Avoiding five mistakes that even good homeowners make
(BPT) - Have you ever accidentally left a candle burning unattended? Or left home without turning on the security system? You probably made a mental note to yourself to not do it again, but otherwise didn't think much about it. But next time, you might not get so lucky. A simple "uh oh" could lead to thousands of dollars in damage to your home. "We recommend homeowners adopt a mindset of thinking about the consequences of things, of what could go wrong," says Dr. Tim Reinhold, senior vice president of research and chief engineer for the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety. Here are five tips to avoid common homeowner mistakes: Tip 1: Clean out the filter on your clothes dryer Why? Fire. Those wads of lint that get caught in your dryer's filter can pose a major fire hazard. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that dryers cause more than 15,000 fires a year. Your strategy: Be sure to completely empty the lint trap every time you use your dryer. Also, make sure your dryer ducts are metal, since they're less likely to sag and allow lint to build up. Tip 2: Trim tree branches that hang close to your home Why? Roof or other property damage. A storm or high winds could sweep through your neighborhood and knock those branches onto your roof, causing serious damage. Your strategy: Consult an arborist or tree surgeon about any trees in your yard that might present a hazard. Tip 3: Don't put cardboard boxes from recent big-ticket purchases out on the curb with the garbage Why? Theft. By placing boxes in a visible location, you're sending a signal to burglars that you have valuable items in your home. Your strategy: Cut boxes up and put them into the garbage or recycling bin. Tip 4: Make your house look occupied when you're on vacation Why? Theft. An empty home can be an easy target for thieves. Your strategy. Have your mail and newspaper deliveries suspended or have a trusted neighbor retrieve and safeguard them until your return. "Not only do piles of mail signal that a house is vacant, but thieves can sift through letters to steal your identity," says Joe Vahey, vice president at Erie Insurance. "You also may want to arrange for someone to maintain your lawn if you'll be gone for more than a few days, and consider installing central alarms, motion detectors, or timed lights that will illuminate the area around your house at night." Tip 5. Check appliance water hoses Why: Water damage. Hoses for washers and refrigerators wear out and need to be replaced before they spring a leak. The water supply line to the icemaker can also be a water leak waiting to happen. Your strategy: Replace washing machine hoses every five years. If you see the plastic line along the back of the refrigerator becoming discolored (yellow or brown), have an appliance repair expert check it out. Despite your best efforts to properly maintain and protect your home, accidents and mishaps still happen, which is why it's also important to know what your homeowners insurance does, and doesn't, cover. For example, no homeowners insurance will cover flood damage from natural disasters, so you may want to seek federal flood insurance if you live in an area prone to flooding. In addition, check to see if yours is a guaranteed replacement cost policy, which would pay to rebuild your home if it's severely damaged or destroyed. The coverage is rare, but some companies like Erie Insurance include it in their standard homeowners policies. For more information on homeowners insurance, visit www.erieinsurance.com/homeowners.