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I hope this never happens when . . .


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Hi,

Yeah, the same thing happened to me last year. I was inspecting a home over in Redmond when I heard the sound of running water. My hearing isn't so good; so I asked the client, "Do you hear running water?" He did, so I glanced around but didn't see anything. Then I turned completely around and looked at the wall of the neighbor's house and saw water coming out of the clapboard siding at the second floor level. I walked around to the back and the water was coming out of the back wall too. Then I walked around to the front of the house and it was coming out of the ceiling above the porch. I walked around to the entrance and found it running out from under the main entry, across the stoop and driveway and into the street.

There was a pile of newspapers on the stoop so it was obvious nobody was home. The realtor started knocking on doors looking for someone who knew the owner while I went to my truck, got a wrench and then went and turned the water off at the meter. Someone called the fire department. When they arrived, I told them what had happened and asked if they were going inside. The fire honcho answered, "Nope, we'd have done just what you've done; turned off the meter. Good job, thanks a lot," and then the fire department left.

Later that afternoon as I was about to finish up, a fellow came over and said that his wife had just told him about the water coming out of that house. He said he was watching the house for his friend who was on vacation in India.

I asked him when he'd last checked the house. He said the first week in December. I said, "Jeez, it's December 18th. We had a bad freeze here on December 7th and a lot of pipes burst around here. You mean to tell me that you didn't check your friend's house during or after that freeze?" He kind of shrugged. I told him he should check it out but that if he knew the overhead door code he should open the garage and turn off the power before he walks into that house. He nodded and left.

About fifteen minutes later he came back all shook up and told me that a pipe had burst in the wall of the second floor laundry room and that the carpeting, the lower part of the second floor walls and everything from that point down was sopping wet and ruined and that there was mold growing everywhere. He then hastened off to call his friend and give him the bad news.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Remember when a security-system horn was blaring 24/7 a few years ago in California? The homeowners were out of the country, and the neighbors were complaining, but neither the cops, nor the fire department, nor anyone else had--allegedly--the authority to do anything about it.

I'm sure the same is true for this house. Nothing will be done till the homeowners are notified and can hire someone to go inside and see what's up. I wonder if anyone's thought to pull the power meter?

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Something similar happened the first winter after my alcoholic white trash neighbors abandoned their house. Twice. A pipe froze and water was running out under the front door, down the steps, and out to the street. We called the water dept. and someone broke into the house and shut the water off at the meter. The main valve must not have closed all the way though, 'cause about a month later there was another gusher and the water dept. had to dig up the tap at the curb. The main wouldn't budge and curb valve turned into a geyser as soon as they put the wrench on it.

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I had an inspection just last week where I got there early so I went walking around the vacant home. Nice two story Colonial, built in 2007. Been vacant several months, now it's a short sale. Got to the back and noticed icicles at the bottom of the vinyl siding. Got my attention. Walked around the side of the home, warm water pouring out at the bottom of the bump-out for the gas log fireplace. I looked up and there are icicles hanging from the bottom of the second floor window. I called the listing agent, he can't come but he says the buyer's agent is going to be there at any time. 30 minutes later, he shows up, opens the door, it's like a sauna. The first floor family room ceiling is laying on the hardwood floor. I go upstairs, sure enough the hot water supply line to the master bath shower is split. Down to the basement, wade through a foot of water to turn off the main. Go up and look at the thermostat, it's set at 60 degrees. I'm a little puzzled. Buyer's agent calls seller's agent - seller's agent mentions there was no problem there last night. Why was he there? The seller had turned the heat off to save money and the agent went to turn it on before we got there. The seller's agent says it was 24 degrees in the home when he turned the heat on. Oh, and the seller, thinking he had the place sold, also had canceled his home owners insurance. My client walked, now it's a foreclosure instead of a short sale.

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Ah yes, this all reminds me of my largest water damage claim, back in the late 80's. The poor homeowner was out of the country for a couple of weeks, and Richmond experienced temps around zero with snow and typical Richmond black ice. Of course, the city lost power, and the plumbing and cast iron radiators throughout the home froze and burst. When things thawed, his plumbing and auto fill on his boiler flowed freely for days. When he arrived home water was running out from under the front door, as he inserted the key in the front door.

That was a fun restoration job. Some guy in Texas had the foresight to scarf up mass quantities of cast iron radiators, which he had in a warehouse. So I had to purchase some of the radiators from him at about $700 a pop, due to special height or width requirements. The alternative was baseboards, and the owner wasn't having anything to do with that.

Fortunately, the home was in the middle of renovation so there weren't a lot of finishes. Still the damage topped out at about $47,000.00 One of the more difficult tasks was getting all of the underlayment up. It was 3/4" particle board, and had swelled up into huge mounds within each nailing pattern. It had to be pry-ed up in chunks...

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And as of tomorrow, perhaps even late this evening, it's just gonna get even worse. The temperature is already above freezing and tomorrow and Saturday we're supposed to have a heat wave of over 50 degrees. All that ice is gonna melt and start soaking into stuff.

For the owner's sake, I sure hope they have good homeowner's insurance. They're really gonna need it.

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Something tells me that the relationship between parents and daughter is going to take a very serious hit.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

Yes, and no.

Initially, you're on target, but I always told my disaster restoration clients to look at the bright side - for a mere deductible, they're about to get a complete home renovation, with every finish being of equal quality to what they had. And, they can always kick in and get an upgrade, while they're at it.

The downside (especially with fires) - for years to come they'll keep remembering one more personal belonging that wasn't on their initial list of damaged belongings. Fortunately, for just that reason, most home owners claims departments keep large loss claims "open" for a while - sometimes up to two years.

Unlike auto insurance, home owners insurance is pretty fair and decently regulated. Claims departments DO pinch pennies, and will try to convince one or shame one into accepting less than they had, but in the end, they know what their obligation is. And, won't go to court over things they clearly owe.

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