Like a walk through the country side living on a small farm is full of daily surprises, sometimes wonderful and amazing, and other times puzzling and sad. I hope you will walk with me as I live out my dream of living on this tiny farm. You will come to know the dogs, cats, Shetland sheep and chickens that make up this farm and what goes into keeping them happy and healthy. Come and join the journey with me.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Finally...Insurance

Well, I finally got insurance.  Finally.  It took a month and ten days.  I should be good for a year at least and after that, who knows?   Things is gettin' crazy.

My long saga with the insurance started on Saturday the 8th of December when I decided to pay my monthly bills.  Lesson one was learned at the time--open your bills when you get them.  The 'bill' had come in earlier in the week, mailed on the 30th of November.  Naive me assumed it was my yearly premium payment.  It wasn't.  It was s short and sweet note telling me the company had decided to 'exercise it's right to non-renew my policy'.  It was really personal too--as it began Dear Sir/Madam.

I never been a Madam in my life, thank you very much.

Being Saturday I had to wait until Monday to call my local agent.  When I called them, my formally civil and helpful company could only say--yes, we did try to come out but your gate was locked.   Uhm, well, if you'd let me know there was a problem I would have happily been there or arranged to have the gate unlocked.  For what seemed long minutes this was the repeated response to my inquires.   It wasn't really resolving the situation, but I suppose that she felt if she said it enough it was all my fault.  Once that was established, we got down to the nitty gritty---it seemed the problem was the wood stove.  How in the world they planned to take pictures of my wood stove in my house without me there I haven't a clue, but there you go.  A photo shoot was set up for the next day.

Still being naive, I thought they were coming out to take pictures of the wood stove.   Silly me.  I hustled way up into the night cleaning and making things purty in the house, for the photo shoot.  However I did not clean and/or straighten my breezeway, which, granted did look a bit like an oversize junk drawer at the moment.   I also did not hide my dogs or tidy away their toys, beds or bowls.  I know, silly, huh?

The nice photographer came and shot pictures of the wood stove, declaring it 'nice', from all angles.  Measurements were taken, then outside he took pictures of everything--the house, the barns, my breezeway (unbeknownst to me) and unfortunately my friendly Collies were tagging along inserting themselves in several shots.

I was also told I needed to call the 'big' guy at the local company and talk to him about my locked gate. Due to him being so important it took me until late the next day to reach him.  We had a  conversation about the locked gate being the big (real) problem.  I was bewildered--I thought it was the wood stove.  Every other person out here has a locked gate and/or wood stove.  Well, the Fire Department couldn't get in he said.  My response was that they could cut the chain.  Not allowed he said.  Yes, allowed, I said, if they have consent.  I volunteered as secretary for ten years on our local department and saw many, many property descriptions that read--cut gate chain in an emergency.  Oh he replied, well it was still a problem.  I'll take care of it, it won't be a problem I assured him, if he could get the wood stove to pass muster.  The conversation ended on, still being naive, what I thought was a good note.

At that time I thought resolution would be simple and easy.  Insert here to say I had been with this company for ten years.  I've never, ever filed a claim in my life.   Insurance is for big things, unexpected things.  I was a good little dues paying member for ten years.  I received a reply from them in the mail the next day.  A letter he had to have almost had ready to send out when I was conversing with him via the phone.

The letter was long--a full page even--regrettably and with much sincerity and apologies they would not be able to offer me coverage.  It was the wood stove, you know, it can't be a primary source of heat.  Secondary yes, primary no.  They then referred me to a company in another county that evidently offers coverage to difficult situations like me. 

I called this company the next day.  The lady I talked to would get right on it, and probably have an answer for me later in the day.  That was a Friday.  I called them back at 4:30--they were closed.  I called again Monday morning and asked for the gal that was helping me.  She was on vacation, but the guy said he actually had that file sitting right on his desk, but hadn't gotten to it.  He wasn't very positive, but he would try.  He'd get back to me.  He called me back the next day.  He might be able to get coverage for me but it would be over a 1,000 per year since I was high risk and wouldn't include liability.  Also they would probably have to have an inspector come out and check things out. 

I asked what the problem was, if it was just the wood heat, if there was anything I could do.  He said no, not really, and well from the pictures.... (pictures??  what pictures???---seems my former company had emailed the pictures they took to him).   I kept asking what was wrong, if there was something I could do.  His response was that it was mostly the wood stove, the building was old, and well there is all that 'plunder' in your carport.   (The definition of plunder is "goods or money obtained illegally".  I can assure you none of my things were obtained that way.)   Then he said and then there are the dogs...   To be honest I was a bit stunned and didn't ask as much as I needed to at that point.  I kept thinking the dogs?   Maybe he meant the dog beds?   The dog toys?  I told the dude I would get back with him.    

