Many consumers assume their homeowner’s insurance policy is a “maintenance contract”, and this is one of the biggest reasons for claims being rejected by insurers.
This is according to Old Mutual Insure spokesperson, Lizo Mnguni, who says that homeowners who neglect to maintain their home are often in for nasty surprises at claims stage.
“If you have not maintained your home properly and this leads to serious damage, then it is very likely that your insurer won’t pay out,” says Mnguni. “This often happens when people don’t understand what they are buying, and mistakenly expect their insurance policy to cover everything.”
The purpose of your insurance policy, Mnguni maintains, is to ensure that you are covered against unforeseen events, which excludes normal wear and tear.
“An example of someone treating their policy like a maintenance contract is, say, if you have not cleaned out your gutters ahead of the rainy season and it causes a pool of water to start seeping into your ceiling, which in turn causes it to rot and mould to develop. This would not be an insured event.
“To avoid the likelihood of this happening, you must make sure you understand your insurance contract as well as its exclusions and speak to your broker to get clarity. Your broker can also guide you on what is a legitimate claim, and what would probably be rejected.”
Mnguni says that if you notice deterioration in and around your home, such as a damp patch or a pipe dripping, and you are worried you’ll need to make an insurance claim, tell your broker as soon as possible, who can advise further.
He says that homeowners are required to perform proactive risk management by maintaining their home, which, if done diligently, can lead to a reduced premium.
“You need adequate cover should something unforeseen happen. But also remember you have a duty of care to make sure that, even though you are insured, you are not taking huge risks with your property.”
He says that when you buy a new home, you must, in the excitement of the purchase, not forget to factor in the financial costs of its upkeep.
“The financial implications of finding out you are not covered for an event due to not taking proper care of your home can be far more costly than committing to a diligent maintenance programme of your home,” says Mnguni.
Another tip is to always keep proof of all maintenance work, such as alarm repairs and servicing, “which can really help you out at claim stage”.
He says in the case of legitimate claim for damage to an older home, it can sometimes get more complicated, given that it is difficult to replace items such as tiles or carpets if they have been discontinued. “The point of insurance is to put you back in the same position before the loss occurred, so in these cases your insurer will pay you in cash (replacement value) if they cannot replace an item due to it no longer being available.”
Below are some helpful tips from Mnguni to be proactive about your home maintenance programme, especially in light of the upcoming festive season and summer holidays:
• Check exterior painting for peeling and cracking which may result from potential water leaks or moisture problems.
• Perform seasonal maintenance. Ahead of the rainy and thunderstorm season, which happens in summer in some parts of the country, clean your gutters, air conditioning units and trim your trees and shrubs. Also clean your chimneys and inspect the structure for leaks.
• Consider getting licensed maintenance contractors (plumbers, electricians and other tradesmen) to inspect your property, including hard-to-see places such as roofs, for debris or obstructions. Inspect your geyser – it may be time to replace it to prevent the damage from a burst one.
• Ensure proper ventilation in places you don’t often go in your home, such as in your ceiling, to prevent excess moisture from creating dampness.
• Service your alarm system and ensure that your home safety devices are in working condition. This is especially important before going on holiday and leaving the house unattended.