Owning a home is one of the most satisfying experiences a family can have, but owning a home can also expose you to insurance liabilities. There are a number of common hazards that can endanger the safety of family and guests and can expose homeowners to liability. Homeowners should do a yearly assessment of their property, customarily in the spring, to make sure that all exterior surfaces of the house are free of hazardous conditions that could lead to accidents or injuries. Here are five of the most common problems found:
Swimming Pools and Ponds
Swimming pools are one of the primary hazards leading to liability, but most people forget that ponds and other decorative water features can also be hazardous to children and pets. Make sure your pool area is enclosed by a five-foot safety fence and with a self-latching gate. Ponds should be built only within enclosed yard areas. Fountains and other water features should include barriers to children and neighborhood pets.
When doing home repair projects, ladders should not be allowed to remain propped against exterior walls. This may be a temptation to neighborhood children and could lead to an accident for which you may be liable. Put away all ladders immediately after use, and store them in garage, basement, or storage shed.
House and Garden Tools
Tools used in home and garden maintenance should be returned to storage areas immediately after use. Children can be drawn to tools laying around the property and that can lead to accidents that will result in legal liability to you. Make sure house and garden tools are returned to storage areas in basement or garage. If you have a small tool shed on your property, its doors should be closed and locked at all times.
Loose Stairs or Handrails
Extra scrutiny and maintenance should be given to stairways and handrails. Make sure there are no loose boards, exposed nails, or unsecured carpeting that could cause falls inside and outside of the home. Handrails should be firmly attached to walls and flooring. Consider new handrails and railings for those areas where falls could occur.
Trees around your property can be another source of liability claims. Loose tree limbs or those overhanging a neighbor’s house can easily come down during violent storms, creating a hazard to both people and property. A careful survey of all large trees around your property line should be done annually. Limbs that overhang neighbor’s property, or those that appear to be weak and likely to fall during violent weather should be trimmed and removed by the owner or by a reputable tree service. Leaving old or damaged trees in place can be a hazard to your own property those properties adjacent to you.