Sabtu, 29 September 2012

And the Search Begins! Finding the "Perfect" Facility

By John Brannon, Club Director, Carolina Union VBC 

Carolina Union Volleyball Club has been around since 2002.  We began operating out of high schools as a purely regional level club that finished the season at the beginning of April.  By 2009, all of this had changed.  We joined forces with another club and began operating out of a multi-sport facility.  We took our first teams to USAV Nationals that year, and began to send teams to AAU Nationals the following year.  Things were moving in a positive direction!
But early on last club season we began to notice a change in the direction of our relationship with this facility.  We had to cut our number of travel teams from 15 to 12 because of a lack of court space, we would have three or four teams practicing on two side courts (one basketball court) while other courts sat empty for hours on end.  Local programming was the focus for the facility owners rather than elite level volleyball.  All of that meant that we weren't serving as many young athletes as we wanted, and the athletes we were serving were often frustrated because of what they saw going on around them.  So in April, the decision was made that our club would have to find a new home, or move back to high schools and churches for the foreseeable future.  

We immediately began to look into options and started off by having conversations with potential investors.  Then we began working with an industrial broker to find empty and convertible warehouse spaces.  We also created a start-up and operating budget, and began putting a business plan together.  In the process, everyone received a real life education in starting up a business. 

[As an aside, in a previous post, Delaware Juniors Club Director Steve Lenderman mentioned the challenge of putting together a business plan, and he was absolutely correct.  I would encourage anyone interested in this to do some research and be willing to pay the $200-$300 for good business plan software.  It was a phenomenal assist for me and the best investment that I’ve made for this fledgling business so far!]

As we worked through the months of May and June, we saw a few places we liked, but nothing that jumped out at us as a viable option.  Charlotte is built like a wagon wheel, and in the past we had been operating out of both the south east corner and the southern end of the city.  The southeast part of Charlotte had the advantage of numerous existing warehouse spaces, but the disadvantage of being very difficult to get to after 4:00 in the afternoon.  In addition, these spaces were significantly more expensive than those in the Southwest part of Charlotte.  The southern part of the city was the ideal spot, but there was no existing warehouse space and as we did more research and spoke with investors, building a facility looked more and more like a 3-5 year plan (it is still in our big plans!). 

At this point, we went back to the drawing board.  We knew that we could always operate out of schools if we had to, but that also represented a significant setback; it would limit our growth potential because most schools are booked up with basketball during the winter months.  It would also limit our ability to unify the whole club under one training system, hamper our athletes who wanted additional private training, as well as our young coaches who wanted to make coaching more of a full time job, reduce our ability to run extra clinics and training sessions for our players and the community.  Most importantly, (as one of our athletes pointed out to me in this process) 4) it would put a huge dent in the “family” atmosphere we try to create amongst our teams and families.  The last of those points has always been a staple of our club and one of the things we value most.

In late July, my broker called me up and said, “I know this isn't your ideal location, but I want you to come take a look at this space.”  It was toward the Southwest side, but it was off of a major highway right near restaurants and shopping centers so I figured it couldn't hurt to go look.  I happened to drive there from the southern part of the city during rush hour (about 5:30 pm) and had no trouble getting there at all, because most of the traffic was headed the other way.  This checked off concern number one, ease of access for the majority of our athletes.  The warehouse park was three turns and less than a minute off of the major highway, which was great, and right behind a Costco, a Hilton, a Chili’s, and a number of restaurants (something for parents to do!). 

I also noticed that in the front of the warehouse park there was a police outpost, which checked off concern number two, safety!  Our space was in the back of the well-lit park (check), which meant that there was plenty of parking (check) and limited traffic (check).  When I entered the building, the columns were 40x40 (check), the ceiling was 26 feet high at the peak and 24 feet clear from column to column (check), and it had an existing and well kept bathroom (check, having to install bathrooms can range anywhere from $100k to $300k).  In addition, despite being 95 degrees outside, the temperature inside was relatively mild (check, as the $150k bill that comes with putting in HVAC is out of our reach at this point). This 16,000 sq. ft. space would allow us to put three full courts with ten feet of serving space (BIG check), a half court that we could utilize for full team training (check), and an area for fitness training (check). 

As I was standing in the warehouse, I remembered a favorite question of a friend:  “Are you going to let the perfect be the enemy of the very good?”.  .  . 

To be continued next week... stay tuned!

