Winter Weather and Homeowner’s Insurance

By Hanson & Ryan, Inc.

Snow and ice damaging the roof of a home

It’s hard to believe, but winter is right around the corner. If you aren’t already, you should be starting to think about what that means for protecting your home from the new season. Snow, sleet, ice, falling debris, and winter storms can cause significant damage to your home and property, and insurance coverage is essential to help provide you with security. Does your homeowner’s insurance cover ice damage?  How about roof damage from snow? The good news is that most homeowner’s insurance policies provide protection if snow, hail, or ice damages your home. However, old Jack Frost usually has a lot of tricks up his sleeve during winter months, and it’s a good idea to make sure you understand if your policy is comprehensive enough to combat all of them.

Types of Homeowner’s Insurance Coverage

A standard homeowner’s insurance policy includes many layers of coverage to help protect you from snow and ice damage, including:

  • Dwelling coverage which typically covers your physical dwelling, including all elements of your home, like your ceilings, walls, and flooring. The standard dwelling insurance offers coverage for fire, extreme weather, vandalism, theft, and damage from a motor vehicle.
  • Other structures coverage includes structures not attached to your house, such as detached garages, storage sheds, and fences. If you’re able to secure coverage for these structures, you’ll be able to rebuild or repair them.
  • Loss of use provides additional living expenses (costs over the normal amount for house, food, and other essential expenses) if you must temporarily move because damage to your house from a covered loss renders it uninhabitable. If you cannot safely stay within your house, loss of use coverage will handle your relocation.
  • Personal property protects the items inside your home, such as furniture, clothing, and personal items, so that if a covered loss were to occur, you would receive funds for the value of these items, as defined by your policy.

Does Home Insurance Cover Roof Damage from Snow?

Homeowner’s insurance does cover roof damage from snow. It is usually included in the “weight of ice and snow” portion of homeowner’s insurance. Under most plans, you are entitled to reimbursement for damages to your roof and dwelling, whether it be from cracks or caving in. Homeowner’s insurance also covers roof collapse from snow, including “falling objects” coverage to cover the inside of your home as well as your personal belongings. Depending on the policy, you could be eligible for coverage for frozen or burst pipes.

Does Homeowner’s Insurance Cover Ice Dam Damage?

An ice dam is a collection or buildup of water on your roof that freezes, creating a large ridge, or dam, of ice. The dams can be heavy and damage your roof. They can also prevent water from running off your roof, contributing to even more complications. Your homeowner’s insurance likely covers ice dams. Along the same lines, homeowner’s insurance often covers roof leaks from ice dams. Again, “weight of ice and snow” peril coverage under your homeowner’s insurance usually covers ice dam damage.

Does homeowner’s insurance cover ice dam removal? Probably, if it damages your home. However, policies usually don’t cover “preventative” measures, so if the dam hasn’t yet caused ice damage, you would likely be responsible to cover the costs for removal.

Does Homeowner’s Insurance Cover Frost Heave?

Frost heave is when wet soil freezes, expands, then upthrusts the ground. If there is a hard material or structure above the soil when the heave occurs, it causes uneven sideways, lifted or cracked pavement, and damaged building foundations. It can also cause or exasperate water related damage to your home and property. Frost heave, and associated water damage, are often listed as exempted events on insurance policies.

What Types of Snow and Ice Damage are Not Covered?

There are some other challenges related to snow and ice damage that are usually not covered by homeowner’s insurance, like:

  • Flooding caused by melting snow is probably not covered, and you may need to seek additional flood insurance if that is a concern where you live.
  • Personal negligence is also not often covered in your homeowner’s policy. For example, if you leave your window open during an ice storm and parts of your home or some of your belongings are damaged, you are probably not eligible for reimbursement.
  • Structures coverage is tricky when it comes to snow and ice damage. It’s not as straightforward as roof damage from snow. For example, does homeowner’s insurance cover pool damage from ice? Maybe not. It’s very important to examine the section of your policy that names covered structures and what happens if they are damaged from freezing, weight of water or ice, and/or thaw. Make sure you understand your coverage for things like:
    • Fences, pavement, patios, and swimming pools
    • Foundations, bulkheads, walls, and any other structure that supports the overall integrity of the building
    • Retaining walls
    • Piers, wharves, and docks

Filing a Claim

Like with most forms of insurance, choosing whether to file a claim is often a numbers game. Many property owners compare their policy deductible with the repair cost before deciding. For example, does homeowner’s insurance cover ice damage to gutters? Yes, but does it make sense to file a claim? If the ice damage cost is not much more than meeting your deductible, you may want to forgo filing.

Hanson & Ryan Can Help Protect You from Snow and Ice Damage

No matter if you are faced with needing protection from snow and ice damage, or another peril, the insurance experts and Hanson & Ryan can help you choose the homeowner’s insurance that is right for you. The mistake people make most often when shopping for home insurance is that they shop for it based on price alone. But that often does not equate to the best coverage. We would be delighted to discuss your different insurance options. Don’t leave your home and property vulnerable to Jack Frost’s antics! Call Hanson & Ryan today!

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