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!

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Gift Yourself These Insurance Coverages for the Holidays - Why Extra Insurance Coverage May Be Useful This Season – and Beyond

The holiday season gets busy. With so many professional and personal obligations to attend to, it can be hard to not let the stress of the season seep in. While you are busy ensuring your shopping list is complete and making arrangements to spend time with loved ones, you should take a few minutes for a little “me time,” too.
This can mean unplugging, spending some time in nature or giving yourself a gift of peace of mind, such as insurance coverage. Yes, insurance can make for a practical gift that keeps on giving all year long. Consider the coverages below to help minimize your worries this holiday season and beyond.

Trip Insurance

If you plan to travel this holiday season, you may want to add trip insurance, also known as travel insurance, to your itinerary. Such a policy can help cover you if unforeseen circumstances, such as a medical emergency, interfere with the travel plans you so flawlessly put together.
Depending on what you purchase, travel insurance can help protect you against financial loss associated with trip cancellation, lost luggage, medical expenses and more.

Roadside Assistance and Rental Car Coverage

When we Southerners venture north to see relatives during the holidays, trouble can ensue. We’re not used to driving in snowy conditions, and we’ve only heard about putting chains on tires. And, all of a sudden, we’ve gotten ourselves stuck in a snow embankment in Ohio.
This is where rental car and roadside coverages on your auto policy can come in very handy (whether you drive in snow regularly or just occasionally). Say a curb was hiding in that snow embankment and you now have a flat tire. Roadside assistance can help you with the tire to get you moving again. However, if your car needs to visit the shop, your policy may help cover the cost of towing your vehicle and renting another so you don’t miss out on the festivities.

Identity Theft Protection

With all the online shopping you're doing this year, don’t forget to protect yourself from the ever-growing threat of cyber crime, such as identity theft. Make sure you are shopping with a reputable company and on a secure website. If in doubt, stop what you are doing and leave the site. Remember, never open an email or click on a link in an email from someone you don’t know.
I also suggest checking with your independent agent to see if coverage for identity theft is available as an add-on to your policy. Such coverage is often extremely inexpensive and can help with the costs of recovering from identity theft. These costs may include legal fees, lost wages and more related to the recovery process.
The bottom line is: While you absolutely love making someone’s eyes light up with the perfect gift, it’s important to take care of yourself, as well. Talk to your independent agent about insurance options and insurance coverages to help increase your protection this holiday season and beyond.
Happy holidays from all of us at Bob Lancaster Insurance to all of you!

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

Serving Florida since 1964

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Payroll Issues - Replacing Employees Costs Big Dollars

The cost of employee turnover is alarming for many businesses. The latest statistic available from the  Employment Policy Foundation suggests the average cost of turnover to employers is $13,355 per full-time private-sector employee replaced. Keep in mind, this study was done several years ago so chances are this figure has risen considerably. Still it is enough to be troubling.
An important question: How do you come up with a realistic figure for turnover costs in your business? Here's an example,
A. Annual pay for the position, $18,000B. Annual benefits, taxes and
insurance cost for the position, $ 5,400
C. Total pay, benefits, taxes, insurance (A plus B), $23,400
 Percent of first year that new employee is unproductive, 25 percentE. Cost of unproductive time (C times D ), $5,850
 Recruiting costs (such as advertising), $500G. Management cost to recruit, interview, train, supervise new employee (first year hours[50]times hourly management rate, $50, $2,500Estimated turnover cost(E plus F plus G)....................$ 8,850
Using this figure, calculate what this could mean for a business with 100 employees and a turnover rate of just five percent a year. Such an employer would replace five employees at an average replacement cost of $13,355... for a total replacement cost of $66,775.

Now imagine if this business had a turnover rate of 20 percent. The employer would have a total replacement cost of $267,100 ($13,355 times 20).

How did the Employment Policy Foundation calculate turnover costs and arrive at the average $13,355 figure? 

The Washington, DC-based research group included the price of recruiting new applicants, selecting replacements, training new employees, and lost productivity expenses caused by departing staff members and incurred by new employees.

The result pegs the turnover costs at an average of 25 percent of an employee's annual income.
But an "average" turnover cost can be misleading. The Foundation's study breaks the costs down by industry, to get a clearer picture.
Average Turnover by
Information industry$18,615
Financial activities$17,315
Professional business services$14,975
Other services$11,975
Trade/ transportation$11,820
Leisure/ hospitality$6,495

"The loss of productivity during position vacancy and the diminished productivity during a new employee's transition period are significant aspects of the total cost of turnover," according to the Foundation's President, Ed Potter. "Companies that are able to reduce their turnover rate have a significant competitive edge.

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

Serving Florida since 1964

Monday, November 28, 2016

New Version of Form I-9 Issued

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has issued a new version of Form I-9, "Employment Eligibility Verification," that is dated November 14, 2016 and has an August 31, 2019 expiration date. Employers must use the new form beginning on January 22, 2017. Until then, the version dated March 8, 2013 may also be used.

