Reducing winter home insurance claims and homeowner costs
It’s winter storm season, which means it’s a good time to review what kinds of seasonal damage your insurance will cover and learn how to reduce your risk.
The good news is that most home insurance policies cover winter damage. A standard policy will generally cover issues caused by ice dams, falling ice, frozen and burst pipes, and the accumulated weight of snow on your roof.
Most policies will also cover living expenses if your home becomes uninhabitable and you need another place to stay while repairs are made.
Exclusions. Flood damage, on the other hand, from rapid snow melt or heavy rain on frozen ground, is not covered by most home insurance policies. Some policies also exclude cosmetic damage from wind and hail, assuming the functional integrity of your home has not been affected.
Negligence. Be aware that insurance generally doesn’t cover damage attributable to homeowner neglect. For example, if your pipes freeze because you’re away for the winter and didn’t keep the house heated, your claim may be denied. You need to demonstrate you were providing reasonable care to prevent damage from occurring in the first place.
Liability. Meanwhile, winter conditions can create liability risks. An icy sidewalk or falling icicles could lead to personal injuries and potential lawsuits. Again, your home insurance policy generally covers these types of expenses.
- To limit the risk and lower your own out-of-pocket costs, practice winter home care tips like these:
- Clean your gutters to reduce the risk of ice buildup.
- If you’ll be absent, have a caretaker check on your home. Or install low-temperature alarms to alert you if the heat isn’t working.
- Open kitchen and bathroom cabinets and run water through your faucets if the pipes are at risk of freezing.
- Trim trees near your home. Branches that extend over a roof can break off when weighed down with snow and ice.
- Insulate your home to stop the warm air leaks that can cause thaw/freeze cycles on your roof.
If you’re not sure you have adequate coverage, take time to review your policy. Talk to your insurance agent or have a lawyer review your policy.
If you’ve filed an insurance claim and believe you’ve been wrongfully denied, ask the insurance company to review your case and hire an independent appraiser if necessary.
Policyholders can also report bad business practices to their state insurance department for potential resolution.
For significant claims, you may wish to hire an attorney who can help you reach resolution.