‘Tis the Season for Insurance Claims

BY PHILIP MALTAGHATI

Who doesn’t look forward to the holiday season? Families gatherings, traditions, fun, food, festivities, lighting, decorations, and of course, holiday presents. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year for most of us. However, that joy can soon be dampened (literally) by an insurance claim for water damage.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, water damage in non-occupied homes while the family is away for the holidays is one of the most likely issues to occur during this season. Property insurance claims due to water and ice are the leading types of claims that increase during the winter holiday season, along with theft, fire, or even a personal injury lawsuit.

WATER

Here are steps you can take now to avoid or prevent water damage from impacting your holidays:

• While you are away, keep your thermostat set to 60 degrees.

• Install a water leak detection system such as Nest.

• Going away for more than a few days? No one at home? Have a licensed plumber winterize your property.

• Replace your hot water heater every ten years. Most condo and cooperative communities require it in their bylaws. For peace of mind and long-term cost savings, this is an imperative.

• Ice dams can damage roofing and cause interior damage as well. Clean gutters and install ridge vents.

• Ensure that your attic insulation meets recommended R-rating standards.

FIRE

But the leading cause of homeowner’s insurance claims is holiday house fires. These are not just caused by poorly maintained fireplaces, but a more common source of flame: candles. The National Fire Protection Association reports that candle fires peak on Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day.

Protect your biggest investment by simply replacing open flames with battery operated LED candles that look incredibly lifelike and will not destroy your home.

Here’s how you can avoid holiday house fires:

• First and foremost, make sure your smoke alarms are working properly. Change the batteries, and if hardwired perform a simple test by pressing the test button on the housing.

• For any source of open flame, candles to fireplaces, never leave them unattended, not even for a minute.

• If you must have lit candles, ensure that they are kept well away two feet minimum, from anything flammable. This includes presents, the holiday tree, decorations, etc.

• Cooking for the holidays? Even if your stove is electric, do not leave anything to cook or simmer unattended. This especially applies to countertop appliances such as rice cookers, steamers, and skillets.

THIEVES

Break-ins and even thievery at your entryway have increased in recent years. Here are the top ways to avoid becoming a victim:

• The sight of packages that proclaim their expensive contents on their labels left sitting outside on your porch provide temptation and easy picking for thieves. Installing a visible security camera from a hard-to-access eave or roof line will deter pilfering and vandalism.

• Do not leave expensive, unwrapped presents near windows where they can readily be seen from outside.

• If you own expensive or heirloom jewelry or collectibles, invest in a safe or lock these valuables and other expensive items in one room or closet.

• Inherit or acquire anything of value recently? Be sure to update your insurance policy. The holidays are not the time of year when anyone wants to think about the possibility of damage or loss. When this occurs, it can be upsetting to deal with.

Philip Maltaghati is president of United Public Adjusters & Appraisers, Inc. He can be reached at (800) 718-LOSS.

The team at United Public Adjusters & Appraisers knows that submitting homeowners’ insurance claims, especially around the holidays, can be daunting. However, it is not necessary to go it alone. Learn more about how our team can take care of every detail from claims preparation and submission to the final settlement check, including quote facilitation, loss and replacement estimates, negotiation with insurance companies, and even temporary living expenses if necessary.

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