Form Changes

Several changes have been made to the new form:
  • Section 1 (Employee Information and Attestation) now asks for "other last names used" rather than "other names used," and streamlines the certification process for certain foreign nationals. 
  • The addition of prompts to ensure information is entered correctly. 
  • The ability to enter multiple preparers and translators. 
  • A dedicated area for including additional information rather than having to add it in the margins.
  • A supplemental page for the preparer or translator.
The instructions have been separated from the form, in line with other USCIS forms, and include specific instructions for completing each field.
USCIS says that the new version of Form I-9 is easier to complete on a computer. Enhancements include drop-down lists and calendars for filling in dates, on-screen instructions for each field, easy access to the full instructions, and an option to clear the form and start over. When the employer prints the completed form, a quick response (QR) code is automatically generated, which can be read by most QR readers.

About Form I-9

Federal law requires that every employer that recruits, refers for a fee, or hires an individual for employment in the United States must complete Form I-9. Form I-9 helps employers verify an employee's identity and employment authorization. This is done by employers physically examining acceptable documents including drivers' licenses and eligible ID cards. I-9 forms can be filed electronically or on paper.

Form I-9 requirements were established in November 1986 when Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act. That law prohibits employers from hiring people, including U.S. citizens, for employment in the United States without verifying their identities and employment authorization on Form I-9.

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

Serving Florida since 1964

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Overtime Rules Are Scheduled to Change in December

The U.S. Department of Labor's (DOL) higher income requirement for the "white collar exemption" from overtime is scheduled to kick in December 1. Paying a "nondiscretionary" bonus to employees at least on a quarterly basis can, in effect, lower the minimum salary you'll need to pay them and still have those employees counted as exempt for overtime purposes, according to a fact sheet issued by the DOL recently. However, if employees don't earn that bonus, you could fall short and they would be entitled to overtime pay for any overtime logged during the prior quarter.

Could the New Overtime Rules Be Rescinded or Revised?
As most employers know by now, the new overtime rules are scheduled to take effect on December 1 and an estimated 4.2 million employees will become eligible to benefit from them. Is there any chance the rules might not happen? A challenge is brewing in a federal court in Texas and business groups are hoping the incoming Trump Administration will step in and reduce or eliminate the burden on employers, but the December 1 deadline stands.

The Federal Lawsuit
Earlier this year, two lawsuits were filed in a federal court to challenge the new overtime rules. One lawsuit was filed by 21 state attorney generals and one was filed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other business groups. The two lawsuits have now been combined and will be heard in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

It's possible that the judge assigned to the case could issue an injunction before December 1.

How Does the President-Elect Feel?
Some business groups have expressed hope that After President-elect Donald Trump takes office on January 20, 2017, the U.S. Labor Secretary he appoints will roll back the overtime rules. Trump said on the campaign trail that he would like to see an exemption for small businesses.

However, the new administration can't just quickly undo the rules. It would have to follow a rule-making process that could take months, or even years. It's possible Congress could pass legislation that limits the rules, phases them in over time or eliminates the automatic inflation adjustment to the salary threshold that's currently scheduled to occur every three years.

The new overtime rules weren't a focus of the presidential campaign so it's not clear whether the new administration sees them as a priority. Of course, once they go into effect, it will be difficult to take overtime pay away from employees.

At this point, it seems unlikely that the new overtime rules won't go forward as scheduled. The bottom line is that businesses must be prepared to begin complying on December 1. We'll keep you apprised of any changes.
That is, unless you take advantage of a new escape hatch created by the DOL.

Back on May 23, 2016, the DOL unveiled its regulations updating the exempt status minimum income standards for employees "employed as bona fide executive, administrative, professional, and outside sales employees." Beginning December 1, a new higher minimum income threshold applies ($913 per week or $47,476 annually), which will be inflation-adjusted every three years). In addition, employees must be paid a "predetermined and fixed salary that is not subject to reduction because of variations in the quality or quantity of work performed."

But for the first time, up to 10% of the minimum income can be comprised of nondiscretionary bonuses, incentive payments, and commissions paid quarterly, or more frequently. Bonuses can be tied to productivity and profitability, either for individual or group performance. Retention bonuses also count. The key is that bonus amounts must be "based on a predetermined formula."

Discretionary vs. Nondiscretionary
A discretionary bonus, in contrast, is defined as one in which the employer "retains discretion both as to the fact of payment, and the amount until a time quite close to the end of the period for which the bonus is paid."

With the income thresholds for non-highly compensated employees (NHCEs), an employee averaging at least $10,679 in salary per quarter could still exceed the minimum income threshold for exempt status (which translates to $11,869 quarterly) if he or she earned at least a 10% bonus (that is, $1,190).

What if, based on the predetermined formula, the bonus fell short of the amount needed to bring the employee's quarterly pay up to $11,869? The new DOL rules allow for that contingency: a "catch-up payment."

Catch-Up Payments Defined
If a white collar employee's combined salary and nondiscretionary bonuses totaled only, for example, $10,000, you could add $1,869 to his or her first paycheck of the next pay period to bring the quarterly total to $11,869, and satisfy the minimum income standard.

The practical significance of all this is that you can, within the limits described, build more incentive into employees' pay.
However, your hands might be tied to some degree if the employee in this example had worked a lot of overtime during the quarter, but failed to earn the nondiscretionary bonus. To protect the employee's exempt status, you'd still want to make a catch-up payment even if the worker's performance was sub-par. Just be careful not to set pay at levels that would require the employee to earn the maximum bonus every time to qualify as exempt.

Rules for the Highly Compensated
The DOL's fact sheet also explains that different rules apply to highly compensated employees (HCEs). The significance of HCE status is that employees with that status don't have to satisfy as many qualifications as NCHEs to be deemed exempt. The primary qualification for HCE status is, not surprisingly, based on income.

