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1 week ago · by · 0 comments

Even Sump Pumps May Not Protect Your Basement

Even Sump Pump May Not Protect Your Basement

Check Your Sump Pump

If you have a basement, you know that it serves many purposes: storage space, playroom, media center, workspace—or all of the above. And whether your basement is simply a place to store seasonal decorations or a professionally finished space for your home theater, it probably contains valuables. If the space were to flood, you’d be less than happy.

Sump pumps

To protect their belongings from water damage, many homeowners install a sump pump. They also take precautions with regular maintenance, and ensure licensed technicians inspect the pipes and systems regularly to protect against leaks and breaks that could cause flooding.

These are wise steps to take. However, they are not fail-safe. Don’t falsely assume you are fully protected because you have a machine to pump water away from your valuables. Even perfectly maintained sump pumps may eventually fail. Pipes wear out. Accidents happen. So when the water you tried to keep out makes its way into your basement, you’re going to need the correct type and amount of insurance to cover the damage.

Standard homeowners policies have limitations

You’ll probably need more than a basic homeowners policy. Many property owners don’t realize that this standard policy typically covers certain types of water damage, but not all. For example, some policies cover burst pipes but not sewer backups. Others may have limits on coverage, offering repairs for structural damage but not replacement of electronics.

The right policy for the right coverage

Fortunately, full coverage is available. Whether you want to insure your drywall only or everything from the kids’ toys to valuable collections, there’s a policy that’s just right for your needs. Discuss with your agent the type of coverage you want. Review the details of what is covered by each policy or rider, and work with him or her to ensure you have the policy you need.

When the next sump pump backup occurs, you’ll be glad you did

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2 weeks ago · by · 0 comments

Equipment broke down, now what?

equipment broke down, now what?

As a savvy business owner, there’s no doubt that you’ve looked into basic commercial insurance coverage and its cost. So you may recognize the two most common business insurance policies: general liability and property damage.

Depending on the type of business you own, there’s one important thing you may have missed in reviewing the options available. That is, unless your electrical and/or mechanical equipment is damaged by one of the general perils specifically listed on your property damage policy, you won’t be covered if you have to replace or repair it.

A few examples of commonly covered perils are events such as fire, wind, hail, smoke, and civil unrest. However, the average policy usually doesn’t include any coverage for mechanical breakdown. And not having the proper endorsement to properly protect your equipment could shut down your business for days or weeks, during which time your income and profits could all but cease.

Who needs it?

If the extent of your business’s equipment is a small cash register and a phone, and/or if you rent a space where the owner provides maintenance, heat, and air, you may find that you’re not going to need mechanical breakdown coverage as an essential part of your commercial insurance coverage, providing, of course, you have saved up the money towards replacing or repairing your cash register and phone in the event of a non-covered loss.

Those business owners who should be especially concerned about equipment breakdown coverage are companies that have any or all of the following: manufacturing equipment; more than one computer; refrigeration; boiler systems; cooking equipment; generators; motors; fire and security systems.

Equipment breakdown coverage is important whether you own or lease the equipment. To protect themselves, leasing companies will often require you to carry this protection, not unlike an auto lender that insists you carry comprehensive and collision coverage on your auto insurance policy when you’re financing a car.

What’s covered?

This policy will cover labor and other costs of repairing equipment, not just replacing it. There are other residual losses that may occur due to the breakdown that are also covered. For example, if you own a restaurant and your freezer breaks, causing you to lose thousands of dollars’ worth of frozen food, that would be covered.

Clean-up services may also be covered if the breakdown causes a mess. One of its greatest benefits is that it will also cover any loss of business you experience while getting the equipment repaired or replaced.

Some insurance companies will offer equipment breakdown as a separate policy, or it can be added as an endorsement – a special addition – to your existing commercial insurance policy.

Ask your insurance professional if there are differences in the coverage limits and options, so you can make a well-informed decision about which option would be better for you.

Prepare and protect the flow of your business to ensure minimal interruption if something or, as sometimes happens, everything breaks down. Your business account (and your personal checking account) will thank you.

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1 month ago · by · 0 comments

Insurance Is a Must When Storing Flammable Material

flammable

Happy Halloween! Today is an important reminder about storing any flammable materials in your business.

