Taking a Proactive Approach to Insuring and Maintaining Your Home

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”   – Benjamin Franklin

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Benjamin Franklin portrait by Joseph Duplessis; via Wikipedia.

Did you know that, if you’re sporting multi-focus glasses such as bifocals or progressives to read this story, you have Benjamin Franklin to thank for your clear vision? This Founding Father was the ultimate multitasker: inventor, politician, writer, and all-around dispenser of sage advice such as the quote above.

The basic gist of Ben’s “ounce of prevention” adage is it’s far wiser to employ a bit of precaution before a potential crisis than it is to clean up a big mess afterward. While you may be able to think of many real-world scenarios where Ben’s wisdom is spot on, taking a proactive approach to insuring your home probably doesn’t make your top-10 list. But it should.

According to a story on HowStuffWorks.com, there are several surprising things that a typical homeowners insurance policy does not cover.

Here’s what you need to know, and what you can do to now to avoid having to fork over a “pound of cure” should the worst happen.

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If your deck isn’t in pristine condition, like this one, make repairs immediately; from one of our projects.

General Maintenance

The Potential Problem: If you let your back deck go unrepaired until it collapses, your insurance will cover the cost of replacing it, and any medical bills incurred by the people who were standing on it when it gave way, right? Wrong.  If a tree falls on a well-maintained deck during a storm, you’re likely covered. But if it fails because of neglect, you will be reaching for your checkbook. Other cases where a lack of maintenance can render homeowners insurance void are in the event of termite damage or mold infestation.

The Ounce of Prevention: Fix problems as they arise. As soon as you notice a compromised board on your deck, replace it. Call in a professional pest control company the moment you see evidence of termite activity. This is far less pricey than waiting until the hungry little bugs chew through the support joists in your home to bring in the pros.

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Onlookers survey the damage outside Brooks Academy in Harwich after tornadoes struck in 2019.

Tree Maintenance

The Potential Problem: Above we say that damage caused by a falling tree is “likely covered.” We added that caveat because there are instances in which your insurance company may decline a claim for tree damage. If a tree on your property was showing signs of rot or instability prior to falling onto your home or garage, you may end up footing the bill for any repairs. Any long-term health issues with a tree will be clearly visible after it topples so, no, you can’t fudge facts post fall. Habitually ignoring trees in danger of falling can actually lead to the cancelation of your policy. Another thing to consider: if a weather event topples every tree on your property, you are responsible for the cleanup. While it may seem unlikely that a storm could clear your entire property, this is exactly what happened to many on the Cape after tornadoes struck in the summer of 2019.

The Ounce of Prevention: If you suspect a tree on your property needs to be taken down, have it evaluated by an arborist or tree removal professional. They may suggest trimming and/or fertilizing rather than removal. While they’re there, ask them to do a walk-through of your entire property and evaluate the health of other large trees. They may see opportunities for preventative maintenance. Yes, it’s heartbreaking to have to take down a beloved shade tree – costly too – but when you consider the potential consequences of a tree falling on your home, taking a proactive approach is a no-brainer.

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High-value items such as artwork, antiques and jewelry may require supplement insurance.

The Potential Problem: Your homeowners insurance covers the replacement costs of the items in your home, right? Well, maybe. Most policies assign a dollar valuation for your home itself (the structure), and then provide 50% of that valuation in coverage for the items in your home. So if the house itself is worth $500K, your belongings have up to $250K of coverage. While that may seem sufficient, your insurance company may not recognize the actual value of the pre Revolutionary War table in your dining room. They’re just going to provide replacement coverage for a typical table. The same is true of jewelry and artwork.

The Ounce of Prevention: Have pricey, difficult-to-replace items in your home, such as antiques and heirlooms, appraised. All of them. By a professional. Like tree work, this is another potentially pricey “ounce of prevention,” but if a tree falls on your home and damages the roof, which then leads to water washing over your Monet and ruining your Oriental rug, the comparative cost of an appraisal will seem, in hindsight, miniscule. Once the appraisal has been done, purchase supplementary insurance specifically for these high-value items. In many cases, a home security system and/or a professionally installed safe will reduce the premiums.

As Abraham Tucker said, “Forewarned is forearmed.” Now that you’ve been forewarned, take action!