Mission Statement

"Our mission is to create peace of mind and build enduring relationships."

Bob Lancaster Insurance's mission statement is the core of our culture. Our customers always come first, and we strive to provide them with the products and service that best respond to their needs. Building trust and fostering loyal, long-lasting relationships are the essence of who we are and fundamental parts of our company values.

Putting our mission statement to work

Our employees work hard to connect with our customers on a very real and personal level. Find out what Bob Lancaster’s mission means to them and how they carry it out every day.

Bob Lancaster Insurance, serving Florida's insurance needs since 1964. Contact us today at 321-725-1620 - see what we can do for YOU and YOUR BUSINESS!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

How Santa's little helpers get it done: Elf risk management

Santa’s Workshop (SW) has never failed to provide holiday happiness for millions of people around the globe, but that doesn’t mean that this magical North Pole-based operation isn’t affected by risk.
In fact, Santa’s enterprise has one of the most advanced enterprise risk management (ERM) programs in the world, allowing it to produce and deliver gifts on a scale that practically defies physics. SW’s ERM efforts are so sophisticated; they’ve even coined their own term to describe it: elf risk management, or ElfRM.
“People have this idea that we and Santa only check things twice, but we actually never stop assessing the risks that could get in the way of spreading Christmas joy,” said Chief Risk Elficer Figgy Evergreen in an exclusive interview. Evergreen has earned the Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter (CPCU®) designation and is currently working on earning the Associate in Risk Management—ERM (ARM-E™) designation.
Evergreen spends her days identifying, assessing and treating potential risks, all to ensure that the centuries-old, family run, not-for-profit SW organization can continue to bring smiles to the faces of children for Christmases to come.

