Insightful information for you | Summer 2019 T GERMANIA TODAY
season predicted hurricane Average Page 8
Avoid becoming a victim of claims fraud Page 4 Buying or selling: what you need to know Page 10
4 Avoid becoming a victim of claims fraud
GERMANIA TODAY Insightful information for you
Average hurricane season predicted
Summer 2019 | Volume 45, Issue 2
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Germania Farm Mutual Insurance Association 507 Highway 290 East Brenham, Texas 77833 800-392-2202 germaniainsurance.com
A message from our President
Repair shop network expands
Germania Credit Union launches its Facebook page
Paul Ehlert Derrell Krebs
President & Chief Executive Officer
Germania Life...Is it time to convert term to whole life coverage?
Secretary/Treasurer & Chief Financial Officer
Executive Vice President & Chief Marketing Officer Director of Communication
Recap from the 86th Texas legislative session
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Melisa Bosse Jodee Walker Editor Shane Butzow Designer
Buying or selling: what you need to know
Recipe of the month
Germania Today (USPS 086230) Published quarterly by Germania Farm Mutual Insurance Association Postmaster: Send address changes to Germania Today at P.O. Box 645, Brenham, TX 77834. Periodical postage paid at Brenham, Texas and additional mailing offices. Subscription price is 50 cents per year included in yearly premium.
Local Chapters Elect Directors
Blog... 6 easy tips to keep your car cool this summer
2 | Germania Today
A message from OUR PRESIDENT
Paul Ehlert President & Chief Executive Officer
hanks to everyone who participated in their Local Chapter meetings this spring and voted in the director elections. A total of 14,322 votes were cast, an increase of 48% over last year. The new online voting method was very well received and will be used going forward along with the mail-in ballots. As a result of the strong voter participation, Germania contributed $15,000 to St. Baldrick’s to further its research for cures to childhood cancer. Congratulations to our re-elected board members, who will continue to provide excellent guidance and governance to Germania’s operations. Although Texas experienced an active spring storm season this year, we were fortunate that most of our policyholders were not severely impacted by the various weather events across the state that included a few tornadoes, as well as plenty of rain, wind and hail. If you had a loss due to one of these events, rest assured that Germania is here to assist you in whatever way we can. We exist to serve you in your time of need. Traditionally, Memorial Day kicks off the summer season, a favorite time of year for many of us. Memorial Day is also a time of remembrance of the fallen heroes who sacrificed their lives to protect our country’s freedoms. This year, Germania employees honored these heroes by participating in an American flag installation held in the front of our Home Office building in Brenham. (If you haven’t seen the video footage of the ceremony, be sure to check out our Germania Facebook page.)
In addition, we were proud to commit to a donation of $10,000 to the Gary Sinise Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to providing programs and services to our active duty military, veterans, first responders and their families. As summer gets underway, so does the Atlantic hurricane season. In this issue of Germania Today, we highlight the 2019 forecast predicted by the experts and provide some tips to help you prepare in case a tropical storm in the Gulf affects Texas. Also included is helpful information to prevent becoming a victim of claims fraud. As many of you are aware, the 86th Texas legislative session in Austin ended on May 27. I encourage everyone to stay informed about legislation that affects you as a policyholder. I’m happy to report that Germania was successful in working with trade associations and other companies to help pass several bills that will have a positive impact across the state. See the “Legislative Recap” in this issue for more details. As a member of our families, our communities and our farm mutual, we each have a voice in what happens. The goal is to use it for the greater good for all. Thank you for being a valued member of our Germania family and for placing your trust in us. Wishing all of you a safe and enjoyable summer!
