Winter weather brings many perils to property owners – cold weather, feet of snow, blizzards, icy roads, frozen pipes, power outages and landscaping damage. Unfortunately, a ”one-size-fits-all” property policy that will provide 100% coverage under any and all circumstances does not exist. It is up to the insured to take their particular risks into consideration and evaluate their policy accordingly, which may mean adding extra coverages.
Every policy is different — leaving it to the insured to understand what disasters or events are covered and what ones are excluded from their insurance policy.
What your insurance policy will not cover:
Standard property insurance policies typically do not cover flood damage. Therefore, unless you have a separate policy such as one through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), you would not be covered if your property suffered from flooding. One would think that flooding is uncommon in the winter months. However, flooding can result from a quick fluctuation in temperature, causing large amounts of snow to melt in a short period of time. This can often be unexpected and lead to potential damages to the home or business property.
A standard property insurance policy will not cover any damages that were due in part to the insured’s negligence. For instance, many people in the North travel down South to enjoy the warmer weather for the winter months and leave their properties unattended. If you are leaving your home during the winter months for an extended period of time, there are steps you must take to prevent damages that may occur such as frozen and bursting pipes.
For example, insurance policies have requirements for preventing losses so maintaining heat is always a requirement; failure to comply with these requirements could result in uncovered damages.
There are several types of damages that can result from winter weather that an insurance company may or may not cover. The best way to relieve yourself from the cost of property damage is to mitigate these potential problems beforehand:
- Roof collapse – Due to heavy amounts of snow adding extra weight onto your roof
- Have your roof shoveled off frequently by a professional
- Have tree limbs or branches that could fall onto your roof or garage trimmed
- Ice dams – Could cause water leaks and staining on your ceilings and walls
- Add extra insulation in your attic or surrounding areas
- Have icicles, ice and snow removed professionally from your roof before it begins to build up
- Install an ice melting system
- Install ice flashings and/or sub-membranes
- Frozen pipes
- Open cabinets where pipes are located to allow in warmer air when temperatures are exceptionally cold or to assist in unfreezing pipes
- Keep your heat at a minimum of 55 degrees Fahrenheit at all times and make sure that your property is visited often to ensure that the temperature is being maintained
- Wrap your vulnerable pipes using UL-listed heat tape
- Shut off your water and drain the pipes when you expect to be away from your home for an extended period
- Add a “whole house” automatic valve that will shut the water off if a leak is detected
- Add a sensor system on vulnerable areas that can alert you if water is detected
- Power outage – can be caused by fallen tree limbs, telephone poles, etc., under the weight of snow
- Always be ready with adequate food, water and medical supplies as well as extra clothing and blankets in case you are ”snowed in” and cannot leave your property safely.
- A generator powered by natural gas or propane is a wise investment
- Landscaping damage – can be caused by fallen tree limbs, heavy amounts of snow.
- Wrap or cover your plants, trees and shrubbery properly in late-Fall.
The winter months can bring extremely cold temperatures and it is up to the insured to be ready for whatever Mother Nature may bring that season.