With 50,000 elfin employees and a herd of reindeer living and working in a frozen tundra, the inherently low-operating income associated with producing millions of handmade goods that are given away for free, and the constant threat of Santa Truthers and shrinking Arctic ice, Evergreen’s job is never ending. She works closely with her broker, Candy Kane, on implementing appropriate risk treatment techniques, including retention and transfer, as part of an overall ERM program.
“Don’t even get me started with The War on Christmas,” Evergreen added.
In a rare moment of free time as she prepared the operation for its busiest time of year, she described what she does on an average day:
11:00 a.m.: Wake-Up Call (Elves sleep in, after all.)
Evergreen wakes up an hour earlier than her fellow elves, after a night filled with thoughts of workers compensation claims dancing in her head.
The first item on her list is to review the daily Believer Number Dashboard, which indicates current and potential gift recipients. Thanks to Santa Truthers (usually fifth-graders), these numbers are vulnerable and constantly fluctuating.
“Our reputation is a major strategic risk,” Evergreen said. “Even though Santa is an integral part of the holiday tradition for more than 80 percent of families in the U.S. and many others throughout the world, making Santa one of the strongest brands in the world, we never stop striving to grow our Believer Numbers.”
Evergreen spends the rest of her mornings monitoring operational risks with her managers. Being late on deliveries is not an option for SW, so it’s incredibly important for Evergreen and her colleagues to diligently manage her workshop’s people, processes and systems.
“Can you imagine if children woke up on Christmas Day and didn’t have any presents? Not only do we have to deliver on Christmas, but we have to hit a very narrow delivery window in the middle of the night,” Evergreen said. “Needless to say, we have to be efficient on a level that practically every other organization on Earth can’t even comprehend.” Add to that concerns about the logistics of launching a sleighful of gifts and eight reindeer while complying with FAA, TSA and other regulatory requirements.
12:00 p.m.: Lunch
To keep her energy level at its peak, Figgy eats an early lunch full of nutrients. Cinnamon buns and cheese Danish keep her fueled as she tackles her day.
1:00 p.m.: Fundraising Forecasting
Handmade goods that are created pro bono generate no operating income. SW relies heavily on anonymous donors to help fund the operation, but the recently volatile economy—and future mixed projections—have left fundraising estimates in flux. Candy Cane and her firm have assisted in structuring a general liability program, including products liability coverage with higher retentions, to reduce overall premium costs. They also solicited proposals from several insurers and provided a range of insurance programs so that Figgy and the Risk Management (RM) team could recommend various program options to Santa and the senior management team.
Based on Figgy’s projections, the Development Department has changed direction. It now works to establish partnerships with large retailers who donate shipments of toys, leveraging their anonymous philanthropy departments to help SW meet growing demands with shrinking resources. This, however, opens up a whole new range of potential risks related to supply chain management, including identifying possible disruptions and coordinating activities across multiple global organizations. Candy assisted in this process by recommending that SW be included as an additional insured on the department stores’ general liability policies to protect them from possible products liability claims arising from the retailers’ products.
1:30 p.m.: Snack Time!
Gingerbread cookies and hot chocolate, of course
2:00 p.m.: Climate Change Strategic Risk Management 
Figgy and the rest of the elf workforce take climate change very seriously. Aside from the environmental implications, SnoCones are a primary source of elf nutrients—and given the shrinking Arctic ice cap, they’re increasingly harder to come by. In anticipation of a future without the North Pole, Figgy has taken a proactive ERM approach and begun scouting real estate in Antarctica. With a land mass larger than Europe, established infrastructure due to various countries’ research camps and native penguin populations, and air that is warming at a slower pace than the North Pole, Antarctica has the potential to be an ideal substitute.
3:00 p.m.: Safety Hazard Mitigation
Elves are tiny, especially in comparison to reindeer. Given the Reindeer Readiness Department’s regular contact with the sleigh squad, Figgy and the RM team have developed strict safety protocol for any elf working in close proximity with wildlife (penguins and puffins included). This has helped lower workers compensation premiums for SW, cutting 15 percent off of the total l policy.
3:30 p.m.: Pre-dinner snack
Candy-cane flavored SnoCone
4:00 p.m.: Liquor Liability Projections
About 10 years ago, a group of rowdy elves got a little too carried away with the eggnog. They misplaced a few parts of the toys they were responsible for building, and a group of very unhappy children received doll babies with two sets of hands and no feet. Since that debacle, Figgy and the Head Nog Elf have implemented a moratorium on the all-you-can-drink eggnog bar in the Elf Café. There have been no repeat incidences, and customer satisfaction numbers have been up every year.
4:30 p.m.: Financial Risk Strategies
Though the North Pole dollar has strengthened since last Christmas, Figgy is working with the finance manager to work out a currency-hedging strategy that will insulate the North Pole from any currency devaluation in the years to come. Given the tenuous progress in most other emerging markets, it’s better to be safe than sorry, so they’ve mapped out a five-year plan to boost the value of their own currency.
5:00 p.m.: Dinner
Having put in a full elfin day of work, Figgy reunites with her family for their daily Christmas feast (one of the perks of SW employment). Complete with prime rib, mashed potatoes, green-bean casserole and, of course, plenty of Christmas cookies, apple pie and more SnoCones, the meal and celebration last until Figgy’s 9:00 p.m. bedtime 
Thanks to Evergreen’s diligent efforts as chief risk elficer, SW runs smoothly, and millions of children wake to a Christmas morning full of the presents they have been wishing for all year long. Now that’s successful ERM!
Contact us for all your Insurance needs! (321)725-1620 
Bob Lancaster Insurance
Serving Florida since 1964

Friday, November 13, 2015

Don’t Fiddle on Your Roof When it Comes to Repairs

Roof repair is part of routine home maintenance, but you don’t have to wish you were a rich man to make improvements that could extend the life of your roof. And the timing couldn’t be better – now that we’ve escaped the ever-present dew and rain of Florida’s summer season, the weather is ideal to upgrade your roof. The materials are cooler to handle while still being warm enough to seal correctly – helping avoid trapped moisture that can lead to blistering and other problems. Beyond keeping you safe in the event of a storm, a roof that’s retrofitted to meet hurricane standards can help pay for itself in the way of wind mitigation credits and discounts from your homeowners insurance company.
Here are areas to consider when making your roof hurricane and mitigation inspection ready:

Roof Covering

Your roof covering can be the deciding factor as to whether your house qualifies for wind mitigation discounts. If you plan to recover your roof, slate, tile and asphalt shingles are the most common materials used in Florida however, metal panels and wood shingles and shakes are also options for your consideration. Consult with a roofer to determine which material is best for your home.
Tip: To protect roof coverings from both wind and hail damage, look for roof coverings that are both wind and impact rated.

