Well, do you? Ever thought about it at all? You’ve got a Homeowners Insurance Policy. Right? Well, years of experience tell us that most people think their home business is covered with just their Homeowners Insurance. And that is fine for your 12 year old daughters’ lemonade stand. But when the “hobby” becomes a business, things can change!
Sure, you would not be the first one to have a stolen business computer covered by Homeowners, but understand this… It is a flip of the coin! If it was taken together with the TV, some jewelry, and other valuables, you may have won.
Typically, Homeowners Insurance excludes a business and all business property and liability. Want the good news first? OK. Many times coverage may be added inexpensively with just a couple endorsements to the policy, but it wholly depends on the underwriting stance of the insurance company. And the even better news is that SOME Homeowners Insurance already include an endorsement for a small amount of business personal property, typically $500-$2500. These are intended for the person who takes their work home with them. If all you wanted was the good news, you can stop here. If you want to understand the bad, read this:
Let us consider the example of a small home eBay business. There are several around these days and you probably know of one or may be such a business. For this example, assume that you have an inventory of about $10,000. and there is a small fire, damaging the inventory.
The insurance adjuster comes out and comments “Boy, you sure had quite a few fancy widgets!”
To which you respond, “Yeah, we sell them on eBay.”
Strangely, the adjuster is interested. “Oh really? My wife collects fancy widgets, and we talked about selling a few on eBay ourselves. How is that going?”
Now you are in business, and one of the first things you ever heard about advertising was that word of mouth was great and free.
In this case you will find, that word of mouth is not so great and certainly, is not free.
That smell of smoke is not from the fire a couple days ago. Your goose has been caught, slaughtered, plucked, basted, skewered, and is turning nicely on the rotisserie as you speak.
Now the really bad news. What we have been talking about thus far, is the property angle. Do not forget you also have your Liability situation to think about. While this article cannot get into all the nuances, just understand that Liability is your legal responsibility to others for damages to their person or property. Translated – what you owe someone, because of something you did, or did not do, that caused them injury in some way.
For instance, in a Home business related situation, a gentleman stop by our house to pick up an eBay purchase he had made from us. Had he slipped on ice and fallen, we probably would have been liable for his injuries. Heck, we WOULD have been – he was an attorney! But his presence, being business related (picking up a purchase, even if it was “only” eBay), changes the degree of care owed to him legally.
It is recommend you endorse your Homeowners Insurance for an office exposure, should something of this nature be possible in your business situation. The premium is only about $15. and it covers PREMISES Liability. There, that was easy to take care of, wasn’t it!
But read on, it gets worse again. Let’s suppose that the gentleman who so innocently stopped by my house had gotten hurt using his eBay purchase. He is an attorney, remember – just my luck! He had bought a collectible from the Worlds Fair in Buffalo, NY, but let’s suppose he had bought a small antique machine or utensil. The sale intended that it be hung on the wall and admired. Friends come in and ask, “Hey, what the heck is that thing?”
But this guy decides to see if it still works. Not an unusual or unpredictable event. No one ever thought to put that in the auction bill, not that it would matter. Heck no one even knew it SHOULD have had a guard on it! He loses a finger trying it out. Do you know what an attorney’s finger is worth? You are about to find out!
Let’s not even imagine his seven year old child is the one injured. She was going to be a brain surgeon. Guess she will have to settle for being an attorney now. Would you want a surgeon without all their fingers? Wouldn’t inspire confidence, would it? No matter how they really lost it.
This is where you are starting to wonder if your business is really worth it all. You find out that your Homeowners Insurance has an exclusion for PRODUCT Liability. Yesterday you had never heard of it and today you are quickly becoming an expert. You actually start reading the forms that came with your policy, the ones that you filed away ten years ago.
Lucky you! They weren’t put in the trash like so many others have done. You are looking for that famous loophole, as described in so many movies. You think there is the slightest possibility that this has never happened to anyone else and the insurance companies may have not thought of excluding such an event. Silly YOU!
The story could go on, but you have suffered enough. And if you don’t get the picture now, you may never anyway.
Now you wish you had Business Insurance. You tell everyone you are in business, don’t you? Why, you had business cards printed, just last week! Did you go into the print shop and ask for personal cards?
Just what sort of insurance should have been carried? Go ask your Independent Agent for a Business Owners Policy, aka BOP. You can often get one for small businesses for a minimum premium of $250. The companies that offer them at that price are getting to be fewer in number, but they are still available. If you are in New York City, it’s going to be higher, certainly. But it should not be higher than a $500 minimum premium, unless your small business has really grown. Have your agent fill in the blanks to best tailor it to your specific situation.
So there you have it ladies and gentlemen. Don’t you wish you had just read the last couple paragraphs first? For $250 you can go to sleep and forget about fires and product liability what-cha-ma-call-it.
Oh, did you say that you have an employee (or volunteer labor)? Can’t you just hear it now, “Oh boy, something else I hadn’t thought of to loose sleep over.” Watch for the next in our series for the home business. Try to think of these as a natural pep pill.