A white wall with a CCTV camera in the top left facing slightly downward towards the bottom right corner of the image

Home CCTV – Do You Know The Law?

If you protect your property by using Close Circuit Television (CCTV), it is important to know that the UK Information Commissioner (ICO) has ruled that household CCTV systems that film beyond the boundary of the property – such as the street or onto a neighbouring property, must now be registered.

Using CCTV or associated recording equipment on your own property will be exempt from the Data Protection Act, unless you are recording images or taking footage which falls outside the boundaries of your property.

The ICO recommends that you use your CCTV equipment in a responsible way, such as not pointing the camera directly into your neighbours house or property. You need to respect and protect the privacy of others, otherwise you could be liable for prosecution under the Data protection Act.

If you are considering installing a CCTV camera to protect your home you may wish to consider the following:

  • Are you able to put up signs showing that CCTV is in operation?
  • Is it necessary for your camera to show images beyond the boundaries of your home?
  • Make sure the equipment won’t be misused or misinterpreted
  • You should be able to speak to your neighbours; make sure they are okay with it should the imagery fall on their land
  • Are you ok with having to register your CCTV and pay a premium to do so
  • Are you willing to share images with the police should they ask for them
  • If you have CCTV remember that anyone seen on this footage or footage of their property can request a copy of your footage under the Data Protection Act

CCTV is becoming more and more common among home owners. Before you start your own CCTV installation, make sure you know your rights and the rights of others.

To register your CCTV go to: www.ico.org.uk/registration/cctv

The registration takes around 10 minutes to complete and there will be a charge involved, so remember to have your debit or credit card handy.

Image of subsidence. Brick wall with a crack running vertically across it

Don’t Crack Up: All About Subsidence

What is subsidence?

Subsidence is the downward movement (shrinkage) of the ground on which a building is supported.

Causes:

• Sub Soil – clay soils shrink as the moisture level decreases for example over periods of drought.
• Trees and shrubs – massive quantities of water are absorbed from the ground by the roots of trees and large shrubs causing shrinkage of the soil. Damage is also caused by the roots themselves as they extend further attempting to find water during dry periods. Trees can also seek water from drains causing damage to the underground service pipes due to tree root intrusion
• Damaged drains – this is a particular problem in older buildings, the water from leaking pipework can wash away soil under foundations.
• Location – some properties have been built over mines or land fills.

Other forms of ground movement:

• Heave – The movement of land in an upwards direction caused by the removal of trees and large shrubs or the swelling of saturated soil.
• Landslip/slide – The movement of land down an incline caused by excessive rainfall on already saturated ground or coastal erosion.

What can be done to avoid subsidence?

• Try to avoid planting trees or shrubs close to any buildings or main drains not only on your own property but neighbouring properties.
• Regularly maintain your property checking for blocked or leaking drains and clearing leaves from gutters.
• Have your trees and shrubs pruned, by restricting the leaf growth you restrict the spread of the roots and the absorption of moisture from the ground.
• When paving a large area, ensure that it is permeable so that water can penetrate through the hard surface into the ground below. If water sits or goes straight to the drainage system, nearby trees and shrub’s roots will continue to extend their search for water and cause drying out of the ground.
• If there is already a substantial tree near a building or public highway, you should consider having it professionally surveyed every 3 years to assess its health and to determine whether any pruning or felling is required. Keep these reports in a safe place, as they may be required in the event of a claim.

Did you know?

• Most trees cause no damage.
• Tree roots spread up to three times the height of the tree.
• Properties built after 1980 usually have deeper foundations and are therefore less likely to be affected.
• London clay is worst soil for subsidence issues, especially during periods of drought
• A tree is the property and responsibility of the land owner, who may be liable for any damage caused to a third party.
• Before you carry out work on a tree you should check with the Local Planning Authority as to whether a Tree Preservation Order is in place.

Are your trees too close?