Secondary Water Resistance (SWR)

This coating seals to the roof deck and protects the building if the roof covering fails during intense winds and keeps rain from leaking into the house. SWR provides a layer of waterproofing by sealing the seams in the roof deck.
Tip: Some insurance companies will consider a concrete roof deck a secondary barrier but most only apply the credit for self-adhering modified bitumen (peel and stick roofing), so check with your carrier.

Roof-to-Wall Connection

Your roof is connected to the walls of your home, which are secured to the strongest anchor on your property – your home’s foundation. The roof-to-wall connection (also known as continuous load path) keeps the roof on your home by transferring uplift loads on the roof into the supporting walls. The weaker the connection, the higher probability the roof will be pulled off during high winds.
Tip: The four most common connection types (listed from strongest to weakest) are double wraps, single wraps, clips, and toe nails.

Roof Deck Attachment

Poorly attached roof decking is the leading cause of home damage from hurricanes. The roof deck holds the whole house together, providing structural integrity. Most roofs in Florida consist of shingles nailed to plywood sheets. If the plywood sheets are not securely nailed to your roof trusses, additional nails, and/or longer nails, along with a foam adhesive should be added to ensure the plywood is not blown off in a hurricane.
Tip: In order to qualify for mitigation credits, roof decking/sheathing must consist of 1/2" (min) plywood or OSB that is fastened to the trusses/rafters with 8d (min) nails having nail spacing not exceeding 12" on the field trusses/rafters and 6" on the seam trusses/rafters.

Roof Shape

Most homes in Florida feature flat, hip, or gable shaped roofs. Compared to other types of roofs, hip roofs generally perform better in extreme winds because they have fewer sharp corners and their construction makes them inherently more structurally stable. Hip roofs are sloped downward on all sides like a pyramid and offer the greatest insurance discounts.
Tip: Steeply pitched roofs (roofs angled to the horizontal at 30 degrees or more) usually perform better in hurricanes than flat roofs because uplift on the windward roof slopes is either reduced or eliminated.

Gable End Bracing

Gable end walls, if not properly braced and anchored, can take a tremendous beating during a hurricane. When the connection between your home’s wall framing and roof framing at the gable ends is weak, the gable end walls can get sucked out by the wind, exposing your home to rain and damaging your insulation, drywall and contents.
Tip: Any gable end that is more than 48 inches should be braced to the 2001 Florida Building Code standard to qualify for an insurance discount.
Roof failures account for the largest amount of loss during a hurricane. Now’s the time to raise your roof (strength) in preparation for the next storm and make improvements that could reduce your insurance premiums. Do you have any helpful hints to share about roof upgrades?

Contact us for all your Insurance needs! (321)725-1620
Bob Lancaster Insurance
Serving Florida since 1964

Thursday, November 5, 2015


Truck unloading is a daily activity in many businesses. It is also a regular source of injuries to the driver, workers and visitors. Employers have a responsibility to ensure they maintain a safe working environment. Forklift operators are also responsible for the safety of others in the unloading area.

This guideline should be used to help management establish safe work procedures as it relates to vehicle unloading

.• Establish an Unloading Area: 

o Area should be level to help maintain stability of the truck and trailer. The ground should be free of potholes and debris.

o Area should be free of overhead electric lines. o Area should be clear of other traffic -- vehicles or foot. Pedestrians, the truck driver, or others employees not involved in the unloading process should be clear of the area.

o Area should have sufficient lighting for early morning or evening unloading.

o If possible, the designated area should be a one-way route to prevent the need for vehicles to back up. If a driver is required to back the vehicle, a spotter should be used to protect pedestrians and property.

• Guidelines for Truck Drivers: 

o After checking into the office, the driver should proceed to the designated area and remove tarps, straps, or other load securement devices. Secure this material so it is not an obstruction to the forklift operator during the unloading process.

o Driver should secure vehicle, apply brakes, and turn off engine, as appropriate, to prevent unsafe movement during the unloading operation.

o Driver should proceed to a designated area (safe zone) located away from the truck and outside of the unloading area. The driver should remain in that area during the unloading operation. o NO material should be unloaded nor should any forklifts be operating in the area around the truck until the driver has completed all of the tasks above and moved to the designated safe zone.

