Will Insurance Cover Damages From Winter
Winter weather can be rough on homes and their inhabitants. From sub-zero temperatures to wet ice sheets, winter is known for its hazards. But if you are a homeowner, you have even more to worry about. Winter can cause serious damage to your home, leading to expensive repairs.
The question is, will your homeowner’s insurance cover the cost of damages? This is on the minds of many right now as we have been through one of the most brutal winters in most parts of the country. Making sure you do not let too much time pass between when the damage occurred and filing a claim is important!
If you are walking around your home and have just discovered winter damage you were not aware of getting on the phone right now and contact your insurance carrier.
The Enemy: Snow And Ice
In general, the two things you have to watch out for in winter are snow and ice. Snow can pile up on roofs and trees, leading to collapsing roofs and broken limbs. Once the snow melts, it can seep and even pour water into unprotected areas, like leaky roofs and septic systems.
Ice is another hazard, breaking tree limbs off (possibly on top of homes) and ripping gutters off of eaves. It can also freeze pipes, causing them to burst, and can even create walking hazards for you and your neighbors. One of the more common things that can occur in the winter is ice dams. These little buggers can create quite a hassle for homeowners.
Most of the time ice dams will be covered under your insurance policy, but it is certainly worth checking. I recently put together an excellent guide on how to remove ice dams along with how to prevent them. Take a look and bookmark this one – it will be well worth it! This will be one of the most comprehensive articles you will see from start to finish on preventing, removing and then dealing with insurance claims on ice dams.
Fortunately, homeowners insurance covers a lot of these things. But it may not cover all of them, depending on your policy. You should also be aware; many insurers will be looking for negligence on your part. If they can find that you failed to take preventative measures, they may not cover your claim.
What Homeowners Insurance Covers
Your homeowner’s insurance policy will probably cover all direct damage from winter weather. This direct damage includes things like a roof collapse from snow accumulation, tree limbs falling on your home, shingles being ripped off by winter storms and burst pipes (in particular circumstances). As discussed above, one of the most common insurance items covered by winter weather damage is ice dams.
Negligence – What Homeowners Insurance Does Not Cover
If winter weather, like a blizzard, comes roaring in and does direct damage to your house, you can probably expect the policy to cover it. But insurers rarely just cut you a check. They will do their research to determine if the damage was in fact caused directly by the weather. What they are searching for is negligence on your part – a situation where they can prove that you did not take care of standard care that the home and the grounds needed. If it can show that the damage was avoidable through standard care, it may deny all or part of your claim.
They will look for negligence in some areas, including:
- Trees – Trees need trimming from time to time, as old limbs die and new limbs grow. Taking care of this trimming is part of the process of owning a home. If a limb falls on your house, or on your neighbors, the insurer will look for signs that you failed to keep the tree trimmed. If you didn’t take care of the dead limbs, you could be liable for the damage.
- Storms – The insurer will look to see that you did everything reasonable to protect your home from an incoming storm. If you left the garage door open for the snow to come pouring in, the insurer is unlikely to pay for the property that the snow damaged.
- Pipes – Pipes that are susceptible to freezing need to be protected by the homeowner. Either the heat needs to be left on, the pipes need to be insulated, or the pipes need to be drained. If they can prove that you failed to do any of these things when the risks of freezing were apparent, they can deny the claim. Using garage door left open as an example – if this caused your pipes to freeze and burst the insurance company could deny your claim.
- Ice – Your local government may have rules in place for ice and snow removal. In many places, you are required to take care of the ice and snow on your property to protect those passing by, like on the sidewalks. If you never shovel the snow and your neighbor falls, the insurer may not be willing to pay. Some states including Massachusetts have enacted laws that say you must keep your property and sidewalks safe. This means if someone slips and falls on your property or on the sidewalk they can sue you and win. This law was changed a few years back by the Supreme Court. For many years homeowners were not held liable.
- Snow – Although the insurer may replace a roof that has caved in from excessive snowfall, this is only true if you took the necessary precautions to protect the roof. Did you remove as much snow as you could when you had the opportunity to? Was the roof in good repair, or was it old and decaying? This is also true when the snow melts and seeps in. If the roof was in disrepair, the insurer might not pay for the damage.
- Miscellaneous – do you know some of the other things that many homeowners insurance policies do not cover? Here some of the most common issues a homeowners insurance policy may not cover. Always have an understanding of what your insurance policy covers and doesn’t cover!
Flood Insurance Is Separate
Keep in mind that homeowner’s insurance does not protect you in the event of a flood. When the weather warms up, and the snow melts, it can lead to overflowing drains and septic systems. If you do not have flood insurance for your home, do not expect to be covered for the damage. This is why insurers recommend a separate flood insurance policy for homeowners that live in areas where flooding – even from melting snow – is possible. Flood insurance can be very costly. If you are in a flood plain and have a mortgage, your lender will probably require it.
What Should I Expect to Pay From The Damages
When making an insurance claim for damages that have occurred at your home and are covered by your insurance policy, the deductible is the only thing you should expect to pay. Major claim payments could also require that your mortgage company is placed on the check as well. This is something you should be prepared for and ask your insurance provider beforehand. It is also possible that if both spouses own the home, both names will be placed on the check. Speaking to your insurance company on how they release funds would also be prudent so you can be prepared for paying the contractors doing the work.
Making sure that your insurance adjuster and contractor are on the same page as far as the cost to remedy damages is important. The last thing you want to do is be short the necessary funds to pay for having all the work required be completed.
Do Your Best And Make A Claim When Necessary
In the end, you can only do your best to keep your property in good condition. Most regular maintenance is not terribly difficult, and you can always pay for someone else to do it for you. This is something worth budgeting for.
If you do wind up with winter damage, it is best to file a claim as soon as possible. The adjuster will come to your home and examine the situation, and make a judgment on your claim. Even if you have not kept your house up to snuff, you still may be able to get some money towards repairs. Most of the time it is worth trying to get your damages covered, as long as the cost of repairs is more than your deductible.
Keep in mind however that if you have had multiple claims filed for damages at your home, it is possible the insurance company could raise your rates. If you have minor damage to your home, it might make more sense to fix it yourself than to involve your insurance carrier.
Additional Helpful Home Insurance Articles
- Here are some ways on how to save money on your home insurance policy via Maximum Real Estate Exposure.
- Homeowners insurance frequently asked questions via Progressive Insurance.
- A complete understanding of homeowners insurance via Wikipedia
Use these additional articles to not only understand how most insurance policies work but to potentially save yourself some money insuring your property.
About the Author: The above Real Estate information on does insurance cover winter weather damages was provided by Bill Gassett, a Nationally recognized leader in his field. Bill can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 508-625-0191. Bill has helped people move in and out of many Metrowest towns for the last 29+ Years.
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