  • Tree Species

  • Apple/pear
  • Ash
  • Beach
  • Birch
  • Cypress
  • Cherry
  • Damson
  • Elm
  • Hawthorn
  • Holly
  • Horse Chestnut
  • Laburnum
  • Laurel
  • Magnolia
  • Maple
  • Oak
  • Pine
  • Plum
  • Poplar
  • Sycamore
  • Spruce
  • Walnut
  • White Beam/Mountain Ash/Rowan
  • Willow
  • Yew
  • Safe Distance in Metres*

  • 10
  • 21
  • 15
  • 17
  • 20
  • 11
  • 11
  • 30
  • 12
  • 1
  • 23
  • 9
  • 6
  • 5
  • 20
  • 30
  • 8
  • 11
  • 35
  • 17
  • 7
  • 14
  • 11
  • 40
  • 5

*Estimated safe distance from property in metres

As opinions differ slightly dependant upon whom you speak to (insurers/loss adjusters, horticultural societies, nursery suppliers or arborists), this table is for general information only. Brownhill Insurance Group Ltd does not accept liability in relation to its use

What signs you should look out for.

• Diagonal cracks in plasterwork and brickwork.
• Usually with a thickness of a £1 coin (3mm).
• Doors and windows sticking.
• Sloping floor; try placing a ping pong ball or a coin on it’s edge on the floor and see if it rolls.

What to do if you suspect your property is suffering from subsidence.

Contact your insurance provider, if it is confirmed that your policy covers subsidence, they will organise a qualified surveyor to assess the situation and find the cause of the problem.

If subsidence is confirmed (as apposed to general wear and tear and/ or natural/historic movement which is not an insured peril) the cause of the subsidence will then be eliminated followed by a period of monitoring. Once the subsidence has been stabilised the necessary repair work can be carried out.

Further reading:

Valuing London’s Urban Forest
Geology of Britain Viewer
Tree Preservation Order

Three new polymer £5 notes on a black background

The New Polymer £5 Notes

Launched on the 13th September 2016, most of us will now have had one of the new polymer £5 notes pass through our hands.

For over 100 years paper has been used to create £5 notes. The reason for the change from paper to polymer is to make bank notes more durable, cleaner and counterfiet proof.

The plan is to introduce a polymer £10 note in summer 2017 followed by the £20 note in 2020. But what of the £50 note you ask? The launch of the new £5 polymer note took place at Belnheim Palace in June 2016. Following reports of The Bank of England Governor, Mark Carney saying there are no future plans to introduce a polymer £50 has lead to speculation that it will be scrapped.

Many of you will have seen news reports that low serial numbers are selling on eBay for far more than their face value. Notes starting with AA01 followed by a low six digit serial number are taking interest from collectors. Notes with consecutive serial numbers are also deemed to be high in value.  If you come across a new £5 note, it is worth checking the serial number. The lower the number and the better the condition, the greater the prospective value.

Paper £5 notes will only remain legal tender until 5th May 2017; so remember to check for any money put away in jars, draws or under the mattress! You can exchange the old £5 notes with the Bank of England after this date if your bank, building society or post office no longer accepts them.

For more information:

http://www.bankofengland.co.uk/banknotes/polymer/Documents/introducingpolymerbanknotes.pdf

Products Recalls. Pictured Samsung S5 phone laying screen down of a surface

Product Recalls: From Tumble Dryers to Smartphones

First it was tumble dryers and now mobile phones are bursting into flames.

Following the problems with certain models of Whirlpool tumble dryers earlier in the year, you will have seen the news headlines that Samsung have issued a product recall on their Galaxy Note 7. This is due to reports of devices exploding or bursting into flames because of an issue with overheating batteries.

On October 10 2016 Samsung took the decision to stop sales and shipments of Galaxy Note 7 devices.

Everyone with a Galaxy Note 7 has been asked to stop using their device and to replace it for another device in the Galaxy lineup.

Samsung is reminding their customers that the Note 7 is the only affected device in their range of smart phones. It was reported last week that the recall has caused the division’s operating profit to drop by nearly 98%.

Not a good time for Samsung at the moment as they have just announced a voluntary recall of washing machines in the U.S. over injury reports.

Read Samsungs consumer guidance for the Galaxy Note 7 here.

Info on switching your device here.

(Pictured above: Samsung S5)

New TV Licensing Laws. Old fashioned television standing on four legs against a white wall. Television is turned off.

New TV Licensing Laws

The way we pay for watching TV changed on the 1st of September 2016.

New TV licensing laws have come into force, with changes affecting those that watch programmes on BBC iPlayer.

