Snow Insurance? Be Sure to Manage Weather Risks

This winter, many areas of the U.S. were hit hard with brutal winter weather. Locally, we were hit by the worst snowstorm in over a decade, with 20+ inches of snow, high winds, and temperatures that plummeted below zero. It was a true blizzard, which left all kinds of hassles and damage in its wake.

The storm left many people dealing with all kinds of snow-related problems. It closed offices, shut down schools, and left roads impassable for several days. In short, it really crippled the area for the short-term.

In addition to stopping the flow of daily activities, storms such as this can pose many risks for homeowners. The problems might be immediate, in the case of damage during the storm itself. Or, the problems might emerge later, such as in the case of water damage from rapidly melting snow. In situations like this, it’s important to consider what may or may not be covered by insurance. What may seem obvious might not actually be the case.

I’ve done some research on this, and have come up with the following general findings on coverage for these winter weather-related risks:

1.      Frozen Pipes:  Most insurance policies should cover pipe replacement, as well as related water damage from burst pipes

2.      Wind Damage: If a severe storm rips shingles off the roof, most policies should cover this

3.      Power Outages: If a storm causes loss of power for an extended period of time, the cost of shelter is covered by many polices

4.      Fallen Trees: When trees fall into a house due to a storm, this should be covered by most policies

5.      Ice Dams: If an ice dam in your gutters causes water damage, many policies will cover it

6.      Snow Removal: If there is damage caused by snow removal, this is probably not covered by a basic homeowners policy

7.      Snow Melt Flooding: If you’re counting on your homeowners’ policy to cover this, you might not be in luck.

The 7th issue listed above, Snow Melt Flooding, seems to be a tricky one. If water comes into your home due to the melting of heavy snow, you might have to enlist the aid of flood insurance. The thing is, these policies generally have a 30-day waiting period before they become active. So, if you think the risk of flooding is present within the next week, but you don’t have flood insurance – you’ll have an issue.

With warmer temperatures coming as we move closer to spring, this becomes more of a concern for people. Even when traveling, one might consider travel insurance. Maybe some lessons can be learned here, and applied for next year. In any event, I’m not an insurance professional, so please contact your insurer for actual, specific details.

My Questions for You:

Have you (or anyone you know) ever encountered any weather-related issues that required the help of insurance? These could be during winter or any other season.

Do you have any tips for dealing with such situations?

Comments

  1. says

    Squirrelers, this is an excellent topic to be proactive on. Most people, myself included, don’t think about re-visiting their insurance policies until it’s time. As for advice, I’d say that beware of contractors recommended by the insurance company. Compare bids, check references and background, and get more than 2 or 3 estimates. We had our roof replaced a couple years due to hail damage, and got about halfway lucky on the contractor. Their crew did what appears to be a decent job, but the company underperformed on customer service.

    • Squirrelers says

      @101centavos – I’m all about the idea of getting multiple bids. 3 competitive bids is a good practice in many area, in my view. As for the policies, it’s good to be prepared and know what’s covered and what isn’t.

      @moneycone – Yes, it’s good to prepared. Put in the work up front, and it will help you later.

  2. Holly says

    We have homeowner’s insurance w/USAA and they require the policyholder to pay a deductible for wind damage (in our area at least). The percentage is based on the value of the home. Ours amounts to $7000 if damage is attributed to wind. OUCH!

    I also believe that damage from ice dams is not covered since the company assumes it’s the homeowner’s responsibility to mitigate preventable losses, i.e. with proper insulation and keeping gutters cleared of debris, etc.

  3. says

    Even in the warmer areas of the country, there are hazards you should insure against. This winter because of fires, there was a flood risk in the hillside communities of Los Angeles. Right after the fires, they should applied for flood insurance.

    • Squirrelers says

      @krantcents – always interesting how there are regional differences in such natural disasters. Here in the midwest, at least in the Chicago area, there are no hills and little history of wildfires. You’re right – insure against the hazards specific to your area.

