May 19, 2009

VACANT HOMES SITTING IDLE ON MARKET CAN POSE PROBLEMS

Lack of use can cause costly repairs, not to mention denied  insurance claims.

(Lenexa, KS)   When home sits idle on the market, or vacant for most any reason, lack of proper maintenance or simply lack of use can cause costly repairs or replacements down the road. They may also result in lack of coverage under your insurance policy.

“When it comes to home appliances and whole house systems such as heating and cooling, wear and tear is not the only concern these days, just the lack of use can result in problems.   Cars, boats and motorcycles are no different,” advises Art Chartrand, Executive Director and Counsel to the National Home Service Contract Association. “These mechanical systems were meant to be used, not sit around. Even with a service contract and proper insurance, you still have to check on a vacant property, “  Chatrand advises. They just fail from non-use.  Valves freeze, gaskets dry out and gears rust form moisture.  P-traps in drains also dry out and can fill your house with methane sewer gasses.

 “Now, more than ever I am strongly encouraging my clients to require the seller provide a home service contract – especially if the home has been on the market for an extended amount of time,” advises Mitch Miller, REALTOR with Better Homes & Garden Real Estate.  “Contracts generally range from $350-$550 a year and can be renewed by the home buyer. It just makes good sense especially, as in the case of a foreclosure, there is no homeowner available to provide information. In addition, many companies provide seller coverage free of charge during the listing period, so it helps protect the seller as well.”

Home service contracts generally provide service, repair or replacement for items such as dishwashers, ovens, disposers, electrical and plumbing systems – and most importantly, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVAC).  Many home service contract providers also offer a menu of optional items such as pool and spa equipment, well pumps, and free standing appliances such as refrigerators and clothing washers and dryers for an additional fee. Contracts do not cover pre-existing conditions, but will provide service, repair or replacement for failures arising due to normal wear and tear during the contract period.

“Our goal as an industry is to provide the best value for the consumer, “  said Billy Jensen, Fidelity National Home Warranty. He added  “In 2016, our members paid out over one billion dollars in wholesale value of claims.”

Aside from the need for a home service contact, homeowners need to be careful with their insurance coverage as well. While most policies cover you for routine absence due to vacation and cover otherwise furnished and utilized vacation homes that are unoccupied for great lengths of time, they often do not cover “vacant” homes. A vacant home may be described as one without any furnishings or utilities active.

One novice in Kansas recently bought a house and left that very day for Texas leaving their son living across town in charge. The son did nothing and the house was vacant for the next ten days. Upon returning to town, a water leak in the kitchen was discovered that caused major damage.  This is an insurable peril and cannot be covered by a service contract by law. The insurance carrier balked claiming the house was vacant and unattended.  Homeowners then haplessly tried to blame everyone form the seller, to the their agent to the tooth fairy to no avail.  The fact is they had the keys and just left the house vacant and things happen.  So make sure you check with your insurance carrier if your home will be vacant and unattended for any length of time.

The National Home Service Contract Association (NHSCA) is a non-profit 501(c) (6) industry trade organization of member companies serving home service contract providers and consumer interests throughout the United States. For more great industry, media and consumer information, visit  http://www.homeservicecontract.org or call 913-871-5600.

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