Last spring one of my clients in the Lake Highlands area of Dallas called me. There’d been some pretty strong winds that had swept through north Texas, similar to what we’ve had this spring, and a section of his wood fence had blown over. It happened to be the section that separated his back yard from his neighbor’s back yard. We discussed options on how to handle this with the first option being whether or not he should file a claim.
Our discussion covered all of his questions including:
- Was this covered? Yes, this is covered based on his policy’s coverage for other or separate structures. Coverage for separate or other structures is specific to detached structures on the property such as fences, detached garages, etc.
- Would filing a claim impact him at renewal? No, filing a claim would not impact his renewal rate as this would be a weather-related claim. That does not mean the rate would remain the same, there could be other factors that would cause the rate to change such as rate increases, inflation protection, etc.
- The fence sits on the property line. How would the claim be handled? This is a very interesting question because it’s not always straightforward.
Where a fence or section of fence resides can influence how the claim is handled and who is responsible.
- If the fence sits on your neighbors land or property, it is their claim.
- If the fence sits entirely on your property it’s your claim and not your neighbor’s.
- When the fence sits on the property line one of two things can happen.
- The claim can be split between the two home owners who share the fence, provided they both file a claim.
- The more likely outcome is the claim goes to whoever files it first.
The last bit of information I covered with my client was whether or not it made good sense to file a claim. By Texas law, I cannot tell a client to file a claim or not file a claim, it’s solely their choice. What I can do is provide information to help them make the best choice for themselves. In my client’s case, this consisted of providing him with two pieces of information:
- Almost all of my clients have a 1% deductible for wind and hail claims. This is 1% of the dwelling value, the amount of coverage on their home. In my client’s case this worked out to a deductible of $2,550.00.
- The other item we discussed was whether the entire fence was damaged or just the one side between his backyard and his neighbor’s. Since it was just one side, the likelihood of the entire fence being replaced was minimal. Most adjusters will rule that the downed section be replaced, not the entire fence.
My advice to my client was twofold:
- Examine the rest of the fence to see if there was any damage from the wind on the other sides.
- Obtain three estimates from fencing companies on repairing the damaged side and entire fence and then compare them with his deductible.
I also shared an experience I’d had about 12 years earlier on my former home which was about a half mile from his. In my case, the side of fence between my backyard and my next door neighbor’s backyard had blown over from a similar wind event. I reviewed our home owner’s policy and found the deductible was $1,000.00. My neighbor did the same and we made the decision to do what neighbors used to do. We split the cost of materials from Home Depot and spent two weekends replacing the fence that ran between our two backyards. Our out of pocked cost was somewhere between $350 and $400 each and it made for a nice project between the two of us.
It turns out my client did the same thing, although in his case his neighbor was an elderly woman who couldn’t help with the labor but she did split the cost of the materials. My client then got creative and invited some of his friends to come help him with some well-earned barbeque and cold drinks after the project was completed.
Share your experiences or questions with me on our Facebook page or in the comments section of our blog. I’d love to hear from you and we’ll all learn something together!