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Homeowners claim preventable but rarely checked

PEMCO Insurance poll reveals many homeowners fail to perform simple maintenance; education and gender affect percentage

September 7, 2005

SEATTLE – While Washington homeowners are gearing up for end-of-summer seasonal maintenance, a recent PEMCO Insurance poll shows that four in ten homeowners fail to perform a simple task to prevent an occurrence that accounts for a large proportion of homeowner claims.

"As certain as night follows day, the hose that connects the washing machine to the water source will fail," said Jon Osterberg, PEMCO spokesperson. "It's simply a matter of time before it fails, and when it does, it's usually expensive."

According to Osterberg, the cost of a broken water hose can be significant, costing homeowners an average of $500, the typical deductible per claim. When hardwood floors are involved, costs to PEMCO can reach well into the thousands.

"Water damage can also cause mold to take hold of areas in your home causing additional damage, and irritating allergies," Osterberg said. "Mold can be prevented or controlled if you stop water leaks immediately and eliminate dampness and humidity within 48 hours."

PEMCO conducted the poll, which queried 600 Washington state residents, earlier this year as part of its effort to learn more about its customers. PEMCO found some interesting trends in the polling data.

According to the 2005 PEMCO Insurance Northwest Poll, Western Washington households are 10 percent more likely to check water lines regularly than those in Eastern Washington. Also, 64 percent of men said they check water lines often or occasionally compared to only 55 percent of women.

The poll also revealed that only 51 percent of college graduates said they checked washing machine hoses, refrigerator water lines, dishwashers, and hot water tanks for wear-and-tear leaks often or occasionally, compared to 68 percent of Washington homeowners without a college education.

A Disaster Waiting to Happen
"The danger of a water leak is that if it's not addressed right away, even a small leak may cause thousands of dollars of damage to your floors and walls that may or may not be covered by your homeowners insurance," Osterberg said. "It might not be covered because dry rot and mold typically develop over time. They're maintenance issues caused by excess moisture, which is usually preventable. They're not sudden losses." According to PEMCO, water damage is the number one homeowners claim, beating out fire, storms and theft.

"Fortunately, most water-damage claims can be prevented with simple maintenance," Osterberg said. "You never want to ignore a water leak, or put off replacing hoses, water lines, or pipes that you know are worn."

Home Maintenance 101
Homeowners need to be aware of where water leaks are most likely to happen, and monitor those areas carefully, according to Osterberg. For example, washing machine hoses eventually leak, and since the laundry room is a low-traffic area, water damage can go undetected and be extensive. Dishwasher hoses, automatic ice-maker lines and hot water heaters also hold hidden dangers homeowners might not be aware of.

"Homeowners also mistakenly assume that because their hot water tank has a liner, it's not susceptible to leaks," said Osterberg. "Water sediment eventually sinks to the bottom of the tank and rusts. This creates a flood just waiting to happen."

To prevent these costly homeowners claims, PEMCO suggests performing the following seasonal maintenance checks. Casual observation is the key. Whenever you notice water, look for the source, then address it:

  1. Check hoses for kinks and cracks next time you do laundry. Replace your washing machine hoses every five years with a quality high-pressure hose, preferably a durable metal-mesh hose. Washing machine hoses are available at most home improvement stores for $5 to $10.
  2. Inspect flooring around your water heater for signs of leaks. A qualified tech should periodically inspect heaters installed more than five years ago, and if your water heater is more than 10 years old, consider replacing it.
  3. Inspect refrigerator, dishwasher and outdoor faucet lines for leaks and crimps. Place a plastic tub under the kitchen sink to catch leaks before damage occurs. If you move your refrigerator to clean, be careful not to overextend or pinch the ice-maker line. If you see signs of brittleness or moisture, call a qualified repair technician.

"Homeowners need to realize that seasonal home maintenance is one of the easiest things to do, but one of the costliest things to overlook," Osterberg said.

Anyone wanting to compare their own answers with poll respondents can do so by visiting www.pemco.com.

About the poll
PEMCO Insurance commissioned the independent, statewide survey that asked Washington homeowners several questions about home maintenance and other issues.

Informa Research Services Inc. of Seattle conducted the poll. The sample size, 600 respondents, yields an accuracy of +/- 4 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. In other words, if this study was conducted 100 times, in 95 instances the data will not vary by more than +/- 4 percent.

About PEMCO Insurance
PEMCO Insurance, established in 1949, is a Seattle-based provider of auto, home, boat, life, and umbrella insurance to Washington state residents. PEMCO Insurance is sold by community agents throughout the state and through PEMCO offices. For more information, visit www.pemco.com.

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