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.

What your policy will not cover:

snowStandard insurance policies do not cover flood damage. Therefore, unless you have a separate policy 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 also 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.

Home and business owners should: make sure that their property is visited often to ensure that heat is being maintained, keep the temperature above 55 degrees Fahrenheit, shut off the water completely, drain the pipes, etc. Proper insurance policies have requirements for preventing losses so that maintaining heat is always a requirement; failure to comply with these requirements could result in uncovered damages.

Prevent 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:

  • SnowRoof collapse - Due to heavy amounts of snow adding extra weight onto your roof
    • Have your roof shoveled off frequently by a professional
    • Trim any tree limbs or branches that could fall onto your roof or garage
  • Ice dams - Could cause water 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 to unfreeze the pipes
    • Keep your heat on at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit at all times
    • Wrap your vulnerable pipes using UL-listed heat tape
    • Shut off your water and drain the pipes
  • Power outage – can be caused by fallen tree limbs, telephone poles, etc. under the weight of the snow
    • Always be ready with adequate food supplies in case you are ‘snowed in’ and cannot leave your property safely
  • 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.

Scott Greenwald, Regional VP at GGG-AI discusses what types of insurance claims can result from a winter storm:

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