Ice and Snow Can Damage Your Home. Do You Have the Right Coverage?

Category: Homeowners and Renters Insurance

This nasty winter has left a slew of damage in its wake, and it seems like it may never end. You may be wondering if you have appropriate insurance coverage if winter snow and ice damage your home.

Coverage for winter storm damage depends on the type of homeowners insurance policy you have and the type of damage you experience. Most insurance companies offer both “standard” or “fire-only” policies that offer coverage for a limited number of perils, as well as “all-risk” policies that provide more extensive coverage. Most standard homeowners policies provide coverage for winter-related storm damage that occurs as a result of wind, snow, ice, freezing rain and severe temperatures. Your policy will list exactly which perils are covered.

In addition, most all-risk policies provide the following types of inclusions and exclusions from coverage:

  • Ice dams: Most insurance companies will not pay for ice dam removal. They will, however, typically cover interior or exterior damage caused by an ice dam.
  • Snow removal: Your homeowners insurance will not cover injuries that you sustain during snow removal. In addition, you will not have coverage for the cost of snow and ice removal, but you will have coverage for damage caused by snow and cold. Ice and snow damage to your yard and driveway typically will not be covered.
  • Frozen pipes: Some insurance companies will pay to have frozen pipes thawed by professionals, but many will not. Most homeowners insurance policies will cover pipe replacement and water damage due to frozen pipes.
  • Power outage: A typical homeowners policy will exclude coverage for damage resulting from power outages, unless the power outage is a result of a covered peril (wind, hail, lightning, etc.). Damage caused by a power outage that results from winter weather will likely be covered.
  • Weight of snow: If the weight of ice and snow cause your roof, porch or deck to collapse, your homeowners policy will probably cover damage caused by such a collapse. Structures that are not buildings, such as fences, swimming pools, or septic tanks are not covered if winter weather causes them to collapse
  • Fallen trees or tree limbs: A typical homeowners insurance policy will cover structures that are damaged due to a fallen tree or tree limb. If a tree or limb falls and does not cause damage to an insured structure, there will be no coverage for replacing the tree itself. You may have limited coverage for tree removal.

Your homeowners insurance likely excludes coverage for damage that results from your home not being properly winterized and/or left unoccupied for long periods of time. So if you are going to leave your home unattended in winter, be sure to shut off the water, drain the pipes and take other precautions before you go to prevent damage.

Remember to take some time in the fall to prepare your home for winter so you can avoid winter weather damage:

  • Clean gutters and downspouts.
  • Inspect and repair roof shingles and flashing to prevent water damage.
  • Trim tree branches that could fall or otherwise damage the home after a heavy snow.
  • Apply weather stripping and caulking around doors and windows and inspect storm doors and windows for broken glass.
  • Drain water from pipes leading to exterior faucets and remove garden hoses.
  • Insulate pipes that are susceptible to freezing.
  • Have your heating system cleaned and inspected.

And remember to fully prepare your home before you leave for any extended period of time. If you fail to take steps to prevent pipe freezing and other potential winter hazards, you will likely not have coverage for any related damage to your home.


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