Q

Is winter storm damage covered by homeowners insurance?

A

Home insurance covers some types of winter storm damage, like wind damage from a blizzard. If a buildup of ice or snow causes your roof to collapse, your policy will cover that as well.

Kara McGinley

By

Kara McGinley

Kara McGinley

Property and Casualty Insurance Expert

Kara McGinley is an insurance editor at Policygenius, specializing in home, auto, and renters insurance. She's been writing about insurance since 2019, and her work and insights have been referenced in Kiplinger and WRAL.com.

Published September 28, 2021|3 min read

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Homeowners insurance covers your property from several types of winter hazards, including roof collapse from snow or frozen pipes that burst in a properly heated home. 

However, not all types of winter-related damages are covered. If your pipes freeze and burst because you didn’t turn off the water tank or your home wasn’t properly heated, home insurance likely won’t cover the cost of repairs.

Key Takeaways

  • Home insurance can help pay for some types of winter storm damage, like roof collapse or fallen tree damage caused by snow or ice buildup

  • Your policy also covers wind damage. If a blizzard brings in strong winds and a tree falls on your roof, that should also be covered

  • If your pipes freeze and burst, homeowners insurance may cover the damage, as long as the systems were in use and in good condition

  • If you leave town for a few weeks and forget to turn your water off or set a thermostat and your plumbing freezes and bursts, insurance likely won’t cover the cost of water damage

Does homeowners insurance cover winter storm damage?

Yes, homeowners insurance covers the structure of your home and your personal property from different types of loss, including winter storm damage. If your home becomes unsafe to live in after a winter storm, like if your roof is torn off in a blizzard, home insurance can help cover additional living expenses while you temporarily stay in a hotel or a rental property. 

Winter storms can present many different types of risks. Below are common winter storm conditions covered by home insurance. 

Snow and ice

Home insurance covers damage from the weight and buildup of snow and ice, like if an ice dam forms on your roof and causes it to collapse, or if an ice buildup on a tree branch causes it to fall on your gazebo. If the snow causes water damage to your personal belongings after your roof collapses, home insurance can help cover the cost of new items.

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Damage from frozen pipes

If a blizzard or winter storm freezes your pipes or household systems, you may be covered if they break or burst and it results in water damage. However, maintenance issues are not covered by insurance, so if your pipes froze mostly due to a general lack of upkeep, your home insurance won’t cover you. Insurers expect you to take as many proper steps to protect your home as possible. If you left town for vacation and didn’t turn your water off and it froze, insurance likely won’t cover your claim.

Windstorms 

Blizzards can bring on strong winds. Home insurance includes coverage for wind damage, so if a blizzard rips the roof off of your home, or if it causes a tree on your property to fall on your garage, homeowners insurance can help cover the cost of repairs.

Winter storm damage not covered by home insurance

There are certain types of winter storm damage that are not covered by a homeowners policy. 

Flood damage

Sometimes blizzards can lead to flood damage, especially if you live in an Atlantic coastal state. Home insurance excludes coverage for flooding. You’ll need a standalone flood insurance policy to protect you from any type of flood damage. 

Preventable damage and maintenance issues

Insurers consider it your responsibility as the homeowner to maintain your property. If your roof was in bad shape before a blizzard, like if it already had a hole in it, and snow got inside or caused the roof to collapse, the cost of repairs likely won’t be covered. If you didn’t take reasonable precautions to make sure your pipes and HVAC systems were protected from freezing weather, you also may not be able to file a claim. 

How to protect your home against winter storm damage

If you expect freezing temperatures or if a blizzard is headed your way, there are some steps you can take to better protect your property from damage. 

  • Trim tree branches: Blizzard winds and the weight of snow can break already weak tree branches that could damage your home. 

  • Insulate pipes: Adding extra insulation to the exposed pipes in unheated areas of your home, like attics, garages, and basement cellars, can help prevent them from freezing and bursting. 

  • Insulate your attic: Poorly insulated attics can allow heat to escape and can quickly melt the snow on your roof. This can potentially lead to water damage if it seeps through any cracks or holes in the roof.  

  • Shut your water off: If you’re going on vacation or leaving town for a few weeks during the winter months, it may be a good idea to turn your water off to avoid freezing.

  • Set a thermostat to a specific temperature: Keeping your house set at a certain temperature, especially when you aren’t home, will help lessen the risk of freezing.