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If the roof of my house caves in due to the weight of snow, is that covered by home insurance?

Yes, a standard home insurance policy would cover damage caused by the weight of ice, snow or sleet.

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Winter storms are the third-largest cause of catastrophe losses, behind only hurricanes and tornadoes, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Home insurance covers most property damage claims from winter storms, except flooding from a river, stream or other body of water. That type of flooding is covered only through a separate flood insurance policy, available through the National Flood Insurance Program.

Besides roof collapse from snow, other common types of winter storm damage that generally would be covered under a standard home insurance policy include:

  • Damage caused by snow or freezing rain that gets into the home because of wind damage.
  • Burst pipes caused by freezing temperatures due to power failure.
  • Damage caused by "ice dams," which prevent water from draining properly through gutters. Water then can run into the house and damage ceilings and walls.
  • Damage from fallen trees. If a tree fell on your home or detached garage, home insurance would pay for repairing the structure and for removing the tree (up to a certain dollar limit). However, there is usually no coverage for removal if the tree did not fall on an insured structure.

Although home insurance covers most winter-weather damage, regular home maintenance prevents many of those disasters from happening in the first place and can save you from making an insurance claim and paying a deductible. Cleaning out gutters in the autumn, for instance, allows melting ice and snow to flow freely, which helps prevent water damage. Insulating attics prevents too much heat from escaping through the roof, which can cause snow to melt too fast--the water then refreezes, causing even more snow and ice to build up, which can lead to a collapsed roof.

Although one insurance claim isn't likely to increase your home insurance rates, too many claims can lead to higher premiums and make you look risky when you shop for new insurance.

But if you're worried about too much snow on the roof, don't climb up there yourself. Too many people have died or have been seriously injured from slipping off their roofs.

For more, see home insurance basics.

 

Last updated: Apr. 22, 2011
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