Under the new thresholds that are scheduled to take effect in December, over the course of a year HCEs must earn at least $134,004 (including nondiscretionary bonuses). They have the same minimum weekly earnings standard as NCHEs — that is, $913, even though the average for the entire year will have to be much higher — $2,577 to be specific.

The difference between the treatment of NCHEs and HCEs with respect to the role of bonus payments is that HCEs' weekly base compensation cannot fall below the $913 per week. As explained by the DOL, "While nondiscretionary bonuses and incentive payments (including commissions) may be counted toward the HCE total annual compensation requirement, the HCE test does not allow employers to credit these payment forms towards the standard salary level requirement." That is, the same $913 amount applicable to NCHEs.

Using an extreme example for illustrative purposes, an employee who satisfies the white collar exemption "minimal duties test" and earns a $47,476 salary can still maintain HCE status if his or her nondiscretionary bonuses for the year, when added to the $47,476, exceed the $134,004 minimum. That would require an unlikely situation of bonuses totaling at least $86,528, which represents 65% of that employee's total earnings.
The DOL's position on bonuses in relation to the white collar exemption gives employers some latitude in meeting the new higher standards, but requires careful compensation planning. Compensation consultants help employers balance fixed and incentive-based pay components to achieve both motivational and regulatory compliance goals

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

Serving Florida since 1964

Thursday, November 3, 2016

More Drivers Losing Their Cars By Leaving Their Keys

Last year, a vehicle was reported stolen once every 45 seconds in the United States.  And one out of every eight thefts was a freebie for the thief.  There was a theft every six and one-half minutes where the driver left the keys or FOB inside.
It's a growing problem according to the latest report from the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB).  The 57,096 thefts in 2015 amounted to a 22 percent increase over the previous year. Over the past three years, this kind of theft grew by 31 percent.
Since many people do not admit to leaving their car unlocked with the keys or FOB inside, the actual numbers of thefts with the keys left in vehicles may be considerably higher than the report indicates.
"Anti-theft technology has had a tremendous impact on reducing thefts over the past 25 years, but if you don't lock it up, it's not going to help," said NICB President and CEO Joe Wehrle. "Complacency can lead to a huge financial loss and inconvenience for the vehicle owner. Leaving a vehicle unlocked or with the key or FOB inside gives a thief the opportunity to take not only the car, but also any possessions inside. It can also provide access to your personal information if the registration is left in the glove compartment.
"We have reports from our law enforcement partners that car thieves have stolen the car, driven it to the residence and burglarized the home before the owner even knew the vehicle was missing."
NICB advises drivers to:
  • Lock the vehicle, set the alarm and take all keys or FOBS.
  • Do not leave the garage door opener in the vehicle.
  • Take a picture of your registration on your cell phone and do not leave the registration or other papers with personal information in the vehicle.
  • Never leave a car unlocked and running to warm it up or while stopping for a quick cup of coffee. It only takes a moment for the opportunistic thief to jump inside and drive off.
For the years 2013 through 2015, a total of 147,434 were reported stolen with the keys left in the vehicle. In 2013, there were 43,643 thefts; 46,695 thefts in 2014 and 57,096 in 2015. From 2013 to 2015, the increase was 31 percent.
The top five states that posted the most vehicle thefts with keys during this reporting period were California (22,580), Texas (11,003), Florida (9,952), Ohio (8,623) and Nevada (8,073). The top five core-based statistical areas (CBSA) were Las Vegas-Henderson-Paradise, NV (7,815), Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI (4,380), Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA (4,118), Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL, (3,847) and Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD (3,365).
One state—Hawaii—had a perfect record. Not a single report of a vehicle theft with keys.
Looking at day-of-week data, Saturday saw the most thefts with (22,081) followed by Monday (21,851) and Friday (21,652).
Contact us for all your Insurance needs! (321)725-1620 
Bob Lancaster Insurance

Serving Florida since 1964

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Arlo Guthrie, Tesla, and Hotel Signage

Sometimes you need a trivia to start your day. So, what do folk artist Arlo Guthrie and the rock-band Tesla have in common? You guessed it. Hit songs. And now for the bonus points…hit songs that mention signs. Physical, posted-for-all-to-read signs, like the ones you may (or may not) have at your hotel.

In “This Land Is Your Land,” Arlo sang, “And on the sign it said ‘No Trespassing.’ But on the other side it didn’t say nothing. That side was made for you and me.” Decades later, Tesla broke out with “Signs, signs, everywhere signs, blocking out the scenery, breaking my mind. Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the signs?”

Now, your hotel guests are probably not radical songwriters looking to revolutionize America. They may, in fact, ignore your signs completely. But when an accident occurs, their lawyers will be looking for posted signs that could have prevented the tragedy from striking. The absence of the right signs could be the hotel guest’s golden ticket to winning a lawsuit.

There are the common cases of injuries occurring when someone slips on a wet surface. No “wet floor” sign around? This could spell trouble. Then there are the less common cases. One hotel had a staircase located at the end of a long hallway. There were not adequate warning or directional signs, and the hotel guest suffered injuries when trying to exit. Although the architects and contractors were at fault for poor design, the hotel ended up taking the hit.

The big picture here is: It’s OK to have lots of signs. In fact, you may want to evaluate your existing signage and buy some new nails. It’s a sign-crazy world, but when it comes to keeping guests safe and protecting your hotel, a few more clear signs may be the way to go.

