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Homeowners insurance — winter is coming

It’s the fall and soon time for trick-and-treat kids to come knocking on the door. For everyone living in more northerly areas, it’s also time to make those final preparations for winter. Friends living in country areas will have been laying in wood and coal for heating. Now is the time for everyone to go through your checklist. Sometimes the weather can be severe. Now matter what you believe about climate change, it’s wise to assume the worst and winterize your home. That way, when spring comes around, you have avoided all the more likely hazards and your bank account is healthy — no deductibles and out-of-pocket expenses.

So let’s start with the biggest threat that comes with the cold. You turn on your heating systems which have stood there untouched since the last of the spring shivers passed into the warmth of summer. You don’t want a fire. That furnace lurking down in the basement. When was it last inspected? Have all the ducts been cleaned? Clean ducts? You do remember to keep the ducts clean by changing the filter on a regular basis. Of course you do. The energy source could be piped gas (which never leaks) or oil or propane stored in tanks outside (which never leak or catch fire). Or do you store the wood, coal or coke you burn in the basement? If it’s too close to the furnace itself, this can catch fire if sparks fly out when you open the furnace. The same goes for anything else flammable you may be storing down there. Then go through a bleed all the radiators. If you have fireplaces, check the screen on the chimney is still in place. You do not want birds or wild life falling down when the first fire is lit. If you use it regularly, it needs to be swept to remove excessive soot. How good is the protection on the water pipes? If there’s a loss of power, you don’t want the pipes to freeze and crack.

Then turn to the outside. How good is the roof? Will it stand up if there’s heavy snow? Are all the shingles and roof tiles firmly in place or will melt water flow down through the roof? How are the gutters and downspouts? Remove all the debris of fall to keep water flowing away. And what about the screens on the basement windows? How well do the doors and windows fit? There’s nothing worse that pouring money into a heating system only to have the heat leak away. And then finding the wood has swollen so you can’t open the doors is a real pain.

Although homeowners insurance policies do not directly penalize you if you fail to run through a checklist like this, your premium rates will rise sharply if you claim for avoidable losses. It’s in your own interests to maintain and repair your property to ensure it will still be standing come the spring. That way, you have no claim and your home insurance rates are discounted at the next renewal. Although you should still get quotes to make sure your policy is good value.

 

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