Then I called a friend that would have the name of a local company that also often took on 'high risk' homes.  She found the info for me and also recommended another gal and her company, because she was so nice.  I emailed the high risk company (it was the weekend again) and called the 'nice' agent the following Monday.  (I think).   Somewhere in there were the holidays so there were a few 'short weeks'.  The nice agent thought she might be able to do it, and arranged to have someone come out and take pictures.  Believe you me, I worked hard to get the breezeway tidied up a bit.  It is a storage area so it's not empty, but it was neater.  Another photographer came by and took pictures.   Then I waited again.   In the meantime as I was waiting the other 'high risk' company called me and left a message.  I called them back, thinking it would be wise to just keep trying to get someone.  A woman called back and I swear she said her name was Lyle.  Lyle was not nice.  Lyle said some very mean things.  She asked me what date the courthouse had as when the building was built.  (I had no idea).  She said well you need to find out, as that is a problem.  (Later I did find out that 'a' building was built on this property in 1900 but it was by no means even close to being my home).   She also said with the kind of place I had I would probably never find anyone to insure it and if  I did I better just be glad even if it was a zillion dollars (yes, I exaggerate).  What she was referencing in a 'home like mine' is that it is part of an old school--actually the 'new' part that was built in 1965.   The rest was consumed by fire in 1972.   Also she stated because of my wood stove, flu, and age of the house it just wasn't ever going to happen.  I was baking Christmas cookies at the time and let me tell you I doubt there was allot of happy poured into them.  I was so angry and upset. 

As an aside I (and my Mom and sister and even my nephew's wife) did some research on the place to try and nail down some facts.  Being raised here we all knew 'most' of what needed to be known, but getting times, dates, facts was interesting.  I even contacted the architect firm that built the place--and they responded by sending an attachment of a copy of the blue prints.  I had thought it was built in 1960, but it was actually built sometime in 1965.  I plan to go by the library sometime to see if I can get copies of an article that surely ran about it.  Also the reason the assessor's office doesn't show any buildings built here since 1900 is because they were school property, which is not taxed! 

Eventually that same day, I had to go outside and do chores and my 'nice' lady called and said she thought they might be able to handle me, she would let me know more after Christmas.   I was so happy.  At least I had a less worrying Christmas.  

After the holidays though, when she called back, it wasn't such good news.  They just couldn't do it, however there was another company that would be expensive, and wouldn't include liability.....   She was very nice about it, so I asked her if she had time to talk to me and she said yes.  I asked her if there was anything I could do to have it reviewed again, where they might possibly consider covering it.  Her answer was absolutely!   What??   So she told me.  

There were several things:  1)  The woodpiles by the house had to be moved away from the house and there had to be a clear path for firefighters to approach the house.  2) There was a large cedar tree located at the back corner of the house near the chimney.  While about 15 foot from the house, it had grown large and shaggy.  3)  The dogs.  YES...the dogs.  Seems their little butts showed up in the pictures again.  She explained to me that while she understood having dogs, farm dogs, that some of the agents just didn't 'get' it.  However she thought she could work around the dogs if the other issues were taken care of.  

I was in shock.  Someone told me what was wrong--something that I could fix.  Something that made sense.  

That was the Thursday before New Year's weekend.  My Dad offered to help.  The weather was awful--very cold, a little misty rain off and on, some snow.  Friday we moved most of the round stack of miscellaneous dry wood gotten off the place to a point way away from the house.   Saturday I worked on the main wood pile moving it away from the house to where the 'green wood' was stacked and moved some of the cedar debris.  Dad cut down the cedar---the 'little' cedar that I had failed to realize had grown as tall as the house.  Sunday morning Dad worked on moving  a good deal of the main wood pile and somehow got most of the cedar dragged off to a burn pile (the tree was full of vines and a mess to deal with).  I spent the rest of the day moving the rest of the wood pile and starting on moving some other things from up by the house.  --Big plastic tubs for my 'garden', a wooden box on wheels that I scavenged--not plundered--and brought home.  On the other side of my little wool trailer I had stacked about six bags of Chaffhaye to make room for real hay in my garage.  It was on pallets and had a wire panel fence around it to keep Minty from ripping holes in the bag and eating it.  There were also a few other odds and ends.  What I didn't get done that day, I finished on New Years Day.  

I called her back on Wednesday to arrange to have more photos done.  She had offered to come and look if I was unsure it was what they needed.   After I called her I got to looking at a small tree that grows up behind the house and had some vines that were touching the house.  It was dark by then, but I decided the vine was coming down.  After I walked into a low board and banged my head and stepped on the rake and whacked my head, really hard, nearly falling off the ladder and then just getting mad, the vine came down.  The tree is coming down too--eventually.  

So new pictures were taken--the dogs were stashed in the house since only exterior photos were needed.  Nearly a week passed and I was despairing, since I'd tried to get in touch with her a few times.  I just knew all that work had been for nothing. 

Then she called.  And the news was good!  Great actually.  Bless her heart, but she had gotten a very good package for me, for the same price (actually I think a little less).  I cannot even tell you how very thankful I was.  I was without insurance for 15 days.  I do not have the financial resources to 'start over'.  I had been made to feel like I was 'trash' and that my beloved home was worthless.   It was a humbling and sobering experience. 

