You're responsible for keeping your home in good condition. Your home insurance is responsible for damage you couldn't have prevented.
What Counts as Wear and Tear?
Here’s what we consider a worst-case scenario at Kin: you find an insurance policy, pay your premiums year after year, and go to make a claim one day only to find that your policy doesn’t actually cover what you thought it did.
Which leads us to the point: we get a lot of questions about wear and tear and whether home insurance covers it. In short, it doesn't, and here's why.
Acute Damage vs. Wear and Tear
Home insurance is designed to help homeowners manage the financial risk they have from damage to their homes that’s outside their control. The thinking is this: sometimes, things go wrong in ways you can’t control (lightning strikes, tree limbs fall, etc.). While you can’t increase your control over these events, you can control their potential to cause you financial damage – which you do by buying homeowners insurance.
Those beyond-your-control events are instances of acute damage: all of a sudden, something is deeply wrong.
The other kind of damage that happens to homes is wear and tear. Wear and tear happens gradually, over time. It includes things like:
- Exterior paint peeling.
- Wooden floors getting scuffed or chipped.
- Hinges and door handles loosening.
- Boards warping and separating.
- Roof shingles loosening.
Like acute damage, wear and tear can lead to expensive problems. Think of a window crack that lets in water that causes extensive mold growth.
Homeowners insurance explicitly doesn’t cover damage from wear and tear because part of the agreement between you and your insurance provider is that you’ll keep your home in good working order. In other words: by performing basic maintenance, you will prevent damage.
If you follow this line of thinking long enough, you’ll find lots of gray area. For example, one common question we hear is, “Does homeowners insurance cover roof leaks?”
The answer: it depends.
If the roof leak was caused by a covered property peril (i.e., by a kind of property damage that your insurance policy protects), the answer is yes.
If the leak happened because you didn’t make basic repairs to your roof or didn’t update it within a reasonable timeframe, the answer is probably no.
But what if the roof leak happened because shingles blew off in high winds? On the one hand, wind is usually a covered peril, but on the other, if the shingles blew off because you weren’t diligent about maintaining them, your insurance provider could conceivably deny coverage for the resulting damage to your home.
The lesson here: it’s important to maintain your home as part of protecting your investment in it.
How to Minimize Wear and Tear on Your Home
So what kinds of maintenance projects should homeowners do on a regular basis? The list is long and includes things like:
- Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
- Make sure gutters are clear and drainage spouts point away from the house.
- Clear plants that could grow in cracks and cause serious structural damage.
- Caulk holes to the exterior.
- Inspect and repair the roof as needed.
- Check your plumbing for leaks (in all seasons) and freezing (in the winter).
- Check for insects.
- Check for mold.
These items only scratch the surface, of course. If you’re looking to brush up your game, try this more comprehensive to-do list of home maintenance.
Interested in finding out how to protect your home with insurance? Apply for a policy today.