Summer 2019 | 3
Avoid claims fraud becoming a victim of
4 | Germania Today
exas experienced an active spring storm season and now hurricane season is upon us. As a Germania policyholder, should you incur damage to your home, it is important to take steps to ensure you don’t become the victim of another calamity: claims fraud. Some “Storm Chasers” are shady contractors exploiting people after a natural disaster. Like mushrooms after a rainstorm, these fraudsters appear after every flood or hurricane, ready to take advantage of those in need. Here are ways to recognize their tactics and avoid becoming one of their targets. Do Not Sign a Repair Contract Under Pressure Your roof is gone, your belongings are ruined and you want your house fixed as soon as possible. If a contractor pressures you to sign a repair contract immediately, that’s a sign of possible fraud. If someone offers you a “free” estimate and wants you to sign a contract, that’s another red flag. Do Not Pay in Cash A legitimate contractor is not going to ask for the full payment amount before work is done. Never pay a contractor in cash or give them the entire payment in the aftermath of a hurricane or similar catastrophic event. Instead, arrange a payment schedule as you would with any other contractor and do not make a final payment until all work is completed properly. Get everything in writing, beyond the cost. The contractor should supply a timeframe for repairs and should guarantee their work. Whatever you do, never sign a blank document given to you by a contractor. This is how storm chasers get
victims to unwittingly sign dubious agreements giving them 20 percent or so of the insurance claim amount. If there are blank lines on any contract, mark through them so the contractor cannot alter the document. Do Your Research When you’re dealing with significant damage, all you want is your home restored as quickly as possible. However, doing your research is especially critical at this time. If possible, deal with local contractors whose reputation is well-known. Ask neighbors or friends for recommendations. You can even ask your insurance company, as they are familiar with reputable contractors in your area. The Better Business Bureau is also a good source for checking out a contractor’s history and reputation. Even in the midst of a disaster, the advice regarding getting more than one bid still holds true. If there is a great difference in the estimates, it is likely one contractor is trying to overcharge you. Report Your Claim Immediately It is imperative to report your storm damage claim to Germania as soon as possible. Germania’s direct number to the Claims team is 1-877-437-6264. Or visit our website at www.germaniainsurance.com/claims/ report-a-claim/ to report a claim. The claims adjuster will determine the damage to your dwelling adn review this with you, so you will have a better idea of what needs repair and the accuracy of a contractor’s estimate.
Summer 2019 | 5
Auto repair shop network expands Germania’s Premier Service (GPS) program has expanded its auto repair shop options for customers in the greater Houston area through a partnership with Caliber Collision. Effective May 1, all Caliber Collision locations in the Houston metro area became approved GPS partners. Houston-area customers can call a centralized toll-free number (888-225-4237) to schedule an appraisal appointment at any of the Caliber locations. Caliber will work with the customer to find a convenient location that can start the repairs right away. This will help to improve cycle time, rental costs and the overall expense for each repair. Plans are to add additional Caliber locations in Texas to the program at a future date. To find a facility near you, visit our website at: www.germaniainsurance.com/find-a-facility Germania Credit Union launches its Facebook page Germania Credit Union has launched its Facebook page. “The team wants the public to know more about the opportunities and offerings that Germania Credit Union has available to its membership,” said Nick Tonelli, GCU President. Germania Credit Union serves Germania members. Stay up-to-date by following Germania Credit Union’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/germaniacreditunion. More details about Germania Credit Union can also be found on the credit union’s website at www.germaniacreditunion.com.
term whole life Germania Life... to convert Is it time coverage? to
Did you know that your Germania Life term insurance policy could be eligible for conversion to a permanent (whole life insurance) policy? Whole life insurance provides a lifetime of protection with a level premium and death benefit throughout the life of the policy. As stages of life change, the need for life insurance changes. Whole life insurance ensures that your loved ones are taken care of, no matter what stage of life you may be in. Germania Life offers several whole life options to suit every insured’s need. Below are some advantages of whole life insurance. Advantages of whole life coverage include: • Protection for life • Policy does not expire • Premiums do not increase • Face amount does not decrease • Available cash value • Dividend options available on some products Conversions are a great way to obtain whole life insurance coverage without the need to prove insurability. What does this mean for you as the insured? Great news! Under the conversion privileges of our term products, no paramedical exam is required and no application must be completed. The documents required to convert are simple; just contact your Germania Life agent for information and premium amounts. Your agent can provide you with conversion information regarding your life insurance policy. Give your Life agent a call today to obtain information about your policy options, or contact the Germania Life staff at 1-800-392-2202, Ext. 2060 for assistance. You can also visit our website at: www.germaniainsurance.com/products/life-insurance/
6 | Germania Today
Recap from the
legislative session 86 th Texas
