Ice Storm and Home Insurance: Are You Covered?
By Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner Glen Mulready
Many Oklahomans are cleaning up after the ice storm that swept through the state this week. But the clean-up is just part of the recovery effort. Navigating through the insurance claim process during this time can be confusing and stressful. Here are some commonly asked questions and the answers about ice storm and home insurance coverage to help make this process a little bit easier. Please note the answer depends on your policy.
- Will my insurance company pay to repair a roof damaged by the weight of ice or snow?
A collapse of a structure, such as your roof, due to the weight of ice or snow is often covered under a standard home insurance policy. However, some nonstandard policies, such as the HO2 form do not have coverage for the weight of ice and snow, and therefore, that risk would not be covered. The best thing to do is to contact your insurance agent. They know the ins and outs of your specific policy's coverages and limits.
- A tree fell and landed in my yard. Will my insurance pay to remove it?
Typically, fallen trees are not covered unless it has fallen on your house or driveway. It will cover damage to your fence, roof, troughs, windows, porches and outbuildings. However, debris removal from your yard, in the absence of physical property damage, will generally be at your own expense.
- If a neighbor's tree caused damage to my property, are they responsible for damages?
Only if your neighbor was negligent would their policy pay for your damage. If the damage is from an act of nature, then the neighbor is not liable, and you would need to file the loss with your insurance company or agent.
- An ice storm caused my tree to fall on my car. Will my homeowners insurance pay for the damage to my car and to remove the tree?
No. The homeowner’s policy pays for damage to the home and for liability when an insured is negligent. In this case, you would need to file the claim with your auto insurance carrier to have the vehicle repaired. If you only had liability coverage, then you would be out of pocket for repairs or replacing the vehicle.
- Does homeowners insurance cover the cost of a hotel in the event of loss of power?
In the event of a covered loss, like fire, and your house is uninhabitable during repairs, unsafe living conditions or loss of utilities, temporary lodging costs are often covered. However, homeowner’s insurance policies generally wouldn't pay for additional living expenses such as a hotel room simply because of an off-premises power outage. You would have to have a direct/physical on-premises loss before most insurance carriers would consider Additional Living Expenses (ALE) reimbursements for hotel stays. I encourage you to contact your insurance agent to determine if your policy would provide ALE for your particular situation.
- Does homeowners insurance cover spoiled food after a power outage?
As long as the power outage was caused on your premises, the homeowner’s insurance generally pays for food spoilage. Again, talk with your agent to verify how this scenario would affect you. Finally, take pictures and keep a detailed list of the food items you had to throw away and share it with your adjuster. This will assist the adjuster in assessing the loss.
When it comes to effectively submitting home insurance claims, the most important thing is to immediately document the damage to your property. Take photographs of the damage and make a list of everything you want to show the adjuster.
Contact your insurance provider to get clarification and details regarding your policy. Understanding your coverage and deductible amount will allow you to make an informed decision on whether you want to file a claim. If your damages do not exceed your deductible, the repairs will be an out-of-pocket expense. For more information, visit our ice storm resource page at www.oid.ok.gov/ice.
If you have questions about other insurance issues, please contact the Oklahoma Insurance Department at 1-800-522-0071 or visit our website at www.oid.ok.gov.