For Consumers

Winter weather and your homeowner insurance coverage

Winter weather can bring many surprises to homeowners. Most homeowner policies cover damage from wind, wind-driven rain, falling trees and snow and ice damage.

Filing a claim may increase your premium (surcharges), and insurers may not renew coverage due to claims, even for small payouts. Consider if filing a claim is necessary or if you can cover damages without doing so.

Here we've gathered some of the most common reasons people file an insurance claim during winter weather and what you need to know if you find yourself in one of these situations. 

What you should do if a tree falls on your home

Call your insurer or agent as soon as possible. Take photos or video of the damage. If it's safe, take steps — such as covering broken windows or leaking roofs — to limit further damage.

Don't make permanent repairs until your insurer has seen the property and you've agreed on repairs. Save all receipts, including those for temporary measures (tarps, plywood, etc.).

If you cannot live in the home, ask your insurer if you have coverage for living expenses during repair work. Save those receipts, too.

If you hire someone to do the repairs, even someone your insurance agent recommends, make sure they're registered with the state.

If trees and branches fall in your yard, your insurance probably won't pay for cleanup

Standard policies don't cover tree removal and cleanup unless the tree fell on your home, garage, car, etc.

How your coverage works if your car is damaged by a collapsed carport

Your car: If you have comprehensive coverage under your auto insurance, it should cover the damage to your car.

Your carport: Your homeowner insurance should cover the damage to your carport.

Remember, both policies are subject to a deductible.

Whose insurance pays the bills if your neighbor's tree falls on your house

Your homeowner insurer will often pay, even if it was the neighbor's tree. If so, you'll be responsible for the deductible. If it can be shown that the neighbor was at fault, your insurer may be able to get your neighbor's insurer to pay. But fault or negligence can be hard to prove.

If you lose a boat due to strong winds, check your boat's insurance policy

If strong winds sink or damage your boat, your coverage depends on your boat insurance policy. Check your policy and talk with your insurance agent.

If you lose a TV or appliance to a power surge, consider your deductible

Most homeowner policies cover appliances and electronics ruined by power surges, regardless of whether they're related to an outage. But consider your deductible. Especially if you have low-cost or old equipment, it may not be worth filing a claim.

If you lose all your refrigerated food to a power outage, compare the replacement cost to your deductible

Some homeowner policies provide coverage for this, but it may not be worth filing a claim, particularly if you have a high deductible. The items may be less expensive to replace than paying a deductible.

If your pipes freeze and burst during the cold winter months, you're likely covered but there are exceptions

Your homeowner policy should cover you. However, to avoid this issue, keep your home above 60 degrees during winter. You should also ensure your outside faucets are drained, covered or insulated to keep them from freezing.

If you're away from home for a long period, make sure you keep your home at above-freezing temperatures. If your pipes burst because you did not keep your home warm enough, the loss may not be covered. Homeowner policies may exclude coverage for damage to a home when it isn’t properly heated.

Homeowner insurance doesn't cover floods, but you can buy flood insurance

You'd have to buy a separate policy to protect your property against flood water. Flood insurance is available through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP)

If you live in an area prone to landslides, talk with your insurance agent to find out who offers landslide coverage

Homeowner insurance does not cover landslides. If your home is in an area prone to landslides, talk with your agent to find out if other insurers will cover landslides on a separate policy.