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Autumn Liabilities For Homeowners

Homeowners often assume that if something bad happens to their property, their homeowners’ insurance will automatically cover the damage. This isn’t always true. Your insurance coverage can be rescinded if you don’t take the proper steps to protect your home from potential damage, or your claim can be denied, due to lack of necessary home maintenance.

We are now in the midst of Autumn and it is important to consider the following hazards and risk management steps to reduce the things that could lead to a potential claim. Be sure to speak with your insurance agent or broker about your coverage and additional things you can do.

Clean up the leaves

Autumn leaves are beautiful, but once they fall off the trees, you need to rake them up and remove them from around your property.

And more important than raking them off your yard is keeping your driveway and walkway clear. When leaves get wet, they can be quite slippery and a liability risk. The mail carrier, the package delivery driver or a visitor could fall and be injured, which could give rise to an insurance claim or even a lawsuit.

Calling an arborist to look for rotting or damaged trees is also a good move. You don’t want to risk having dead branches or an uprooted tree crashing through your house this winter.

Close up your swimming pool

Not everyone has a backyard pool, but if you do, remember that you are liable if someone is injured while using it — even if they don’t have your permission. Your first step should be to review your homeowners’ policy with your insurance agent to confirm your coverage and to understand any exclusions or necessary endorsements. Your coverage most likely will be different depending on whether your pool is above ground or in-ground.

You’ll need to perform some basic maintenance to keep the pool in good condition and minimize damage from wear and tear. Start by cleaning the pool thoroughly and remove all debris from the water. If you leave the debris, it will sink to the bottom and stain the surface, which would be difficult to clean when you’re ready to use the pool again.

Next, clean the filter before closing up your pool for the winter. It will help keep the filter operating properly. You also should balance the pH level in the water to keep it sanitized throughout the winter months.

And finally, be sure to cover over the pool. It provides additional protection against the elements and keeps the water at the proper level. It also keeps people out of the water during the fall and winter months when others are less likely to be around in case of an accident.

Prevent water damage

Fall often means heavy rains that can cause water damage to property. So, inspect your roof for missing shingles, then have it repaired to avoid possible leaks.

Rain gutters and downspouts need to be cleaned out too. You want to make sure that all rain water can move quickly away from your home. Check the natural drainage patterns around your home and if necessary, you may need to consider a French drain system or downspout extensions to push water away from your foundation.

Doors and windows need to be checked too. Heavy winds from a Nor’easter can blow the rain into your house through windows or doors that are not insulated correctly.

Check on water pipes to make sure they’re not exposed to freezing temperatures. You may need to add insulation to the pipes themselves as well as maintaining the area at 55 degrees.

And finally, make sure the discharge area of your downspouts and drain are clear of leaves and debris. Even though your local municipality is responsible for clearing storm drains, you should check the drains to be sure water can flow freely and not back up onto your property or into your house.

Prevent fires

Home fires can start in any number of ways, but there are a few steps you can take to minimize that risk.

Use the change from Daylight Saving Time as a reminder to change the batteries in your smoke detectors. And at the same time, check your fire extinguishers and be sure they’re within reach and fully charged.

Clean the clothes dryer lint trap, the exhaust vent and the space under and behind the dryer.

Have your heating system cleaned and inspected annually by a professional and change your furnace filter monthly. If you have a fireplace, have a professional clean and inspect it, as well as the chimney.

When you put away the patio furniture, clean out your garage too because many house fires start in the garage. People tend to let oily rags accumulate, increasing the fire risk. And be sure you’re storing your gasoline (for the lawn mower and snow blower) in a proper and safe container.

Walk around your property

Walk around your fence line to look for damaged or loose pickets, as well as posts and rails that may be failing. Have any weak areas repaired sooner rather than later as they can become damaged during a severe windstorm or become flying objects.

Look at your driveway to see if it has settled and developed deep ruts. Some of those ruts may create a fall risk for family and visitors.

Although the weather may not be as severe as a blizzard in winter or a hurricane in summer, Fall presents its own liability risks. A little prevention goes a long way to minimizing damage and the insurance claims that are sure to follow.