Kamis, 27 September 2012

Golf insurer in CT arrested for selling illegal insurance in WA

A Connecticut businessman who specializes in insurance for golf tournament hole-in-one prizes has been arrested in his home state after failing to appear for a felony arraignment in Seattle earlier this month.

Kevin Kolenda, 54, was arrested Wednesday in his hometown of Norwalk, Conn. He faces five counts of transacting insurance without a license, a class B felony.

"We've been warning the public about Mr. Kolenda's scam for years," Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler said in a recent press release. "He has a long history of selling illegal insurance, refusing to pay prize winners, and thumbing his nose at regulators."

Kolenda was supposed to appear in court Sept. 5 for arraignment on those charges, but he failed to appear. So the judge issued a bench warrant for his arrest.

Kolenda has ignored a previous cease and desist order from our office, as well as a $125,000 fine.

Update (9/28/2012): Added King5 video at top of post.

Why did you make my auto/homeowners insurance rates go up?

Q: My auto and homeowners insurance rates went up, and my agent and insurer said that it's because Washington state required them to charge more. Did you require this?

A: We get this question fairly often. While we do review rates for many kinds of insurance, no, we did not tell your auto/homeowners/etc. insurer to raise its rates. It's up to insurers to decide when, or if, they will submit proposals to us to increase or decrease rates. (In some cases, notably health coverage, insurers often reduce benefits in order to moderate rates hikes.)

Again: While we may review the rates, the insurance company is the one proposing any changes.

There are many insurers selling auto and homeowners policies in Washington. If your insurer is raising rates too high, maybe it's time to shop around. Need help? Here are some tips when shopping for auto coverage, and here are some tips when shopping for homeowners coverage.

Selasa, 25 September 2012

Open enrollment for children ends Oct. 31

Do you need health insurance for your child? Open enrollment for individual health insurance for children is now underway. From Sept. 15-Oct. 31 you can buy an individual plan for your child or add them to your plan with out having to fill out a health questionnaire.

Under health reform, health plans can no longer deny children coverage if they have a pre-existing medical condition, but they can create open enrollment periods. Washington state has two annual enrollment periods: March 15-April 30 and Sept. 15-Oct. 31.

If you need coverage now, don't wait. You have until the end of Oct., but the sooner you enroll, the faster you'll get coverage.

The next open enrollment starts March 15. Here's a list of plans in the individual market by county and what to do if you miss the enrollment period.

Life insurance explainer: What are life settlements?

Life settlements are when you sell your life insurance policy to someone else. You get immediate cash, and they collect the value of the policy when you die.

There's a similar type of transaction, known as a viatical settlement, in which a terminally ill person sells his or her life insurance to someone else.

Both these types of transactions are mentioned as options in a notice that life insurers are required to send to some Washington policyholders.

According to a New York Times article published last month, the fast-growing life settlements business swelled to $12 billion in transactions by 2007, but has dropped off dramatically, with only $3.8 billion worth of policies changing hands in 2010. Life settlements brokers maintain, however, that with trillions of dollars in life insurance out there, the industry is still in its infancy.

Senin, 24 September 2012

Health insurers rebates

Q: I've read in the news that health insurers are having to send rebates to their customers because of health care reform. But I didn't get a rebate? What's going on?

A: Yes, we've heard from a number of folks that are wondering whether they're going to get a rebate. The rebates are from companies that aren't putting enough premium dollars toward actual medical care (as opposed to marketing, administrative costs, etc.).

Here in Washington, however, most companies are already spending a high percentage of your premium dollars on medical care. That's the good news. But that also means that few Washingtonians will get rebates. Here's more about the rebates and a state-by-state breakdown.

Jumat, 21 September 2012

Consumer alert: Real Benefits Association

Consumer alert

An unlicensed company named "Real Benefits Association" may be offering bogus discount health care plans in Washington state.

Again: This company is not licensed to do business in Washington state.

We've heard from consumers who said they paid monthly premiums to the Real Benefits Association, believing that they would receive legitimate medical and prescription drug coverage, but to date, the company has paid none of the health care claims they submitted.

Real Benefits Association and its owner, David Clark, were issued a cease and desist order by our office in January 2010. They are operating in violation of that order by collecting premiums for bogus discount health care coverage from Washington state consumers.

Friday wildfire update: We're hearing that some insurers have stopped writing new policies in the fire areas

The AP is reporting that wildfires in central Washington have merged and now cover more than 47 square miles, with officials urging more than 100 homeowners north of Ellensburg and in the Liberty area to evacuate. Here is a checklist of things to do if a wildfire is approaching a home.

