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The Insurance Risk of Poorly Maintained Homes


The insurance risks of poorly maintained homes

 
Christelle Fourie, Managing Director of MUA Insurance Acceptances.

Considered the largest private residence in the European region, the 365-room Wentworth Woodhouse in South Yorkshire, England, was recently put on the market by its owner for £7 million. For a home with a rich history dating back to the 17th century, the sale of Wentworth Woodhouse may be considered cheap. With a repair bill of close to £42 million, however, it highlights the importance for potential homeowners to consider the upkeep costs and potential insurance implications due to a lack of maintenance before purchasing any large estate or expensive property.

This is according to Christelle Fourie, Managing Director of MUA Insurance Acceptances, who says that the home, which was part of the inspiration for Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice, is a great example of how quickly maintenance costs of an expensive home can escalate. “Homeowners need to take these costs into account. It is imperative that the home is properly maintained at all times to prevent the risk of insurance claim rejections due to any damage to the property that could have been avoided.”

Fourie explains that most homeowner insurance policies will only cover damage caused by sudden and unforeseen events and regard home maintenance as the responsibility of the homeowner, thus any claims determined as a result of poor maintenance or neglect are most likely to be rejected. “We are often presented with claims disguised as storm damages at the time when homes are put on the market for sale. When we conduct an inspection it is very clear that the damages are maintenance related and the home owner is attempting to use their insurance cover to fix up the property to be in mint condition for a better sale price. This is not acceptable behaviour and claims will most likely be rejected as a result.”

In order to avoid claim rejections, Fourie says that it is vital that homeowners ensure that their homes are regularly maintained, which includes the upkeep of roofs, gutters and walls.

She says that the roof is one of the most important parts of the home, as it protects the belongings and structure of the building from damage which may be caused by harsh weather conditions. “It is very important to regularly check the roof of the home for any leaks. Look around for any water spots, standing water or mould. Dampness on ceilings or walls can also signal leaks that are just getting started.”

In addition, Fourie pointed out that clean gutters and drain pipes reduce the chances of leaves and other debris from clogging them up. “It is also a good idea to ensure that the water is draining away from the house. Clogged gutters can cause water to pool on the roof that will result in rotting and leaks. This should be checked at least twice a year, particularly during the seasonal changes.”

Windows and exterior doors are subject to the wear and tear due to constant use and exposure to weather conditions. Over time the door and frame materials can deteriorate and fail. Fourie recommends sealing drafty doors and windows by replacing the seals, not only to keep any wet weather outside, but to potentially add to the resale value.
She says that it is also important to regularly check for cracks and holes in the cladding and paint of a home, as it may indicate signs of a leak.

“Where needed it is advisable to replace the caulk to avoid water and mould seeping in to crevices.”

Fourie adds that proper home maintenance also ensures the safety of all who are living in the household so it really should be a priority for all homeowners.

“It is vital that all smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers are in good working order. Replace batteries in appropriate devices as needed, or at least twice a year.”

“Homeowners are strongly advised to fix any problem areas at the first sight of deterioration in order to prevent a costly repair of a larger problem in the future. Spending a little bit now can mean saving a lot in the long run,” concludes Fourie.
 
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