Sign Basics
  1. Evacuation signs – Are they easy-to-follow and posted where appropriate? Do you have a combination of text and visuals?
  2. Wet floor signs – a must-have for the unexpected.
  3. “To Exit” or “Exit Up Ramp” signs in addition to with the fire EXIT signs. Directing patrons with arrows on additional signage can go a long way to ensure that guests can exit safely.
  4. Are all restrooms labeled clearly? Have you considered labeling a single-occupancy restroom as a “family” or “all gender” restroom?
  5. Is your Pool Rules sign up-to-date and comprehensive?
  6. What other areas of the hotel could use extra warning signs? Any problem areas that need addressing?
  7. Have you gone the extra mile and posted in Spanish too?
Don’t worry, if you need a song running through your head when evaluating the signage at your hotel, you can always stream a little Ace of Base to remind you that “I saw the sign. And it opened up my eyes, I saw the sign…”

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

Serving Florida since 1964

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Are Your Community Association’s Crime Policy Limits Really Enough?

Image - Crime Money
In a blog post we touched upon Employee Dishonesty insurance – “protection for your money when it’s stolen by an employee.” Now we’ll take a closer look at the impact of employee theft on community associations, and how the limits on a Crime policy for many associations may come up short.

Let’s first consider the types of employee-theft related cases community associations throughout the country face. There are countless of cases involving fraudulent activities that include the theft of cash receipts; under-the-table payments, bribes or kickbacks from vendors; check tampering; creating and paying fictitious vendors; creating inflated or phony expense vouchers; paying non-existent employees; lapping – the manipulation of accounts receivable to steal cash; and personal credit card usage by employees, among others. Now, look at whether you have the right Crime insurance limits in place to cover the costs of employee theft.

Typically, limits on a Crime policy are determined using the following standard calculation: 3 x monthly assessment + operating fund + reserve fund. Oftentimes, however, this limit has been inadequate. In fact, loss history tells us that nearly a quarter of associations are under-insured when it comes to Crime insurance.

There are a couple of reasons for that:
  • Some association and/or agents simply renew, renew, and renew their crime policies with the same limits, year after year.
  • The typical loss scenario is not just a one-time event, but instead a theft tends to play out over months or even years. In some cases, we have seen incidents that took place over seven years!
For example, one association treasurer had been writing monthly checks to a third party who was not actually performing any work. The third party looked like a landscaping company to everyone else, but it was actually an LLC the treasurer established. The association and broker bought a Crime policy with limits using the standard calculation, but after three years of the theft, this amount was not sufficient enough to cover the loss.

Another area that community associations should consider is ensuring that their Employee Dishonesty coverage extends to property managers and management companies, as many losses often stem from property managers.

Community associations should also implement a monthly review of bank statements received directly from the bank (typically received in the form of an email). This in fact is one of our requirements. Loss history shows that a common tool for employee theft is doctoring bank statements. For example, an employee of a property management company will receive a bank statement, make alterations to cover his or her tracks, and pass it along to the association treasurer who thinks everything is above board in their review. Having the bank statement come directly to the association treasurer eliminates this potential risk.

Many other internal controls should be put into place to prevent and detect fraud before it escalates. This involves verifying that the account number on the back of all returned checks matches the association’s account and conducting monthly reviews of the bookkeeping with the property manager, including any credit card statements. It’s also important to ensure the independence of your association’s accounting firm by putting the selection process to a vote by the board as opposed to having the property manager choose the firm. Associations should also consider requiring two board members to sign all association checks.

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

Serving Florida since 1964

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The Very Real Costs of Sexual Harassment

Sexual Harassment Complaint Document
It’s not something that only happens in other industries. If you’re reading this blog, it’s likely prevalent in yours. Mild or severe, sexual harassment in the workplace happens, and companies are paying the price. In 2015, $46 million was paid to victims in the nearly 7,000 lawsuits that were filed, according to the EEOC.
In August and September of this year alone, the nation has seen hotels and restaurants settle lawsuits like the $1.4 million paid to a victim in Ohio, $200K in Maryland, and $81K in North Carolina, just to name a few.
According to AWARE (Association of Women for Action and Research,) the industries with high levels of sexual harassment include business, finance, and hospitality.
Your company may not have any recent complaints about sexual harassment. But trusting in silence is a risk. The best way to deal with sexual harassment in the workplace is to prevent it before it happens. And when and if it does happen, correct it promptly.

Prevent and Correct
This should be your company’s mantra when it comes to sexual harassment. Managers, that’s you! Managers are needed to identify it when it happens, investigate the heck out of it, and lay the hammer down when taking corrective measures and enforcing company policy.
  • Schedule a training refresher for managers. Federal law advises periodic training, but some states require it. In California, managers are required to complete two hours of sexual harassment training every two years. Here’s a quick link to state-by-state training requirements.
  • Distribute a company-wide e-mail and a printed handout that explains the company’s policy on sexual harassment. Make it an annual event along with other yearly to-do’s.
  • As an employer, convey the message that it’s important that everyone is respected and that the company is there to offer solutions if a violation occurs.
Flesh Out Company Policy- The EEOC offers free outreach assistance.
It’s not enough to just have a policy – it needs to be communicated and issues need to be addressed.
  • Does your company have a policy written out and easily accessible by staff?
  • Is it clear that the company is committed to preventing sexual harassment?
  • Does the policy state what the penalties will be for violations?
  • Make sure the policy identifies who employees should report concerns to.
In the end, we all want our colleagues to feel safe and respected, and we want our businesses to flourish. Making sexual harassment prevention a priority can make you a champion of both.

