Five Inspection Hazards to Avoid for Homeowners

On a periodic basis, insurance companies send out inspectors to make sure the houses they insure are up to code.  Avoid these top five hazards and maintain the best coverage possible at the best rates.

  1. Ivy and other climbing plants:  While they may look charming, ivy and climbing plants can actually cause significant damage to your home.  They have been known to speed deterioration of wood structures such as support beams and sills.  Tiny tendrils can get behind siding and as they grow, cause major gaps.  Ivy can block gutters, greatly increasing the potential for water damage.  Ivy and climbing plants on a home raise a red flag for insurance inspectors.  If you have them, consider cutting them down and saving yourself some potentially expensive damage.
  2. Stairs without Railing or with Damaged Railings: If you have three or more stairs up to a porch or deck, you need to have a railing.   Missing railings suggest work that has not been done to code and damaged railings suggest poor maintenance and upkeep.  Both raise red flags for insurance inspectors as it increases the potential for an injury and a liability claim.  So, if you have stairs leading up to your house or a deck, make sure you have a handrail and that it is in good condition.
  1. Roof Condition: One of the more common exclusions on a homeowner’s policy is an endorsement refusing coverage on an old or damaged roof.  Old or damaged roofs open property owners up to risk of water damage both inside and outside the home as well as wind damage.  Roofs that are older may be downgraded from replacement cost to actual cash value, while damaged roofs may lead to the excluding coverage of the roof all together.  If the condition of the roof is bad enough, the inspector may recommend cancelling the policy all together as a damaged roof can easily lead to water leaks and damage inside the home.  If your roof is getting older, it is a good idea to begin to set aside some money for its replacement.  If your roof is damaged, getting it repaired should be a top priority.  Even if it doesn’t look as nice with two different types of shingles, avoiding water leaks and damage inside the home will make it worth the loss of the aesthetics.
  1. Deteriorating Buildings: Deteriorating structures on your property can raise red flags for insurance inspectors.  Structures on your property, such as barns, sheds, or garages, that are in disrepair increase the risk of injury and loss.  This is especially true if the structure is within 10 feet of another structure or your home.  Structures in close proximity increase the risk of loss in the case of a fire as they make it easier for the fire to spread.   Even if the company has insured a structure before, they may downgrade the insurance on it as it gets older or falls into disrepair or may refuse to insure it at all.  Protect yourself by making sure that structures are in good repair or have been torn down, and are farther than 10 feet from each other and from your home.
  1. Exposed Wiring: Nothing screams fire hazard more loudly to an insurance inspector than exposed wiring or wiring that is not up to code.  If you have an older home, it is important to make sure that your wiring is in good repair and does not pose an imminent risk.  Knob and tube wiring should be replaced and fuses should be updated to electrical breakers.


If your home falls into one or more of these hazards categories, do not despair.  While you may not be able to get full coverage or standard rates at first, as you knock projects off your list you will improve your home’s insurability and worth.  Save a little each month and tackle the bigger projects as you are able.  Safety is a top priority, and you can have peace of mind knowing that these improvements will help prevent expensive and even life-threatening issues in the future.  So, while not always convenient, avoiding (or fixing) these 5 hazards can save you money on your insurance bill and time from avoided losses in the long run.