The effects of severe winter weather can wreak havoc on your home, causing extensive damage in various ways. While many damages are covered under your homeowner's insurance policy, some are only covered under specific circumstances.
The language used in some policies is ambiguous in regard to actions that must be performed by the homeowner in times of severe weather. Claims may be approved or denied based upon the terms dictated and defined by the insurance company.
Winter weather damage that is covered by homeowner insurance
There are some damages that are covered unconditionally. These are incidents that can't be prevented or minimized by the actions of the homeowner.
Roof collapse or penetration from snow accumulation
Homeowners cannot be expected or required to remove snow from their roof, so if they experience a roof or gutter collapse, or if their roof is compromised enough to allow melting snow to leak into the home and cause structural or cosmetic damage, their claims for damages to the home will be approved.
Damage from falling trees
If a tree is downed because of high wind, ice, and snow, and falls on your home, the damages to your home and personal property are covered. However, some personal property damage claims may not be accepted under specific conditions.
Burst pipes from damage to the home
Pipes that burst from being exposed to freezing temperatures as a result of roof or other structural damage will be covered under a homeowner's policy. However, they may not be covered under other weather-related conditions.
Winter weather damage that may not be covered by homeowner's insurance
Structural stress from heavy snow accumulation
Some policies specifically dictate that roofs or gutters must be in a state of actual collapse. If there is bowing or other visible stress, but no collapse, your claim may be denied under some clearly worded policies.
Property damage from a roof collapse or fallen tree
This is a situation in which ambiguous language in a policy may result in a denial of a claim. Some policies will use terms such as "due diligence" in defining the responsibilities of a homeowner in protecting personal property after an event occurs.
The homeowner may be required to move or cover as much personal property as possible to protect it from damage when the structure of their home is penetrated.
Burst pipes from power outages
This is another claim that may be denied if the insurance company can claim that the homeowner took no action in preventing pipes from freezing, such as covering a window that was broken in a storm.
Flooding from melting snow
Flooding claims are generally covered by flood insurance riders that are added to policies at additional cost, and are not covered by traditional homeowner's policies, regardless of the source of the flooding.
Hiring an attorney, like Greenberg Walden & Grossman, and going to court is often the only recourse if a claim is denied or under-compensated by homeowner's insurance providers.
If you sustain damages from severe winter weather, take as many pictures as possible as soon as possible of any damage (when it is safe to do so). They can be invaluable in proving your claim in court.