So very thankful.  And even with not getting insurance on the home, my biggest concern was liability which did not seem to be in any of the high priced last resort packages.  If I had to I guess I could live in a tent, but if some how I lost my land......   

And that is the insurance saga.  I switched my truck over to the new place too---and surprise--better rates, better insurance coverage.   

It does something to you, I tell you....what it did to me to me was make me observe everybody else messes as I drove along.  Wow, look over there--woodpile stacked right up against the house.  Hmmm...that house has trash and 'plunder' all over their yard and porch and.... That house burns wood...and that one..and that one... Ah, and the locked gates..everywhere.   Dogs.  Oh yeah.  Dogs too.  

I'm not sure what the value of this little blog post is, but it seemed like something I should write down for my own memory purposes.    It irritates me that so much of my time and energy were spent on this.  I am thankful for the coverage though.  Very thankful.


12 comments:

Sharrie said...

Thank you. That was a real educational post. I, like you, had no idea about all the things your mentioned. I will have to make my husband get things cleaned up. Ha, ha! Glad it turned out good, but I understand the stress it caused you.

Teresa Coltrin said...

Well, I only knew half of this. Whew. Good thing I didn't know I pretty sure I would have cried.

I'm glad you went with the little gal insurance. She's kind and helpful.

Please don't live in a tent. There's always my house. --The End.

Stephen Andrew said...

I'm sorry for your ordeal! How horrible to have that looming over Christmas. I am glad to know about the piles of wood around the house, I do that for decoration around my front door in the fall and winter...I better hide it when the insurance adjustor comes 'round :)

Michelle said...

Oh Tammy, what a stressful and unhappy ordeal! I'm so glad it ended well, and maybe that was the reason God allowed all this to happen – to get you with a better company, to show you a few safety concerns so you could deal with them – oh, and then there's that durn character development, too. ;-)

Tombstone Livestock said...

Wow, all I had to do to get homeowners insurance here was mail pictures of the electrical boxes, my insurance agent is the same as my vehicle insurance and I have never met my agent, office is a 3 hour drive from here.

Donna said...

Wow- what a saga! I had no idea. I am glad it finally worked out but sorry for all your struggles with insurance people. It sounds painful.

thecrazysheeplady said...

Yeesh!

Phyllis Oller said...

I was angry just reading your post.What,are the dogs going to converse together on how to start a fire in the house? They were probably afraid of the dogs, when I ponder it some more.But you were with the company for 10 years!
I guess that`s why some people have fires & lose everything,they couldn`t get insurance & weren`t as stubborn as you.I thank God you were finally able to insure your home.
We had trouble YEARS ago with our company,but was able to resolve it.We had firewood stacked under our porch area where it was dry & they frowned on that,so we moved it.We also had a woodstove in the garage but never had used it,but it had to go too.I`m glad they didn`t make us tear down the chimney.
What a lot of work for you & your dad,glad he was able to help you & you got it done.
I`m not sure what hawk you had,I`m going to look it up,there is a smaller colorful hawk that stalks bird feeders,I`m surprised I don`t get them,but the sharp shinned hawk is pretty big.People say the coopers hawk isn`t big either,but in my eyes they look huge.
Have a great day,we got a little more snow here in Pa.,take care,Phyllis

Kelly said...

I was so upset for you while reading this, I wanted to get in my car, drive to you house and hug you.
I'm so glad you got this resolved and that it appears that you are getting a company and agent that actually appreciates your business instead of treating you like a criminal.
I'd sure like to know what companies treated you in that manner, I would like to avoid them like the plague.

Kathy said...

I'm so glad things worked out in the end, Tam!
Around here, we are greatly encouraged by the fire companies to have a defensible space around our homes, but seeing that many are built in the middle of the forest that surrounds all of us, they have to give a little there.
And, if you're old enough, check out AARP. The small yearly membership fee is offset by all the savings you can get through them. ;)

Sue said...

Isn't insurance designed to give us peace of mind, not to torment us, give us sleepless nights and drive us to tears? It seems like everything is so complicated. Even the simplest things now take days to straighten out. Am I just getting old, or is life becoming more complicated?

Tammy said...

Thanks everyone for your comments. It was an ordeal, but I did learn a few things from it. Not sure what, but...ha.. My place is much neater looking and I got a few projects done in a hurry that I had put off and put off. I'm not crazy about having to carry wood that much further, but I guess the exercise is good for me as long as I don't fall on the ice and kill myself. Personally I believe one of the things that set them off was that they couldn't roam about freely and 'inspect' things because my gate was locked. I've since heard that this particular company has really come down on people and/or raised rates. However I feel like this will be an ongoing issue for those of us that do not live in 'normal' and newer housing. As for the collies, I'm not sure what the issue was other than there are three of them, and they are dogs. I pity the people that have to work around having pitbulls and other breeds on the banned list. (And yes there is a list!) The company that dropped me is a local independent that uses various other agencies to get the 'best rates'--.
I agree Sue--I thought insurance was for the peace of mind in case of a (rare) personal disaster....

Tammy