What are home insurance inspections?

A home insurance inspection helps insurance companies assess the replacement cost and risks associated with a new homeowners insurance policy or renewal of an existing policy. Think of it as your insurance company doing their due diligence to help assess potential claims in insuring your home, and the results of the inspection can be used to determine your insurance premium. Home insurance inspections differ from a full home inspection you typically go through when buying a home. With a full inspection, potential homebuyers may have an inspector evaluate the property from top to bottom for safety and structural issues before deciding if they want to move forward with the purchase. Home insurance inspections, however, may not be as extensive and are completed on a case-by-case basis.

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What to expect during a home insurance inspection

Similar to a city inspection, an insurance inspection could be as simple as a qualified inspector driving by your home and checking your property's exterior. Or, it could entail an in-person visit to your home, typically within a few weeks after your policy begins. In the interim, you're typically covered under a tentative policy if your insurer makes any adjustments to the policy based on the inspection results. The inspector will concentrate on the electrical, plumbing, and HVAC systems if an interior inspection is necessary. They may also check safety features such as smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, and anti-theft devices.

How often do insurance companies inspect homes?

Home insurance inspections aren't always essential and are done at your insurer's discretion. However, certain situations may make an insurance inspection necessary, such as:

You may also need another home insurance inspection if you’ve done significant remodeling to your home and are having your home appraised for a second time.

How do you prepare for a home insurance inspection?

The insurance inspector may or may not provide notice before arriving. If your home is in a gated community or considered high value (which often requires an interior inspection), the inspector will give notice so you can let the inspector in. If you don't cooperate with the process, the insurance company may be able to cancel your policy or opt not to renew it.

Here are steps you can take in preparation for a homeowners insurance inspection:

  • Basement: Look for cracks in the home foundation, signs of mold, mildew, or water damage

  • Attic: Check for water damage and indications of insects or rodents

  • Roof: Remove debris, replace missing shingles, and examine the chimney for cracks or missing bricks

  • Gutters: Clean out waste and make sure all units are securely attached

  • Doors and windows: Test locks on all doors and windows, and check that there are no broken seals

  • Walls and ceilings: Examine for any cracks, stains, and water damage

  • Safety: Test all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and check expiration dates on fire extinguishers and when the last radon test was performed

  • Systems: Inspect and correct any outstanding plumbing, electrical, and HVAC issues

What does a home insurance inspector look for?

In addition to the critical areas — electrical, plumbing, roof and structure, and HVAC — the inspector may also search for any potential red flags that might increase your chances of filing a claim. This also applies to inspectors who perform full buyer inspections. At the highest level, your home's structure should be free of visible signs of damage, and you'll want to eliminate any potential safety risks. The outside of your home is just as important as the structure itself. For instance, cracked steps or walkways could increase the chance of an injury on your property and a potential liability claim.

Typical details the home inspector may zero in on include:

The inspector may also verify items that can earn you discounts on your home insurance policy, such as a home security system or if you live in a secure, gated community.

What can I expect after my home insurance inspection?

Once your insurance inspection is complete, your insurer will evaluate the results and determine whether any changes to your home insurance policy are required. Insurance underwriting inspections typically result in one of three outcomes: your insurer will continue your policy, modify it, or cancel it.

Can my home insurance rate change after an inspection?

Your rate may change after your insurer has evaluated the results of the insurance inspection. You may see an increase in your rate if your insurer discovers additional liabilities that weren't considered in the initial policy, home characteristics that differ from those listed on the application, or if the replacement value is higher than initially anticipated. On the other hand, if you made home improvements, such as replacing a roof, your insurer may lower your rate.

Can my homeowners insurance be canceled after an inspection?

There's the possibility that the company could cancel your insurance if significant issues crop up, such as a safety hazard or a roof that needs replacement. Your insurance provider will often allow you to fix the outstanding problems within a specified period.

However, if you don't provide proof that you have remedied these issues before the deadline, your insurer may issue a cancellation notice. That means the insurer will cancel your policy on a specific date due to the outcome of your home insurance inspection.

What if my policy was canceled due to a failed inspection?

If your inspection fails, it’s possible to apply for another home insurance policy after your insurer has sent you a notice of cancellation or non-renewal due to a failed homeowners insurance inspection. Be sure to find another insurance company to continue the coverage before the insurer cancels the policy, or you risk being uninsured for some time.

Keep in mind that any new insurer will likely want to conduct a home insurance inspection. The same issues that caused the cancellation of your previous policy are apt to resurface, so it's best to address these problems immediately.

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