Published: October 2015
In many parts of the country, winter is accompanied by snow and ice. And ice can cause a lot of headaches for homeowners. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), one in every 55 insured homes has a claim related to water damage or freezing every year.
Typical homeowners insurance policies include protection against ice-related damage, but there are some important things to keep in mind.
Hail can do serious damage to roofs and windows. Most homeowners insurance policies include dwelling coverage, which may help protect your home against specific perils, including hail and other ice-related losses.
If hail damages a building on your property that's not your home, such as a shed or unattached garage, it may be covered by other structures coverage, which is a component of some homeowners insurance policies.
It's important to keep in mind that insurance provides protection up to the limits indicated in a policy and that other policy restrictions or limitations may apply. Your insurance agent can provide you with information to help you choose levels of protection to fit your needs.
During the coldest months of the year, ice forming on your roof can cause serious problems. Roof collapse can happen when a roof can't bear the weight of ice and snow.
You may find that insurance may help cover the cost of replacing or repairing a damaged roof that is damaged by a collapse. If your house is uninhabitable after a roof collapse, homeowners insurance may also help cover living expenses, such as hotel bills, while your home is being repaired. Coverage limits and terms will apply, so be sure to check your policy to learn what it covers.
Of course, no one wants to deal with a roof collapse. You may be able to prevent a situation like this by taking some preventative measures, such as cleaning gutters or clearing the roof of ice and snow as necessary. Consider hiring a professional if you're concerned about safety or causing damage to the roof.
Ice dams may result when ice forms on the edge of a roof and stops melting water from running off. When water gets backed up against the ice dam, it may leak through the roof and cause water damage.
Dwelling coverage may help protect your home if an ice dam causes a loss. Personal property coverage provides coverage for named perils only and does not generally provide protection for ice dam situations.
You may find that homeowners insurance doesn't cover ice dam removal, but resulting water damage to the dwelling is typically covered. And again, even if a loss is covered, policy terms and limits will apply. Check your policy to learn about what protections you have in place and talk with your agent to help determine whether you may benefit from additional coverage.
Keep in mind that some routine maintenance may help you avoid this kind of damage. The III advises watching gutters for ice dams and keeping gutters clean so water can flow freely.
Frozen and Burst Pipes
Homeowners insurance may help cover damage to homes from burst, leaking or frozen pipes. However, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners warns that frozen pipes may not be covered if a proper temperature wasn't maintained inside the house. Check your policy limits and terms to see how much coverage you have for burst pipes.
Injuries on Ice
Ice on the ground can be dangerous and sometimes hard to see. What happens if a visitor falls on ice on your property, suffers an injury and sues you?
Liability coverage typically comes with homeowners insurance. This type of coverage may help protect you if you're found legally responsible after a visitor is injured on your property. For example, liability coverage may help cover a person's medical bills or lost wages if they're injured. It may also help cover your legal costs.
Like other types of coverage, liability coverage has limits and conditions, and legal claims can be very expensive. If you're concerned you may not have enough liability coverage, talk to your insurance agent about a personal umbrella policy, which can offer additional protection.
As you prepare for another chilly winter, your local insurance agent can help you understand the specifics of your policy and provide you with information to help you make any necessary changes. You may not be able to escape the cold, but you can pass the months with the peace of mind that comes with knowing you have protections in place, just in case.