Scoop on scams
Keep your place safe, avoid insurance hassles
Diane Pisani can share countless stories about seasonal residents leaving their Southwest Florida homes in the hands of untrustworthy people.
For example, one home watcher took advantage of his clients by renting out the condo without their knowledge. Another home watch amateur failed to spot a leak in the garage until the ceiling caved in on the owner’s BMW sedan.
This is no laughing matter, says Pisani, author of The Ultimate Home Watch Interview Guide. One insurance company denied a $30,000 claim for mold damage because there was no proof anyone was watching the home, she says.
Pisani is the founder of Your Home Watch Professionals, a Naples-based company that provides comprehensive training to entrepreneurs seeking to launch and operate a home watch business. She recently shared some tips for seasonal homeowners.
TOTI Media: What’s the biggest threat to my home while I’m away from Southwest Florida for the summer?
Diane Pisani: High humidity can be the beginning of the end. It can destroy your home. Mold can start to grow within a few days if the humidity is elevated and other favorable conditions exist. Imagine if you leave in May, your air-conditioning unit breaks in June and you do not return until October! Even a small mold cleanup can cost thousands of dollars and tens of thousands after several weeks or months of neglect.
TM Won’t insurance cover any damage to my home while I’m away?
DP Not necessarily. Insurance companies often deny a claim, especially if you can’t prove someone was watching your home on a regular basis. Check your insurance company’s policy carefully to determine how frequently your home watch company needs to visit.
TM What services should I expect from a professional home watch company?
DP Your home watch professional knows that your water should be turned off when your home is vacant and vulnerable. When they visit, they will turn it on and they will cycle the water by running it in sinks, tubs and showers, operate appliances and use their flashlight to conduct a comprehensive check looking for irregularities and early signs of water damage. A home watch professional has resources as well as a back-up plan if he or she can’t visit your home at the appointed time. Business partners or trusted and trained team members should be able to provide the service in case the home watch business owner is unable to make the visit. TM What regulations govern the home watch industry? DP You may be surprised to discover that there are no regulations or licensing requirements for home watch companies. That means you want to thoroughly investigate a home watch company before handing over your keys. Ask for a certificate of insurance with coverage of at least $1 million and check for yearly renewals. You can search for an affiliate of Your Home Watch Professionals by zip code at yourhwp.com. Each affiliate has passed a background check and meets rigorous training and education requirements. Jean Gruss is a former business journalist and owner of Gruss Communications on Sanibel.