Previously, you only had to have a TV licence if you watched live BBC broadcasts. The new rules put in place closed a loophole, so whether it is on the TV, computer or mobile device, if you watch catch up, on demand or live TV on BBC iPlayer you will need a TV licence. (This does not apply if you only listen to radio broadcasts or watch programmes purchased from the BBC store on iPlayer or watch BBC programmes on a third party channel such as Netflix).

Whilst having a TV licence at your main residence also covers you for mobile devices, you need to be aware that if you watch iPlayer at another address whilst plugged in to the mains, the home/business owner, educational facility etc. will require a TV licence or face a fine up to £1,000.

For further information including the cost of a TV licence, concessions etc. go to: http://www.tvlicensing.co.uk/

Engagement-Ring-Insurance

Do you know the current value of your engagement ring?

Do you have engagement ring insurance?

At Brownhill Insurance Group we strongly recommend reviewing whether you need more from your insurance than your current cover can offer, as you may be surprised at the rise in value of your extra precious items.

Did you know?

Many individuals regularly underestimate their sums insured by at least 40%.

Over the last 10 years the price of gold and silver has increased by around 300%.

Being underinsured is a common problem for jewellery items that gain value over the years, or can be vulnerable to market fluctuations. Gold, silver, diamonds and wristwatches are key examples.

To be safe, you’re better off organising a valuation with a certified jeweller every three to four years. Likewise, don’t forget to include items you’ve been gifted that accumulate over your policy period through birthdays, anniversaries and Christmas.

There is no use in making guesses regarding the cost to replace items because underinsurance will rear its ugly head once again and you will be left paying more money to cover the remaining costs.

If you think you may be underinsured then please talk to us, we can help you make sure that your insurance policy accurately reflects the value of your home and its contents, we can happily offer advice and will be able to recommend the steps you need to take if you find you are underinsured for any of the policies you have taken out with us.

The Brownhill Insurance Group Difference

Brownhill Insurance Group can give you the best of both worlds — we pride ourselves on our personal touch and market expertise combined with many distinctive products and an exceptional, professional service.

We offers a comprehensive selection of covers, with dedicated and highly experienced Client Managers capable of assisting you with your personal requirements.

If you’re interested in learning more about cover that goes further, please give us a call on 0208 353 8901 or contact us.

Wine Insurance – Protecting your bottled-up investments

The importance of wine insurance

Wine enthusiasts know the rewards of owning a collection: nurturing a bottle for years, anticipating its peak and, at last, savoring the fruit of the vine. Unfortunately, some bottles won’t make it that far. Fragile bottles can break. Basement cellars can flood. Refrigeration systems can malfunction. Although it may be easy to overlook, maintaining adequate insurance coverage is a key component to protect your wine collection.

Even the savviest collectors can make mistakes when it comes to insuring their wine. Here are a few common oversights that can be easily avoided:

• Assuming your collection is protected under your homeowners’ policy. In fact, most homeowners policies specifically exclude coverage for perishables and fragile goods, such as wine.
• Storing your collection in the garage. Petrol and exhaust fumes can permeate the cork, causing spoilage.
• Keeping an outdated inventory.Inaccurate inventories can leave your collection open to theft and undervaluation.
• Not connecting the wine cellar to temperature and moisture alarms. Catching dramatic changes to the cellar conditions can avert a major loss.
• Not hiring a skilled electrician.Most electricians handle basic home wiring. However, when it comes to a temperature-controlled wine cellar, a skilled electrician is needed. Improper wiring can lead to short circuits—causing drastic temperature changes inside the cellar.

Accidents happen
Despite your best efforts, power cut, breakage during shipping and other unforeseen circumstances still can occur. For example:

• A lorry transporting wine purchased at auction hit a patch of ice and overturned, smashing most of the bottles inside.
Check with your insurance broker to ensure that newly acquired bottles and/or those in transit are covered.
• An avid wine collector was renovating the expansive cellar in his home. During an on-site vulnerability assessment by his insurer, it was discovered that a mechanism hooked up to the central air conditioning unit was being used to regulate the cellar temperature. If this piece broke, a replacement could take weeks to locate and install—a delay that could potentially ruin his collection.
Only a few select insurers have collection management experts who can spot these unique vulnerabilities and deliver meaningful solutions that may prevent loss.
• Multiple pipes froze in an upstairs bathroom. Pressure from water trying to push ice through the pipes caused them to burst, flooding the home—including the wine cellar. A significant portion of the wine collection was lost.
A water shut-off device hooked to a central alarm system could have prevented this loss from occurring. These systems monitor water flow continuously. If leaks occur in water pipes, plumbing fixtures or water-using appliances, they shut off the water supply automatically and activate an alarm.

