Does Your Home Insurance Cover Weather and Water Damage?
Winter storms, spring thaws, cold snaps, and other weather variations can severely damage your home. Luckily, this damage is often covered by your home insurance.
Consider that in 2018, winter storms caused an estimated $2 billion in insured losses according to Impact Forecasting, a company that analyzes catastrophe risks. As weather patterns change, bringing harsh conditions with them, claims for weather-related damage are likely to increase.
Insurance for Weather Damage
When wild weather hits your home, you may be able to make a claim. Your ability to do so depends on the type of policy you have and the perils it covers or excludes. But in the case of covered damage, compensation from your insurance company will help you cover your losses, so you can repair your home and move on.
Types of Weather Damage That May Be Covered
The most common types of weather-related damage include:
- Hail damage
- Roof damage
- Water damage
- Wind damage
- Sewer back-up
- Frozen pipes
- Fallen trees
- Ice dams
- Power failure
Although not all damage is covered by standard homeowners' insurance, most of the above items are, with flood damage being the major exception. Flood damage is not usually covered by most home insurance companies. However, you may be able to buy flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program. You can find out more about national flood insurance on the FEMA website.
Damage that crosses boundary lines can raise questions about whose responsibility it is to cover repairs. If a toppled tree damages your home and your neighbor's, both you and your neighbor should contact your respective insurance companies. Your insurance providers will help determine responsibility and how to pay for repairs.
You probably think about weather-related insurance claims in terms of damage to your home, but liability can be a concern as well. There is a risk that if you don't properly maintain your property, other people could get injured and you'd be liable. Fortunately, your home insurance covers liability as well.
For example, if the mail carrier slips on ice on your walkway and gets hurt, or if snow or ice falls from your roof and injures a person below, you could be held responsible.
To avoid these situations, make sure you properly maintain your property, keeping sidewalks clear and removing hazards like dead tree branches as soon as you can.
Any time an accident occurs on your property, the first step you should take is to contact your insurance company, even if you think it's not your fault. The insurance company can then get involved to help you and give advice on the next steps. They may help with legal defense costs if needed, as well.
Make Weather-Related Claims as Soon as Possible
If you notice weather-related damage to your home, call your insurance company right away. Most insurance companies have 24-hour phone numbers you can call in an emergency.
Insurance does not cover gradual damage, so leaving things like leaking water until later could cost you a lot of money. When you alert your insurance company, they can send out an emergency crew to help you prevent further damage.
In fact, in many cases, the relationships insurance carriers have with contractors and service providers mean you'll get assistance much faster through your insurer than if you try to call the providers yourself.
Your priority should be preventing further damage to your home, and your insurance company will expect you to take reasonable steps to do this.
Take Photos of the Damage
While you wait for the insurance company, take some photos or even video so you have a record of what happened. And if you do need to take immediate action to prevent further damage, keep all receipts and record any money you spend. These supporting documents can be very important when the insurance company reviews your claim.
Keep Up-To-Date on Your Coverage
As weather patterns change, so does the risk to your home. You could find yourself subject to extensive damage due to stronger storms or fluctuating temperatures. Find out what coverage is available, and if you anticipate needing more than your current policy provides, call your insurance agent and make the necessary changes.
With a few policy adjustments and a good plan for winter home maintenance, you should be able to keep your home safe from storm damage or repair it quickly when it occurs.