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

Serving Florida since 1964

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Insurance Made Easy- Employee Dishonesty and Crime

Some people just call it “Crime.” But the applications ask you about “Employee Dishonesty” limits. So which is it?!?!

It’s both. (We apologize if you thought we were going to just pick one.) They are  similar, which is why folks tend to interchange them. But they have some key differences when push comes to shove.
The biggest thing that they have in common is that they protect number 1: Your money. When you think of this coverage, just imagine that it’s insurance for your money. If the money is gone, the insurance puts it back. It’s insurance for your money. Fidelity bonds, crime insurance, and employee dishonesty don’t protect you… they replace your money if it’s taken from you.

The differences between them really amounts to “protection for your money when it’s stolen by…blank.”

For employee dishonesty, it’s pretty simple: “protection for your money when it’s stolen by an employee.” We can get in to all of the “who is an employee,” and “by what means did they steal the money,” but that really varies by policy. But the main idea is that it protects your money from an employee theft. Karen writes checks to pay vendors that don’t exist, Timmy pays himself triple his own salary… that kind of stuff. Employees steal money, employee dishonesty replaces money.

Crime insurance usually refers “protection for your money when it’s stolen by someone who’s not your employee.” Like a masked bandit, or a kid that steals your stack of paychecks,… something like that. Those peeps don’t work for you, and they take your money. This insurance replaces the stolen money. The new kinda coverage here (like the last 20 years new, not really new,) is computer or electronic theft… aka… hacking. But remember, it only replaces stolen money. It doesn’t usually kick in for data breaches and that kind of stuff. (You need Cyber Liability for that.) Crime insurance is only for stolen money.

Elaine, our Community Association Program Expert wants you to know that our Employee Dishonesty and Crime Coverages are awesome. Oh, and she’s really quite the crime nerd. In her own words:
I LOVE CRIME [Insurance.] I breathe it. I annoy my husband with stories about it. I have alerts on my news feeds for it. I would pursue a PHD if they offered one in Crime. We make it easy. 
Contact us for all your Insurance needs! (321)725-1620 
Bob Lancaster Insurance

Serving Florida since 1964

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Lax Security Results in Tragedy, Hits Bottom Line for Apartment Owners

Photo - 10mm judgement
A $10 million verdict was not what the owners of an apartment complex in Clayton County, Georgia expected to hear in connection with a 2015 shooting death of one of its residents. But that’s exactly the amount the jury rendered after it was convinced by the victim’s lawyer that the owners of the complex were lax when it came to security. The shooting during an apparent robbery took the life of a father of three who was returning home from going to the store. The award some speculate was that large because of a previous shooting that took place in 2013 at the same complex that killed a 13-year-old boy.

The complex is situated in an area known for crime. In fact, between 2010 and 2015 there were 51 robberies and seven aggravated assaults with weapons in the area, the majority of which took place at the complex across the street – also owned by the same company where both deaths occurred. In light of the high crime area, the victim’s lawyer claimed that the property owner did not step up security measures and only had an unarmed courtesy officer making the rounds twice daily. The owner’s attorney, of course, said the award was way too high, and “should have been a $2 million case.” He said there were “only two crimes following the death of the 13-year-old boy” at the complex where the father was killed.  He is filing a motion for a new trial for the judge to reconsider the verdict.

This case, while putting the spotlight on a horrible crime and potential liability consequences facing property owners, is not isolated when it comes to criminal activity that takes place at apartment complexes – no matter the location. An article in the LA Times highlighted the high incidence of criminal activity occurring in the downtown area at luxury apartments that attract college students who can afford to pay higher rent. One building was the target of 73 serious crimes, including 31 burglaries and 22 thefts from cars. However, a nearby residential building paints a different picture – only three serious crimes were reported for the same year. Police attribute this lower rate of criminal activity to a better overall security approach by the property owner and a good working relationship with the cops.

The importance of strong security for property owners can’t be emphasized enough. It is not only critical to have the proper measures in place but to also work with local police department to help deter criminal activity in the area. Here are some helpful recommendations when looking at security measures at an apartment complex:
  • Review Security Systems: Security devices can include cameras, lighting, locks on common area entrances, and other equipment. Be sure that your cameras are in proper working order and that they cover common areas. All gates should be locked and all light bulbs should be bright. Work with a security company to ramp up measures, particularly if the property is vulnerable to criminal activity.
  •  Educate the Residents: Help residents by posting security tips around the complex. Encourage that they report suspicious activity. Establish a comprehensive crime prevention program that includes a community watch program.
  • Identify Staff: Make sure that the staff uses IDs. Burglaries often happen because the residents believe thieves to be staff, so have staff carry their IDs at all times and wear the same uniforms. Let tenants know it’s okay to ask to see proof of identification before they let a staff member enter their premises.
Negligent-security lawsuits are obviously costly for apartment owners – not only in the potential damages that can be rendered but also in attracting and retaining tenants. Implementing strong security measures and remaining active in keeping those measures in sync with what is going in the community is the responsibility of an owner to keep its residents safe.