• Guidelines for Forklift Operators: 

o Operating a forklift should be limited to individuals who are trained and qualified to do so, including general forklift safety topics and equipment specific training. Initial training should be completed prior to authorization of the driver to operate the forklift. Refresher training should be completed every three years and following any forklift-related accident, property damage, or near-miss incident.

o Have a clear understanding of the material being unloaded; unloading a bunk of 2x4 is different from unloading laminated beams or a pallet of roof shingles.

o Check the load -- Make sure that the load has not shifted, banding is still in place, and the overall load is in good condition and not likely to move or fall during the unloading process.

 o No one, including other workers, should be on the opposite side of a truck from a forklift while it is unloading material.

o EMPOWER your forklift driver to stop the unloading process if the location of the truck driver cannot be confirmed or someone else enters the unloading zone.

While unloading of material is an everyday activity at most operations, safety cannot be taken for granted. It is management’s responsibility to ensure that proper training and safe unloading procedures are in place and enforced.

 NOTE: These guidelines should also be used for loading operations.

Contact us for all your Insurance needs! (321)725-1620 
Bob Lancaster Insurance
Serving Florida since 1964

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Bob's Halloween Safety Tips for Protecting Your Ghouls & Goblins

Halloween can be an enjoyable experience for parents and children alike. Watching your children be creative with their costumes and having a great time with family and friends can create heart-warming memories that will last a lifetime. However, whenever your loved ones are involved, it is also a time to take precautions against potential threats to your children.
With Halloween being tonight, we at Bob Lancaster Insurance wants you to be aware of some useful safety advice:
  1. Supervision. Make sure your young children are accompanied by at least 2 responsible adults.
  2. Kids on their own? If your older children are going trick-or-treating unaccompanied, make sure they are in a group of at least 4 kids. Have them meet at one their parents’ houses and make sure a responsible adult picks them up and drops them off at home. Never let any of them walk home alone.
  3. Familiar surroundings. It is safer to stay in familiar neighborhoods where you know your surroundings, or at the very least, know people in the neighborhood you where you will be trick-or-treating.
  4. Haunted houses. Instruct your children that they are never to go inside a stranger’s home unless accompanied by an adult. This includes a haunted house. While a haunted house may look like fun, if you don’t know the people, you don’t know if it’s safe.
  5. Enjoy treats safely. Be cautious and avoid fruit or unwrapped candy.
  6. Your stamp of approval. Tell your children not to eat any treats until they get home, and you can inspect and approve their candy inventory.
  7. No shortcuts. Children should never take shortcuts through stranger’s yards, alleys, or empty fields.
  8. No free rides. Tell your kids to never accept rides from strangers.
  9. Be prepared. Take these safety items with you: a cell phone, a flashlight, water, and a small first-aid kit.
  10. Where are you going? Pre-plan the trick-or-treating route.
  11. Set and confirm a curfew. Since some cities have curfews, make sure you are aware of, and show respect for local laws. If your city does not have a curfew, set a personal curfew time for your children and let them know to return home in advance of their curfew.
  12. Costumes. Make sure costumes are fire-resistant and safe. Costumes and shoes should be comfortable and easy to walk in.
  13. Be easy to see. For increased visibility and safety, have your kids wear something bright and easy to see at night. Also, use a flashlight to make others aware of your presence.
  14. No weapons (real or imitation). Never use realistic looking weapons as part of your costumes. There have been several instances where such replicas have led to fatal shootings by homeowners or police.
  15. Contact us for all your Insurance needs! (321)725-1620 
    Bob Lancaster Insurance
    Serving Florida since 1964

Monday, October 26, 2015

Bob's Insurance Success Tip #8 – Consider Pollution Insurance

Almost all liability insurance policies exclude pollution claims.  Consider buying separate policies.
Oil leaks from a heating oil storage tank?  No coverage.
Stored chemicals contaminates a neighbor’s well?  No coverage.
Pollution is found at a vacant site you own?  No coverage.
You buy land and find it is contaminated?  No coverage.
Your property insurance provides extremely limited coverage for cleanup of pollution at your location when the cause of the loss is a peril covered by your building insurance.  The coverage is probably less than $15,000. 

