not an uncommon occurrence.

Carolyn… The Hoarder

Hoarders Increase Homeowners InsuranceCarolyn resided in a beautiful, upscale neighborhood. No one driving by would have guessed the inside of her home was far more representative of an inner-city slum. Her windows were not even visible… papers, trash, boxes, mail, magazines and thousands of other trinkets were piled from floor to ceiling. Kitchen countertops, the stove, and the bathroom sink were no longer visible; the bathtubs filed with debris. Long since, this lovely woman’s family members had moved from the home – each afraid to leave, yet no longer able to manage an increasingly unhealthy lifestyle surrounding them. There was no place to escape! Carolyn had long since ceased showering and other personal hygiene; taking intermittent sponge baths in the sink. The less frequent her family visits, the more her hoarding increased. Now, with the breach from her family, no one really remembered when or why her life shifted – or her health, family and home were put at risk – with the myriad elements involved with hoarding. Imagine the shock found by the insurance adjuster who went to assess the damage she called in when Carolyn’s hot-water heater flooded much of the second floor of her home!

Facts About Hoarding

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America proposes hoarding behavior may appear early in life, but with certain parental control, it may become visible only when the person is out and on their own. It also notes how we might recognize the signs earlier rather than too late to benefit our loved one: “Individuals who hoard may exhibit a number of different behaviors such as an inability to throw away possessions; indecisiveness about what to keep or throw away; severe anxiety when attempting to discard items or when people touch their belongings; and an obsessive fear of running out of an item. There are also functional impairments that can affect personal relationships and create financial difficulties, health issues and an extreme loss of living space.”

Why Is Hoarding of Interest to Insurance Agents?

Why would I bring this to your attention as an Independent Insurance Agent? The challenges of insuring risks which would not otherwise be present. In 2012, the issue was of paramount importance, leading the National Fire Protection Association Conference and Expo, to have the difference between a hoarder and a collector defined: “a hoarder has so much stuff that the rooms they’re putting it into have lost their functionality completely.” The health and safety issues obviously impacts coverage issues and rates. Aside from the obvious fire hazards, homeowners must look to myriad other possibilities: trip and fall; rodents and reptiles, inability to monitor leaks or structural issues, and inaccessibility of the home during any kind of an unforeseen event. Additionally, the stench, which is often observed by neighbors, comes almost too late.Hoarders who have long since cluttered their bathing and bathroom areas often resort to other areas of the home for toileting, have already left a trail of health hazards beyond our normal comprehension.

As an insurance agent, I am faced with challenges when I realize I am insuring a hoarder. Since there is normally no interior home inspection, when it comes time to review a new policy application or a renewal, we may not know of a situation that is rarely visible from the outside of the home. The issue normally only comes to light during a claim on the property and an independent adjuster comes face to face with the realities and acknowledges it to the underwriting department the need for a possible change in risk. Fire, flood, mold… stemming from the lack of maintenance, each is compounded as hoarders resort to using space heaters, portable cooking devices or any number of creative “fixes” to appliances that are no longer functional. What could easily be repaired in a normal setting become major problems. Not only does the accumulation of contents create an insurance problem, the severity of damage, property valuation, and removal of such mass to complete basic repairs is something not counted on by homeowners, repairmen, agents, or underwriters! Environmental issues… why would most of us think about the potential biohazard of animal waste, human waste, mold and trash – or how difficult the breathing must be – especially so following a fire or flood. I am sure if you stop and think about it – the list of potential risks can go on as long and as far as your imagination dare go.

For me, I have to consider how to communicate with my clients sufficiently that if they see telltale signs of hoarding from any family member, friend or neighbor, they make someone aware of not only the hazards, but the nightmares which might then be involved with the insurance coverage.

Making MORE happen for my insurance clients…

Jan Vitale

Arizona Independent Insurance Agent
Proudly serving her clients and her industry for 30+ years

Save the Family 2015 Charity of Choice

Arizona Charity of Choice 2015: Save The Family

The average age of a homeless person at Save the Family is six. The support this company provides for our Arizona communities is stellar. It is for this reason I have selected it as my “Charity of Choice” for 2015. Thank you, Save the Family, for all that you do!

Tim Lidster, Community Outreach Manager

480 466 7706


125 E University Drive

Mesa, AZ 85201



The connection between the Panama Canal and Insurance

The connection between the Panama Canal and InsuranceThere really IS a connection between the Panama Canal and Insurance! I found a really interesting article today, which one would not normally consider had anything to do with insurance, but viola! When I found it was, just had to share. Rather than try to paraphrase, I am just sharing the story here:

When the Panama Canal officially opened over 100 years ago, it forever changed the face of world maritime commerce and shipbuilding. Today, nearly $9 trillion in seaborne commerce transits the canal, with more than 12,000 vessels making the trip each year. Of them, some 3,100 are container ships, another 2,900 are dry bulk ships, and around 2,500 are tankers. The canal is 51 miles long and takes 8-10 hours to transit, but the big limitation is its width. Today, the canal can admit ships up to 4,400 teu (twenty-foot equivalent). The teu is basically the size of a standard, 20-foot-long cargo container. With global shipping on the rise, the pressure has been on to make the canal much bigger, to admit more ships, and to admit larger ships. An effort to widen the canal began in 2007, and it will be complete in 2015.