If your business involves the storage of flammable/explosive material—even if you’re only storing gasoline for use in company vehicles—it’s essential to obtain the insurance coverage you need to protect yourself from damages in case of an event. Here are guidelines to help you navigate the tricky waters involved in storing hazardous material:

Pollution Liability: If you store any potentially hazardous material, including gasoline, you may be required to have pollution liability insurance to protect you should the material leak into a water source or cause a fire or explosion. Cleanup from these events is extremely costly, as are other liability costs, including injuries or death.

Fireworks Insurance: The storage of pyrotechnics involves myriad regulations. For insurance purposes, general liability insurance will typically cover fireworks storage. However, because of the many classifications and requirements around the storage of fireworks, it’s important to check with your agent to ensure your liability limits are sufficient.

Storage of fireworks is also regulated by the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms; the Department of Transportation; and the Consumer Product Safety Commission. It’s vital you are in compliance with regulations from all these agencies. The National Fireworks Association and your insurance agent can give you more information.

It’s important to realize that many products are considered hazardous materials, and you will need the appropriate insurance if you store them. Your insurance advisor will help ensure your limits are appropriate to your business and the policy based on the type, amount, and potential hazards of the material stored.

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1 month ago · by · 0 comments

Freelancers Risk All Without the Right Coverage

freelancers

 

More companies are outsourcing jobs to freelancers or independent contractors (ICs). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of freelancers and ICs has grown dramatically in the last few years and is expected to continue rising.

Many freelancers and ICs themselves have failed to keep up with the times; these days you need commercial insurance more than ever, but few realize that without it, they’re setting themselves up for big risks. Contractors and freelancers essentially share the same risks as small businesses. Consider yourself a type of small business, and protect yourself as such.

As soon as you start freelancing or work as an IC, you need insurance. Essentially, every freelancer and independent contractor needs professional liability insurance, even sole proprietors, such as writers or accountants. Depending on your job, you may need other types of commercial insurance as well.

Freelancers and ICs are often considered experts. Most projects involve working with another business or individual, meaning that if a business loss results from a project done by an IC, he or she is financially liable for that loss and other resulting damages.

Several types of commercial liability policies are available for both ICs and freelancers, although what is needed depends on your line of work, job functions, and other factors (such as whether you see customers at your own place of business or drive a vehicle solely for work). These factors help determine what coverage is needed.

Types of insurance:

Professional Liability Insurance

Often referred to as professional indemnity insurance, and sometimes as independent contractor liability insurance, this policy protects against possible claims from clients, such as a costly mistake that the contractor may be liable for. It provides liability coverage in different amounts and helps cover costs of liability claims should the claimant prove contractor liability.

Product Liability Insurance

If you create products or items others will use, purchasing product liability insurance is a must. For example, a freelance computer software consultant is hired by a company to build software programs for them. Shortly thereafter, the software crashes, deleting all the information in the company’s database and potentially leading to multiple lawsuits on a number of grounds.

Cyber Liability Insurance

Cyber liability essentially provides protection against losses related to electronic storage – something not usually covered under regular commercial policies. This protects you if one of your clients and/or the client’s customers experience losses due to unintentional or purposeful negligence on your part.

For example, a freelance computer software developer builds a database for a company that stores sensitive, personal information on their customers. It’s hacked, and a customer’s identity is stolen. The customer could sue the company, and the company could, in turn, sue the freelancer for a number of things, such as loss of business, costs of obtaining new databases and security features, and more.

If you’re an IC or freelancer, discuss liability policies, as well as commercial auto insurance, physical premises liability, and other types of coverages with your agent, for your own peace of mind.

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1 month ago · by · 0 comments

Should You Share Your E&O Policy with a Client?

E&O

 

If you provide B2B services, it’s not unlikely a client will someday ask the question, “Can you add me to your Errors & Omissions (E&O) Insurance policy?” It’s happened to real estate brokers, financial planners, and even insurance professionals. And the best answer is probably no. Here’s why.

E&O coverage is a type of liability insurance. It protects you if you become legally liable in a situation where a client is harmed in some way due to the service you provide. This includes negligence, misrepresentation, violation of good faith and fair dealing, and inaccurate advice. None of this is covered by general liability insurance.

