Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Damage from poor maintenance isn't your insurance's fault

If your car engine dies because you didn't change the oil, should your car insurance step in a fix your engine? Of course not. Then why would homeowners insurance be any different?

Like many neighborhoods these days, ours has a neighborhood Facebook page. The most common uses are for announcing activities, alerting neighbors of suspicious activity, giving away things, or recommendations for various services. 


A recent thread started out right up my alley, with someone asking for help on how to handle a simple home repair and a picture. In this case, a couple of small tiles fall off the wall in their shower and it looked like they had a little bit of mold under where the tiles were. Nothing too serious, and to be expected in a ~20-year-old home, especially without proper maintenance. 


We have a similar shower and it was pretty clear that this and any further damage could be avoided by simply installing a bead of 100% silicone at the base of the shower pan where it meets the tile instead of relying on grout. Whenever anyone steps into the shower pan, it bounces imperceptibly. This slight movement is absorbed by silicone, but grout will crack and allow openings for water to seep in, causing damage over time. 


We shared some quick tips on how to repair (both quick fix or more thorough instructions) and felt good about helping someone out. What blew me away were the other comments that came after. No fewer than 5 other commenters saw the picture and immediately said to call their insurance to submit a claim. Really?!? 

A DIY repair for this issue would be under $100 and complete in just a few hours. Even if you hired it out, it's cheaper than your typical $1,000 deductible on homeowners insurance. This also begs the question -- "If your home is damaged due to poor maintenance, should that really be part of your insurance coverage?


I think this scenario speaks to a few things that are concerning to me: 



  1. Personal responsibility. Part of the job of being a homeowner is to take care of your property. If you don't, guess what? Stuff breaks, and it’s your fault. 

  2. Financial responsibility. You've probably read that most Americans couldn't handle an unplanned $400 expense, or that 25% of all households making over $150,000/yr are still living paycheck to paycheck. Despite being a slightly more expensive neighborhood that I thought would price out folks that couldn't afford small repairs, we're clearly not immune to this same behavior. If we have that many people saying they would call their insurance for a minor home repair, there’s a possibility that some of them would do so because they don't have the cash for a repair.

  3. It blows me away how little people are willing to even attempt to do themselves. Sure, its easy to just have ‘your guy’ take care of things like home repairs, yard work, housecleaning, etc. but this reliance on others really adds up. I once read a rule of thumb that for each major task you outsource from your life, you should have $75,000 in annual income for it to make sense. I’m not sure if this is exactly the right way to think about it, but it rings true that outsourcing comes at a cost.

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