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By: Brett Carter

You just woke up to an inch of standing water on your floor. What do you do? It seems pretty clear that you can’t ignore something that serious. But what if it’s not something as dramatic as that? What if you just notice a little damp carpet in the hallway outside of your bathroom whenever you take a shower? Or what if you notice a dark spot on your ceiling that feels a bit wet, and seems to get darker and wetter when you run your air conditioner?

Dealing with seemingly minor damage can be easy to put off since it typically doesn’t interfere with your daily routine like a major event would. But as an insurance policy holder, you still have a responsibility.

In the 1940’s, President Harry Truman had a sign on his desk with the expression “the buck stops here.” It was a play on the old phrase “passing the buck,” meaning to defer responsibility to someone else, or to simply do nothing in hopes that someone else will take care of the problem without your help. Truman’s message was that the responsibility to handle anything that came his way ended with him and no one else.

The wording of most insurance policies reads “sudden and catastrophic damage.” That means that the damage the insurance company is paying to fix isn’t something that happened over a long period of time due to neglect and procrastination…or “passing the buck,” so to speak.

Just as you would be expected to immediately deal with an inch of standing water covering your floors, or water gushing out of a pipe in your wall, you also have a responsibility to immediately deal with damage of a smaller scope. Since the “buck” should actually stop with whoever you hire to fix the problem, it wouldn’t be exactly accurate to say the “buck” stops with you. However, the “buck” definitely starts with you.

What does that mean? Putting off repairs in hopes that the damage will eventually become big enough to justify filing a claim (and getting brand new floors, cabinets, roof etc.), or not dealing with it because you don’t know what to do aren’t valid reasons in the eyes of an insurance adjuster. When small damage gets to a point where you can’t ignore it and you decide to file a claim, that claim is likely to be denied because of failure to perform your due diligence.

That’s why it’s best to pay attention to dampness, odors, discoloration, or dripping noises that you notice, and react right away to determine the cause and make repairs. If you ignore it, the result will always be more serious structural damage.

Also, doing basic routine maintenance will most often help you avoid malfunctions that lead to failed systems and damage. If you’re not handy, hire someone to do it for you. It’s definitely cheaper than having to replace neglected systems and repair the damage they cause.

If you notice damage to your property that could get worse if left unrepaired, the buck starts with you. But if (in spite of your best efforts) you do end up with a flood or other disaster that’s beyond your ability to handle, ServiceMaster by Cornerstone will respond quickly to your emergency and stick with you until everything is restored. After all, the buck stops here.