Home insurance is essential during this time of year, as dramatic seasonal changes in weather conditions are capable of wreaking havoc on your home.
According to Munich Re, a leading expert on global and local risk solutions, winter storms caused an estimated $3.5 billion in insured losses in 2015.
What’s covered in your homeowners insurance
Damage similar to other storms, such as that caused by the wind or falling objects, will usually be covered by your home insurance.
However, there are policies that don’t cover wind perils. Even if yours does pay out for wind damage, you will want to talk to your insurance agent to determine if personal property, such as a swimming pool, will be covered.
One of the unique threats to your home arising during the winter season is cold snaps, which can cause pipes to burst. Water damage is among the most common causes of insurance claims – though not all of these come from pipe malfunctions during the winter season.
When water is left standing in pipes and the temperature drops, the water may expand with enough force to break the pipe, which can lead to serious water damage if the issue isn’t immediately identified. Though damage caused from burst pipes is covered by most standard home insurance policies, you personally will be responsible for fixing the broken pipes and any costs associated with those repairs.
Another wintertime disaster that can befall your house is damage from the weight of snow or ice. If your roof collapses from the results of a heavy blizzard and ensuing ice buildup, a standard home insurance policy will usually cover the damage. However, insurance companies will review the condition of your roof to determine whether or not you were negligent as they determine the payout.
The best thing to do is keep updated records, including photos, of the condition of your roof and any regular maintenance.
What’s not covered in your homeowners insurance
Home insurance storm damage is a multi-layered system, as not all types of damage done to your home will be covered by your standard home insurance.
Flash floods caused by a sudden rise in temperature during the winter months can cause significant damage to your home that will not be covered by your standard home insurance policy. Flood insurance can be purchased separately,
If, on the off chance your plan doesn’t cover wind perils, you can expect that it won’t cover the costs of a tree toppled onto your house by the wind either.
However, most damage associated with the winter that will not be covered by an insurance policy are derived from homeowner negligence. These may include damages resulting from extreme cold due to failure to maintain a reasonable temperature in your house. Similarly, failure to remove threatening trees and branches could also affect your ability to receive a payout for damages.
Winter also ushers in additional liabilities, even if you don’t set up a homemade ice rink in your backyard. Of course, if you do want to establish somewhere to skate on your property, contact your insurance agent and talk to him or her about raising your liability insurance limit from the standard $100,000 in coverage.
Most likely, a skating rink will be considered an “attractive nuisance,” which is defined in the U.S. as an object that is likely to attract a child and poses a risk to their well-being – and you are responsible for them whether they are trespassing or not.
If the rink is a big deal in the neighborhood, you can also consider purchasing a personal umbrella policy, which will kick in after other insurance limits have been met.
All that said, most of us don’t build skating rinks on our property. However, there is still a chance someone could slip on icy steps. Any such incidents should be covered by the liability coverage that comes with your home insurance policy. If such an event happens, even if you don’t think you’re liable, contact your insurance agent, as help with the legal aspects of this situation is something that might also be included in your coverage.
Is your home insurance ready?
By taking the necessary precautions and preparing your house for winter, you can avoid being tangled up in an insurance claim this winter season. Trimming threatening trees, shutting off your water and drain pipes, and cleaning your gutters are all things that can be done before it gets too cold. Additionally, finding burst water pipes before they cause serious damage and having your roof regularly shoveled can both help prevent a disaster.
However, if a winter disaster does strike – and provided it’s not flooding – most standard insurance policies will have you and your family covered. Nonetheless, you should take the time to review your policy with your agent to be sure you’re ready.
AAA provides homeowners insurance and much more. Go to AAA.com/Insurance to talk to an agent today.