Sharing your E&O

Your E&O policy will typically cover court costs and settlements up to the amount detailed in the policy. You need it. But when you act on behalf of another company, that company may also be affected by your actions. And sued. So, should you make that company an Additional Insured (AI) so it will be covered under your policy?

There are good reasons why not:

  • The contract may not allow the third party to be added as an AI.
  • As E&O policies are industry-specific, the AI’s operations may differ from yours, so it’s hard to cover both in the same policy. The coverage may not be relevant to the AI’s needs.
  • If the AI decides to sue yo but is on the same policy, its suit will likely fall under an insured vs. insured exclusion clause. And the insurer may not cover either of you.

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1 month ago · by · 0 comments

See Your Agent to Save on Business Insurance

agent

Your business plan for 2017 might look nothing like your competitor’s. But they likely have a common theme: Boost the bottom line. Of the many ways to do this, one method is simple: Cut your insurance costs. How?

Here are some tips for business owners:

Reduce risk

Fewer claims = savings. Set up procedures that prevent potential claims. Burglar alarms, employee training, and slip-and-fall precautions are great examples. Make a list of your biggest potential losses from accidents, and set up ways to prevent or minimize them. Having the appropriate measures in place will keep your operations running smoothly and your insurance costs low.

Bundle it up

Small businesses are often eligible for a business owner’s policy (BOP). This typically bundles your general liability, property, business interruption, and other riders together in one policy at a discounted rate. Check with your agent to see if your business qualifies. Common requirements include a business location and a low-risk profile.

Classify correctly

There are hundreds of worker’s compensation class codes that correspond to various positions. Each has its own ranking for potential risks, and each has its own price. Since your worker’s comp premium is based partly on your class codes, be sure you have designated each employee correctly. Don’t overpay by placing employees in a higher-risk code than required. It might seem simpler to tag everyone under one code, but this is rarely the right move.

Lump your sum

Many business owners pay for their coverage on a monthly basis. This is often done for budgeting purposes. However, paying annually might save you money. Ask your agent about payment plan options that could reduce your overall cost.

Revise restrictions

What are your current policy deductibles and limits? Have you reviewed them lately? If you have a fairly low risk, it could be worth taking on a higher deductible to lower your premium. If your business has changed in the past year, you may be able to lower your policy limits. Or if you need to raise your limits, an additional umbrella policy might be the best option.

Make it a habit to review your policies at the end of each year with your agent to see what changes might save you money in the next four quarters.

Strengthen safety

Consider beefing up your safety measures in the next year. A safe work environment reduces worker’s comp claims and liability lawsuits. Develop or strengthen safety-training programs. Have all new employees are properly trained in your safety measures. Host workshops and training sessions regularly to ensure everyone is engaged. Incentivize safety by rewarding employees who maintain good records.

Ask your agent

Don’t let the calendar flip without contacting your agent. A quick call to your provider could save you crucial dollars in the next year. Your insurance pro is a valuable resource. Keep lines of communication open as your business needs change. This will ensure your policies not only meet your current demands, but also take less of your hard-earned money.

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2 months ago · by · 1 comment

Too Small to do bookkeeping?

bookkeeping

Regardless of the size of your business, bookkeeping is something you need to stay on top of. Even if you’re self-employed, it’s necessary to keep track of the financial side of things. It’s the best way to ensure that your business grows and remains profitable.

Continue reading to find out more about why bookkeeping is so important to small businesses. Some of the reasons may surprise you.

1. Paying Bills on Time

A bookkeeping system, even the most simple one, goes a long way in assisting you in paying your bills on time. This includes loan payments, invoices, rent, utilities, etc. Falling behind on bills is generally the number one reason why small businesses fold.

2. Planning Ahead

Every business owner needs to plan ahead, to some extent. Think of it as budgeting. Accounting helps you do this by allowing you to look at your current cash flow and earmark funds for future purchases.

Proper bookkeeping also allows you to think about downsizing, if necessary. Many times, businesses don’t show a profit as quickly as anticipated. It’s just a fact of life. By keeping an eye on your finances, you’ll know if and when you have to cut back.