Crews are digging lines, using bulldozers and trying to douse the flames and protect structures with fire retardant dropped from aircraft. Here are maps showing the areas that are burning. The fire began Sept. 8th with a lightning strike near Cle Elum. 775 firefighters are on scene, but fire commanders this morning ranked both the terrain difficulty and growth potential of the blaze as "extreme."

We have heard a few reports from consumers that some homeowners' insurance companies have stopped approving new policies in areas close to the fires. Nobody wants to hear this if they're trying to close a deal on a home, for example, but insurers are allowed to suspend writing new policies in cases like this.

It's a common practice, for example, with earthquake insurers to stop writing policies after a quake, for fear of aftershocks. And flood insurance typically comes with a 30 day waiting period, to prevent people from waiting until the storm clouds are overhead before they buy coverage.

Several other fires are burning in the state. Most of the state is now at high or very high fire danger.

U.S. 97 in both directions is closing today from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. from milepost 150 (at the junction of SR 970) to milepost 177 (8 miles south of the junction of U.S. 2) for back-burning and fire containment operations.

Update: (5:02 p.m.) Some insurers have also stopped writing new auto policies in certain Eastern Washington zip codes due to the fires.

Senin, 17 September 2012

Monday wildfire update

Firefighters are making good gains against eastern Washington wilfires, with the list down to five active blazes in Chelan, Yakima, Kittitas, Okanogan, Klickitat counties.

Here's the morning update from Washington Emergency Management Division.

Jumat, 14 September 2012

Washington wildfire update

Firefighters are making big gains containing the state's eight major fires, according to the latest update from the Washington Emergency Management Division.

The 91,000-acre Barker Canyon fire in Douglas and Grant counties is 63 percent contained, and the 23,000-acre Apache Pass fire in Lincoln County is 80 percent contained.

Seven aircraft and more than 1,100 firefighters are still wrestling, however, with the large Wenatchee River fire in Chelan County, which is only 10 percent contained. It covers more than 28,000 acres. More than 850 homes and other structures are threatened by that blaze, according to the update.

So far, the number of homes lost in this latest wave of wildfires is just 3, although about 14 non-residential structures have also burned.

See the report above for more detail.

Kamis, 13 September 2012

Washington state fire update

According to the state's Emergency Management Division, early 3,000 firefighters and more than a dozen aircraft are battling seven fires -- several of which involve multiple large individual blazes -- on more than 150,000 acres throughout the eastern part of the state.

The largest is the Barker Canyon fire in Douglas and Grant counties, which includes more than 91,000 acres and this morning was only 20 percent contained.

Then there's the 25,000-acre Wenatchee River fire in Chelan County, which is only 8 percent contained. And then there's Lincoln County's 24,500-acre Apache Pass fire, which is about 40 percent contained. Smaller fires are burning in Yakima, Kittitas, Ferry, Okanogan and Klickitat counties.

So far, only a few homes appear to have been lost to fire, although some other structures (barns, etc.) have also burned. About 600 homes are considered threatened by fire at this point. We have a number of important tips for fire victims making insurance claims.

More details on each fire, including evacuation information, is available in this document prepared by the EMD. And for the latest information, see the agency's list of fire updates.

And for anyone in fire-prone areas, please see these tips to protect your belongings and property.

Rabu, 12 September 2012

New report: More than 740,000 homes nationwide at high or very high risk of wildfire

A private research firm, Corelogic, has produced a report estimating wildfire risk in 13 western states, including Washington.

The upshot: More than 740,000 homes are ranked as high risk or very high risk for wildfire damage. All told, those homes represent $136 billion in total property value, according to Corelogic. The states with the highest number of properties at risk at California, Colorado and Texas.

Here in Washington state, the company estimates, there are more than 9,000 homes at high or very high risk, with a combined value of $1.3 billion. The study also takes a closer look at several high-value metropolitan areas with high fire risk, including Los Angeles, San Diego, and Boulder.

The report is free, although you have to register to read or download it.

It comes on the heels of a July statement by specialized insurer Lloyd's, which predicted "more frequent and severe wildfires as a result of climate change." Lloyd's warned that traditional risk assessment and pricing by insurers could understate the actual fire (and financial) risk.

"I own a business, but don't offer health coverage. Will I be penalized in 2014?"

