Several years ago the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut dismissed a case by an Oakdale homeowner against her insurance carrier. The homeowner claimed that that the company did not adequately pay her claim for roof and interior damages caused by a February 10, 2015 winter storm. Following the storm, a bathroom skylight developed a leak that resulted in interior damages. One of her friends tried to repair the roof by applying sealant around the skylight and the homeowner herself performed interior repairs (putty and spackle), but to no avail. In the summer of 2015, she called a contractor; and the contractor went to her home to inspect the job in April of 2016 – some ten months after her call.
After the contractor’s visit the homeowner submitted the claim to her insurance company. A few weeks after notifying her insurance company, a company adjuster inspected the house. And after factoring in depreciation and deductible, the adjuster reduced the amount of the homeowner’s claim, and issued a check for a little more than half the estimated cost to repair.
In January of 2017, almost two years after the storm, the homeowner sued her insurance carrier. Her insurance policy stated that suit must be begun within eighteen months after the loss; and it required her to notify the company “promptly” in the event of a loss.
The insured explained the delay by saying she had been saving up to pay the deductible on her policy.
The judge concluded that the homeowner did not have a valid excuse for the delay; that the suit was barred by the terms of the policy (having been begun well beyond the 18-month contractual limitations period). And although the policy did not define “prompt” or “promptly,” the terms were not ambiguous. The judge noted that fourteen months between the loss and the report to the company was not prompt notice.
• Even when motivated by the best of intentions, delay can be costly.
• Unless your friends hold the appropriate licenses, do not rely on them to perform home repairs.
• If a contractor takes ten months just to look at a job, consider a different contractor.
• And most important, when you are working with legal documents, it is always prudent to obtain competent legal advice.
Over the years we have found that it is invariably easier … and less expensive … to avoid a mistake from the outset rather than to try to correct it later. Our Real Estate Practice Group: John A. Parese, Michael Dean Amato, Carl M, Porto II, and Michael Carbone welcome your questions.