he 86th Texas Legislative Session ended on May 27 with a total of 10,877 bills filed during the five-month session and 4,581 of those being passed into law. Some of the most popular topics this session revolved around school finance reform and property tax relief. However, several bills related to insurance were also in play during the session. Germania was successful in working with several trade associations and other companies to help pass several bills that will have a positive impact across the state, including the following: • SB 442 – Flood Disclosure Requirement. This bill requires insurers include a separate disclosure with all property policies which do not cover flooding. This disclosure reminds policyholders who do not have flood coverage to visit with their independent insurance agent to obtain the appropriate coverages to protect their investment. • HB 2102 – Prohibition Against Waiving Deductibles. For many years in the state of Texas, it has been improper for a policyholder to forego paying their property insurance deductible by having a contractor either pay or waive the deductible. However, this has been a common practice over the years, due in large part to an existing statute that failed to clearly address the issue. HB 2102 adds Chapter 707 to the Texas Insurance Code and expresses in plain language that a contractor violates the law if they pay, waive, absorb, give a
rebate or credit for in lieu of charging and/or failing to collect the required amount paid by the insured as a deductible under their insurance policy. In addition, for contracts for goods or services related to a property claim of $1,000 or more, the contract must disclose that the law requires a person to pay a deductible under their Property insurance policy and that it is a violation of law to not do so. Insurance companies have the right to request reasonable proof that an insured has paid their deductible before paying the withheld depreciation or replacement cost holdback under a Property policy. This law will ensure that all contractors are competing fairly and that “deductible absorption” by contractors stops. • HB 2048 – Repeal of Driver Responsibility Program. Effective September 1, 2019, amends the Auto Burglary and Theft Prevention Authority (ABTPA) tax provision to increase the fee paid per motor vehicle year listed on automobile insurance policies from $2 to $4. This fee is for every motor vehicle on an automobile insurance policy and is collected by the insurer and then paid to the ABTPA. The bill requires the ABTPA fee to be allocated by the ABTPF as follows: 20% to be appropriated for ABTPA purposes; 20% to be deposited to the general revenue fund; and 60% allocated to the designated trauma and emergency medical services account under Sec. 780.003, Health and Safety Code.
Summer 2019 | 7
Forecasters predicting average 2019 hurricane season
8 | Germania Today
alf of every calendar year is designated as hurricane season. Think about that for a moment. For a full six months, from June 1 through November 30, U.S. residents have the potential to deal with these powerful, and often deadly storms. If you don’t live near the coast it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. But the season, and what it can bring is very important to Germania and our policyholders. Each spring, a Colorado State University (CSU) team of scientists issues its initial predictions for hurricane season with additional updates issued in June, July and August. The outlook issued at the beginning of June calls for an average season, with 13 named storms. A list of these names can be found at www.weather.com/ storms/hurricane/news/2019-04-08-hurricane-names- 2019-atlantic-season. As of June 4, CSU is forecasting six hurricanes this year with two of those becoming major hurricanes (Category 3 or stronger). In comparison, 15 named storms developed in the Atlantic Ocean in 2018. Eight were hurricanes and two were major hurricanes. One was Hurricane Michael, the third-strongest hurricane on record, in terms of pressure, to make landfall in the U.S. This storm also had the strongest winds since Hurricane Andrew and is estimated to have caused $25 billion in damage. Two critical factors playing a role in the CSU predictions this year are the state of El Niño and Atlantic Ocean temperatures. Both factors are currently pointing to a slightly less active season. However, these factors can change at any time. To track the CSU updates to these forecasts, please visit tropical.colostate.edu/. To prepare for hurricane season, the Insurance Council of Texas (ICT) urges coastal residents to take time to review their property and auto insurance protection, update their evacuation plans and make an inventory of their property. Once a hurricane is approaching the Texas coast, it may be too late to take needed actions. “Take care of your insurance needs today rather than risk a storm forming in the Gulf and trying to scramble for coverage. You cannot purchase a windstorm
policy once a named storm is in the Gulf and a flood insurance policy takes effect 30 days after purchase,” said Mark Hanna, an ICT spokesperson. Homeowners should act now and take steps to protect their lives and property by preparing an evacuation plan, creating an emergency safety kit and conducting a home inventory. • An evacuation plan is a life-saving action that allows family members to know what role they play in getting out of harm’s way. If advised to evacuate, every plan includes how you will leave and where you will go. • An emergency safety kit is an essential item with every evacuation plan. This kit contains non- perishable food, water, prescriptions, important documents such as your insurance policies, cell phones and chargers, cash, toiletries and clothing. Consider the needs of your pets as well. • Recording all of your personal property with photos or video and securing this information away from your home becomes invaluable when filing a claim. Here are some additional tips to help you weather hurricane season. • Prepare your home by trimming trees and shrubs around your property; cleaning rain gutters and downspouts; collecting and storing loose outdoor items; and purchasing plywood and other materials to help protect your home from damage. • Gather equipment and supplies and store them in a safe, centralized location. • Gather, review and update important documents, such as insurance policies, home inventories and health records. • Make arrangements for pets in case you have to evacuate your home and move to a shelter facility. Be sure pets have tags with your address and phone number. For more information and tips on hurricane preparedness, please visit www.weather.gov/wrn/hurricane-preparedness.
