Most home and contents insurance claims proceed smoothly, except perhaps for occasional disagreements about how much something was worth. But another re-occurring difficulty is where damage is due to poor building maintenance. The homeowner has a duty of care and the insurers take a dim view of claims that the homeowner could, and should have, avoided. AS a result insurers may scale down or even reject your claim.
To avoid such problems you should give your house an annual Maintenance MOT. A springtime check would be good. By carrying out just a few simple checks, it should be possible to find problems at an early stage.
Rain, wind, snow and frost place some of the biggest day-to-day strains on the structure of your home. Consequently, most homes develop a few problems in the autumn and winter months, so a springtime check can save much time and expense further down the line.
It’s not as if you’ll be paying money that you could claim later on an insurance claim. Indeed, any costs you claim that were really a maintenance issue, will be rejected by your insurance company.
Here’s our 10 point springtime MOT for your home:
• Clean out the gutters. Autumn can be especially hard on gutters as lots of debris can accumulate. That must be removed. Blocked gutters and down spouts can quickly cause enormous damage if water is left to overflow and penetrate the structure. But please be careful with this job. Working up ladders is dangerous so why not get your window cleaner to do the job!
• Now get your binoculars out and check the roof. Search for cracked, loose or slipped tiles. A leaking roof can result in costly damage. Ceiling damage, rot, redecoration can quickly swallow up money. Then there’s the a safety issue. If a tile slips off, someone could be badly injured. Even your car could take a direct hit!
• Check out your exterior paintwork. Any cracked, peeling, or blistered paintwork needs attention. Touch it up to preserve the wood from damage. Summer time can be surprisingly hard on paintwork. High temperatures and big temperature changes create expansion and contraction cracks ready to let in the following winter to do its worst.
• If you’ve heavily used an open fire during the winter, get the chimney swept. Heavy build-ups of soot can easily catch fire and during the summer the soot absorbs damp.
• Take a walk around the house and make sure that nothing is covering over the damp course. Pilled up garden rubbish is the most common offender. Grass cuttings are not your home’s best friend! If damp gets past the damp course your walls inside will get damp resulting in damaged to plasterwork decoration. Over time, rot will set in.
• When you are planting shrubs and trees you need to ensure that their roots are not going to cause future damage. If roots penetrate your drains or get into your foundations you’re in for horrendous bills. Willow and Popular trees are some of the worst offenders. Are you aware that you shouldn’t have a Popular tree within 150 feet of your property? If a new house is built within this distance, it has to have specially reinforced foundations!
• Whilst on the subject of trees, you probably think that your buildings insurance will cover damage caused by falling trees. Yes they will – if the tree was well maintained. But what happens if the tree was rotten or already damaged? Yep, you’ve guessed it, that’s a maintenance issue. You’re liable! Unless you can show that you took reasonable care of the trees, the insurer can refuse any subsequent claim. If have big trees you could have big problems. You are advised to get an annual report from a tree surgeon detailing any work that is needed – and don’t forget to carry it out and keep the paperwork! Such action demonstrates that you have taken due care and therefore, any related claim will be accepted.
• Do you have any climbing plants on the house? Check out that they haven’t caused damage to your brickwork or render. Ivy is the biggest offender. And never let climbing plants get onto your roof – that’s a recipe for disaster!
• Now go inside your house. Remember to have your central heating boiler serviced – it’s been a hard winter! And get its carbon monoxide emissions checked. Whilst the engineer’s there, also get him to give your radiators the once over.
• Finally, up into the loft. Check for signs of leaks and rodent damage to the wiring. Squirrels love warm lofts and they love the insulation around wiring! The fire brigade hate squirrels! And a dirty job. Whilst you there, remove any old bird or wasp nests and block up the openings.
Take these steps and you’re unlikely to run into a problem with any structural insurance claim. Your home will also love you!