Starting in 2014, under federal health care reform, some employers who fail to offer affordable health coverage to their employees will have to pay penalties of $2,000 to $3,000 per employee.

Small businesses won't be affected. Under the law, if an employer has fewer than 50 employees, the penalties do not apply. (If you have 25 or fewer workers and average wages up to $50,000, your company may be eligible for a health insurance tax credit to help offer coverage to your workers.)

If you're a medium- or large employer, though, you could be hit with the penalty unless you offer employees affordable coverage.

So what's affordable? The Kaiser Family Foundation has built this simple flowchart to determine what qualifies as affordable health coverage and what doesn't. It also explains which penalties apply in each case.

Selasa, 11 September 2012

Investing in Your Facility AND Your Culture

We have come a long way . . .  Premier Volleyball Academy opened its doors in 1996 as a four team program practicing out of a local high school with nothing more than a bunch of eager players and a few dedicated coaches.  We now house about 35 club teams (350 players) at all levels, 150 adult indoor league teams, 110 adult sand teams, 12 juniors sand teams, 8 youth sand teams, thousands of campers, and an extensive private lesson clientele.  We are host to approximately 30 juniors’ tournaments each year, and approximately 6 adult or college tournaments.  Our teams are serviced by 7 full time staff members, 2 strength coaches, and a full time athletic trainer.  Throughout the years we have hit major milestones having recently committed our 250thplayer to play in collegiate level volleyball.  Along the way, we have been members of the AAU and USAV, and we are proud to be a founding member of the JVA.  We now have had our doors open for 17 years and counting, all because we decided from the beginning that we wanted to invest in two main things: a great volleyball facility and a great gym culture.

How It All Began
Our club debuted as “Perrysburg Premier VBC” with a goal of coaching local kids and playing in local tournaments to better prepare players for their HS season. Over the course of the next few years we grew in popularity and size reaching 15 teams by 1999.  The need for space was growing and we knew we had to find a facility to house our expanding club.  

Knowing this was a lofty endeavor, the decision was made to file the paperwork to incorporate as a single owner business and forge ahead with plans to become a year round volleyball academy for both youth and adult players.  After much research, in 1998, we decided to move our club to the Maumee Sports Center in Maumee, Ohio because of its convenient location.  The Sports Center was only 2 years old and already housed a large indoor soccer center, golf driving range, and a basketball club.  It seemed to be the perfect fit for our future plans. 

Flooring & Equipment
The structure had only been up for about 2 years and was originally built for a basketball organization and community recreation programs.  At the time we moved in, the flooring was merely a concrete surface, so the need for a volleyball surface to train and compete on was the first endeavor on the list.  We decided to start out with 5 sport courts that doubled as multisport surfaces. 

Although sport court was sufficient to use, the sport of volleyball began to evolve, and with that, we now had an extended training season to work with.  This forced us to look at the best surface for our players to train on now that they were in the gym more hours per week and more months per year.  We eventually made a large investment to take out the sport courts and install a 2 inch suspended all wood floor from wall to wall.  This major investment has since paid dividends aesthetically, functionally and most importantly in terms of injury prevention. 

Even though the financial upkeep with sport court is minimal compared to a wood floor, the physical and long term benefits of a suspended wood floor far outweigh the results of training on a portable plastic surface for long periods of time.  To compliment our new floors, we decided to purchase top of the line Senoh standards and nets for all of our courts. 

Adding Courts & Weight Room
By 2004, we continued to grow and were up to 35-40 club teams.  Once again, we looked at how we could service our players the best way possible, and this led us to the decision to expand and build an auxiliary gym to house 2 additional volleyball courts and more office space.  During this phase, we also added a mezzanine style weight room, a pro shop, and a full food service area.  With the demands of club sports ever evolving, we have continually made investments in our club and our facility 
as the times and needs of our members and the sports of volleyball have dictated.  Employing a full time facility manager allows us the ability to routinely build our own training equipment from scratch, allowing us to be creative as methods of training evolve.  Each year, we also make the investment to purchase hundreds of new Molten volleyballs. The decision to replace our balls each year allows us the opportunity to donate our balls to areas schools in need of equipment. Even though we donate our balls each year, we have one ball that never leaves the ball carts and his name is Frosty!  Although Frosty is very old and barely breathes air anymore, the younger players just can’t seem to part ways with him making him part of our culture. 