Summer 2019 | 9
Buying what you
uying or selling a home are major decisions that you’ll likely face during your financial journey. They are decisions that require plenty of planning, research and know-how to ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible. Here are some things you’ll need to consider when it’s time to buy or sell your home. Buying a Home 1. Use a Trusted Real Estate Agent A qualified and experienced agent you can trust will work to protect your interests while guiding you through every step of the buying process, from setting a target price range to helping you navigate the mountain of paperwork that usually comes with it. 2. Buy the House You Can Afford While this tip may sound obvious, it’s an important one to keep in mind because what the mortgage company thinks you can afford is often different from what you really can afford. There’s no “one size fits all” method for determining what a buyer can afford, but some lenders say that a buyer’s mortgage payment should total about 28% of their gross income.
3. Look to the Future Consider your long-term plans before you buy a home. Are you planning to stay at your current job for several years or more? Do you plan to start a family? Those questions — and many more — may influence your buying decision. 4. Consider More Than the Purchase Price Consider all the costs of homeownership before you buy, not just your mortgage payment. The overall cost includes insurance, taxes, maintenance costs, homeowner association fees, etc.
10 | Germania Today
Recipe chicken Ten layer salad Ingredients: ½ head iceberg lettuce, torn into small pieces 1 can water chestnuts, sliced and drained 2 cups cooked chicken, chopped 1 cup celery, chopped 1 box green peas, frozen 1 pint mayonnaise 3 tablespoons sugar
Selling a Home 1. Research the Local Housing Market
It’s always helpful to research the local market to gain a general understanding of housing prices in your neighborhood. Also, find out how many homes are listed in your area and how long they’ve been on the market. 2. Set Your Asking Price It’s extremely important to set the correct asking price from the start. If the home-buying demand is high in your market, then you can often set your price more aggressively. In a less active market, you may want to set your price at or slightly below market value. 3. Make Needed Improvements It’s important that your home has plenty of curb appeal and that it gives a great first impression to potential buyers. A house that’s well maintained and has nice landscaping will garner more attention when a buyer sees it for the first time. 4. Utilize Social Media There are many ways to give your house social media exposure — including Trulia and Zillow — while personal sites such as Facebook can also help increase the number of “eyes” on your home. Taking the proper steps before you buy or sell a home can make the entire process easier. From market research to home improvements and maintenance, be sure you have done all that you can do to ensure you are making the best decision. Remember to contact your Germania agent for guidance on your property coverage.
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated Bacon, crisp and crumbled Directions:
Layer all ingredients into a large clear bowl. Variations: Use green and red bell peppers for color and variety. To lower fat content, use low-fat mayonnaise, low-fat cheese and turkey bacon. Duane Sexton Gatesville, TX
Local Chapters Elect Directors
As mentioned in the Spring edition of Germania Today, changes were made to the director election process this year. Members had the opportunity to either vote by return mail or online by the April 30, 2019 deadline. See the table below for the number of ballots returned.
Number of Votes Cast
Elected to a three-year term as directors are Scott Phillips of Denison; Bryant Holub of Wichita Falls; Mike Bayless of Lumberton; and Dathan Voelter of Austin.
Summer 2019 | 11
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