Look Closely at Insurance Policies


IPWhen was the last time you reviewed the insurance coverage on your business property? If you have an insurance agent who works closely with your company, you may be accustomed to periodic reviews to keep your insurance up to date. However, if you bought insurance based primarily on price, these reviews might be left up to you.

Some business owners learn the hard way that they didn’t buy enough coverage after suffering losses from floods, fires, thefts, vandalism, lightning, hurricanes, and other natural or human-caused damage.

Here are some points to keep in mind:

Don’t overlook insuring key pieces of business property. It can be a vital factor in keeping your doors open after a disaster. See the right-hand list to ensure you consider all property that may warrant insurance coverage.

Determine whether your property should be insured for the current value or the replacement value. For example, consider computers and other technology systems that are carried on your books at a low dollar value based on depreciation. They could cost considerably more to replace today than your insurance policy would pay if they were only insured for their book value.

When insuring real property, consider not only the replacement value, but also property value changes in the area. If values are appreciating, you may need to increase coverage. Conversely, if values are declining, you may want to decrease coverage.

If you rent out parts of a property, determine what you need to insure and what the tenant is responsible for. Don’t forget to figure in the insurance burden when calculating lease rates.

Is Less Coverage an Option?

Of course, insurance rates are based on the idea of managing risk. The insurance company is betting that the premiums you pay will be more than claims you file. It may be more cost-effective to decrease coverage if you think your company can insure itself for portions of potential losses.

Another option: Consider accepting higher deductibles so that premiums are more affordable. Obviously, pursuing such a strategy involves additional risk and must be weighed carefully.

Decreasing coverage and accepting higher deductibles are far different than self-insuring, a process that involves a business setting a rate for its own company and paying premiums into a contingency fund. Self insuring business property is not generally recommended for small and medium-sized businesses because they usually don’t have the funds to pay potential major losses.

Not only is self-insuring risky, it provides fewer tax deductions. That’s because premiums for fire, casualty and burglary insurance on business property are deductible for tax purposes. But if a business taxpayer has a self-insurance plan, payments into the self-insurance reserve are not tax-deductible, although actual losses incurred by the business could be written off.

Regardless of your decision, find out the value of your property before you buy an insurance policy. Consider not just the book value, but also the cost and urgency to your business of replacing damaged property.

Types of Business Property that Could Require Insurance

  • Buildings and other structures (owned or leased).
  • Furniture, equipment and supplies.
  • Money and securities.
  • Accounts receivable records.
  • Improvements you made to the premises.
  • Inventory.
  • Data processing equipment and media (including computers).
  • Valuable papers, books and documents.
  • Mobile property such as automobiles, trucks and construction equipment.
  • Satellite dishes.
  • Signs, fences and outdoor property not attached to a building.
  • Intangible property (such as goodwill and trademarks).
  • Leased equipment.

Five More Ways to Protect Business Assets

1. To prove insurance losses, keep good records of inventory, accounts receivable and equipment purchases. Maintain a second set of important records off-site. Photographs of damaged property are extremely helpful

2. If you have an office in the home, be aware that your homeowners policy may not cover losses in a business activity, including equipment and inventory stored at your residence. An endorsement or rider may be needed.

3. Premium discounts are generally available to businesses that install security systems or fire-protection devices.

4. In the event of a loss, policies generally require notification within 24, 48 or 72 hours of the incident. If you fail to report the loss on time, it may nullify your right to recovery.

5. Instead of purchasing property and liability coverage separately, eligible companies might save money by combining them in a Business Owner’s Policy (BOP).