Winter weather can be unpredictable and unpleasant, but it can also wreak havoc on your home and property. If the winter weather where you live turns "wicked," you need to know what your homeowners insurance will cover, and what it won't. While every policy is different, here are some general winter weather-related things that are covered by homeowners insurance, and some that aren't.
Damage from ice dams
Ice dams occur when ice fills the gutters along your roof, blocking the runoff of water from melting snow. As the snow melts, it runs down and pools on the ice, re-freezing and growing the ice dam. Some water can be forced under the shingles of your roof, and down into the structure of the home, causing damage to your house and property. Although ice dams can be prevented, it's not always easy, especially when the temperatures remain below freezing for weeks at a time.
Most homeowners policies provide some level of coverage for damage caused by ice dams, and some may even pay for ice dam removal. Contact your insurance company to see what coverage is provided for ice dams, and try to prevent them from developing at all, if possible.
Frozen and burst pipes
A burst pipe is a homeowner's nightmare. It can cause a huge mess, lots of inconvenience, and substantial damage to your home and personal items. When the temperature drops, water in your pipes can freeze, causing them to burst. Fortunately, your home insurance is likely to cover damage caused by a burst pipe, but they may not cover the cost of the repairs to the plumbing if it was caused by normal wear and tear.
Snow and ice collapsing your roof
Many homeowners worry about whether or not roof damage from an accumulation of snow and ice will be covered on their homeowners policy. While every policy is different, this is generally a covered situation. If snow and ice collapse a separate structure on your property, for example a shed or barn, it may also be covered. To be sure, contact your insurer and ask about coverage for "other structures" on your policy.
Loss of electricity and hotel costs
If a winter storm knocks out your power, and you find yourself without heat, don't assume that your insurance company will foot the bill for a few nights in a hotel. Unless there is damage to your home that makes it uninhabitable, your hotel stay probably isn't covered. If your roof collapses and you can't stay at home, your insurance policy may pay for reasonable accommodations for you and your family.
Fire in the home from backup heating source
If you lose power and heat during a winter storm, you need to consider your backup heat source carefully. If you build a fire in your home, and the fire causes damage to the house, you may not be covered for your losses if the heating source is not approved by your insurance company. Check with your insurer before using a kerosene heater in your home, and only used heaters that are designed for use indoors.
Although it may be freezing outside, and the last thing on your mind is putting on a swimsuit and hitting the pool, you may be worried about whether damage from snow and ice will affect your swimming pool, and whether or not your insurance company will cover it. Generally, swimming pool damage caused by winter weather is not covered in a homeowners policy, but your insurance company may offer some coverage, depending on the type of pool and precautions you take to protect it.
Before the weather gets wicked, check with your insurance company to make sure you have the best coverage for your needs, and you could save yourself a lot of trouble when things begin to thaw out.