According to the calendar, we should expect warmer weather in the coming weeks. This period of time between the end of winter and the start of spring is ripe for losses due to ice dams and floods. Taking preventative steps now may reduce your worry and frustration during this period of transition.
Ice Dams: An ice dam is the common term used to describe the layers of ice on the eaves of many houses. Heat from an attic or roof causes existing snow to melt and drain towards the lowest and coldest part of the roof – the eaves. Later in the day, the cooling temperature causes the resulting water to freeze on the eaves and create a dam. With no place to drain, the remaining water may seep under the shingles and potentially into the house. The resulting damage can be significant. There are a few practical steps you can take to help prevent ice dams. In the winter, a very common approach is to remove the snow from the edges of the roof. This allows the water to drain off the roof and prevent the creation of a dam. The summer months are an ideal time to examine the insulation and air circulation in the attic.
Is damage from an ice dam an “accident” per the terms of an insurance policy or the result of inadequate maintenance? Taking steps to prevent ice dams virtually eliminates both questions. Those questions aside, is damage resulting from an ice dam covered by your home owners’ policy? The answer depends, in large part, on the type of insurance policy you own. Before reviewing policies, it is important to understand the term peril. A peril is defined as the cause of a loss. Examples of a peril include fire, lightening, explosion, ect. Now to a quick explanation of two common insurance policies.
A “special perils” policy – one of the broadest in the industry – provides coverage for all perils unless specifically excluded. So, if ice dams are not excluded in a special perils policy, there may be coverage related to ice dams. We have seen at least one insurance company provide coverage via this interpretation of the policy.
Another common type of property policy is a “named perils” policy. With a Named Perils policy, coverage is provided only if the loss is caused by a described peril. As ice dams are not typically listed as a covered peril, no coverage is afforded.
To reduce your exposure to loss from ice dams, my top two suggestions are: 1. Take steps to eliminate ice dams, 2. Ask your insurance agent for insight regarding coverage resulting from ice dams.
Flood: A flood is commonly defined as a temporary condition affecting historically dry land being inundated with surface water. To qualify as a flood, the affected area must impact at least two separate properties (one of which is your own) or, if only your property, at least two acres of land. Water damage caused by flooding is typically excluded in most homeowner’s policies
A common way to address your exposure to flood is to purchase a separate flood policy. Waiting for the water to rise before deciding to purchase a flood policy is not a good decision. This is because most flood policies have a waiting period before coverage applies. So if you purchase a flood policy on March 1st and it has a 30 day waiting period, the policy will not provide coverage until 30 days from the effective date. As you know, floods and flooding can happen in the matter of days, not weeks. If you are concerned about flooding, now is the time to explore your options. Two great resources regarding floods and flood coverage are www.NFIPservices.com and www.floodsmart.gov. With the latter, you can get an estimated cost for a flood policy in less than 20 seconds.
A number of factors determine the cost of a flood policy. They include the proximity to a historic flood area, requested coverage amount, waiting period, and similar items. An insurance proposal can be provided by a flood-enrolled agent in less time than it takes to put on your waders.
Tis the season for water… whatever the form it comes in.