In part one of our ‘Ice and Snow Home Insurance’ series, we looked at the benefits of ‘weight of snow’ insurance. This essential policy can save you from a financial disaster should a buildup of snow cause your roof to collapse. However, winter brings with it several other dangers that you’d be wise to insure against too.
Ice storms, high winds, and power outages are sadly an all too common occurrence during Canada’s frigid winters. During the long, cold months, your home can suffer and fall victim to any number of problems. Fortunately, by being sure you’re covered by the right insurance, you can avoid disaster and nasty surprises altogether.
Fallen Trees & Property Damage
As winter windstorms pick up—clocking in at over 200 km per hour in some areas—the debris begins to fly and the trees come tumbling down. If a tree falls on your house and damages it, you’ll be pleased to know that most homeowner insurance policies will cover the costs.
If a tree on your land falls and damages a neighbor’s house, that will also be covered, and likewise if your home is damaged by a fallen tree from next-door. Generally, any damage to fences, roofs, windows, porches, eaves-troughs and any other structure on your land will be covered.
Damage caused by branches and other flying debris whipped up by a storm will also be covered. In the event of ice, snow or rain entering in through a broken window or door, the water damage caused is typically covered by the same policy.
If a tree falls on your land but doesn’t cause any damage to your home or other structures, the cost of the cleanup is typically not covered by insurance. You’ll be responsible for covering the cleanup cost – but just think of the firewood for next year!
High winds and ice storms can quickly knock out the power in your neighborhood, sometimes for days on end. The novelty of living by candlelight huddled up by the fireplace soon wears off, as very real issues begin to take shape.
Frozen Pipes and Sewer Back-ups
During prolonged power outages, the temperature in your home can drop significantly if you don’t have a backup generator or wood burner. In subzero temperatures, there is a chance that the water in your pipes and radiators will freeze, expanding until they burst.
This can cause a lot of damage, not only to the pipes and radiators, but also contents and the interior of your home by water damage. It’s well worth checking your policy to be sure that you’re insured for this issue, as not all homeowner policies cover it.
You can combat this issue by leaving taps running slowly to keep the water flowing steadily or by insulating your pipes. Another issue can be a sewer back-up, in which the water in the sewage pipes freezes, preventing the toilet from being flushed. Insurance against this issue can normally be taken out separately, though it’s worth flushing some antifreeze every now and then to prevent the problem in the first place.
With no power, fridges and freezers won’t function for long. It’s recommended that you dispose of any perishable food that has been left over 4oC for more than 2 hours. Generally, a fully packed freezer will stay below that temperature for around 24 to 30 hours and the contents of a fridge for around 4 hours.
If your food does spoil, most home insurance policies will cover the cost under loss or damage of home contents. Make an inventory of everything you’ve lost before disposing of it, backed up by photographic evidence. Double check the wording in your policy to be sure that food loss is in fact covered.
Melted Snow and Ice
Large buildups of snow and ice can present a real flood risk if they melt rapidly. If this meltwater enters your home and causes flood damage, your standard home insurance policy will not cover it. This is because it’s considered overland flooding, something that for many years was not covered by insurers as such a small minority of Canadians were at risk from floods.
However, after the disastrous 2013 Alberta floods, several insurers have begun to offer flood insurance. These policies do have some limitations, with residents living in areas that are particularly prone to flooding not eligible. Damage to the basement and its contents may not be covered either, but it’s well worth consulting your policy to be sure.
Avalanches and Exceptions
Normally not an issue for the vast majority of Canadians, but if you live at the foot of the mountains, an avalanche can be a real concern. Standard home insurance will not cover damage caused by a snow slide or avalanche, but separate coverage can be taken out.
Finally, it’s always a good idea to read the small print in your policy, especially if you plan to leave home and go on vacation over winter. Some insurers will not cover loss or damage caused by freezing temperatures if your home hasn’t been occupied for a certain number of days—normally between 4 and 7. There are exceptions; for example, you can have a ‘competent person’ enter your home each day to ensure the heating is maintained.
Your standard home insurance will typically cover you for any damage done during a period of harsh weather, such as storms or power outages. Most will not cover flooding from melted snow, but there are exceptions to every rule. Check with your insurer exactly what you’re covered for and invest in additional coverage where appropriate!
This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be deemed as legal, financial or investment advice or solicitation of any kind. Before purchasing real estate or insurance, always consult with a licensed attorney, financial advisor, insurance agent and real estate broker.