Increased Risk

Once it’s widened, the canal will be able to admit New Panamax vessels of up to a mind-boggling 12,600 teu (nearly triple the current vessel size limit). The wider canal will also be able to admit 12-14 larger vessels a day, representing a significant increase in total canal traffic. All of these improvements bring with them a host of new insurable risks that have carriers such as Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS) working hard to craft risk management solutions for their clients. AGCS is a leading insurer of ocean marine and cargo, and it recently released a report on the risks the canal presents. (Nineteen pages of insurable risks!) Read more: http://www.ticotimes.net/2014/09/15/panama-canal-widening-should-be-finished-in-early-2016-with-400-million

Making MORE happen for my insurance clients…

Jan Vitale

Arizona Independent Insurance Agent
Proudly serving her clients and her industry for 30+ years


How Do Agents Help Obtain The Best Insurance Quotes?

AUTO INSURANCE Tempe ArizonaHow do agents help obtain the best quotes? You just have to connect with one in your area and experience the results. For example, Jan Vitale, an Independent Insurance Agent in Arizona keeps apprised of all thing insurance, and all things community. If you are considering Tempe, Arizona for relocation, she will help you discover a growing city located in the center of the state. She will also show you just how close it to Mesa, allowing many people to commute from city to city for work.

Zip Code 85280

Jan would show all the zip code 85280 area has to offer, including Arizona State University and several stadiums and arenas. You would want to know the home values are higher than the state average, but there are a lot of benefits to living there.

When Life Happens

When it comes to insurance, Jan will protect you – in the unfortunate event something happens. When life happens, you can’t plan for an accident or damage to your vehicle, but Jan makes sure your policy and coverage are in place when you need it the most.

Working with Jan you can rest assured you get the best quotes in Tempe  – or any other Arizona community, because she is independent and isn’t restricted to working with one insurance company over another. This allows you to see what companies are truly the best as Jan informs you what each has to offer, what their reputation’s are, and what their claim turnaround may be.

Keep it simple…

Life gets simple when you use Jan to help you engage in a little comparison shopping for Arizona insurance,  relieving you of the challenge  of contacting all of the individual insurance companies on your own. For example; should you reside in, and need car insurance in the 85280 area, the easiest thing is to contact Jan and let her do the work! Not only will you save time, but tons of stress.

The process is not a simple one for Jan! First she must establish the type of coverage you need, and then take on the task of contacting the various car insurance companies, based on her experience and knowledge, to get quotes. She then takes all the time necessary to review the options to compare just what is being offered, so you can make an informed decision to secure the best possible policy within the marketplace.

If you are ready, so are we!

When you’re ready to see firsthand how much an independent agent can assist, contact us.  Jan and her qualified staff are ready to begin pulling quotes and answering any questions you have about insurance in Tempe, or other Arizona communities.

Making MORE happen for my insurance clients…

Jan Vitale

Arizona Independent Insurance Agent
Proudly serving her clients and her industry for 30+ years

Home Insurance: The American Dream

Arizona Luxury homes and insurance

When it’s time to insure your American Dream- your home insurance matters…

There is nothing quite like finally reaching the point where you fulfill that great American dream: home ownership. As one of your greatest investments, everything from your starter home to your retirement condo, you need to know what kind of policy will help you remove the worry from life’s little unexpected events.

Statistics reflect nearly 64 percent of American homes are undervalued by an average of 19 percent. I would say this places underinsurance as a widespread concern. Conservatively speaking, if only two of three homes are underinsured, think of the millions of homeowners in our nation who are at risk of major financial loss should the unforeseen hit their neighborhood.

Before you start your search for the perfect product and price, you need to understand what insurers consider when placing your policy.

Cost to Rebuild

Your policy coverage doe not equal your home’s market value; it is designed to pay for the cost to rebuild your home in the unfortunate event it is destroyed. As an independent insurance agent, I advocate the policy on your behalf to make sure you are never caught short because your home is underinsured.

Replacement Cost Coverage

Homeowners are frequently amazed at why replacement cost coverage is pricier than actual cash value coverage. Replacement cost coverage is actually a reimbursement for a new, comparable item to replace the one for which a claim is made. The actual cash value coverage represents the current market value of whatever was damaged or destroyed; you would not expect a five-year-old table to even compare in value with a new one. You would get the cost of a new one – less five years depreciation.

The Value of an Inventory

When you call to discuss just how much coverage you may need, expect to have a conversation with me about the value of your taking an inventory. Conduct an inventory to find out how much coverage you need. Always wanting to provide the best in resources, I found this handy little (Insurance Information Institute’s) free online software at KnowYourStuff.org to help catalog everything.

As you are logging in your inventory, it is important to understand standard homeowners policies place dollar limits on coverage for valuables and special collections; you may find it necessary to purchase additional coverage for “valuables.” In addition to helping us determine just how much coverage you will really need, an inventory such as this will aid in a smoother claims process should something unfortunate occur.

Limits on Policies

Standard home and renters insurance policies do not cover damage from earthquakes or floods. You need to buy separate insurance policies for coverage in case either of those disasters strikes. Home and renters insurance also don’t provide any liability coverage for business activities, even when the business is conducted from your home office. And they limit coverage for business-related property.

The more aware you are of home insurance basics, the better choices you make to protect your assets. We help you understand the following kind of issues as you seek to protect the biggest investment you’ll likely ever make: Your new house.

  • Home, renters and condo insurance questions 
  • Home insurance and renters insurance terms
  • Insurance basics for new homeowners
  • How umbrella policies can benefit you
  • Homeownership and car insurance claims

Making MORE happen for my insurance clients…

Jan Vitale

Arizona Independent Insurance Agent
Proudly serving her clients and her industry for 30+ years