Advice for collectors
When it comes to wine, the easiest way to insure a collection is via a “blanket” policy with one overall limit. Blanket coverage is the best choice for the vast majority of collectors—especially if you intend to drink what you acquire over time. This option affords the flexibility to add and remove bottles without having to notify your insurance broker or carrier (unless the value of an individual bottle exceeds the limits on your policy).

Alternatively, if you own high-priced bottles and/or intend to hold onto your collection, a scheduled policy is a better option. With this policy, each bottle is itemized and insured individually.

Article by – Katja Zigerlig
Vice President, Art, Wine & Jewelry Insurance – AIG

Unwanted-Calls

How To Avoid Unwanted Calls

Bombarded by unwanted calls from Personal Injury and PPI companies?

Most businesses today use mobile phones and unwanted calls are not only annoying and distracting but a waste of valuable time.

Customary advice is to just ignore all unrecognised numbers and change your number if it becomes intolerable, however this isn’t an option for many as a call from an unknown or withheld number could potentially be a new client and it can be time consuming and costly to update websites, business cards and headed paper should you make a change.

Help is now at hand as there is now a way to pretty much stop these calls dead in their tracks.

A new opt-out service was launched by Ofcom and the Telephone Preference Service in May 2016. Mobile users can now sign up for free by texting “TPS” followed by their email address to 85095,  ensuring that their mobile number is added to the UK database, it is then illegal for companies to make unsolicited sales and marketing calls without the recipients permission and can incur severe penalties of up to £500,000 imposed by the Information Commissioner’s Office for non compliance.

Although they cannot guarantee you will never receive an unwanted call again, as there will always be unscrupulous callers that ignore the “Do not call” database; however, a reduction in the number of nuisance calls should be seen within 28 days. Unfortunately callers based overseas are not bound by this regulation.

Reduce the number of unwanted calls on mobiles and landlines, texts, spam in your email box or on instant message apps and even post through your door.

  1. Add any numbers confirmed as spam to your block callers/reject list on your mobile phone.
  1. For landlines, register with the Telephone Preference Service by going on line at tpsonline.org.uk or by calling 0345 070 0707.
    Opt out services can only go so far in reducing the numbers of unwanted sales, marketing and charity fund raising calls, overseas call centres  and silent calls can usually be the most troublesome. Should this be an issue, you could consider a call blocker device. These attach to your phone and are used to block different types of calls. Some even screen your calls by asking the caller to give their name before the call is connected.
  1. When receiving a spam text, never click on any links or reply by texting STOP; any response confirms that your number is live and could be sold on. Read this Money Saving Expert article for more information.
  1. Be careful when online who you give your details to and always look for the “opt out” box, to avoid your details being used in future marketing and being sold on to other companies. Although not the most efficient scheme, you can register with the Mailing Preference Service on www.mpsonline.org.uk or by calling 0845 703 4599 (automated service).
  1. In an attempt to stop spam on instant message apps such as iMessage or WhatsApp, you should do so via the app. Often you can report spam directly under the message you have just received. Read this if you are an iMessage user or this article if you use WhatsApp.
  1. You can also opt out of the junk mail delivered through your door by the Royal Mail by emailing your name and address to optout@royalmail.com. Due to security reasons you will receive a form by post for completion and return. Royal Mail will then cease to deliver leaflets within 6 weeks.
  1. When entering competitions or surveys always use a specifically set up email account for purpose and protect your privacy with TrueCall38, a free service whereby you use the telephone number 0333 88 88 88 88, when dialled the caller receives the following message “TrueCall38 is handling my calls. I prefer not to be contacted by phone, so please contact me via my email address. Goodbye!”
  1. Use TrueCaller to search a number to see if it is a nuisance call, or download the app on your phone for it to report it to you automatically.

What does the future hold?

Which? Are urging the Government to take action on 15 recommendations out lined in an recent official task force chaired by them in relation to how personal data is used, the prevention of companies withholding their number and making senior executives personally accountable by law for their company’s nuisance calls.