    • Squirrelers says

      @everydaytips – now that’s a good story, and the type that we don’t hear often – being shocked at how generous the insurer was with the claim. Great you were satisfied with their response in that way.

  4. says

    Great tips.

    Last year we lost about 40 roof shingles. The policy did cover it, but the deductible made the issue moot. We ended up just replacing them ourselves.

    I had never considered the snow melt flooding issue before reading this.

    Thanks!

    • Squirrelers says

      Alan – thanks. Good example from you, about getting work done yourself instead of filing a claim when the cost isn’t super high. Also, glad you got some new information here, with respect to considering snow melt.

  5. says

    Nice post and listing :)
    Of course since I work in the insurance industry I deal with these situations every day, not just once in a while :)

    #1 Freezing pipes or any pipe/plumbing related claims. If your policy has the coverage attached, the insurance company is only responsible for the damage caused by the incident – never the pipe, water heater, sink or ‘plumbing unit’. If coverage was extended then the policy does cover to access the area to complete the repairs if necessary but not the pipe itself.

    #3 is a tricky one depending on how this situation comes about and is usually handled on a storm by storm basis depending on the type of policy in force. Its not automatic and would have alot of variables.

    #7 Flooding is never covered by the Homeowner policy and is, in fact, excluded.

    #6 Snow removal damage….like as in … the snow removal guys damaging your property, driveway, car or other item? This is an interesting situation and I am sure it happens and the snow removal people are probably city workers. Another multi-variable situation that would need more information to fully answer it. If its your car that is damaged then of course, your auto policy carrier would be the one to call and inquire about. It would be the same as if a random person drove into your car while parked on the street. Again, it would be interesting to see the statistics on that type of claim.

    #5 Ice Dam claims are common in the North and NE regions. Chicago has a ton of them currently.

    In the event of coverage being extended the deductible is always applied to the loss before payment is issued.
    In many states – especially the South and South East – there is a different deductible for Wind/Hurricane losses. The deductible can be quite high like in Holly’s situation. Usually 2%, 5% or 10% of the policy limit. The standard 1% deductible is for all other types of losses. Why would anyone choose a higher deductible? The higher the deductible the lower your annual premium.
    Some policies still have lump sum deductibles which are very nice indeed!

    I always tell people when I go to their house for an inspection … when in doubt call the carrier and ask!

  6. says

    Forgot to mention….101 is correct, always do your due dilligence on contractors, get 3-5 bids and always check for references no matter who recommends the contractor. Many insurance carriers have ‘approved lists’ but still, its best to do your own due dilligence when dealing with contractors – after all, it is your home. All the carriers I have worked for do NOT recommend any contractors for this very reason.

  7. says

    I work for a general contractor and frozen fire sprinkler pipes have been the bane of our existence this winter.

    We’re finding that the insurance companies are less likely to cover a burst pipe if they can prove that the homeowner did not have the house climatized at the time (ie: turning the heater on).

    • Squirrelers says

      @mintingnickels – interesting, frozen fire sprinker pipes. Wouldn’t have thought of that. As for the climatized comment, that makes total sense. If a homeowner doesn’t heat a house in winter, and pipes subsequently freeze, it’s seems clear that there’s some negligence there.

  8. says

    @ Squirrelers Tried not to hijack the thread but provide enough additional information to assist :) Hope it wasn’t TMI !

    @ Lindy, yes most water endorsements have specific guidelines relating to having the dwelling heated and occupied at the time of the event.

    • Squirrelers says

      Deidre – your comments were excellent. You didn’t take over the thread, but added a lot of value! Really good stuff, thanks.

  9. George says

    A strong Wind and Rain storm passed through the Tampa Bay area on March 31st. Blowing so much debry onto the roof and into the gutters rendering them useless. The rain water made its way into the house through 3 sets of doors. Does Homeowners cover the damage.

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