Affected by severe winter weather? How insurance can help.

4 minute read Published on Jan 16, 2014 by BrokerLink Communications

Canadian winters can be harsh with cold temperatures, heavy snowfall and high winds. Severe winter weather makes headlines each year as Canadians deal with damaged homes, cars and loss of power. If you’re among the many affected, you may be wondering how your insurance will help. At BrokerLink, we’re happy to answer any questions you may have about your home, car or business insurance.

Common questions about winter related damages and insurance coverage

A tree fell on my home. Will I be covered?

Your homeowner’s insurance policy will cover most damage to any buildings on your property due to a winter storm. That includes damage caused by falling trees or branches, ice, or wind-swept debris. You may also be covered if snow or water enters your home through openings caused by high winds, according to the Insurance Bureau of Canada.

If the damage is done by a tree on a neighbour’s property, their insurance policy should cover any damage to your home. Contact your broker to coordinate with your neighbour’s insurance provider. Likewise, if one of your trees falls on a neighbour’s house, your insurance policy will be responsible for recovering any losses.

In some cases, trees may have fallen but not caused any damage to structures on your property. If you’re facing a big clean-up job after a storm, it won’t be covered by your home insurance policy. Insurance will cover any damage to fences, roofs, eaves-troughs, windows, porches and other buildings on your property. If all those remain undamaged, you’ll be responsible for the expense of removing debris from your yard.

If a fallen tree has knocked down power lines on your property, keep at least 10 feet away from the lines and call 911.

My house has been flooded due to melting ice and snow. Will my insurance cover that damage?

Damage to your home caused by melting ice and snow is considered by insurance companies to be “overland flooding” and is not covered by your homeowner’s policy.

If power failure and sub-zero temperatures cause a pipe to burst in your home, or if you experienced sewer back-up, your standard homeowner’s policy may or may not provide coverage. Coverage differs between insurance providers, so check with your local BrokerLink branch to see if you will be able to file a claim.

My home lost power and the food in my fridge and freezer went bad. Will that be covered?

Your homeowner’s policy covers damage or loss of your home contents, and that includes food. If the doors remain closed, a fridge will keep food safe for 4-6 hours and a fully packed freezer will keep food for 24-36 hours. What if power outages can last longer? Consider disposing of any perishable foods left at temperatures above 4⁰ for more than 2 hours.

If you need to dispose of food and plan on filing an insurance claim, take an inventory of what you lost. Keep in mind there are limitations on how much compensation you may receive from your insurance company. Review your policy wording or contact your broker to review the limits to your coverage.

I had to leave my home due to damage. Will insurance pay for me to stay elsewhere?

If your home is unlivable due to damages caused by insured perils or due to an official evacuation order, then your insurance may provide additional living expenses (hotel and food costs). However, if you are checking into a hotel because your home is too cold and there is no physical property damage or evacuation order in place, your costs likely won’t be covered. You may be asked to provide evidence of your home’s condition to verify your home is unlivable.

In order to qualify, be sure your insurance policy covers the specific cause of damage to your home. If the damage hasn’t specifically been addressed in the questions above, call your local BrokerLink branch to determine whether your policy will provide additional living expenses.

My car was damaged due to ice and snow. Am I insured?

It depends on what kind of car insurance you have. Damage caused by flying debris, falling ice, trees or branches is only covered if you have a comprehensive or all-perils policy. This is an optional coverage, so check to see if you qualify.

If you have purchased this coverage, the deductibles vary among insurance providers. The standard deductible in Ontario is $300 and $250 in Alberta so if the damage to your car is minor, it may not be worth filing a claim. On the other hand, if your vehicle is seriously damaged, it’s easy to rack up repair costs and you may need your insurance company’s assistance.

My business was forced to close during the storm. How can insurance help me?

The cost of being forced to close adds up quickly when you consider lost inventory, lost sales and staff salaries. There aren’t any general guidelines to commercial insurance policies as they vary widely to reflect the unique characteristics of each business. Your local BrokerLink branch can help determine what coverage you have in place and how much compensation you could receive.

If your home or car was damaged or you were evacuated from your home, any insurance claims must be reported within one year and finalized within two years from the date of loss. Collect as much information as possible, including photographs of any damage. Contact your broker as soon as possible to get started on the process. We’ll explain what to expect, what documents you’ll need, and how to get the best possible outcome.