What Homeowners Need to Know About Insurance Coverage for Damage from Winter Storms
Ottawa’s winters are unpredictable. One day, it can be -25˚ C with the wind chill, and the next it’s just below zero. Ottawa is also bound to have huge snowfalls throughout the winter, making driving and shoveling quite difficult.
But one of the worst problems Ottawa residents face with this unpredictable weather is the damage from winter storms. We’ve had a history of flash freezes, causing notorious ice storms that downed tree branches and power lines. And aside from making it extremely dangerous to walk outside, these ice storms have caused serious damage to homes and cars.
So if you’re a homeowner in Ottawa, you should familiarize yourself with what your home insurance covers for damages during winter storms. Insurance coverage varies with providers, so shop around to find the right home insurance in Ottawa for you, your home, and your peace of mind during the harsh winter weather.
Here’s a look at the different types of damage homeowners face during winter storms and what damages insurance plans typically cover.
Fallen Trees and Branches
If a tree or branch falls on your home during a winter storm, your home insurance should cover the costs to repair the damage. Most damage to your property caused by winter storms will be covered. This damage could be from:
- Falling trees or branches;
- Falling ice;
- Wind-swept debris; and,
- Snow and water that enters your home through an opening caused by any of the above.
Also, if a tree or branch from your neighbour’s property damages your home, their insurance will cover the costs to repair the damages, as will your insurance if your tree damages their property. And if you notice a fallen tree or branch has knocked down a power line, stay far away from it and call 911 to safely and promptly handle the hazard.
Although your insurance likely won’t cover the costs to clean up fallen trees and branches on your property, home insurance will cover damage to:
- Porches; and,
- Other buildings on your property.
Flooding is one type of damage that may or may not be covered by home insurance policies. Most policies won’t cover some categories of flooding, so it’s important to learn your policy to prepare yourself.
When flooding is caused by ice and snow melting, this is referred to as “overland flooding” by insurance companies. Unfortunately, your home insurance won’t cover the damage to your home from this type of flooding.
Burst Pipes & Sewer Backup
Flooding in your home from a burst pipe, or a sewer backup, caused by below-freezing temperatures and a power failure may be covered by your insurance. Make sure to look into this for ease of mind.
In the event of a winter storm that knocks out power for a prolonged period of time, you will be able to claim the costs for most of your perishable foods that become spoiled and you have to throw out. Since many power outages won’t last that long, you can save your food by keeping your fridge and freezer doors closed as much as possible. The standard lengths of time food will stay safe with closed appliance doors are:
- Four to six hours in the fridge; and,
- 24 to 36 hours in the freezer.
You may need to throw out any perishable food left at temperatures above 4˚ C for more than two hours. If you must do this, refer to your insurance policy to determine the limits to your coverage, and take a detailed inventory of all the perishable food you must dispose of.
Home Becomes Unlivable
Depending on your insurance policy, you may be covered for alternative accommodations and living expenses if:
- You received an evacuation order from your municipality to leave your home; or,
- Your home is deemed unlivable due to damage that is covered by your insurance.
Other Damages Sustained During Winter Storms
While these damages do not directly relate to your home, it’s important to understand the types of damages winter storms might cause and whether or not your insurance will cover these.
Damage to Cars
Like home insurance, car insurance policies vary. Should a winter storm damage your car (say from falling ice, branches, debris, or trees), only a comprehensive or all-perils insurance policy covers these damages. Make sure you get the coverage you need.
If you are a business owner who is forced to close your business during a severe winter storm, refer to your commercial insurance policy. Depending on the coverage, you may or may not be able to recover losses while your business is closed.
Although winter storms can wreak havoc for residents in Ottawa, with the right insurance coverage, you can have some peace of mind during this harsh season. The weather outside can be frightful in winter, but you don’t have to suffer financially from winter-storm damage with the right home insurance in Ottawa.