Renter’s and Home Owner’s Insurance

It is recommended to obtain renter’s or home owner’s insurance when you live in Houston. Renter’s insurance covers your personal belongings in case of damage due to fire and, in some cases, floods, as well as theft.

Some apartment complexes make it a requirement for you to get renter’s insurance. Renter’s insurance protects the replacement value of the items that you have within the dwelling. It is very affordable and can be as low as $25 a month.

Home owners or house insurance is required when having a mortgage and making payments on the house. It also serves to protect against fire, theft and other types of damage. Flooding is not included in most policies but since there are many flood zone areas in Houston, it is highly recommended to also insure against flood as well as wind and water damage from hurricanes. Speak to your agent about adding it to the standard policy.

You can obtain renter’s and home owner’s insurance through most insurance companies, including your auto insurance company. Be sure to obtain several quotes before making your final selection. Having several policies with the same insurer often allows for a discount and helps to establish a good relationship so rates may not increase after a claim is made against one of the policies.

To find an agent contact the main insurance company. Some of the primary renter’s and home owner’s insurance companies are:

Water

Water in most apartment complexes is charged separately by the apartment management. They usually take the overall water consumption and bill each unit a percentage. So the bill may not reflect the actual water consumption of the unit but is part of the overall water bill the apartment management has to pay. Some apartments don’t charge at all and have it included in the rent, so asking before signing the lease is definitely recommended. The average price ranges around $10 for apartments per month.

If renting a house or buying a house, water will be charged by either the city or the M.U.D. company and expats have to sign up by providing proof of identity such as a Social Security number and/or driver’s license number. If such documentation hasn’t been obtained yet, it is recommended to get the service through the employer. A deposit may be required. The average price depends on the size of the home, family and yard (for watering the lawn) and can be around $100 per month.

To open an account with the Public Works of the City of Houston for water, visit http://www.publicworks.houstontx.gov/resource/openaccount.html

For more information on Water Service outside the city of Houston, visit the website of the Harris County Public Health & Environmental Services at http://www.hcphes.org/eph/new_page_9.htm

Electricity and Gas

Electricity and gas have to be established by the resident in most apartments and also when renting or buying a house. Expatriates will need to provide proof of identity such as a social security number and/or driver’s license number. If such documentation hasn’t been obtained yet, it is recommended to get the service through the employer or find an apartment that includes it in the rent, such as a furnished and managed apartment.

Due to the lack of U.S. credit history, foreigners who are seeking to establish service will generally be required to pay several months in advance in the form of a security deposit. After the first year of making payments on time and no balances due, the deposit can be returned to the resident.

Payments for electricity and gas can be made online at the service companies’ website, via mail by returning a stub of the bill or at most grocery store customer service desks.

Prices are calculated per KWh (kilowatt/hour) used and the prices for peak times are generally higher than for off-peak times. KWh units can range around 10 cents to 14 cents and depending on size of home and energy friendly construction – monthly bills can range between $70 to $150 for apartments and up to $500 for 2 – 3 bedroom houses or more.

Here are some of the major electricity service companies in Houston:

Postal Service

Every residence has an attached or detached mailbox or mailbox centers. Mail is delivered daily except on Sundays. In older neighborhoods without central mailbox centers, boxes also serve as mail pickup by being located in front of the house at the edge of the driveway and having a flag attached that the mailer can raise for the postal worker to notice a requested pickup.

When moving into an apartment, there is nothing you need to do to establish postal service. Most of the time, there is a piece of paper inside the empty mailbox that you simply fill out with your name and you will receive your deliveries which otherwise may have been given the apartment management to check for possible returns.

When moving into a house, there is also generally nothing that needs to be done.

If you need to visit a post office to pick up stamps or a package that was unable to be delivered, you can visit them during regular business hours. Most post offices are open Mo – Fri 8 am – 4 pm with some opening as early as 7 am and staying open until 7 pm. In some areas, the post office is also open on Saturdays from 8 am – 12 pm noon. Post offices are closed on Sundays but have access to the lobby and post office boxes as well as self-mail service and stamp vending machines.

For a location of a United States Postal Service office near you and to check their opening hours, visit http://usps.whitepages.com/post_office

Shipping Companies

Since Houston is a port city and home to a major airport, the number of transportation companies is tremendous and the selection large.

For crates and containers, you can contact an international moving and shipping company. Major companies are Interconex, Kuehne + Nagel, etc. but it also advisable to utilize the many websites offering connections to moving companies and providing or assisting in requesting competitive quotes.

Prices for small to large size containers can range from $2,000 to $3,000. The customs agent in Houston will also receive a fee of roughly $250. The contact with customs will be established by your shipping company whose agent will guide you through the entire process.

These are a couple of companies that provide shipping and storage for household goods:

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