Is Ice Damage Covered by My Homeowners Policy?

01 Feb

It has been quite a winter so far. Bitterly cold temperatures and record snowfalls have left much of the country in a deep freeze and buried in snow. Winter weather can take its toll on your house and can often lead to expensive claims on your homeowners policy. According to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) winter storms rack up roughly $1 billion in claims every year which makes it the third largest cause of property, right behind hurricanes and tornados.

There are many types of damage that winter weather, especially ice, can do to your home, everything from burst pipes to ice dams and fallen trees. Winter weather can also cause injuries if a person slips and falls on your icy or snow covered sidewalk. The majority of damage caused by ice will be covered by your homeowners insurance, but lets take a look at the various situations that your policy will cover:

Ice Dams – An ice dam can cause extensive damage to your home, including the walls and electrical systems. Ice dams are caused by ice accumulating on the edge of your sloped roof. When the ice builds up it prevents water from draining and the water is forced under the shingles and into the attic or walls of your home.

Luckily, your homeowners insurance will cover the damage to the structure of your home. This means that the walls and electrical systems will be repaired. If furniture or personal belongings are damaged there is a good chance you are not covered. The majority of homeowner polices only protect personal belongings against specified perils in the policy and ice dams are not typically on that list.

Power Outage – Ice storms will often knock down power lines and in extreme cases you may be without power for days forcing you to move out of your house. Whether or not your expenses will be reimbursed depends on what caused the outage. If it is due to a downed line on your property such as incoming power lines, your reasonable food and lodging expenses will be covered. Be sure to keep your receipts.

However, if your lights are out due to a widespread outage, your expenses will not be reimbursed. Your food spoilage is covered by your policy up to limits outlined in the policy, usually around $500. This is covered regardless of the outage cause.

Frozen Pipes – Frozen and burst pipes can do a tremendous amount of damage to your walls, electrical, flooring and personal property. If a pipe bursts and the water is not turned off immediately, the damage can easily run into the thousands of dollars.

Your homeowners insurance will pay for the damage but this could result in a higher premium when it comes time to renew your policy. Any large claim will often lead to a premium increase.

Your insurance should cover replacing carpet, repairing walls, electrical and personal belongings. If the damage is so extensive that you cannot live in your home, you policy should cover reasonable living expenses.

Downed Branches – Ice storms can coat trees with a heavy layer of ice which can knock down branches or even the entire tree. If your house happens to be in the way of a falling tree or branch the damage can be extensive.

Standard homeowners policies will pay for the damage caused by the falling tree. Most policies will also pay to remove the tree, as long as it doesn’t cost more than $500. As with all claims your deductible will be subtracted from your payment. Your insurer will expect you to make efforts to contain the damage such as putting a tarp over the roof for example and moving your personal belongings into another room to prevent further damage.

Liability Claims – Icy sidewalks can lead to falls and serious injuries. In most cities the property owner is responsible for clearing the sidewalk after a snow or ice storm. The requirements vary but in many jurisdictions it must be cleared within 24 hours of the snow stopping.

If someone does fall on your property your homeowners insurance will pay for your defense in court as well as any settlement, up to your policy limits. If the damages go over the limits of your policy you will be on the hook for the remainder.

Ice and snow can be particularly damaging to your house during the winter months. Fortunately, your homeowners insurance will help cover the majority of costs associated with ice damage.

For additional help and answers to questions that you may have, please visit our Home Insurance FAQs page.

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