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

Serving Florida since 1964

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Some other storm-related insurance issues to consider

There's a storm on the way. Chances are you're thinking about your insurance coverage.
You've probably already brushed up on the basics. You know the difference between wind and flood insurance. You know you need to take a detailed inventory, with photos or video, of your valuables in case you have to file a claim.
You know to protect your insurance policies and other important financial documents and have them ready to take with you in case you have to evacuate.
Here are a few hurricane-related insurance issues you might not have known about:
Claims can be reduced for failure to install hurricane shutters.If you don't have storm-rated impact glass throughout your home, you should have hurricane shutters and the means to install them over all of your openings. Having shutters qualified you for an insurance discount, and not using those shutters during a storm can result in a reduction of your claims benefit if your house is damaged, according to Citizens Property Insurance Co.
Generally, insurance companies won't reduce a claim settlement for failure to install shutters, says Robert Norberg, of Arden Insurance Associates, although "they can reduce the claim by the amount of your discount."
You might not be covered if your swimming pool floods your house. Flooding from an overflowing swimming pool will not be covered by flood insurance unless it's part of a larger inundation that also floods an adjoining property.
"If the pool water just come over the edge and comes in through your sliding glass door, you have a problem," Norberg says. "That's why people advise to drain the pool half a foot before the storm so you'll have room for the additional water." And be ready to turn on your pump.
Your insurance company will cover damage from your neighbor's fallen tree: Generally everyone's policy covers damages to their own homes, regardless of the source of damage. That means you don't file a claim against your neighbor's policy when his tree falls on your house. And he won't come after yours when your lawn chair flies through his window. The exception? If either of you can prove the other was repeatedly asked to fix the situation but refused. "Then it becomes negligence," Norberg says. He has seen small claims suits filed because the victim didn't want to pay the deductible — but few resort to such measures against their neighbors.
Damage related to illegally back-fed power won't be covered.During the prolonged power outages associated with all of the hurricanes that struck Florida a decade ago, gasoline powered generators flew out of the big box stores. Some people learned they could eliminate the spaghetti cluster of extension cords by connecting a single 220v cord to the power outlet normally used for their clothes dryer.
This can work, experts say, but some people forget to first shut off the main breaker that feeds the utility's power into their house, and severe damage can result when they're using their generator and the utility power resumes. That's why "back feeding" in this manner is against code, and any damage won't be covered. If you want to set up your house correctly, have an electrician install a transfer switch that guarantees that main power and generator power won't be fed into your wiring simultaneously.
Put the car in the garage. If you have a car, keeping it in the garage won't affect how it's covered. Some may have heard advice to keep the car parked outside to ensure coverage under the auto insurance policy and avoid the need to file a claim against the homeowner's policy if it sustains damage while parked in the garage. That's a myth. Your car is your car and covered by its own policy, no matter where it's parked when damaged, said Lynne McChristian, Florida representative of Insurance Information Institute, an industry trade group. Boats, trucks and motorcycles are also covered by their own policies, although toys like ATVs and scooters usually would be covered under the homeowner's policy.
Think about extra coverage. Homeowners should check their policies for two types of coverage to ensure they'll be able to rebuild without digging into their own pockets. Review a section called building ordinance or law coverage, which covers costs of rebuilding to codes that might have been revised or strengthened since the house was originally built. The other is an inflation guard endorsement, which covers you if widespread destruction drives up costs of labor and materials.
"It's tied to supply and demand," McChristian said.
You probably have time to change your policy. Until the National Weather Service issues an official hurricane warning, you can usually make changes to your homeowner insurance policy, McChristian said. Many companies will sell new insurance policies even if a storm is churning out there and your home is in the cone of uncertainty. That's not true of flood insurance, which requires a 30-day wait period no matter when it's purchased.
                                         Contact us for all your Insurance needs! (321)725-1620 
                                                                       Bob Lancaster Insurance
                                                                     Serving Florida since 1964

Monday, October 3, 2016

Prevention of Slips and Falls

Slips and Falls – Walking Surfaces

When asked what type of accident is the leading cause of injury, most people would probably answer car accidents. However, the real answer is that slips and falls occur the most in our everyday lives. The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that accidental falls account for the most hospital visits each year. Falls are the leading cause of unintentional death for individuals 65 and older, with 11,000 deaths occurring annually. However, Bob Lancaster Insurance sees falls across all age groups at facilities insured by the agency.
Facilities are at high risk simply because of the large volume of people who frequent the facility on a daily basis. With this large volume of traffic, properly maintaining the facility’s walking surfaces is essential in helping to prevent slips and falls. This fact sheet will address the various safety issues associated with the different types of walking surfaces, including sidewalks, parking lots and driveways, entrances and exits, interior flooring surfaces, lighting, and other walking surface hazards.


