In addition to the health and safety dangers of sub-zero temperatures, blinding snowstorms and inconspicuous ice sheets, winter weather can also be incredibly dangerous to your home. Homeowners must consider a number of winter weather issues, including legal liabilities to watch out for and knowing whether your homeowners insurance policy has you covered.
Winter damage culprits
The two main causes of wintertime home damage are snow and ice. The weight of snow can collapse a roof or damage an automobile. And when snow inevitably melts, it can cause major flooding and problems with home septic systems.
The major problems with ice, from a homeowner’s legal perspective, include slip-and-falls Opens a New Window. and frozen pipelines. Ice accumulating on trees can also cause damage if a tree branch falls Opens a New Window. on your home — or even worse, your neighbor’s home.
What is generally covered
A homeowners insurance policy typically covers damage that results directly from winter weather events. Direct damage includes trees falling on homes Opens a New Window. , roof collapse due to snow accumulation, wind damage during a blizzard, displacement due to a major power outage, and frozen or burst pipes (subject to exception).
What is probably not covered: negligence
A curveball factor can affect the damage your insurance policy covers: homeowner negligence, which means neglecting the standard care that allows your home to withstand normal winter weather. This may include factors such as:
- Pipes. If the insurance company believes that pipes broke because they were neglected — if the heat was off, or the pipes were not drained, for example — you may be denied coverage
- Trees. If a homeowner knew that a tree or its limbs were at risk of falling but took no steps to trim or remove them, the homeowner can be held liable if they do fall and cause damage
- Snow. If your home is damaged due to melting snow seeping through the roof, and the adjuster determines that the roof is in disrepair or is improperly installed, you will be footing the bill on your own.
- Ice. Laws vary by location, but there may be rules regarding prompt snow and ice removal. In New York City Opens a New Window. , rental lease agreements generally stipulate that either the owner or the renter must clear sidewalks within four hours after snow stops falling.
- Storms. Evidence that a homeowner could have done more to protect the property before or during a storm will be taken into consideration and could result in a denial of coverage.
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