Homeowners insurance covers damage that is sudden and/ or unexpected. It doesn't cover routine maintenance or repairs or replacements needed as a result of normal "wear and tear". Sometimes this doesn't seem to make much sense. I recently found out that one of the big trees in my yard was dying and needed to be taken down. Otherwise, there was a significant risk that it would come down on my house during the next storm.
Now, if it came down on the house, would those repairs be covered? Yes, most likely. Maybe not if I was willfully negligent or trying to commit fraud. So the question I have is, "wouldn't it be reasonable for the insurance company to pay for the tree removal since that would cost far less than the repairs?
This initially made a lot of sense to me, until I spoke to Teresa Heller, SVP of claims for American Integrity. She has over 30 years experience with claims. Teresa has heard lots of questions like this. And she countered with a couple of her own. What if your gutters were clogged with debris? Debris in gutters can lead to water damage and leaky roofs. So, should the insurance company pay for gutters to be cleaned? What about your washer and dryer? The hoses get old and need to be replaced. Excessive lint can cause a fire. So, should the insurance company pay to have these maintained?
We love our homes. Many of our most precious personal items are within, as well as many of the people we love most in the world. We need to keep them safe. We need to maintain them. If insurance paid for all routine maintenance it would be much more expensive. So, insurance covers only damage that is “sudden and/or unexpected”.
Teresa said that she has even heard customers say, “Then I’ll wait until it falls down!” But is that really a good strategy? What if because of your delay, the tree injured or even killed someone? What if the property that was destroyed was irreplaceable, like your wedding photographs or your grandmother’s antique furniture?
Routine home maintenance has to be figured in when you buy a house. It has to be budgeted for. It’s also important to keep a list of good contractors and home repair people. You need to have them before you need them so that you are not taken advantage of by an unscrupulous contractor. At American Integrity, we want to help you with this so we’re going to develop a list of preferred vendors with good reputations. If you’re looking for a contractor we recommend you:
- Ask your insurance company first if they have a recommendation
- Make sure the contractor is licensed and insured
- Ask for references on similar projects
- Don’t work with a contractor that makes you sign an assignment of benefit contract
- Beware of plumber referrals – make sure they refer based on quality not referral fees
How do you choose a repair person? What tips do you have?