Sand Courts
2008, after experiencing a good amount of success with our juniors’ club program, we were pleased to land a sponsorship with Asics America, which continues today.
  Premier Academy has advanced in many other areas over the recent years, keeping us on our toes but always excited. For example, 2010 brought our sport the introduction of sand volleyball as an NCAA sport and decisions once again needed to be made with our facility.  Once again we jumped in with two feet and made the decision to install outdoor sand volleyball courts adjacent to our indoor facility.  

With Ohio not necessarily being known for its sand volleyball culture we decided to start small with two courts.  We installed state of the art equipment by purchasing Senoh outdoor poles and nets, and carefully chose the sand that was installed.  In beach volleyball, it inherently becomes all about the quality of the sand and we invested a lot of time and money into that decision and we are proud to say that our sand courts have become one of the most popular places to play sand leagues in Northwest Ohio.  This past spring, we introduced a Juniors Sand Club and it was a huge success both in popularity and the teams’ results on the national level. 
In 2011, our most recent project was an extension of our weight room, which allowed us to hire a second strength coach and take on training more athletes at a time.  At the same time, we expanded our Pro-Shop and installed an area for our Athletic Trainer that we were able to bring on our payroll.
  We felt that bringing on a certified Athletic Trainer added to our investment in injury prevention.  During this phase of construction, we also built a private team room that is used exclusively by our 18-1 team when they are in club season.  The team room serves as a private recreation and lounge area reserved for the players on our club’s top team.  It is sort of a rite of passage and plays a part in promoting the, “work your way up,” club culture in our gym. 

Since our club’s inception we have spent a significant amount of time, effort and financial investment in expanding and fine tuning our volleyball facility.  These decisions were all made as an investment for the long term goals of the facility and allowed us to service our customers with the best training and products that they need for the sport.  We have also invested heavily in our gym culture throughout the years.  Reminders of our gym culture span from each year’s practice t-shirts, inspirational quotes, accolade banners, and alumni recognition to every jersey ever worn in our club displayed on our walls.  All of these things are constant reminders to each player, coach, and spectator of Premier’s strong gym culture.  Although the investment in gym culture does not guarantee to pay dividends on the court, we believe they add great character to a building and definitely make a facility feel like something more than a series of courts. 

In terms of a return on investment, our gym culture has paid some of the greatest dividends of all.  On any given day of the year, you can walk into Premier Academy and instantly feel a culture that values cohesion and hard work.  This culture was built over 17 years and stays strong today because of the decision to stay true to the core values of the organization, and a commitment to excellence. 
Throughout almost two decades now, we have seen our building change many times as we continue to invest in our facility and try to adapt with the ever evolving athlete and sport.  Through all of these changes we try to be constant in our commitment in providing a great training and competition facility that allows our athletes to optimally progress in their development.  We will continue to try and uphold our gym culture through our facility and hope to continue to do so for many years to come!

“Culture is the process by which a person becomes all that they were created capable of being.” 

Jumat, 07 September 2012

Good news: We're back online

We've got our website back online. Thanks for your patience.

Our website's down; we're working to fix it

Our agency website ( is currently down, due to a major network problem affecting multiple state agencies.

Even if you can access the site, you won't be able conduct transactions or do use our other online applications.

We and others are working hard to resolve the problem.

Who will have to pay a penalty for not having health coverage?

If federal health care reform takes effect as planned in 2014, some people will pay a penalty of $95 if they do not have health coverage. (This is what's known as the individual mandate.)

And the penalties would get bigger. In 2015, it would be $325. In 2016 and beyond, it would be $695.

But will you have to pay?

For most people, the answer's no. There are a number of exemptions. There's a religious exemption, for example. Members of Indian tribes are exempt. Very poor individuals and families -- such as a family living on less than $18,700 a year) are exempt. So are those that have to pay more than 8 percent of their income  for health insurance.

Also, most people already have coverage that already satisfies the requirement. If you're on Medicare, for example, there's no penalty. If you're on TRICARE (the health plan for members of the military, retirees and their families), there's no penalty. If you get coverage through the VA, through your employer, Medicaid, or the Children's Health Program, there's no penalty.

The Kaiser Family Foundation offers an excellent, simple flowchart that lays this out in more detail. It includes estimates on the cost of insurance through the new health care exchanges, and a link to a KFF online calculator to help figure out premiums and tax credits to help you buy coverage.

