Home Insurance Articles


Your claim on home and contents insurance could be rejected if your insurer thinks it's a maintenance issue – this article tells you what to do to keep your home in shape.

Home and Contents Insurance. Keep your home in shape for insurance's sake

Author: Emma Mayo 14/07/06

If you're a homeowner, then you should know all about maintaining your home to a good standard to avoid future problems. But not all of us realise that it could actually affect your ability to make a successful claim on your home and contents insurance if the cause is found to be related to poor upkeep. If a claim is made and the insurer decides that the problem could have been avoided had the maintenance been up to scratch, then they may downsize your payout, or even refuse to pay anything at all.

We've put together a list of 10 top tips to help you keep your home at a good standard. They're easy to follow and you only have to do it once a year. We recommend springtime as the best because the winter weather causes most damage to properties with the constant wind, cold, rain and sleet/snow. Once the weather starts to get better, probably around Easter time, set aside a few hours to give your home its annual MoT. It could save you a lot of money if a problem has just occurred, and save you even more if insurance becomes an issue.

These ten tips will hold you in good stead:

•  Inspect your gutters for blockages from leaves and other debris. In the autumn and winter your gutters are in constant use and it doesn't take long for them to fill up. If this does happen then water could start to penetrate the walls, resulting in costly decorating and other damp proof measures. Rather than do it yourself, as it can be quite dangerous, ask your window cleaner if he'll check them out.

•  Walk around the house and, using binoculars if you have them, see if you can see any loose, cracked, or slipped tiles. If water starts to get into the roof space then it's only a matter of time before damp or rot sets in, and don't forget you'll need to redecorate too. There's also the possibility that a loose tile could fall from the roof and cause an injury to you or a passer-by – definitely something to be avoided!

•  Exterior paintwork shows the strain of the weather quite quickly, and you need to keep an eye on it to ensure the elements aren't finding a way into the woodwork. In summer, the heat causes woodwork to expand which makes the paint crack, in winter, the woodwork contracts again leaving gaping cracks open to the wind and rain. So if you see cracking, peeling or blistering then cover the areas up with a lick of paint.

•  If you have an open fire and use it regularly then you need to have the chimney swept out every year. Soot can build up and if it gets too severe, it could catch fire. In summer, soot absorbs damp, which won't do the brickwork in your chimney any good.

•  Inspect the damp course to check it's still intact, and make sure you haven't got garden rubbish leaning against it. Grass clippings etc do not do your damp course any good, and over time it could fail, leaving your property open to damp and rot.

•  Some trees are particularly liable to spread their strong roots far and wide, so think about that before you buy a shrub or tree and place it near your property. Getting roots out of your foundations or drainage system is an extremely costly exercise. Willows and Poplars are the worst and with Poplars, the problem is so bad that if a new home is built within 150 feet of a tree, then they have to reinforce the foundations.

•  Falling trees are another concern. If you suffer damage from a fallen tree and it wasn't on your land then there's no problem with a claim. But if the tree was on your land and is damaged, dying or rotten, then it will be your responsibility as it will be considered to be a maintenance issue. It's your duty to keep trees on your land in good health, or have them chopped down. If you have very big trees then it will be necessary to have a tree surgeon carry out annual checks to verify that your trees are in good health, and are not likely to fall except in the most extreme conditions.

•  Plants that climb up the side of your house may look nice but they cause a lot of damage, so it's not a good idea. Ivy is the worse offender, it burrows into the brickwork and render, opening up spaces to the elements. It's imperative that you don't let it climb onto your roof as it can cause extreme damage up there.

•  Get a gas check every year, after the hard and constant use of the winter, spring is the best time. A corgi-registered engineer should check your boiler, your gas appliances and radiators, and carbon monoxide levels.

•  Last on the list is the loft check. Squirrels like to nest up there if they get the chance, as do birds and wasps. Squirrels cause particular damage as they like the insulation around wiring, which could eventually cause a fire. Remove any nests that you find and block up the holes so the little invaders have to go elsewhere next time.

Follow these tips and your home will be equipped to deal with almost any eventuality. It also means that if you do need to make a claim, you won't have to worry about being found negligent in terms of maintenance.

Readers please note : You should undertake your own background checks before taking any action on any aspect mentioned in this article. Where the author has mentioned specific product details or given examples of how companies have reacted to specific situations, these should be correct as far as the author is aware when this article was written. In some cases additional background information not mentioned in the article has been used in obtaining the examples. Some examples or quotes may have been taken from information available in the public domain where all the background details may not be available. Insurers do change policy conditions and underwriting approach. They will view each situation on its own merits.

You should be aware that details of the topics written about within the articles can change. Therefore, always check out the current position before taking any action. You should also check that any action you are considering, or any proposed purchase, is suitable for your personal circumstances.

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