Home maintenance is a seemingly never-ending chore that you sign on for when you become a homeowner. From the shingles on your rooftop, down to the very darkest corner of your basement, making certain that everything is in working order is your responsibility.
Some homeowners take extreme pride in maintaining their homes, while others take a more relaxed approach. Whether you are the type of homeowner who repaints the front door every year so that the paint is always pristine, or the type who waits until the last leaf falls before raking in the autumn, there’s an important reason to maintain your home beyond making sure that it looks nice — it could affect your ability to make a claim on your homeowners insurance policy if there’s damage.
Does my homeowners insurance policy have a maintenance exclusion?
Most homeowners insurance policies exclude damage that can be attributed to homeowner neglect. But what does that really mean in practice? It’s worth taking some time to learn what types of common claims may not be covered by your carrier, and to understand how proper maintenance could have avoided the situation.
Water damage — Some water damage will be covered by your carrier. If the damage is caused by something that is clearly sudden and accidental, the damage to your home will likely be covered. If the temperature drops suddenly and a pipe bursts, or if your dishwasher breaks and water seaps under your kitchen flooring, many policies will cover the damage. However, if you notice a bit of moisture under the bathroom sink and ignore it, and five months later there’s a wet spot on the ceiling in the room below, your insurer might make the assessment that proper maintenance, such as fixing the leak when it was first noticed, would have avoided the damage.
Bugs — Bug infestations aren’t fun for any homeowner. Termites can do significant structural damage. Then there are fleas, ants, silverfish, bees — the list of bugs that can set up residency in your home and damage either the structure or your home’s value is extensive. Call an exterminator to remove them as soon as possible. A major infestation can be very expensive to eradicate — and your homeowners policy isn’t likely to cover it. This is for the same reason as the slow leak mentioned above: if the problem had been addressed immediately, it wouldn’t have progressed to the expense associated with a homeowner submitting a claim.
Rodents — Mice, squirrels, chipmunks, and rats should be removed as soon as their presence is apparent. Rodents will chew through insulation and electrical wiring, leaving the wires exposed and increasing the risk of a fire. There are some instances where a policy might cover damage caused by rodents, but only if the damage is “sudden and unexpected.” Again, if the damage was a result of not addressing the problem at the outset, your carrier could point to your maintenance exclusion and might deny the claim.
Regular, ongoing maintenance to your home keeps things in working order. Although it can feel like you’re always opening your wallet to address these issues, doing so will save you money in the long run.
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