Selasa, 04 September 2012

Setting Up For Success in South Carolina

By Alex Sing
Club Director, Grand Strand Juniors

Grand Strand Juniors started in the fall of 2007 with 3 teams. It was the first club experience for most of our athletes. Our high school teams were very weak and most of the female athletes were playing other sports. Our best advertising after that first year were the girls who played for us. The following season we grew to 7 teams, and our third year we had 10. The number of teams grew, but so did the quality of our players. Area school teams had begun challenging for state titles and our seniors were getting volleyball scholarships.

Early on we began to see what the possibilities were for having our own facility. In 2009 I went ahead and bought two sport courts with my own money. I wasn’t even sure where we were going to put them yet. Getting court time was becoming more difficult for the number of teams we had and our practice locations were 25 miles apart. Our club had grown enough and set enough money aside from prior seasons to pay a deposit and cover initial renovation costs. We knew what we were paying in renting court time hourly and that gave us a number to work with. We asked ourselves the question "Can we afford to pay the additional amount to have unlimited access to courts?" The answer was YES! 

In my spare time I would ride to areas that had warehouses that might be suitable for us, but nothing seemed to work. In the summer of 2009 a door opened when the owner of a distribution facility wanted to convert his warehouse into a sports complex. The problem was the business model he had in mind required us to buy annual memberships. This was a deal breaker on our end because it pushed the cost too high. He did allow us to set up a court there that we used for our private lessons, so it was a start.

The following year (2010) the building that housed the sports complex went into foreclosure. Our club leadership, including myself, went to the management company that took over and offered to lease the 10,000 sq. ft. of space within the building for our program. We could only do month to month so it was a bit of a risk not knowing if we would have to move on a moment's notice. At this point we were up to 12 teams and had started a youth training program for beginners.   We took the risk, fate was on our side and after a few positive changes and a new owner at the sports complex, Grand Strand Juniors was able to open.  

Today we operate as a 501c3 with a 3 court volleyball facility including a weight, speed and agility training area.  Our facility is not climate controlled, but with the bulk of club season being in the cooler months, it has not been a problem. When it warms up we just tell the girls it is good to sweat. They rarely complain.

In 2012 GSJ had 14 teams including six National teams. 5 of our teams finished in the top 5 in our region and we sent 7 teams to AAU Nationals. In 2013 we will be adding a third court and we are starting a boys program. Throughout the process of starting the club our vision has been to model ourselves after those clubs who seem to be setting the standard for performance.  We are currently one of the few clubs in South Carolina with a facility. The benefit of having our own facility is more practice hours and training for our players.  But like any club with its own facility and expenses to cover, we had to create ways to generate revenue, so in addition to our club programs, we operate a Bingo service. South Carolina requires that Bingo halls must donate a percentage of revenues and taxes to a charity (501c3).

Another revenue generated is hosting tournaments. We were the first club in South Carolina to host a Convention Center tournament. Our Winter Bump Volleyball Classic during MLK weekend draws over 200 teams from 6 states and 4 USAV regions.  Every May we host the AAU Super Regional Coastal Classic Volleyball Championships.  Not only do profits from these tournaments go toward paying facility expenses, they allow us to provide scholarships for players in the club and they help keep our club fee as one of the lowest in the state. The club puts aside about 10% of its profit into a scholarship fund. Sometimes we use more and sometimes less. Families seeking scholarships must apply and the amount awarded relates to the need. We also take into consideration any history the family has had with the club. 

Our program would not be complete without the outdoor season. After all, we are in Myrtle Beach!  Every summer we host the Battle at the Beach for juniors. Last year 47 teams gathered for the event. As we plan for the future, we eventually want to move out of the sports complex and build a brand new facility from the ground up.  We look forward to sharing that next chapter with you then!

My neighbor damaged my back yard, but won't file an insurance claim. What can I do?

Q: My neighbor damaged my back yard as the result of one of his do-it-yourself projects. Now he won't turn in a claim to his insurer. And he won't tell me who his insurer is. What can I do?

A: We get variations on this question a lot. Common ones involve a neighbor driving over a mailbox or into a fence. And we periodically get calls from people wondering if we have a database listing who insures who. (We don't.)

First, try to deal directly with your neighbor to get him to pay for the damage. If he's worried that the claim will drive up his premiums (or lead to his policy being cancelled), he may still be willing to compensate you for the sake of the relationship and to stave off the possibility of your taking him to court.

If that doesn't work, you can contact your agent or insurer to see if the damage is covered on your own policy. Or you could decide to take legal action against the neighbor, either in small claims or a higher court.