Due to the number of people coming and going to various functions on a daily basis, sidewalk maintenance is crucial in preventing slip and fall injuries. Many organizations underestimate how common, severe, and costly falls can be, so it’s important to become proactive instead of reactive in preventing slips and falls. Regular periodic inspections of sidewalks should be conducted, and any substandard conditions corrected as soon as possible. When doing an inspection, consider the following items.
Uneven Sidewalk
This photo illustrates severe trip hazards due to the uneven walking surface.
Tree in Sidewalk
This photo illustrated severe trip hazards due to the uneven walking surface caused by the tree roots.
  • Sidewalks should be in good condition and free of cracks or potholes. If cracks in sidewalks are greater than ¼ inch, this can create a trip hazard because it is unexpected. Use a measuring stick, or four pennies stacked on top of each other will equal ¼ inch. If these variances are found, repairs should be made.
  • Surfaces should be free from gravel, rocks, and mud.
  • Sidewalks that have depressions in the walking surface can trap water and mud, creating slip hazards. These areas should be repaired.
  • Items placed in the path of travel, such as trash cans and garden planters, should be removed.
  • Landscaping that is planted too close to sidewalks should be kept pruned. If unchecked, the vegetation can overtake the sidewalk, creating trip and fall hazards.
  • Tree roots can cause sidewalks to heave and buckle causing serious trip and fall hazards. These areas should be identified and corrected.
  • If construction operations create an alternate route, these walking surfaces should not create additional trip and fall hazards. Also, pedestrians should not be allowed to walk through areas under construction.
  • Inadequate patching to sidewalks can create trip and fall hazards from raised/lowered edges, depressions and changes to the surface texture. These areas also should be closely watched.

Parking Lots and Driveways

Due to the large number of people attending various functions, facilities will often have large parking lots to handle the influx of people. However, over time, parking lots can become a real liability hazard for slips and falls if items in the parking lot like potholes, speed bumps, and curbs are not properly maintained.
Regular periodic inspections of parking lots should be conducted and any substandard conditions corrected as soon as possible. When doing an inspection, consider the following items.
Tire Stop
This photo illustrates a severe trip hazard due to the exposed re-bar from the deteriorated tire stop.
  • Parking lot surfaces are similar to sidewalks and should be in good condition and free of cracks or potholes. Also, snow plows can cause damage. The ¼ inch variance in walking surface should be followed here as well.
  • Surfaces should be free from debris and slippery material, such as rocks, mud and sand.
  • Tire stops are a potential tripping hazard. These require maintenance and are exposed to damage from snowplows and vehicles. If tire stops are present, follow these guidelines:
    • They should not be taller than 6.5 inches and there should be at least three feet between wheel stops.
    • Tire stops should not extend beyond the width of the wheels.
    • They should be marked with a contrasting color, such as yellow.
    • Reinforcing rods used to anchor the stops should be level with the top of the stop and not extend above the surface.
  • Speed bumps used to slow the speed of vehicles also present a tripping hazard. These are usually constructed of asphalt and will break down quicker from being exposed to the weather and vehicles driving over them. This will compound the slip and fall exposure. If speed bumps are installed, the following guidelines should apply.
    • They should NOT be installed next to natural pedestrian walkways (sidewalks, ramps, etc.), exit or entrance areas.
    • They should be marked with a contrasting color so as not to blend in with the parking lot surface.
    • Make sure that areas around speed bumps are adequately lit so that they do not become a tripping hazard in the dark.
    • “Speed Bump” signs should be installed to give warning of their presence.


Curb Marking
This photo illustrates good marking of the sidewalk and parking lot variances with yellow paint.
  • Curbs should be six inches high. If this is not maintained, due to settling or design, this can create an unforeseen trip hazard.
  • Curbs leading to entrances and sidewalks should be painted a contrasting color, such as yellow, white, or red.
  • Curb cutouts that are installed to provide handicapped access also should be marked with contrasting paint, and grit should be added to the paint to create surface roughness.

Entrances and Exits

Entrance and exit areas should receive special attention for controlling slips and falls. Due to heavy foot traffic at these areas, the floor surface over time becomes smooth and will have less traction. Dirt and water deposits commonly tracked in from the outside will be higher in these areas and make the floor more susceptible to slips and falls.
The following items should be considered when choosing, installing and maintaining any interior flooring:
  • Identify areas that show a high level of smoothness and other defects. Changes in surface floor types also should be identified. This is important, as the person would encounter an unexpected condition (rough to smooth), increasing the chances for a fall. Ideally, the floor surfaces should be consistent.
  • Doors should open and shut smoothly with appropriate door closing mechanisms so that, upon closing or opening, there is no risk of people being knocked over.
  • The door sill should be flush with the floor. If not, the change in elevation between the two should be no more than ¾ of an inch.
  • If there is a threshold installed, the edges should be sloped, have a non-slip surface and be adequately secured to the floor.
  • Having umbrella stands available next to entrances will help keep water from dripping off umbrellas onto the floor.
    Grate System
    This photo shows an excellent grate system with a catch basin that is built into the flooring.
  • With the potential for ice, snow, mud, etc. to be present at entrances, these areas should be designed to minimize the slip and fall potential.
  • The best design consists of a grate system with a catch basin (shown on the right), which is installed at high traffic areas to effectively remove moisture from footwear. If a grate system is not feasible, mats should be installed.
    • The following guidelines should be followed concerning mats:
      • Floor mats and/or runners should be installed where the floor surface is not slip resistant.
      • Floor mats specifically designed for removal of dust, dirt and moisture at building entrances and other appropriate locations should be used. Examples of other areas that may benefit from mat installation include the following:
        • Areas adjacent to water fountains and drink stations.
        • Food counters and food preparation areas.
        • Under and around sinks, dishwashers and washing machines.
        • Ice stations, freezers and coolers.
        • Near machinery and other areas where spills may occur.
      • Floor mats should be designed for removal of dust, dirt, and moisture. Carpet remnants, scatter rugs, or cheap mats (vinyl backing, or no backing) should NOT be used.
      • The edging should be beveled in order to provide a smooth transition from the floor to the mat.
      • The mat should NOT have curled up edges and should be replaced prior to it becoming dog-eared.
        Floor Mat
        This photo shows a poor example of a floor mat. Carpet remnants should never be used in these areas.
      • Mats should NOT be stacked on top of each other in use. This increases the potential for tripping due to the uneven edge from the floor.
      • To decrease the potential of the mat from sliding, a single larger mat should be used instead of multiple smaller mats. The larger mat is heavier due to its size, which reduces the sliding potential.
      • The Carpet and Rug Institute (CRI) recommends selecting mats long enough to take two full steps (6 to 8 feet) before stepping onto other floor surfaces.
      • Mats and runners should receive proper cleaning and maintenance to ensure their integrity. Once the mats become filled with soil and water, they cannot effectively remove these contaminants from entering the building.

