Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Didn't Check My Home Owner's Policy, Then My Water Heater Leaked

My wife, Jessica, always tells me that the universe is listening so I should refrain from speaking negative things out-loud.  Mexicans can be very superstitious, and despite my having a B.S. degree in bio sciences, I'm compelled by some cultural force to mind her exhortation.  I blame my parents.  Growing up, for example, every time I dropped a utensil on the floor during a meal, my mom would say, "Ahí viene la visita," or here come (unwanted) visitors.  Once my parents got in a bad car accident.  It was somewhat traumatic for them, and for my older sister and I who had to see them all bruised up.  Before they could get back in a car (drive again), they had to get cured of their susto, or scare, by a medicine woman in East San Jose where we lived.  She used all sorts of oils, fragrances, and incense smoke on them while uttering a Mexican Native American language.  I guess it worked because my parents were driving another used car soon after that.

All to say that in January, I spoke some negative words out-loud in a convo with Jessica: "Watch, the water heater will break this year."  Well, the water heater was on year 15 of its own existence so I can't really call myself prophetic.  On August 2nd, while putting her bike away in the garage, Jessica noticed a huge puddle on the water heater platform and directly below it on the ground.  The walls were wet as well near the floor.  Check it:


     

Not gonna lie...a little bit of panic ensued.  I started imagining dollar bills flying out the window.  This was my first water heater issue as a homeowner (I bought my home brand new so the water heater was as old as the house).  It was a Sunday afternoon.  I called a local plumbing company here in Oceanside, but they couldn't come out.  The company's owner, however, did provide me with help over the phone: Shut off the valve at the top of the water heater by lifting the handle.  This would stop water flowing into the water heater, and thus stop the leaking.  He also called another company he works with to come inspect the drywall damage in the garage and in the adjacent interior rooms.  Long story short, water was still flowing into the water heater from the valve, and the water was still leaking onto the drywall damaging it even more.  

My neighbor came by and gave me a hand.  He and I drained the water heater using a water hose, but water kept pouring out of the hose even after the water heater should've been emptied.  My neighbor has many skilled laborer connections, and his daughter's boyfriend is to my luck, a plumber.  So, that Sunday evening, a plumber worked on fixing the leak in the valve.  I'd made contact with Allstate that same day and began a claim.

The licensed Drywall company charged me $1,200 to remove wet drywall, and insulation, plus dry.  Ouch!


Before Calling Any Professional Service

Now let me tell you what I should've done before contacting any professional service for help.  I should've checked my home owner's policy!  Had I done this first, I would've read that my deductible was a whopping $5,000!  Apparently, I'd not changed it since buying the house brand spankin' new.  My premium has changed naturally, as all things go up with inflation, including coverage costs.  From 2005 to 2020, my premiums went from about $1150/year to $1450.  Seeing I had some warranties at the start of my ownership, I probably got over-confident about any disaster happening, and had not thought to increase my premium and reduce my deductible in the process.

By the way...aren't home owner policies a total racket?  I mean we pay thousands of dollars to an insurance company, and hope that some day we have a major disaster at our homes so we can actually make a claim and get some of that back!  

Okay, so I had to drop my claim with Allstate because no way was I going to shell out $5K to get a $3K check from them for the damages incurred.  Not to mention, filing insurance claims almost always leads to premium increases.  Save your claims for the big one, a kitchen fire, for example.

After learning of my $5,000 deductible from a dusty Allstate policy renewal doc, I called my local agent and asked her to raise my premium whatever amount was necessary so that my new deductible is $2,500.  It turned out to be less than I thought.  Like $11 more per month, i.e., an extra $132 a year.  Some people pay a maximum premium such that their deductible is only $1,000.  There is a trade-off, of course.  I'm comfortable stroking $2,500 for any damage beyond $5,000.  It's gotta be worth it, right?

Get Cheap, But Reliable Labor If You Are Strapped for Cash & Don't Want to File A Claim

Here is what I spent on this completely random and totally NOT self-fulfilled event.

$1,200 for the removal of wet drywall and insulation, plus fans and a dehumidifier left over a couple of days.  They wanted to charge me an additional $700 to repair the drywall.  No thanks!

$480, What my neighbor's contact, Mauricio, charged me to repair the drywall completely.  Saved $220.

$1,150, What my neighbor's daughter's boyfriend charged me to fix the leak, remove the water heater, set a new water heater on the side temporarily, and to put it back on the platform once drywall repair was complete.  I saved $300 because the plumbing company quoted me $1450.

Total: $2,830.

Mauricio did a great job!  Only I had run out of paint and had to match it at Lowe's.

Use your contacts before going with a contractor.  If you happen to have Latinx friends, they may know of solid workers who can handle almost every type of home repair/improvement need.  Yes, you can go with a full-fledged company that employs crews and office workers, etc., just expect to pay more.  If your insurance covers it, and your deductible is reasonable, then by all means, spend, spend, spend!  Remember, you can also claim loss of personal items under most HO policies.

Review Your HO Policy Every Year!

Don't be a dope like me.  Every year you should speak with your HO policy representative/agent to have an evaluation done.  They will make sure you're not under-insured as a result of substantial market appreciation, or if your deductible needs adjusting.  Thanks to my resources, I was able to mitigate the damage to my wallet on this one.  But I realize some people aren't as connected around the community as I am.  So, your best bet as a homeowner is to add these policy reviews and potential loss assessments into your calendar.  Don't be caught by surprise like I was!  Thanks for reading.    

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