While superhero cartoons are still his favorite, my son Raiden has recently developed his mother’s love for HGTV. On a rainy Saturday morning in my house, from the living room you may hear, “Mom, come check out the cool water feature in this backyard,” or “Seriously, they’re going to pick the ranch?!”
Recently my husband and I were going over our “To Do List”, and Raiden overheard us talking about washing the moss off of our shed roof. He quickly interrupted and informed us that the shed was not what we should be worried about. “The roof on our house is going to crash in!” he exclaimed, “There may be mold on the shed, but we’ve got lichens on our roof!” (At this point I am pretty sure my MMORPG-Dungeons & Dragons-Loving husband had visions of werewolves assembling on our roof to defeat evil lycans and save our home from impending doom.) However, Raiden further explained that we have algae built up on our roof and, due to its acidic nature, it can penetrate the shingles and cause damage over time.
A quick google search will tell you there is a difference between moss, algae, lichens, and lycans. The experts have varying opinions about the damage that lichens may cause to your roof. Some believe that the black streaky stains on our roof which are caused by lichens, other than being unsightly, are completely harmless; while other experts say lichens are a “gateway biological growth” that open the door for the more damaging algae and moss to grow. What the experts do agree on, however, is that algae and moss are the bigger worries, especially moss. Moss has roots, holds more water, and causes the edges of shingles to lift, which then allows water to seep in.
Being an insurance agent, I know what a critical issue plants on the roof is to carriers. Often we get notices that state “remove mold from the roof” on home inspection reports.
Speaking of home inspections, we have seen an increase in them over the last couple of years due to all of the catastrophic weather events we have been experiencing in our area. These types of reports are ordered by most carriers when a new policy is issued and may require both and interior and exterior inspection. Home inspections may also be ordered periodically throughout the lifetime of a policy.
So other than those pesky lycans (sorry couldn’t resist), what will the home inspectors look for?
Home inspectors will focus on the safety in your home and on your property, as well as maintenance or repairs that should be done in order to prevent a potential loss or claim. The following is not a comprehensive list of how to maintain your home, but here are the most common requirements we see as a result of home inspections.
Electrical: If an interior inspection is ordered, the home insurance inspector is going to make sure your wiring and electrical panel are up to code. In this part of the country, many of us live in older homes. Knob and tube wiring is the most common electrical issue we see arising from insurance inspections. If you do have knob and tube wiring in your home, be sure to tell your agent before they write the policy, as some carriers will not insure a home with this type of wiring in it.
Stairs and railings: Railings on stair and decks must be in good condition and meet height requirements, and be free from debris. If you have a set of 3 or more stairs without a railing, inspectors will, most likely, require a railing to be installed.
Walkways: Walkways and patios should be free of cracks and debris. This includes driveways as well. We see many reports coming back requiring a homeowner to repair crumbling concrete or brick.
Swimming Pools: If you have a pool, the insurance carrier requires that it is surrounded by an approved fence and gate with a working lock mechanism. Diving boards and slides are unacceptable exposures and they will require removal.
Trampolines: If you even whisper the word “trampoline” with a personal insurance professional in the room, they will become visibly uncomfortable. The insurance carriers are not against your children having fun, rather they identify exposures that have a history of claims activity. While trampolines may be a great way for the kids to work on their gymnastics skills, they are the cause of tens of thousands of emergency room visits each year. Every carrier handles the trampoline exposure differently, but none of them want one on your property. Some may cover a claim resulting from a trampoline and then either require you to remove it from the property, or cancel your Homeowners insurance policy completely. Some policies have a “trampoline exclusion”, this means, that if your neighbor’s child is paralyzed as a result of falling off your trampoline, your Homeowners insurance will not respond, and you will be on your own to defend yourself in a lawsuit and pay the damages and medical bills that result.
Attractive Nuisances: I can guarantee that if you have an un-fenced half-pipe in your backyard, visible from the road, Raiden will be running up the side of it with his little sister in-tow, before I can even yell “Get away from that attractive nuisance!” Skateboard ramps, trampolines, pools, tree houses, and mobile equipment are all examples of attractive nuisances. They are dangerous and simply irresistible to a child. Being drawn to an attractive nuisance is a defense for trespassing. So, as in the example above with your neighbor’s child getting seriously injured on your trampoline, even if you didn’t invite him or her on to your property, you are still liable if they get hurt. Depending on the exposure, the home insurance inspector is going to make it mandatory that you remove attractive nuisances from your property or requires that you make it less inviting, such as installing fencing around a swimming pool.
Roof: Other than clearing/cleaning the biological growth on the roof, the inspector will also make a mandatory recommendation that any curling or missing roof tiles be replaced. They will also mandate the removal of any branches overhanging or touching the roof.
So, what should you do? Every home and yard is unique. Therefore, other requirements or recommendations may arise from a home insurance inspection. Your local independent agent will want to know many details regarding your home before the policy is written to avoid any potential issues at the time of the inspection. Also, following your inspection, make all necessary corrections quickly and correctly to avoid any lapses in coverage.