Save Money by Avoiding these Five Common Hazards Found in Home Insurance Inspections

On a periodic basis, insurance companies send out inspectors to make sure the houses they insure meet company underwriting guidelines. Their job is to make sure that the premises has a low risk for loss. Avoid these five common hazards to stay safe and maintain the best coverage possible at the best rates.

1. Ivy and Other Climbing Plants: While they may look charming, ivy and climbing plants can actually cause significant damage to your home. They have been known to speed deterioration of wood structures such as support beams and sills. Tiny tendrils can grow behind siding, and as they grow, cause major gaps. Ivy can block gutters, greatly increasing the potential for water damage. Ivy and climbing plants on a home raise a red flag for insurance inspectors. If you have them, consider cutting them down and saving yourself some potentially expensive damage.

2. Stairs without Railing or with Damaged Railings: If you have three or more stairs up to a porch or deck which is at least 30" off the ground, you need to have a hand rail. Missing railings indicate an incomplete project or one that has not been done correctly. Damaged railings suggest poor maintenance and upkeep. Both raise red flags for insurance inspectors as missing railings increase the potential for injury and a liability claim. Handrails in good condition are a must if you have stairs leading up to your house or a deck.

3. Roof Condition: One of the more common exclusions on a homeowner’s policy is an endorsement restricting or removing coverage on an old or damaged roof. Roofs that are older may be downgraded from replacement cost to actual cash value, while damaged roofs may lead to excluding coverage of the roof from the policy. If the roof is in serious disrepair, the inspector may recommend cancelling the policy completely as a leaking roof can damage the interior of the home. It is a good idea to set aside money for an aging roof's replacement. If your roof is damaged, repairing it should be a top priority. At times, older roof shingles are difficult to match; but even if repairing your roof requires you to use unmatched shingles, avoiding water leaks and damage inside the home will make it worth the loss of exterior aesthetics.

4. Deteriorating Buildings: Deteriorating structures on your property can raise red flags for insurance inspectors. Structures on your property, such as barns, sheds, or garages that are in disrepair, increase the risk of injury and loss. This is especially true if the structure is within 10 feet of another structure. Structures in close proximity increase the risk of loss in the case of a fire as they make it easier for the fire to spread. Even if the company has insured a structure previously, they may downgrade the insurance on it as it gets older or falls into disrepair; or they may refuse to insure it at all. Protect yourself by making sure that structures are in good repair and are farther than 10 feet from each other.

5. Exposed Wiring: Nothing screams fire hazard more loudly to an insurance inspector than exposed wiring or wiring that is not up to code. If you have an older home, it is important to make sure that your wiring is in good repair and does not pose an imminent risk. Knob and tube wiring should be replaced, and fuses should be updated to electrical breakers.

If your home falls into one or more of these hazardous categories, do not despair. While you may not be able to get full coverage or standard rates at first, as you complete projects, you will improve your home’s insurability and worth. Save a little each month and tackle the bigger projects as you are able. Safety is a top priority, and you can have peace of mind knowing that these improvements will help prevent expensive and even life-threatening issues in the future. So while not always convenient, avoiding (or fixing) these 5 hazards can save you money on your insurance bill and time from prevented losses in the future.