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Will my home insurance cover claims from winter storms?

Winters in Canada often feature heavy snowfall, ice and freezing temperatures. The combination can cause damage to a homeowner’s property. We go over some common damages and how home insurance may help. Coverage provided will depend on the policy, which a BrokerLink broker can explain.

How home insurance could help after a winter storm

Exterior damage from fallen trees and heavy snow

Winter storms that result in fallen trees or heavy snow and damage the outside of a house (such as the roof or siding) will likely be covered by a home insurance policy. Additionally, if snow entered a home through an opening caused by high winds, this may also be covered by a home insurance policy. If there is a large amount of debris after a winter storm, but the property is undamaged, cleanup costs are not covered by a home insurance policy. It’s also recommended homeowners ask a qualified roofer to remove heavy snow.

Burst pipes and flooding

Pipes commonly burst when they are not properly drained and are exposed to cold air – the water inside will freeze and expand. This could occur if the pipe is in an unheated space of a home – such as the garage or basement – or, to outside taps and sprinkler systems. If a pipe bursts and causes flooding in a home, the damage is most often covered by home insurance.

Food spoilage from lost power

Food stored in a fridge or freezer are part of a home’s contents, which are covered by home insurance. If food becomes spoiled from a power outage, this could be submitted as an insurance claim. Coverage will be dependent on the policy, which a BrokerLink broker can interpret.

Coverage if a homeowner is away

When it comes to a homeowner being away from their property, the property is considered either vacant or unoccupied. When a property is “vacant” it means the homeowner does not intend to return, such as owing a property but not currently living in it. If a property is “unoccupied,” it means the homeowner has left temporarily and will return, such as going on a vacation.

Should a home be damaged by a winter storm while a homeowner is away for more than a few days, costs for repairs may or may not be covered by home insurance. Coverage for an unoccupied home will depend on the length of time the homeowner is away and precautions taken to protect the property, which will be outlined in their home insurance policy.

Should homeowners plan to leave their home during the winter and intend to return, it’s important they do the following:

1. Contact their BrokerLink broker to determine how their coverage may be affected while away from their home for more than a few days.

2. Ask a friend or a neighbour to check their home on a daily basis while they’re away. It’s beneficial to ask if they can shovel the walkway to make the home looked “lived in” as well as get them to check if heating systems are working and if water damage has occurred.

3. Provide the friend and/or neighbour their contact information, should they need to be informed of damages to their home. This will help the owner quickly inform their insurance company to begin a potential claims process.

For homeowners who have a vacant property (i.e. they’ve purchased a new home and their former home is still for sale), they need to inform their BrokerLink broker. Vacant properties have specific insurance implications which will be outlined in their home insurance policy which their broker can explain.

Tips to take out the winter chill

In addition to learning how home insurance can help when it comes to claims, winter safety is another factor to consider. Here are some other tips:

1. Put winter tires on a vehicle: winter tires can help increase the traction the tire has on the road, which are beneficial in slippery or snowy situations.

2. Take measures to winterize a home: this includes checking the furnace filters, smoke detectors and heating systems. Inefficiencies could cause damage to a home.

3. Have emergency supplies in a car: if the engine should stop working during winter storm, having blankets, a first-aid kit and emergency equipment (such as a flashlight) can help keep a driver safe while they’re waiting for assistance.

Home insurance check-up

The best way to reduce the impact of winter weather is contacting a BrokerLink broker. Our experts review home insurance policies to see if the right coverage is in place, or if enhancements to a policy are needed.