In home insurance, negligence is defined as being when a homeowner fails to take the steps that you could reasonably expect most people to take. This is always handled on a case-by-case basis. So, something that was seen as negligence in one case might not be seen as negligence in another. This makes it difficult to ascertain precisely what your responsibilities are as a homeowner. If you’re looking for an itemized list of what will or will not invalidate your insurance claim, you’re unlikely to find one.
So, there’s no precise point at which a neglected repair becomes a liability to your claim. Insurers don’t time you on getting your pipes fixed, calling it negligence after a week has gone by. They also don’t expect you to be able to fix everything the very minute something goes wrong.
Reasonable is the keyword in the definition of negligence.
In an emergency, you can be reasonably expected to take immediate action. If a pipe bursts and leaks water into your home, for instance, you can be reasonably expected to shut the main valve off until you’re able to make the repair. If a storm breaks a window, you cannot reasonably be expected to fix the window before the storm has even passed. But almost anyone would expect you to move valuables away from the window. And once the storm has passed, almost anyone would expect you to cover the window and sweep the glass away.
When it comes to the ordinary repairs that every home needs sooner or later, you are expected to take care of your home as well as you can — assuming you’re aware of their necessity. If an inspection tells you that your wires need to be replaced, and they start a fire a month later, your insurer is likely to regard that as negligence on your part.
Although many insurers may have their own internal guidelines, there is no set-in-stone list of rules for what does and does not constitute negligence when it comes to home repairs. The best course of action is to simply take care of your home as best you can. Most insurers know full well that life can get in the way. They understand that you’re not always able to replace that cracked sink the very day it breaks. But they do expect you to take action soon enough.