Contact us for all your Insurance needs! (321)725-1620 
Bob Lancaster Insurance
Serving Florida since 1964

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Bob's Insurance Success Tip #7 – Check Your Work Comp Payrolls

The payrolls declared on your workers’ compensation policy determines your estimated premium.
At the end of the policy year you are asked to report your actual payroll. The audit results in an adjustment to and the final settle-up of premium.
Review your payrolls to avoid a large audit additional premium or a large return premium. Think of it like your income tax – you pay estimated taxes and settle at the end of the year. You don’t want a big bill or a big return.
Contact us for all your Insurance needs! (321)725-1620 
Bob Lancaster Insurance
Serving Florida since 1964

Monday, October 19, 2015

Bob's Insurance Success Tip #6 – Review Your Business Interruption Insurance

Business interruption insurance protects your profits and pays those expenses that continue after an insured loss.
Your store burns. It will take 4 months to rebuild. Business interruption insurance (extra expense coverage) pays to rent a temporary location and to advertise that you are still open for business. It pays your lost profit and those expenses that continue beyond what you are able earn in your temporary location.
Meet with your insurance adviser to be sure you have enough business interruption insurance and that it is properly designed to meet your unique needs.
Contact us for all your Insurance needs! (321)725-1620 
Bob Lancaster Insurance
Serving Florida since 1964

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Bob's Insurance Success Tip #5 – Buy Employee Dishonesty Insurance

Half of all theft in the US is perpetrated by employees. Don’t tell me how honest your employees are. Everyone who has been hurt by embezzlement said the same thing the week before they found that they had been taken.
$250,000 of coverage is a minimum for any business. More if your exposures warrant. The coverage is usually cheap too.
Contact us for all your Insurance needs! (321)725-1620 
Bob Lancaster Insurance
Serving Florida since 1964

Monday, October 12, 2015

Bob's Insurance Success Tip #4 – Work Only With Great Insurance Agents

The most important part of the insurance transaction is the relationship you have with your insurance agent. If you don’t have total confidence in your agent, find another agent – now.

Contact us for all your Insurance needs! (321)725-1620 
Bob Lancaster Insurance
Serving Florida since 1964

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Bob's Insurance Success Tip #3 – Buy High Limits of Liability Insurance

Do not skimp on liability insurance limits.
A $1,000,000 umbrella liability policy is a “must-have” for all businesses.
For companies over ten employees, my recommendation is at least $3,000,000.
For most small businesses $5,000,000 is quite affordable.
Best approach: have your agent quote $1 million, $3 million, and $5 million. You will be surprised at how inexpensive the coverage is.
Make your decision based on the value of the coverage compared to the premium charged.
Contact us for all your Insurance needs! (321)725-1620 
Bob Lancaster Insurance
Serving Florida since 1964

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Unlawful or Unauthorized Charging of Fees

The Florida Department of Financial Services has received an increasing number of inquiries from Florida agents and agencies asking if it's allowable to charge fees for policies or services, such as issuing certificates of coverage, to obtain additional compensation. Charging fees is unlawful under the Florida Insurance Code. Subsection 626.9541(1)(o), F.S., states that it is unlawful for any licensee to collect any sum connected with the purchase of insurance that is not forwarded to the appropriate insurer, or part of the insurer's rates as filed with the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, or otherwise designated as lawful within the Florida Insurance Code. This law applies to all licensees, including agencies and surplus lines agents.

The Department will vigorously investigate all allegations of unlawful fees and take the appropriate enforcement action for the overcharging of Florida consumers in insurance transactions.[See 626.9541(1)(o), Florida Statutes]

Contact us for all your Insurance needs! (321)725-1620 
Bob Lancaster Insurance
Serving Florida since 1964

Monday, October 5, 2015

Bob's Insurance Success Tip #2 – Use High Deductibles

Let the insurance company take the big risks. You pay for small losses.
$5,000 is the minimum deductible most businesses should have on property insurance. Same for crime insurance, machinery coverage, and the physical damage portion of your automobile insurance.
Most liability insurance policies do not have a deductible. When someone is hurt or you have damaged their property get your insurance company involved soon. The same day the accident occurred is the best approach.
Don’t play the dollar swapping game with your insurance company.
Contact us for all your Insurance needs! (321)725-1620 
Bob Lancaster Insurance
Serving Florida since 1964

Friday, October 2, 2015

Bob's Insurance Success Tip #1 – Bid Regularly

To get the very best premium and the best coverage you must bid your business insurance regularly.

