Life happens. Even with the best of intentions, maintenance plans and insurance coverage, the occasional unavoidable crisis will present itself. When people think of homeowners' insurance claims, they often associate it with major disasters such as wildfires or tornadoes. In these scenarios, there's not much that policyholders at ground zero can do to avoid disaster.
But the reality is that many losses are entirely preventable. The state of California expects 50,000 to 60,000 homeowners' claims each year; however, wildfires only account for about 2,500 of those filings. Some of the most common claims, such as residential flooding, are only attributable to the weather eight percent of the time, according to a study from U.S. plumbing and drain service company Roto-Rooter. The rest? Appliance and/or plumbing failures that can usually be detected and repaired well before you find yourself filling out claims paperwork.
Statistics like these, combined with anecdotal evidence, suggest that many of the incidents that result in homeowners' insurance claims are problems of our own making. However, the upside to creating our own insurance woes is that there is ample opportunity to prevent them - with a little proactive attention.
Here are 10 examples of completely preventable homeowners' insurance claims, followed by a practical tip for reducing the likelihood of having to file. Note: At least six of them involve some type of water damage.
1. Loose/Damaged Washing Machine Hose(s) - Alternating water temperatures, shaking machines and containment in low-traffic areas make this issue a common homeowners' insurance claim.
Tip: Replace plastic hoses at least every three years, and inspect frequently for irregularities. If possible, situate your machine in a more visible (or at least audible) area.
2. Bath Tub/Shower Grout and Edge Leaks - Small leaks and slight decay may not seem like a big deal, but that water has to go somewhere - and it's usually right into your floors and walls. Over time, this can lead to major repairs in plumbing, carpentry, etc. More often than not, these repairs are not covered by standard homeowners' insurance policies.
Tip: It's simple. Water that flows into your bath or shower needs to stay there, or travel down the drain. Close doors and curtains. Frequently inspect and repair seals, calling in a professional when in doubt.
3. Toilet Issues - If you've never experienced problems with toilet leaks or overflow, you're in the minority. However, consistent attention is key to sparing yourself and your family thousands of dollars in damages.
Tip: Toilet wobbling? It might not be properly installed. Experiencing a leak? Call your landlord or a qualified expert immediately. We can't overstate it enough: This is no time to wait until "later."
4. Refrigerator Leaks - While tougher to identify than toilet or shower cracks, the water and plastic lines that extend from your fridge can cause extensive kitchen damage in short order.
Tip: If you're comfortable or handy, check the lines regularly for kinks. If uncertain, contact an experienced professional.
5. Roof Damage - Most homeowners' insurance policies will provide coverage for roof deterioration caused by unpreventable triggers, such as vandalism or fire. That's not going to be much help when it's time to repair a roof brought down by nagging leaks.
Tip: Basic roof maintenance, such as gutter cleaning and shingle replacement, is key to a longer life. But don't try to stretch your roof past its time.
6. Chimney/Fireplace Fires - Relaxing in front of the family hearth during the cold winter months is a great source of comfort and warmth. But according to the Chimney Safety Institute of America, "Your chimney…adds architectural interest to your home, but its' real function is to carry dangerous flue gases from your fireplace." A dirty or blocked chimney cannot succeed in its mission - with dangerous and expensive consequences.
Tip: Implement all fire safety best practices and maintain a regular chimney-cleaning schedule.
7. Hot Water Heater Leaks - There's always plenty of complaints when the hot water runs out, but it's entirely possible that quick heat loss reflects poor tank performance or sediment presence.
Tip: If your water heater is more than five years old, a qualified technician should inspect it at least every year.
8. Electrical Fires - Does your "surge protector" ironically resemble an overloaded circuit hazard? Do you hide cords under the carpet for aesthetic reasons? If you answered "yes" to either question, you've got a preventable homeowners' insurance claim on your hands.
Tip: Unplug any and all appliances not actively in use. Never route cords under rugs.
9. Cooking/Candle Fires - Open flame (or gas) is often necessary for preparing food, warming and illuminating the home. But next to water damage, fire devastation is the number one source of homeowners' insurance claims.
Tip: To misquote Smokey the Bear, only you can prevent most fires. Be vigilant at all times and always practice safety.
10. Garage Door Opener Theft - Times it's just easier to park on the street than pull into the garage. But smart criminals on the lookout will take it as an opportunity to gain entrance.
Tip: If your car is not in the garage, don't leave the door opener behind in your vehicle!
To develop a specific plan for limiting potential insurance claims based on your home, geography and individual needs, speak to the Personal Lines experts at HUB International today.