Interior Flooring Surfaces

Aesthetics always play a major role in deciding what type of interior flooring should be installed inside the facility. A priority should be to determine what type of flooring will be aesthetically pleasing but also to provide adequate protection from slips and falls.
Carpet, ceramic tile, vinyl and hardwoods are all appropriate types of interior floor surfaces; however, due to their design characteristics, one may be more appropriate than the others for certain areas of your facility.
Flooring also should be correctly installed, as poor installation can contribute to slip and fall hazards, such as a poorly stretched carpet that becomes loose and bunches.
Of course, maintenance always plays a role in preventing slips and falls as over time poorly maintained flooring will deteriorate and become a hazard. Even regularly maintained flooring can become a hazard if the cleaning agent affects the slip resistance of the flooring.
The following items should be considered when choosing, installing and maintaining any interior flooring:
This photo shows a difference in flooring surfaces. Potential slip and fall hazards exist due to the different flooring. Ideally, the surfaces should be consistent.
  • Every floor surface has a degree of traction or slip resistance. Although not a formal standard, the flooring should have a coefficient of friction (slip resistant rating) of .50 or higher.
  • Flooring material should be suitable for the environment. Areas prone to the presence of water (entryways, bathrooms, etc.) should have high slip resistance characteristics.
  • Cleaning and waxing of flooring also should be considered. The use of floor waxes should be done according to the manufacturers’ recommendations and should maintain the slip resistance rating. Non-skid wax should be used on floors. Your cleaning supply company should be contacted for advice. It’s also not a good idea to wax floors immediately prior to big events involving a lot of people.
  • Dust mops used for floor cleaning should not be treated with oil.
  • Flooring should be level and in good condition. If there are any variances in level of more than ¼ inch, this can lead to a trip and fall.
  • Carpeting has the best slip resistance rating, but should be kept clean and free from holes, rips and tears.
  • Carpeting also should be adequately stretched to prevent it from bunching and becoming a trip hazard.


Facilities often host activities seven days a week, many which run into the late evening hours. Therefore, people often find themselves using or leaving the facility during times when there is little or no natural light. Inadequate lighting can be a major contributor to slips and falls, as hazards can be difficult, if not impossible, to see when proper lighting is not provided.
Outdoor Lighting
This photo shows an example of good exterior lighting for exterior steps. Lights are places at the top and bottom providing adequate illumination.
Illumination of interior and exterior walking surfaces should include the following:
  • Lighting is measured in foot candles. At a minimum, 10 foot candles should be mandatory for all lighting. Higher levels of illumination may be needed in high use areas.
  • Lighting should be provided for walkways, parking lots, stairways, hallways and basements. Look for shadows that may be created and adjust lighting accordingly.
  • In stairwells, provide a light switch at the top and the bottom of the stairs whenever feasible.
  • Inspect all lighting on a daily basis and replace light fixtures or bulbs that do not work.

Other Walking Surface Hazards

Oftentimes, facilities may have a miscellaneous slip and fall hazard that may be less obvious than a more common area, like a set of stairs. However, conducting a thorough inspection of the entire facility and grounds is important, as these miscellaneous hazards are often the areas most likely for a fall to occur, as they are commonly overlooked.
The following items are examples of miscellaneous walking surface hazards that should be looked for when conducting inspections.
  • Access covers used to gain access to utilities should be present and flush with the surface.
  • Drain covers that are typically found in parking lots usually have wide openings to provide drainage. This creates a severe trip hazard, especially with high-heeled shoes. Grates should have openings no greater than ½ inch; and they should be painted a contrasting color, such as yellow.
  • Electrical, telephone, and microphone cords should be routed around walkways and doorways. Where this is not possible, they should be securely taped down or covered with cord protectors. Whenever possible, use cordless microphones to eliminate excessive cords.
  • Elevators should be adjusted so that they are even with the floor surface.
  • Holes and depressions formed as a result of settling should be monitored and filled in.
  • Old posts, temporary pole supports, etc. should be removed. These only create unnecessary trip and fall hazards.
  • Sprinkler heads used for irrigation should be level with the ground surface when not in use.
Drainage HoleCords
The photo on the left shows a drainage hole that should have a protective covering installed. The photo on the right shows electrical and audio cables placed on the stairs and walking surface that should be routed away from the walking area, taped to the floor, or provided with cord protectors. Areas such as these create unnecessary trip and fall hazards and should be corrected.  
                                             Contact us for all your Insurance needs! (321)725-1620
Bob Lancaster Insurance
                                                                             Serving Florida since 1964