Homeowner’s Winter Checklist
Temperatures are already starting to fall throughout the country, and with them, winter weather risks have begun to heat up. Auto insurance customers are well aware of the risks black ice and dealing with inexperienced winter motorists can cause, but these road dangers pale in comparison to what homeowners might face in the next few months.
While damaging acts of nature are seldom preventable, a homeowner can reduce their risks by knowing what they are, consulting with their insurance agent, and making sure the necessary coverage and precautions are in place. Take this list of the most common homeowner pains of winter to your agent, as you review your policy terms heading into the coldest season:
1. Freezing Pipes
Below-zero temperatures can create annoying difficulties for your home’s plumbing system, and the last thing you want to deal with is a frozen or busted pipe. Most homeowner policies will cover damages that arise from this issue, though you may have to show that you took adequate steps in maintaining the infrastructure during your stay. While this coverage is often a safe bet, it doesn’t hurt to ask about the terms when discussing your policy.
2. Snow, Ice, and Wind Damage
Icicles weigh heavily on property trees, and when those big branches snap off and nail your car or home, they can result in significant damage (not to mention a threat to your physical safety). This is yet another area that the average homeowner’s insurance policy will cover, according to the Department of Regulatory Agencies in Colorado (DORA).
Likewise, snow, ice, and wind are capable of creating a lethal cocktail to the long-term health of your roof and gutters. As the elements deposit themselves on these easy targets, they grow heavier and heavier until the structure becomes unsound. After that, it’s only a matter of time before snap! DORA notes that most standard homeowner’s policies will cover this type of damage, as well.
3. Fire Damage
We have become so reliant on our electric heating and air systems that we’re not quite as proficient at building safe fires as we used to be. And even among the more experienced, fire is a naturally risky element when brought into the enclosed space of a living-room fireplace or basement furnace.
All it takes is a stray spark, a cracked furnace, or an unopened flue to cause significant damage to the home and its contents (also placing your health and safety in danger). Luckily, most home insurance policies will cover this risk, but you should be extra cautious so that you don’t have to make use of the provision.
4. Slips and Falls
Icy driveways and sidewalks are not only harmful to you and your family, but they may also pose health risks to visitors and, subsequently, your pocketbook. While many policies have a standard $300,000 liability provision to protect you in the event that another person is harmed on your property, you may want to ask your agent about umbrella policies, which can offer an additional $1 million to $5 million in protection.
There are two types of mold problems you may face as a homeowner. The first — mold that develops over time as a result of home maintenance issues — is not covered. However, if mold develops quickly as the result of winter-storm structural damage that leaves openings for the growth to find its way inside, then you may be okay. This is a nuanced area of homeowners insurance, so when reviewing your policy for the winter months, confirm the different circumstances with your agent.
As with mold development, flooding is not usually covered, but there may be an exception if the flooding that occurs is as a result of melting snow and ice. Clearly, each policy is written in a different manner, so this is where it’s especially handy to have a knowledgeable professional in your corner rather than generality. The National Flood Insurance Program does provide flood coverage, which can be added as a rider to your existing policy.
You can’t stop nature from running its course and targeting your home, but you can be prepared in the event that it happens. Schedule some time to sit down with your agent in the next two weeks to ensure that you’ll be taken care of in the event Old Man Winter comes knocking down your door.