Taking Care of Your Home

When you buy a
home, your mortgage holder will require that you carry homeowners insurance;
this is to provide financial protection for you and your banker.  Insurance, though, is only part of the
picture.  You need insurance to protect
your home and its contents against accidental damage and to protect your
possessions against theft.  Insurance
addresses the rapid and unpredictable events that can eat into the value of
your home. 

There is another
set of events that is neither sudden nor unpredictable, but over time can wreak
the same havoc as a hurricane or a fire. 
Those events are the slow deterioration of a house that is not
maintained.  While it may take years, the
ravages of time will destroy an unmaintained house as certainly as any

A typical
Washington homeowners insurance policy includes coverage for the structure of
your home, personal belongings, liability protection and ancillary expenses
such as support while you cannot live in your home as a result of damage
through a covered peril.  What homeowners
insurance does not cover are those events that are rare but devastating –
flood, earthquake or landslide, for example – and those items that are part of
normal wear and tear. Managing your risk of loss requires addressing each of
these areas – general homeowners insurance, coverage for special risks and a
sound maintenance plan to make certain your home is in the best condition it
can be.

Your first step
should be to read and understand your homeowners insurance policy.  What perils are covered?  Typically, covered perils include, fire,
windstorm, riot or civil commotion, theft and vandalism and water damage if it
is due to sudden and accidental leaks from plumbing, heating or
air-conditioning systems or domestic appliances.  You need to make sure that the perils covered
are those common to your area and understand how they will be dealt with.  For example, what is an accidental leak and
how does it differ from a leak that may be a maintenance issue?

Once you
understand what is covered in your standard policy, you need to consider those
risks not covered – high value items, floods and earthquakes are examples of
areas where you might consider additional coverage.  Often a decision on this additional coverage
will depend on your risk tolerance.  For
example, if you have an extensive coin collection you might want to make
certain you have additional coverage for it; if your collection is not large,
you may decide you could absorb its entire loss. Special coverage can virtually
always be purchased to insure against perils that are not covered and for items
that require special treatment.

What will not be
covered by either a standard homeowners policy or by extended special coverage
are losses related to inadequate or improper home maintenance.  These are the homeowner’s responsibility. You
should consider developing a home maintenance plan to further reduce your
risk.  For example, a regular schedule of
cleaning gutters can help preserve the integrity of your roof; regular trimming
of bushes around dryer vents or other heat sources helps reduce the risk of
fire.  You should pay special attention
to moisture related issues.  Most homeowner policies don’t cover damage caused by mold, fungi, rust, or rot because these
are not sudden and accidental occurrences. 
Insurers typically view them as maintenance issues, though some may
provide a limited amount of mold coverage or allow you to buy additional
coverage for mold by adding an endorsement.

There are several
good homeowners maintenance plans available or you can create your own.  In Washington, for example, the Building Industry of Washington (BIAW) has developed an extensive plan that addresses
many areas that help reduce your risk of an insurable event.  A sound maintenance plan that is followed can
help you preserve and protect you major home investment.


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