With a substantial snowfall at large, there is generally going to be some damage. We have already seen quite a bit of it. And most of it probably isn’t here yet because it has to melt before it creates some of the most common damage.
How is that handled?
- So, the first thing that happens is it starts to melt, and the roof leaks.
- So, most policies have a provision that does not require a physical opening in the roof, created by wind or hail, and still allows coverage for interior damage from the melting or thawing of ice and snow. It’s a great benefit.
- So, even if you have what we call a required opening policy, which says that you’re not covered for a roof leak, you would be covered for the falling ice and snow potential leak.
- So also, it starts coming through the windows.
- So, you know all that snow that blows in the windows and sits there, blows up on the ledges?
As this snow thaws and melts through those windows, that is also covered. The easiest way to check for this is to go beneath the windows with a moisture meter and check for increased moisture content.
The sooner you find it, the better it is. You’ll also notice potential floor damage right in front of the openings where snow is piled up against.
You could have, if you had, you know, some people had 18, 20 inches of snow, We heard almost three feet in a couple of areas where your roof is sagging.
Now collapse, or structural damage from the weight of snow or the weight of ice and snow is generally covered, you’re in a good position there.
Carports generally just collapse, small structures that are supported by a couple of poles or columns would be covered under this peril.
Here’s a really interesting one:
if you have an above-ground pool, and the snow was just too much and it took down the pool and it landed on the cover, there’s generally an exclusion for a collapse due to the weight of ice and snow on a pool.
That collapse provision does not apply to the collapse of the weight of snow.
Notice that is it just snow?
- So, it’s excluded from ice and snow. But it’s generally covered for the collapse of snow.
- So, if it’s reported properly and there was no real ice here, it was mostly snow
Now, that’s not every policy, but a lot of them will accept coverage in that manner.
You might not know where the water is coming from if your house is leaking: ice dams and thawing of ice from snow are incredibly difficult to stop from occurring, meaning once they’re started, the best thing you can do is manage the water that’s coming into the property.
Because all the remedies to stop that water and ice from coming into your property tend to be worse than the water-damaged interior alone.
So, if you try to scrape the roof off, you’ll do damage to the roof with the shovel therefore, you get a new roof or you may damage the roof to needing a new one anyway.
Throwing up ice melt may actually damage the shingles as well. Or god forbid, you try and get up on that roof and you fall, that’s not part of your insurance claim, but it’s certainly not something you want to occur.
Now trees, on the other hand, the damage they may create after falling is covered by the weight of the snow on the tree. But trees themselves have no physical covers like the value of the tree for the damage created by snow.
So, how does your policy handle it? Most policies have a provision in them that shows it like this. This is a standard HO or State Farm policy language.
It starts with windstorms and hail: “The peril does not include loss of property contained in a structure,” meaning your personal property and they then say caused by rain, snow, sleet, sand, or dust.
“The limitations do not apply when the direct force of wind or hail damages the structure and creates an opening and the rain and snow and sleet enters through this opening.
So, personal property is not covered when that snow melts or thaw does damage, meaning your TVs and the contents of your house, but the building is, your drywall paint, plaster, carpet, hardwood, and potential damage to your roof would be covered.
Now there are what’s known as Form 5 comprehensive policies, they are out there, and they do cover personal property. They’re about 2 or 3% of the population, my best guess percentage-wise.
Not a lot of people have them. But if you do, your policy would also cover damage to your personal property. The biggest item tends to be furniture and mattresses.
The commercial policy is really the big turnaround. So in a commercial form—so if you have a small pizza shop or a nail salon or a small retail center, with a flat roof on it, you’ve probably had a roof leak.
During the ownership of the building, you’ve probably been very frustrated trying to fix those leaks, they’re tough to diagnose. There is actually an exclusion in what we call the special form of a commercial loss.
And basically, it states that: “We don’t cover any part of the building, not just contents, we don’t cover the building, we don’t cover the personal property.” And then it says, “Unless the loss or damages caused or results from the thawing of snow.”
It’s the only real change in coverage on a commercial building. The only time you have coverage to the ceiling tiles, the carpet, the walls, and the personal property or business property, in that case, during a leak to a roof without a wind-created opening.
So, it’s a really big benefit if you’re a business owner. Be very, very careful if you’re a consumer, as your personal property needs to be protected.
Don’t try and get up on that roof and stop it because generally, it can only be worse than what’s happening, so you should try and manage that water that’s coming in.
But we do need you to check around your windows and look carefully in front of your doors and skylights to make sure that that water is not getting in.
Because if it’s not mitigated, meaning dried out properly quickly, you could end up with some uncovered scenarios as most losses occur over a period of time, and they say time is generally about two weeks, may not be covered.
So, inspect quickly after the snow and ice are off your building. Take a look around for everything and hopefully, this helps you understand how this crazy snowstorm may affect your property and/or a claim.
So again, personal property may not be covered: mattresses, furniture, computers, and area rugs, be very careful with those items as they are generally excluded unless you have what’s known as a Form 5 or Comprehensive Policy.
Again, a lot of people don’t have that coverage. So be very careful in this aspect. Move that stuff out of the way if additional water is coming into the property.
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