The insurance marketplace is now structure so that insurance buyers who do not regularly bid will pay a “Loyalty Tax.” Insurers provide the most aggressive pricing when they think they will lose the account.
Competition gets you the best coverage at the best price.
Contact us for all your Insurance needs! (321)725-1620 
Bob Lancaster Insurance
Serving Florida since 1964

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Reminder: Unemployment Taxes Due by October 31st

The Florida unemployment compensation tax (now called “reemployment tax”) for the third quarter of 2015 (for payroll paid during the months of July, August and September) is due to the state of Florida by October 31st, along with the Employer’s Quarterly Report (RT-6).­ All Florida businesses with employees are responsible for paying this tax (with very limited exceptions).

The Employer’s Quarterly Report used to be called the UCT-6 but is now known as the RT-6 because the Legislature changed the name from unemployment compensation to reemployment assistance several years ago.­ Only the name has changed; the content of the form is still the same.­

On the RT-6 tax return, an employer must list all employee names and social security numbers, plus the amount of wages paid for the quarter.­ Reemployment taxes are collected only on the first $7,000 of each employee’s wages.­ This is a change from 2014 – last year, employers paid tax on the first $8,000 of each employee’s wages.­

Because reemployment tax is only paid on the first $7,000 of each employee’s wages, the employer may not owe much tax this quarter if their employees have already reached $7,000 in wages this calendar year.

If a business pays its tax by electronic funds transfer (EFT) or through the Internet, they must initiate the payment by 5:00 p.m. ET on the business day prior to October 31st for the payment to be considered timely. A late filing penalty is charged at $25 for each month or a fraction of a month that a report is late. Interest is charged at 1% per month on the unpaid tax from the original due date until the tax is paid.

If employers have 10 or more employees, they are required to file an RT-6 and pay their taxes online through the Department of Revenue’s website, unless they have received a waiver to file their return on paper.­

Whether employers file by paper or electronically, they can sign up to receive a quarterly reemployment tax reminder email from the Department of Revenue at dor.myflorida.com/dor/list/.

Contact us for all your Insurance needs! (321)725-1620 
Bob Lancaster Insurance
Serving Florida since 1964

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Coinsurance – What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

The word “coinsurance” may be the most misunderstood and confusing term in the world of insurance.
One definition of “coinsurance” is used interchangeably with the word “co-pay” – the amount the insurance company pays in a claim. An eighty- percent co-pay (or coinsurance) clause in health insurance means the insurance company pays 80% of the bill. A $1,000 doctor’s bill would be paid at 80%, or $800. The above definition also applies to coinsurance in liability insurance. Few policies have such a clause. Some professional liability and directors’ and officers’ policies in the past included coinsurance. The provision was usually a part of the retention or deductible in a policy. Some employment-related practices contracts have coinsurance.
The term “coinsurance,” when used in the context of property insurance, has an altogether different meaning. Here, coinsurance is the percentage of value that the policyholder is required to insure. A building with a value of $1,000,000 and a policy with an 80% coinsurance clause must be insured for at least $800,000.
To make life more complicated, “value” is determined at the time of the loss. If the amount of insurance is found to be under the coinsurance percentage, then a penalty is applied which reduces the claim payment. This hurts the policyholder.
The building and policy mentioned above illustrates the point. If the policyholder decides to buy $600,000 of insurance and a $200,000 fire occurs, the claim is calculated by dividing what was purchased ($600,000) by what should have been bought ($800,000). The result in this case is 75%. The factor is multiplied by the amount of the loss. The calculation works out:
$200,000 X .75 = $150,000.
The policyholder will receive $150,000 (less any deductible) for the $200,000 claim.
Almost all property insurance policies contain a coinsurance clause. Building insurance, contents coverage, computer coverage, inland marine policies, and tool and equipment floaters all contain the penalty clause mentioned above. Some require 100% of the value!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Employee Spotlight - Monitoring Employees

Once upon a time, monitoring employees consisted primarily of sprinkling around a few video cameras in the warehouse to detect inventory pilfering. Times have changed: Today you can harness "behavioral modeling" software to try to assess employee productivity, using multiple data inputs combing activity on their computers (including web browsing activities), GPS data and other information. One monitoring service vendor boasts that you can "know what your employees are doing every second of the year."

