Most common property insurance claims – and how to prevent them

It happens. You accidentally leave a frying pan on the stove and the next thing you know, your kitchen is engulfed in smoke. What do you do?

Call 911 and make sure everyone is safely out of the home. Following the fire, call your insurance company. But did you know that even though certain types of claims are beyond your control, there are some that could be prevented? Let’s take a look at the most common causes of home insurance claims, and some proven tips that can help prevent them.

1. Bathroom leaks

An overflowing tub, leaky toilet or a shower that doesn’t drain properly, or even a slow leak all add up to water damage – the most costly type of damage to your home.

Prevention tips: Always be vigilant. Never let the bath run unattended, repair small leaks immediately and, if your bathroom is in the basement, make sure your appliances are protected by anti-backflow valves.

2. Leaking dishwasher or washing machine hoses

Hoses and pipes leak due to corrosion, a damaged fitting, or just wear and tear.

Prevention tips: Check the condition of the pipes regularly. Consider replacing them with metal-reinforced hoses. Avoid using these appliances if you aren’t home during their operation.

3. Kitchen fires

Cooking fires are the number one cause of home fires. Further, the leading cause of fires in the kitchen is unattended cooking. Heating oil specifically is a significant fire hazard. In just seconds, oil can ignite into a fire that becomes impossible to control.

Prevention tips: When cooking never leave the stove unattended. When cooking with oil, use a deep fryer as it’s much safer. Be sure to use a CSA or ULC certified fryer with a thermostat. Read the instructions for use and storage and turn it off immediately after use.

4. Barbeques

Barbequing is a great way to cook food however, if not done properly, can pose a safety and fire hazard.

Use and igniting:

  • Use in a well-ventilated area and position the BBQ away from any flammable material and in such a way that it does not block any exit.
  • Always lift up the lid before opening the valve of the tank; then turn on the burners and press the igniter switch.
  • Make sure that all pipes and hoses are empty by first closing the tank’s valve and then shutting off the burners.

Maintenance:

  • Clean the pipes of the burners every year, using a brush designed for this purpose.
  • Check for leaks, after opening the tank’s valve, by moving a brush full of soapy water over all moving parts. Bubbles will appear if there is a leak; tighten the joints and replace the damaged parts.
  • Always store the tank outside.

5. Cigarette butts

Despite the fact that the number of smokers is steadily decreasing, fire caused by cigarette still seems to be a major cause of property damage.

Prevention tips:

  • If you’re a smoker, stay alert and be aware of your surroundings. Never smoke lying on a bed or sofa. Also, always wet the cigarette butts before throwing them in the trash.
  • Never extinguish cigarette butts in flowerpots or planters outside. The earth is inert and can pose a fire hazard. Black earth or mulch contains, peat, moss or wood chips which are combustible materials. They may also contain chemical fertilizers which could ignite. Did you know that it can take four to five hours from the time the butt is extinguished to the time a flame starts?

6. Electrical fires

Temporary electrical installations or overloaded connections are a significant fire hazard.

Prevention tips:

  • Ensure that high energy appliances do not operate at the same time on the same circuit.
  • Connect all electronic devices to a surge-protected power strip.
  • Avoid the use of plug dividers, as this may overload the electrical outlet.
  • Use an extension cord with enough capacity for the appliance and never slide the cord under a carpet. You may need to add more electrical outlets instead.

7. Candles

A candlelit dinner can turn into a catastrophe if you leave burning candles unattended. In fact, accidental fires are the second most common type of insurance claim after water-related damage.

Prevention tips:

  • Never let candles burn unattended.
  • Use good quality candlesticks that are not made of wood or plastic.
  • Arrange the candlesticks in a closed, non-passing area at least 30 cm from draperies or woodwork.

8. Theft

Having your home broken into, can be very traumatic. Being robbed of valuables or sentimental treasures can be both a financial and psychological hardship.

Prevention tips:

  • Invest in an alarm system.
  • Do not leave a key outside.
  • Lock all doors and windows every time you leave the house.
  • Inform a trusted neighbor if you are leaving for more than a few days.

9. Natural disasters

Hail storms, violent winds and other natural disasters can severely damage your property.

Prevention tips: If a storm is coming, minimize the potential damage by storing patio furniture and BBQ (without the tank) inside. Make sure you have enough supplies for the first 72 hours of an emergency.

Most standard homeowner policies provide protection for these types of risks with some exclusion. The good news is that you can now get smartphone notifications through programs like The Personal’s Alert which notifies you when water damage or a frozen pipe risk is detected in your home.

More on this topic

Keys to preventing water damage in your home: Weathering change

Keys to preventing fire: Toronto Fire department


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The information and advice in this article are provided for informational purposes only. The Personal shall not be liable for any damages or losses arising from any reliance upon such information or advice. The Personal recommends using caution and consulting with experts with respect to the proper use, installation and storage of any products referred to herein.