Whether it’s the home you live in, a buy to let investment, or a second home, if you own any property, you’ll know only too well how much of your hard-earned cash went into the purchase.
So much so that you’re likely to do whatever you can to protect your investment against loss or damage. And that, of course, means arranging suitable property insurance.
Make no mistake, however, that – no matter how comprehensive – property insurance is no substitute for proper and regular repair and maintenance. Home insurance is not a maintenance contract.
Two sides of the same coin
Property insurance and maintenance are very much two sides of the same coin.
Implicit in any insurance contract is your obligation to take every reasonable precaution to mitigate the risks and effects of any loss or damage. In the case of property, that means that you keep the building in a good state of repair and reduce wear and tear through a regular maintenance schedule.
Insurance documents make clear that wear and tear of the insured items – in this case, your property – is specifically excluded from cover. For instance, your property insurance is unlikely to cover repairs to the roof if any damage was the result of wear and tear – in other words, a failure to keep it in a good state of repair.
Devising a maintenance schedule
Any property is likely to be multi-faceted and have lots of nooks and crannies. To ensure that everything is covered by your maintenance efforts, therefore, it is important to have a schedule.
An online search may suggest a model maintenance schedule or two. The following list, for example, includes several of the 50 vital maintenance tasks in a schedule suggested by Organise my House on the 25th of January 2021:
- check and clear the gutters of leaf mould and other debris – overflowing gutters can allow the ingress of water and cause untold damage to the exterior and brickwork of your home;
- while you or your tradesmen are at the top of those ladders, also scan the roof itself for dislodged, slipped, or absent tiles or slates;
- from the inside of the loft or attic, check for any leaks or water ingress through the roof – and continue your inspection for any signs of damp throughout the building;
- while you are in the loft space also check for any infestation by pests or vermin – such as wasp nests, intrusion by squirrels, or birds;
- as you work your way around the house, check that any exterior lighting – including motion-detecting security lighting – is working as it should;
- if you have a burglar alarm installed check that it is in perfect working order, too;
- make sure that air vents and bricks remain unobstructed and are not clogged with leaves or other debris;
- check that all exterior doors can be securely locked – and that you know where the keys are! – including the garage and any doors to sheds and outbuildings;
- if the garage door is electrically powered, make sure that is working properly and the cut-out safety switch automatically stops its operation if anything is in its way;
- moving inside the home, arrange for a safety check and inspection of any gas supply and its appliances – if the property is let to tenants, you have a legal obligation to such a check by a qualified engineer at least once a year;
- recent legislation regarding let property has extended the notion of regular checks and inspections – at least every five years – of the electrical installation, too;
- your property needs to be maintained in a way that complies with current national and local fire safety regulations – and if you are in any doubt about what these entail, take a look at a useful guide published by the London Fire Brigade;
- arrange for any central heating boiler to be serviced and checked;
- if you have any open fires or wood-burning stoves, arrange for the flues and chimneys to be swept;
- test both smoke and carbon monoxide detectors – review the legislation with respect to the installation of these warning devices in any let property; and
- bleed all the radiators in your central heating system to remove the air that causes blockages and prevents the efficient operation of the system.
Suggestions about the maintenance of your property apply to whatever type, age, or value it might be. Indeed, the more valuable the property the more critical a robust maintenance schedule is likely to be, suggested Luxury Lifestyle Magazine on the 18th of January 2021.
Careful attention to maintaining your property and keeping it in a good state of repair may save you money in the longer term, ensure that it remains a safe place in which you or your tenants can live, and complies with the fundamental expectations and requirements of your insurer.