The beautiful and peaceful looking blanket of fresh snow that a winter storm leaves behind can be deceiving. Winter storms can be extremely dangerous, causing extensive property damage and hazardous conditions. Do you know what to do to minimize winter storm damage to your home? If you do sustain damage, do you know what your homeowner’s policy will cover?
Winter storms can cause a wide range of property destruction including wind damage, burst pipes and damage to buildings as a result of heavy ice or snow. Typically, homeowner’s policies cover these categories of loss. However, flood damage is generally not covered under a standard policy and additional coverage may also be needed for sewer and drain back-ups.
Winter storms not only wreak havoc during the course of the storm but further damage is possible as the snow starts to melt. You should check your policy to see if this type of damage is covered. Often damage due to melting snow is preventable and your insurance company may want to see that you took appropriate precautions before they will cover a claim.
To prevent damage from melting snow:
- Check for accumulation of snow on the downwind side of your roof and consult with a roofing contractor for safe removal.
- Keep gutters clean of leaves to prevent frozen snow or rain from creating an “ice dam” which can damage your home’s ceiling as the melting ice can spread under roof shingles.
- Watch for sewer and drain backups as snow melts. Make sure to alert your local government officials if public street drains become clogged.
- Before a storm, remove dead branches hanging over your house. After the storm, remove large amounts of snow from branches if they pose a threat.
- Prevent freezing pipes by keeping your home warmer than 65 degrees. You can also let faucets drip slightly to prevent freezing. Know where your home’s main water shut-off valve is so that you can quickly turn off water to your house should pipes burst.
If freezing pipes burst, the contents inside your home could also be damaged as a result of inclement winter weather. To make sure you would be properly compensated for this type of claim make sure to:
- Prepare a household inventory including photographs or videotape footage of your possessions.
- Keep receipts for high value items.
- Prepare a list of key insurance information including contact phone numbers and insurance policy numbers.
- Keep a copy of these documents in a safe location outside of your home.
Snow and ice can also leave you vulnerable to legal liability if someone slips and falls on your property or is hurt from falling ice. While resulting lawsuits may be covered, you could be found negligent if you didn’t take reasonable steps within an appropriate amount of time to prevent such accidents. Therefore, to ensure your family’s safety and that of visitors to your home, clear walkways and remove ice as soon as you can after a storm.