3. Avoiding a Tax Audit

Unfortunately, one of the quickest ways to get audited is by having messy and/or incomplete tax records. This type of juvenile bookkeeping is one of the biggest triggers when it comes to IRS audits.

It’s far better to take the time and energy to keep your books up to date, rather than spending countless (and unnecessary) hours complying with an auditor. In the event you still get audited, having everything in order makes the process go much more smoothly.

4. Getting Deductions

As a small business owner, it behooves you to take advantage of every legitimate tax deduction you can. The money you save on taxes can be put back into the business to help it grow. When you don’t keep track of financial details, there’s a greater chance that you’ll overlook some of the deductions that you qualify for.

5. Setting Goals

One of the best ways to be successful with a small business is to set goals for yourself. Ask yourself questions like, “How am I doing?” and, “Can I really afford to expand?” Adequate bookkeeping helps to answer these questions and allows you to set realistic goals for the future.

If you’re not good with numbers, there’s no reason to panic. There are several excellent accounting software choices which you can use to manage your own books. Online versions make it even simpler. They include:

* QuickBooks Online – http://www.intuit.com/quickbooks-accounting-software/
* Kashoo Online Accounting – https://www.kashoo.com
* Wave Accounting (free and paid version) – https://www.waveapps.com/
* FreshBooks – http://www.freshbooks.com/
* Zoho Books (great for micro-businesses) – https://www.zoho.com/books/

You also have the option of hiring East Harlem Tax Service as your bookkeeper. The money you spend is worth it when you consider that he or she will help to ensure the highest degree of business success.

These are just a few reasons why accounting is so important for every small business. Competition is tough, regardless of the industry. It’s vital to do all you can do to persevere.

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2 months ago · by · 1 comment

10 Insurance Terms You Must Know

insurance terms

10 Insurance Terms You Must Understand

In a virtual world, your commercial insurance policy can seem like just so much more boring paperwork. However, if you’re a business owner, get over it; it’s essential you read and completely understand your policy, however boring. To get you to that place, here are some common – and important – business insurance terms you need to know:

Actual Cash Value (ACV): This refers to the cost of replacing destroyed or damaged property with like or similar property. However, depreciation is taken into account, so whatever the insurer pays to replace the property will have deductions for depreciation.

For example, a surround-sound system installed in your restaurant 10 years ago is destroyed in an electrical fire. Your insurance would pay an amount to replace it with a similar or like an item, less any depreciation value to account for value lost over a decade. If you have high-value items such as electronics, artwork, or antiques, consider replacement cost coverage, which allows a higher claim payout, because it doesn’t deduct for depreciation.

Act of God: These are naturally occurring perils over which policyholders have no control, such as earthquakes, devastating windstorms, typhoons, or similar events.

Aggregate limit: An aggregate limit is the maximum amount you can receive for a specified period of time. For example, you may have an aggregate limit of $200,000 for one year, which would mean that regardless of how many separate claims you make, once your policy pays out that amount for the year, it won’t pay more. Some policies have general aggregate limits, meaning the total amount your insurer will ever pay, regardless of how many claims.

Exclusion: These are “named provisions” that specifically identify items that aren’t covered, including losses occurring from specified actions or issues.

All-Risk policy: This policy will pay for losses regardless of the reason the loss occurred.

Named Perils policy: The exact opposite of an “all-risk” policy, “named perils” specifically defines what causes of loss will be covered. Usually, these include vandalism, fire, or acts of nature. This policy provides coverage ONLY for events listed in the policy, and although it’s usually very affordable, it offers very limited coverage.

Valued policy: Also referred to as an “agreed amount” policy, this states that an event resulting in a complete and total loss will be covered up to a specific, pre-determined amount as stated in the policy.

Endorsements: These are provisions added to a policy that provides extra coverage, alter a policy in some way to account for special coverage needs, or define exclusions or inclusions. Often referred to as “riders”, they can be thought of as amendments to policies.

Real Property: This refers to things such as the land or items permanently affixed or attached to it: sheds, detached garages, permanent fixtures like fences, and sometimes heavy machinery and equipment.

