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Expat Homeowners Avoid Weather-related Disasters: How to Avoid Financial Disaster When Winter Strikes Stateside Home

Many homes every year, especially those left unattended, experience some sort of destruction resulting from adverse weather. Cold climates need special attention. For instance, in Eddy County, during an exceptionally cold, snow-laden winter of 2008-09, “I estimate at least 100 homes in around New Rockford, Sheyenne and Cooperstown had the septic systems freeze up last winter,” said Jim Woodstead, a licensed plumber and owner of Better Water Systems in New Rockford, ND during an interview on Nov. 12.

Protection Against Weather Disasters Especially Needed in Cold Climates

Woodstead advises homeowners with septic tanks and whose homes have not been winterized, but are prone to reduced rates of water usage to “Consider providing a hay or straw blanket over the entire drain field. When the weather warms in spring, roll the bale back up and set it off to the side.”

The material can then, subject to local ordinances, be removed, set aside for re-use, burned, or utilized for mulching.

Of course expats, or those spending the winter away from home, are advised to winterize their plumbing system. Doing so provides maximum protection but also negates any use of indoor plumbing if it becomes occupied after freeze-up and before spring thaw.

Also, Floods From Rain, Melted Snow or Broken Pipes Cause Financial Losses

Those living for extended periods in other states or abroad should carry insurance that covers losses in such situations. Morgan Lies of Central Insurance Agency advises homeowners to:

  • insure for the replacement cost of the dwelling
  • include coverage for the contents (at least appliances and furniture)
  • obtain flood and fire insurance that provides protection for a home even while it is not inhabited

“Remember,” he says, “most policies will cover only the footprint of the home, including the actual structure.” That is, a home with a basement wherein a deck or carpeting is provided above the concrete will likely not include costs resulting from damage to the deck or carpeting.”

Types of Losses that Are or Are Not Reimbursed

Costs that are not normally covered include sweat labor provided by the owner.

Preventive measures taken by owners, however, can protect against damage and also can factor into reducing premium costs or reimbursement and adjustment costs when claims are filed. This could include providing a new sump pump in the basement or installing electronic surveillance cameras, or paying the local power company to install an outdoors light post to illuminate the premises between dusk and dawn because it provides easy observation by neighbors.

Morgan Lies concluded by stating, “Also ask friends, neighbors, and relatives, or employ a security firm to provide regular, frequent checks for signs of damage or potential for disaster.”

Insurance coverage that should be obtained:

  • Weather-related such as flood, tornado or other wind damages
  • Electrical equipment or wiring causing fire
  • For work performed by contractors hired to remodel or repair the structure
  • Liability

It is especially important to report any suspected damage resulting from the weather is of paramount importance, even if it seems not to be covered or appears to be trivial.

Insurance Protects Homeowners Against Money & Grief When Disaster Does Strike

Due caution, research, taking preventive action and prudent insurance expenditures can protect real estate investments even for expatriates working overseas when all other precautions taken do fail.

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