As the season for blizzards and ice storms revs up, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) is encouraging homeowners to prepare for hazards and learn how insurance coverage applies to winter storm damage.
"The good news is that under the standard homeowners policies, many of the common problems, such as a tree branch causing damage to your roof, will be covered," Chris Hackett, PCI's director, personal lines policy, said in a press statement. "Winter storms can cause significant damage and insurers are ready to work with consumers to minimize the inconveniences and help make the claims process go as smoothly as possible."
If damage occurs, PCI says to report the claim as soon as possible and keep receipts if any temporary repairs are necessary.
Damage from power outages and downed trees are the most frequently reported winter-weather related claims for home insurance, PCI says.
The trade group offers the following tips for homeowners:
- Stay away from downed power lines, even if they do not appear to be "live." Call the power company to report any outages.
- A standard homeowners insurance policy typically does not cover food spoilage due to a power outage. Check the policy to verify.
- Damage to trees, shrubs and other plants during an ice storm is not covered under a standard homeowners policy. However, insurance may pay to remove the debris from a fallen tree if it caused damage to a structure covered by insurance.
- If a tree damages a neighbor's property, the neighbor should file a claim with his or her own insurer.
- If the tree falls on your own house, damage to the house is covered. Generally the policy covers the cost to remove the tree from the house.
- However if the tree or branch falls and does no damage to a covered structure, generally there is no coverage for the tree or to remove the tree from the premises.
- Prevent pipes from freezing. Insulate pipes, especially those leading to the outside, and plug holes around the pipes with insulation or spray-in foam. Check pipes under sinks to make sure they will get adequate heat.
- Set the heat in the home warm enough to avoid problems.
- Know how to shut off the water supply, and make sure there is clear access to the main water shut-off valve in case there is a leak or a pipe suddenly bursts.