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Understanding wear and tear

At a glance

  • Wear and tear occurs over time through ordinary use and it’s every homeowners responsibility to keep home and contents well-maintained
  • Most insurance policies will not cover damage caused by wear and tear
  • Brokers should encourage clients to do all they reasonably can to keep property and belongings in good condition, making a year round plan can help with this.

 

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Wear and tear is a phrase often used in the insurance world but commonly overlooked or misunderstood. Zurich believe it’s really important to help policyholders not only understand more about wear and tear but also the responsibilities they have when it comes to reducing the impact it could have on any insurance claims they make.

What is wear and tear?

Wear and tear will happen to property and belongings over time through ordinary use. It is your clients’ responsibility to keep their home and contents in a good state of repair. This is important as most insurance policies are there to provide protection from damage caused by a one-off unforeseen event listed in the policy such as fire, theft, storm or flood.  They are not designed to cover the cost of annual maintenance or damage caused by neglecting property.

All buildings will gradually deteriorate over time through exposure to the elements, while contents deteriorate through their daily usage.  As a result of this, most policies will have a wear and tear exclusion that means any damage caused naturally over a period of time would not be covered. For example, if over time the guttering on a property becomes worn and breaks it would need to be replaced by the policyholder. This is because the damage has occurred as part of the buildings normal usage and has not been caused by an insured peril. If however the guttering was in a good condition but was broken by extreme storm conditions, the insurance policy would cover the damage.

It is also worth knowing that most items of contents are covered on a new for old basis except for clothing and household linen where deductions for wear and tear may also apply.  This means that in the event of a claim your client may not receive the full amount for those items that it would cost to replace the item as new.

What can be done to help reduce wear and tear?

Brokers should remind their clients that they must do all they reasonably can to prevent and reduce damage or loss by keeping their home and contents in a good state of repair.

What kind of maintenance should be done to reduce wear and tear?

This will depend entirely on the property and belongings. Different properties may require very different work to keep them in their best condition and reduce wear and tear. It can be helpful to make a seasonal plan to keep on track of the types of jobs that might need doing, there are many examples of these online such as this one from the Home Owners Alliance. It includes:

Spring:

  • Checking roofs and chimneys for any damage over winter
  • Clear gutters and drains
  • Clean and check windows for any damage
  • During a Spring clean check walls for any damp

Summer:

  • Clean garden furniture, patios and decking
  • Paint and, if necessary, repair any outdoor woodwork such as fences or windows
  • Check and trim any outdoor plants that may cause damage to walls, windows or guttering
  • Check the sealant in bathrooms and see if any is starting to wear that could be replaced

Autumn:

  • Bleed radiators to make sure they’re effective for the winter
  • Clear away and protect garden furniture
  • Clear leaves and debris from around external walls and gutters
  • Insulate external pipes or taps to prevent them freezing
  • Check any external security lights are working

Winter:

  • Check fences and trees for storm damage throughout the season
  • Check the roof for any slipped tiles or damage
  • Wipe away any condensation that could rot window frames
  • Open windows or use extractor fans occasionally to reduce the chances of damp

However, it’s important to note that no plan will work for everyone and most maintenance requirements will differ and although these may not reduce insurance risk they will help to reduce wear and tear.

Brokers should suggest their clients’ reduce wear and tear by creating a plan based on the individual property needs and these may change depending on the type, age and location of the building. As with any DIY, your clients should know what can be done safely themselves but also what tasks would require the help of a professional.

If you have any questions on wear and tear get in touch with your usual Zurich contact.

Image © Getty

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