For further information or to sign their petition please go to – www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/how-to-stop-nuisance-phone-calls

Data from the Information Commissioner’s Office shows between 1 January and 31st May 2016 they received a total of 58,107 complaints about nuisance calls and texts, with an estimated 2% of people reporting them to the regulator, the true figure is much higher.

For further information from ICO please go to – www.ico.org.uk/action-weve-taken/nuisance-calls-and-messages

Understanding-Your-Home-Insurance-Policy

Understanding Your Home Insurance Policy

Deciphering all of the parts of your home insurance policy can be difficult; It is important to understand the terminology used, therefore a home insurance policy will always include a definitions page in the policy wording which defines and explains the vocabulary used to make it easier to understand.

Home insurance policies will usually follow the same general format: A declarations page, a definitions section and sections for property insurance and liability insurance.

Policy Schedule

When you receive a copy of your policy, it is important to review all of the information for accuracy. Your policy schedule is the part of your insurance policy that provides an overview of the details specific to your policy, such as:

  • The name of the insurer
  • Your policy number
  • Your name and address
  • The premium payable
  • Any specific conditions, changes or endorsements
  • Sums insured

You should retain a copy of the schedule to refer to in case you have any questions or queries concerning your policy. If you change or revise your policy at any time, a new policy schedule will be issued to you reflecting those changes.

Endorsements

It is of particular importance to read and understand any endorsements or exclusions which may be applied to your policy, as these could determine whether or not cover is in force in the event of a claim. For example, your policy could have an endorsement which states that your property has a burglar alarm installed and in working order, however if this is not the case and you were subject to a theft from your home an insurer could refuse to pay your claim.

Property Cover

Buildings: This provides cover as a result of damage to your home and other detached structures at the same address due to a loss such as fire, flood or subsidence to name a few. It does not cover the normal wear and tear of your home or any maintenance related problems. You need to have enough cover for the rebuilding cost of your home, minus any cost of the land or location.

Contents: This provides cover for your contents and personal items in your home such as furniture and clothing. You can also extend this cover to include your personal belongings worldwide by specifying certain items such as jewellery. It is important to create and keep records of your personal belongings for proof of ownership in the event of a claim; these can include receipts and pictures.

If you have any questions or queries regarding your home insurance policy, give our dedicated household team a call on 020 8658 4334.

Tips-For-Pokemon-Go

13 Safety Advice, Etiquette Reminders & Tips for Pokemon Go Players

As the newest craze sweeps the world, we are reading reports each day of players being hit by cars, falling off cliffs, walking onto railway lines, entering mines, even finding dead bodies and being bitten by poisonous snakes. Criminals are also using the ‘Lure‘ action to draw players to a specific location and mugging them for their phones.

You of course want to “catch them all” but as you go off exploring the augmented reality of Pokemon Go you need to remember the dangers of the real world and be respectful of those around you.

Here are our 13 Safety Advice, Etiquette Reminders & Tips for Pokemon Go Players:

  1. Only download the official version by Niantic from Google Play or Apple App Store
  2. Don’t forget that the app’s GPS uses a lot of your phone’s battery and you could find yourself with a dead phone pretty quickly. Although the data uses for the game has been praised at using very little. Perhaps consider buying a battery case or portable battery charger.
  3. Plan your route and take refreshments and a snack; you don’t want to get dehydrated and not be anywhere near a shop.
  4. Always tell someone where you are going.
  5. Think about where you are travelling on your adventures? Are you familiar with your surroundings? Consider staying to streets that you know well when out at night.
  6. Be aware of your surroundings; it is easy to lose your bearings when you are not paying attention.
  7. Take your eyes off your phone whilst crossing roads.
  8. Do not trespass on private property; it is disrespectful and illegal.
  9. Do not venture into unsafe areas such as railway lines or mines; remember that Pokemon characters move to different locations within the game so just wait for it to relocate.
  10. Avoid suspicious or isolated locations, especially if you are on your own.
  11. Be respectful, do not hunt Pokemon in places of worship or grave yards. Use your common sense.
  12. Never play Pokemon Go whilst driving.
  13. Disabling the AR function avoids taking photos of your surrounding during the capture and it makes the Pokemon easier to catch and improves battery life.

Be aware, be safe and have fun!