The warmer months are a great time to get some projects accomplished around the house or yard. But are you ready to take on the risks and liabilities that can come with that makeover? Here’s how to plan smart this summer at home.
Before You Start: Talk to Your Agent
Summer plans around the house might include anything from a kitchen remodel to roof replacement. When you’re dreaming of improvements, don’t forget to talk to your agent about how plans can affect your homeowners’ insurance policy.
“Check in with your agent to make sure you don’t need to make any changes,” says Renae Goodwin, CIC, CPRIA, sales executive at PayneWest. “You might need an endorsement for ‘course of construction’ to cover the materials lying around.”
“Landscaping and things may add to market value of the home that may not add to the replacement value of the home,” says Goodwin. “Going from laminate to marble countertops, for example, will affect the replacement value. People replace carpet with hardwood and don’t think twice about calling. Some things that seem like just cosmetic changes might have a big replacement value on the home.”
For example, many homeowners choose or need to replace roofs after summer hailstorms. Goodwin points out that insurance companies will often now reduce a premium for homeowners that update their roofs with sturdier material. It’s always worth checking in with your agent first to talk to them about your plans.
Notify Your Neighbors
Besides being polite, it’s a good idea to let your neighbors know when you’ll have construction workers around and what they’ll be touching. Big projects could lead to emergencies like a ruptured water line or perceived inconveniences like an extra debris dumpster on the side of the road. Giving your neighbors a heads up is a nice way to smooth over any potential problems down the line.
Neighborhoods with a Homeowners’ Association (HOA) could have strict rules in place for how and when construction occurs, or even rules on design or placement of new additions or outbuildings. Make sure to check before you start that everything is in order, instead of after the fact.
Make Sure Your Contractor is Covered
Goodwin points out that all contractors should be able to provide you with a current “certificate of insurance.” This will show that the contractor has his own coverage for workers’ compensation as well as general liability.
“When a contractor burns your house down when he makes a mistake, it’s all on you if they’re not insured,” says Goodwin.
This is a common request, and every contractor and their insurance agent can and should be able to provide it within a few minutes. If the contractor won’t do this, it might be a red flag.
Likewise, homeowners should check the certificate that it has a current issue date, not just policy dates.
“We had a contractor once who was photocopying a certificate of insurance but he’d let his policy lapse and it was no good,” says Goodwin. “Make sure the certificate has a current issue date, and you’ll know that the policy has not lapsed due to non-payment.”
Stay Safe During the Project
When you have a big project and materials going on, you might think your yard or home is just destined to be a mess for months, but that can be a liability for homeowners.
“Make sure the contractor cleans up every day,” notes Goodwin. “Whether it means cleaning debris or additional building materials, you don’t want anything stolen or played on by kids.”
After Your Done: Check in Again
Maybe you upgraded materials or changed your plan during that summer construction project. It’s a great idea to check in and have your agent ask about what was done (and what might have been changed). They can make informed plans for your homeowners’ policy changes that could save you money in the long run, and protect you in case of damage later on.