Home maintenance and insurance claims

As we head into the summer storm season when we traditionally see an increase in the number of claims for damage to buildings, we thought it would be prudent to highlight the issue of building maintenance and how it can impact on an insurance claim.

Building Insurance policies are designed to cover sudden and unforeseen damage caused by fire, lightning, explosion, storm, flood, hail, water damage and impact by vehicles just to name a few of the insured perils. The insurance policy excludes any damage attributable to a lack of maintenance. Any claims determined to be as a result of poor maintenance are likely to be rejected.

In order to avoid claim rejections, it is vital that property owners ensure that their property is regularly maintained, which includes the upkeep of roofs, gutters, gullies, roof flashing, replacement of cracked tiles, walls and painting thereof, damp, drains and electrical equipment such as gate motors, boreholes and pool pumps.

Claims are often presented to insurers as storm damage. An assessor is usually appointed to do an inspection of the damages and it often becomes apparent that the damages are largely maintenance related. The question to be asked, is whether the resultant damage would have occurred at all, or if the extent of damage would have been less if the building was well maintained.

Where a lack of maintenance becomes a contributing factor to the loss, Insurers may reject the claim or call for a contribution to the cost of repairs by the policyholder. In extreme cases, Insurers may even come off risk if they find the building to be in an unacceptable state.

Property owners are strongly advised to repair any problem areas related to maintenance at the first sight of deterioration. This will also reduce and prevent a costly repair which is exacerbated in the future. Spending and outlaying for the maintenance costs timeously, can lead to a significant saving in the long run.

The roof of one’s property is one of the most important components of the property and should be inspected on a regular basis. Replace cracked tiles, keep gutters clean and renew waterproofing membranes where necessary.

Clogged gutters can cause water to pool resulting in leaks and rotting of the timber struts of the roof. Gutters should be checked at least three to four times a year, particularly during the seasonal changes when leaves and other debris can accumulate quickly.

We find that roofs are also home to pigeons and other bird species. Hadidas, for example, produce a significant amount of excrement while surveying the landscape from our rooftops that gets into the flashing, gullies and gutters. This will cause problems if left unattended.

Prevention is better than cure as they say and remember, your insurance policy is not a maintenance contract.

Brian Lazarus

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted. (E&OE)