An organization called the "Privacy Rights Clearinghouse" maintains a laundry list of ways employers can monitor employees. The list is intended to help employees know their rights, but as the information makes clear, their privacy rights are limited. Consider:

Monitoring Basics
  • Telephone monitoring. Under just about any scenario, you can monitor employees' telephone calls, either by recording them or tuning in. Some states, such as California, require that you give them a heads-up if you are recording calls. Most don't. However, if you're monitoring calls and you happen to listen in on a conversation that clearly is personal in nature, you are obliged to hang up. Yet if your company has a "no personal calls on company phones" policy described in your employee handbook, you can make note of a violation of that policy.

  • Telephone records. You can review logs of individual employees' calls by the phone number dialed and the call duration.

  • Conversations among employees. Generally these can be monitored on the same basis as business-related telephone conversations.

  • Computer keystrokes and terminal monitors. Software is readily available that allows you to do this, and in general it's legal -- unless you have a formal agreement with employees not to do so, of course. The same applies to monitoring the amount of time employees spend active at the computer.

  • Email. The email from and to employees who are using company-owned computers is not private. That includes Gmail, Yahoo or other such personal web-based email accounts accessed via a company computer. Employers also can review deleted email.

  • Text messages. You generally can access texts to and from employees on company-owned smartphones. Similarly, you can also monitor the audio of calls placed on company-owned mobile phones.

  • Snail mail. Mail addressed to an employee at the workplace generally can be opened by the employer. However, this area is somewhat murky; consult an attorney before proceeding.

  • Video monitoring. As noted earlier, this has long been a common practice. Common sense exceptions must be made for places like locker rooms and bathrooms, however.

  • Tracking employees via GPS systems. This generally is allowed if their movements are based on the requirements of their job, such as making deliveries, taking checks to the bank, and so on. However, it's best to inform employees that this is your practice.
Obtain Legal Guidance
It's a good idea to get a labor attorney to guide you with respect to monitoring policies that may seem particularly intrusive. In general, spelling out your monitoring policies in your employee handbook is a good idea so that employees have been given fair warning. In some cases it might also be wise to get their written acknowledgement of their understanding of that policy.
Beyond simply protecting yourself legally, weigh the pros and cons of each element of your employee monitoring policy. Consider:
1. What are the risks you are trying to reduce?
2. How serious are those risks?
3. How effective will the monitoring method be in reducing those risks?
4. How will employees respond to the knowledge that they are being monitored?
Don't Go Overboard
As James Madison famously once wrote, "If all men were angels, no government would be necessary." Or to quote a more recent U.S. president, Ronald Reagan, "Trust but verify." Some level of employee monitoring is generally required in all work environments. Yet be careful not to take it too far.

If employees feel they are working under a microscope at all times, many will, logically, interpret this as the employer viewing them with distrust. Believing that your company considers you untrustworthy is anything but motivational.

To limit that effect, new employees and all employees on a regular basis should be told how and why your monitoring policy was developed. It should be stressed that employees are valued and trusted, and that monitoring systems can offer them as much protection as the employer to the extent it keeps any unjust accusations from being leveled against them.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Playing it safe: A 10-point risk management checklist for residential rental properties

Are you, and your tenants, protected?
Are you, and your tenants, protected?

