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4 ways to send your home insurance rates through the roof

 

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Homeowners insurance offers protection for one of the largest investments you’re likely to make in your life – your home. But if you don’t take proper precautions to keep your home safe, you may be in for sticker shock for home insurance. Here are four scenarios that can send your home insurance rates through the roof or cause you to lose coverage.

home insurance rates1. Fido has been bad

Home insurance companies vary on how they handle dogs. Some exclude certain breeds, such as pit bulls, Rottweilers and German shepherds, from coverage. Others provide coverage if you can prove that your dog has completed obedience training or passed the canine "good citizen" test. And some insurers offer coverage for all breeds -- unless your dog has a record of attacking people.

If your dog is covered, your home insurance will pay for medical bills if it bites somebody or repair costs if it escapes from your yard and digs up the neighbor's landscaping.

But your premiums might increase after such an incident, and after two dog bites, the insurer will probably refuse to cover the dog.

2. You neglect your home

"The bulk of claims we get are due to a lack of maintenance," says Mike McCartin, president of Joseph W. McCartin Insurance Co. in College Park, Md.

Simple and inexpensive maintenance saves thousands of dollars in repair costs. For instance, when is the last time you checked the hoses on your washing machine? Over time the rubber deteriorates, and the hoses can spring a leak and cause water damage.

Although one claim generally won't increase your home insurance rates, Ross notes your insurance bill could go up if your claim removes a discount you had received for having a clean claims history.

Multiple claims for the same thing raise a red flag with insurance companies because they show a pattern of possible neglect. It's also critical to quickly address a problem, such as a water leak, so it doesn't lead to more damage, McCartin says.

3.  Your fire prevention efforts leave a lot to be desired

Your home insurance premiums could increase if your home suffers major damage in a wildfire, or you could face non-renewal of your policy if you haven't taken measures to protect your home, says Derek Ross, vice president of C.M. Meiers Co. Inc. in Woodland Hills, Calif. Remove brush and weeds around your home to provide defensible space from fire. For example, Ross says one of his clients in the hills around Malibu landscaped the area around his house with fire-resistant plants and put in a 5,000-gallon emergency water supply for fighting fires.

4. You file too many home insurance claims

McCartin suggests you weigh the cost of filing small claims against the risk of a potential premium increase. It might be less expensive in the long run to pay out of pocket for small issues instead of filing claims on each one and then getting hit with a big premium hike or, worse, non-renewal of your policy.

"You want the insurance to be there when you really need it," he says.

More from Barbara Marquand here

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