Personal Property: Personal property is different from real property in that personal property is easy to relocate. If you turned your building upside down, anything that falls out is considered personal property, such as furniture, computers, and office equipment.

This is why it’s important to know these insurance terms even though some brokers will tell you and some just assume you know. Looking for an insurance quote send East Harlem Insurance Brokerage an email.

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2 months ago · by · 1 comment

Simple Steps to Reduce Data Security Incidents

data security

Simple Steps to Reduce Incidents

Data security has grown from a relatively minor issue facing most business owners to one of the most costly, time-consuming and prevalent forms of risk. Not only is data security instrumental in retaining the trust and confidence of clients, but in many instances, it is also a legal mandate.

Research conducted by one data protection company indicated the average total cost per incident of data security was $6.65 million in 2008 and was likely to climb even higher. That included major nation-wide corporations with millions of customer records at stake.

To put it into a better perspective, the average incident cost $202 per compromised customer record, including both prior and former client lists. It’s a cost that can add up even for relatively minor data security leaks.

Most small-business owners drastically underestimate their risk for a data security breach. According to research conducted by Kroll Inc., the following were the most common causes of data security exposure:

  • 8% – disposal of files on computers
  • 8% – improper email usage
  • 8% – hacking
  • 4% – lost, missing or stolen laptops
  • 3% – web surfing/posting/other
  • $5.9 million – Average organizational cost of a data breach

 

These risk can be dramatically reduced by implementing a prevention plan and obtaining insurance.

Don’t wait for a breach to take place. Prevent it from happening by implementing a policy and employee training for critical areas.

Ask your agent about security and privacy insurance. Check your policy because some commercial general liability and/or general liability policies exclude electronic data, so it’s important to obtain independent quotes to ensure that your small business is covered. Still unsure about your policy? Give East Harlem Insurance Brokerage a call today.

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2 months ago · by · 1 comment

Financial Tips

financial tips

Mentioning accounting and finance may be a sure way to clear a room full of members of the public. But a room of entrepreneurs?

Not so much. Entrepreneurs realize the failure of small business ventures is primarily attributable to poor accounting practices or improper financial management.

Monitoring your small business’s financial statements is the only way to know how well you’re doing and where improvements are most urgently needed. So carve out a little time each month to conduct a proper financial analysis, and begin by focusing on the basics:

The income track

Revenue growth and/or stability is key to your business’s sustainability, so start with the top line on the income statement. Compare last month’s revenue to the month immediately preceding it. Then compare it to the same month the year before.

While you’re at it, consider revenue per hour worked by all employees, including you. This a very informative measure of productivity.

Have you experienced a singular event, such as a particularly large sale? If it’s a one-off, treat it as a singular event. But if you want continued large sales, you’ll need to focus your marketing efforts on ensuring this happens.

Looking at concentrated income can also be informative; for instance, if a single customer provides a large portion of your revenue, it can be a problem if that customer buys less in the future.

Don’t become so focused on top-line revenue that you ignore profit margins, which validate efficiency. Net profit margin (shown as a percentage) is derived by dividing profit by total sales. While a lower number can be acceptable in the short term, prolonged negative margins are cause for alarm: either your expenses are too high or your prices, too low.

Gross profit margin is the difference between sales and the product costs divided by sales. If you resell products, you need a consistent gross margin; rising costs would necessitate a commensurate increase in prices. Know which of the things you sell are the most profitable based on gross profit margins.

The operations engine

To be efficient, a business must promptly collect accounts receivable, remit accounts payable, and resell inventory. Know how many times last month these financial figures turned over.

Receivables’ turnover is the period’s sales to customers on credit divided by the period’s average accounts receivable. Payables’ turnover is the period’s expenses billed by vendors divided by the period’s average accounts payable. Inventory turnover is the period’s cost of goods sold (for inventoried items) divided by the period’s average inventory.

The important information is the frequency with which new receivables, payables, and inventory replace the old. Consistently high turnover numbers represent management efficiency; low turnovers are warning signs.

Help is available

If you don’t want to crunch the numbers yourself, accountants and bookkeepers can help by compiling the financial data needed for evaluation, assessing this data, and comparing your business to others in the industry. Once you have this valuable information, you can adjust. And succeed.

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