Owning a residential rental property is first and foremost an investment. And like any investment, its success depends on generating income, or in other words, its ability to attract tenants. With more than 108 million renters in the U.S. and over 22 million landlords according to the Rental Protection Agency, it’s easy to see why property owners and landlords need to identify potential hazards for tenants and guests, and address them accordingly.
The National Multifamily Housing Council says more than 43 million households or 35% are renter-occupied. The largest segment of renters, 17%, are 30 years of age or younger. The cities with the largest number of renters include: New York, N.Y.; Los Angeles, Calif.; Chicago, Ill.; Houston, Texas; Philadelphia, Pa.; and Phoenix, Ariz. The majority of renters (43%) live in single-family homes and 35% of renters live in structures with five or more units.
Nothing attracts and retains renters like a reputation for being a safe and secure place to live. Successful landlords and their property managers know that maintaining safe premises is an ongoing process of reducing risk. The following 10 practices serve as a good starting place
Front entrance
1. Doors
All entry doors, whether at common entrances or individual apartments, should be of solid wood construction or steel, and any glass panels should be reinforced and shatterproof.
2. Locks
A deadbolt lock should secure each apartment door and be changed or re-keyed when a tenant moves. In addition, a door chain allows tenants to see who's at the door without completely opening it. A peephole is even better. Windows should also have working locks.
Outdoor lighting
3. Appropriate Lighting
Dark areas not only invite crime, they frighten tenants. Indoor hallways should be well lit at all times. LED bulbs provide excellent light. Floodlights along paths, parking areas and garbage disposal areas can be controlled by timers or sensors to provide lighting from dusk to dawn. Less-visited spots such as storage areas can be connected to motion-detector lights to save energy.
 security cameras
4. Security Cameras
Mounting security cameras in public areas not only gives tenants a sense of security, but deters vandalism as well. There should be a mix of camera types to best monitor targeted areas:
  • PTZ (pan tilt zoom) for large areas like walkways, swimming pools or parking lots.
  • Fixed cameras for enclosed areas such as front and back entrances, as well as elevators, mailbox areas and stairwells.
  • Day/night cameras for outdoor areas that get round-the-clock foot traffic or indoor areas where lights are dimmed overnight.
Cameras protect the landlord in liability cases as well, since they can capture a fall or accident and confirm whether or not the property contributed to the incident.
5. Intercoms
In a multi-dwelling property with a main locked main entry, a multi-line intercom at the entrance allows tenants to communicate with anyone who rings the bell before allowing them access into the building. Some systems have built-in cameras for added security.
Several additional measures that will complement these risk management practices include:
 Background check
6. Prospective Tenant Screening
Not all crime comes from outside of the building. A landlord or property manager should diligently screen prospective tenants to make sure they are law-abiding individuals who will pay their rent, respect the rights of their fellow tenants and will not damage the property. In addition to an interview, candidates should fill out an application in which they give the following information to enable a credit and background check.
  • Current employment
  • Income information
  • Current and former landlord contact information
  • Personal references

Rental contract
7. Rental Contract
Sometimes evictions are necessary. Sooner or later an irresponsible tenant will disturb the neighbors, destroy or damage the property, or fail to pay the rent. To protect themselves and make the eviction process flow smoothly, landlords should require a signed rental contract spelling out both landlord and tenant responsibilities and grounds for eviction.
Since a signed and dated agreement will serve as a legal document in what could be a long eviction process, all rental contracts should be stored in a fireproof, locked file or safe.
 Pet policy
8. Pet Policy
Pet-friendly landlords should include a pet agreement in the rental contract, since pets of irresponsible owners can damage property, spread disease, and annoy or harm other tenants. The agreement should be specific as to:
  • Number of animals allowed per unit
  • Types and breeds allowed
  • Weight limit
  • Specific reasons why a tenant can be asked to remove the animal
Non-pet owners should be required to sign the agreement as well in case they acquire a pet after establishing residency.
Insurance policy 
9. Proper Insurance Coverage
Even with all these strategies in place, disasters still occur. Landlords should ensure that they have the property insurance with appropriate coverage limits. At a minimum, the policy should include the following coverage:
  • Property damage
  • Liability
  • Loss of rental income/business interruption
  • Flood insurance
  • Premises liability

Smoke detector
10. Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
No list of landlord precautions would be complete without smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Many states require them, but regardless, any responsible landlord or property manager will make sure each unit contains functioning detectors and accessible fire extinguishers in common areas.
Appropriate risk management strategies protect the tenants and the property owner, providing a safer environment for all in which to live and work. 
Contact us for all your Insurance needs! (321)725-1620 
Bob Lancaster Insurance
Serving Florida since 1964