Homeowners insure their properties against a number of potential threats: theft, floods, fires, earthquakes and everything in between. Catastrophic events, of course, are generally rare. More often than not, property damage is minor and doesn’t require homeowners to reach out to their insurers. In fact, unless calamity strikes, you’ll likely have very little contact with your homeowners insurance company.

But that doesn’t mean you don’t need insurance. There’s no telling when you may need to file a claim. Americans experienced several natural disasters in 2017. Water damage alone accounted for 35% of Hippo claims filed last year. Ten percent of claims were filed following incidents of property theft and 20% of claims were related to equipment losses.

Here are five of the most common reasons why homeowners file insurance claims and tips that will help you protect your home.

Wind

Wind is one of the most destructive forces on earth. Between 2009 and 2015, exterior wind damage claims accounted for 25% of all losses. Statistics show that 2017 was a record year for destruction resulting from natural disasters, such as hurricanes. Overall losses reached $330 billion.

To avoid wind damage:

  • Replace broken or cracked glass panes.
  • Replace bent window frames and screens.
  • Inspect your roof for loose or broken shingles or tiles. Repair all damaged areas.
  • Check the rubber gaskets over the vent pipes on the roof and replace them if they’re old or damaged.
  • Check window hinges, seals and locks. Ensure that seals are free of cracks and dirt and that windows can be shut and securely latched.
  • Ensure that the chimney cap is attached to the flue and in good shape.
  • Make sure the window frame is securely sealed to prevent wind from entering the home.
  • Check screens to make sure they fit the windows.
  • Install storm shutters or impact-resistant glass if you live in a region prone to tornadoes or hurricanes.

Hail

Even small pieces of hail can cause major damage, particularly when coupled with high winds. Each year, hail causes about $1 billion in damage to properties and crops, according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration. Verisk Analytics issued a report showing that insurers paid more than $54 billion to clients who filed nearly 9 million property hail claims between 2000 and 2013.

To avoid hail damage:

  • Make sure your roof is in good shape. Though the average roof lasts for at least 20 years, you should replace yours every seven to 10 years if severe hailstorms are common in your area.
  • Consider investing in impact-resistant roofing materials (such as slate, metal, modified asphalt or concrete tile) if you live in areas prone to severe hail. When a homeowner has impact-resistant roofing, their odds of filing a claim drop by 40%. Many insurance carriers, including Hippo, will offer a discount if your roof is hail-resistant.
  • Keep any equipment mounted on your roof (such as swamp cooler or satellite dish) covered to protect it from hail damage.
  • Consider investing in siding for your home made of a durable material such as fiber cement.

Water

Water loss claims are common in the United States. Whether there’s a leaky faucet or a broken pipe, all homes are susceptible to water damage. Proper maintenance and early detection can be key in preventing water damage.

To avoid water-related damage:

  • Repair and replace shingles and tiles on your roof to avoid leaks and prevent moisture from creeping into your home during a storm. Make sure your flashing is also in good condition. It will help prevent water from penetrating the roof.
  • Check for leaks in your gutters and downspouts.
  • Clear your gutters of leaves, pine needles and other debris that can clog your gutters during a rainstorm.
  • Ensure that water drains away from your home’s foundation. Consider installing extension pipes to control the flow of water.
  • Trim low-hanging trees and branches that can break off during a storm and damage your home.
  • Purchase water leak sensors or find an insurer, like Hippo, that will offer them for free.

Theft

Each year, more than 2 million burglaries are reported in the U.S. Data from the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program reveals that the average dollar loss per burglary was $2,361 in 2016. Overall, property losses due to burglaries cost roughly $3.6 billion.

To avoid break-ins:

  • Keep all doors and windows locked when you’re away from home.
  • Ensure all exterior doors and windows close and lock properly.
  • Make sure your exterior lights are in working order and install motion-sensing lights.
  • Install indoor and outdoor security cameras that can alert you when a burglar is present and record any break-in attempts.
  • Set a light timer to simulate the presence of an occupant when you’re away for an extended period of time.
  • Store valuables in your garage or shed.
  • Avoiding leaving a spare house key in obvious places (like under your doormat).
  • Consider buying a home security monitoring system which not only monitors activity on your property but can save you money on your insurance premiums.

Fire

Data reveals that fires can cause extensive damage. Between 2011 and 2015, average claims for losses due to fire or lightning came to $43,983. Taking certain safety tips into consideration may be necessary to prevent house fires.

To avoid a house fire:

  • Ensure that the electrical wiring in your home is up to code. Have your electrical system checked by a licensed electrician at least once a year.
  • Discuss fire safety with family members and minimize the use of candles around the home.
  • Install smoke detectors, a fire alarm system and a sprinkler system. These investments can reduce your homeowners insurance premiums.
  • Inspect your chimney and have it cleaned (especially if you have a wood-burning fireplace) to prevent the accumulation of creosote that can cause chimney fires.
  • Have a professional inspect your chimney smoke chamber, liner, damper, firebox and chimney cap (if one is in place).
  • Have your chimney swept each year. It’s highly recommended by the National Fire Prevention Association.
  • After burning a fire, place the ashes in a metal container that you store outside of your home. This will minimize the odds of a stray spark starting a fire.
  • Remove clutter from the area surrounding your stove and oven. Flammable materials could catch fire when you’re cooking or baking.

It’s important to do whatever you can to protect your home from being damaged, and some of your efforts may save you money on insurance. Just keep in mind that you should never avoid filing a claim because you’re afraid it might increase your premiums.

In a recent survey, fear of higher insurance premiums kept 22% of respondents from filing a claim. But among participants who filed claims of less than $5,000, 57% saw no premium increases. Bottom line: Take the necessary precautions to safeguard your home. If your home is damaged, don’t be afraid to use your homeowners insurance policy to cover the cost of repairs.

Still have questions about safeguarding your home? Speak with a Hippo specialist.

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