Common Homeowner Winter Property Claims
Posted on December 12, 2023 at 8:00 AM by Town & Country Insurance
By Allen Anderson
Senior Vice President and Chief Underwriting Officer, Personal Lines, Selective Insurance
In my experience, most homeowners have mixed feelings about the seasons. The parts we love—spring showers, summer sun, autumn leaves, winter snow—can also (and often do) cause frustrating setbacks and costly damage. Based on the number of claims we receive by season, winter is the hardest on homes. You must understand the risks that harsh winter weather poses to your home before you can prepare for it. These risks, and the insurance claims related to them, may vary slightly from region to region but generally concern damage from water, wind, and ice.
Always winterize your home and prepare equipment like shovels and salt well before temperatures fall below freezing. But these precautions only go so far. Review your insurance policy with your agent to ensure coverage for damage related to the most common winter property claims.
If you have ever owned a home, you probably have a horror story (or stories) about winter water damage. Perhaps a pipe burst in the upstairs bathroom the day before your in-laws were due to arrive, or the first-floor toilet backed up because the sump pump froze. Maybe a warm February day melted the snow from a recent blizzard, which in turn filled your basement with a foot of water.
Whatever the circumstances, be aware that water damage accounts for 40.1% of homeowner claims during the winter months. (Flood insurance is a separate coverage from your homeowner's policy. Talk to your agent for details.)
Windstorms account for 20% of homeowner claims in the winter months. Wind can damage the outside of your home and the roof in particular. Even moderate winds can tear off loose shingles, and stronger gusts may damage chimneys, satellite dishes, or skylights. Other serious windstorm hazards include falling trees, tree limbs, and branches.
The last item on our list of winter hazards accounts for 12.7% of homeowner claims. Freezing claims can include 'typical' winter incidents like frozen pipes (which can burst), as well as those related to weather events. If allowed to accumulate, the sheer weight of ice and snow can cause significant damage to the exterior of your home—the roof, awnings, gutters, fencing, etc.
Fire: The Other Winter Hazard
As if water, ice, and wind aren't bad enough, homeowners have another risk to confront. Despite the cold and snow outside, house fires are potentially the most costly winter hazard. According to Selective data, fires alone account for 46.1% of incurred loss dollars (the total financial damage homeowners sustain) in the winter months (December, January, and February). That figure is more than twice the incurred loss dollars (18.4%) due to fires in the other seasons combined.
Reduce Winter Property Claims
Homeowners can reduce their risk of winter property damage by preparing their homes, inside and out. Be proactive. If an incident does occur, act quickly to mitigate the damage and file a claim as soon as possible. Here are some tips to help you manage common winter problems:
First, turn off the water supply to the affected area(s) to relieve pressure and then open a faucet to reduce the risk of further ice build-up. If possible, use a space heater to thaw the pipe. If your space heater (or other heat source) uses fuel tanks, make sure they are full at the start of the cold season. Consider monitoring their fuel levels digitally, if possible. Also, make sure you have adequate fuel for your emergency generator if you have one. Call a plumbing professional if the frozen pipe(s) are inaccessible.
Clear leaves and debris from your gutters before the first snowfall, and, if possible, remove snow from the roof during times of heavy precipitation. Point your roof drain pipes away from the house.
Ice dams are thick ridges of solid ice that build up along the eaves of your roof. They can trap water that could seep through the roof and into your attic. Insulate and ventilate your attic to prevent ice dams from forming.
Space heaters are cozy but also have potential fire risks. To help keep your family safe and home intact, follow these tips:
- Read the instructions before use
- Never leave a space heater unattended
- Monitor children near space heaters
- Place space heaters at least 3 feet away from anything flammable
- If your space heater burns combustible fuel, consider installing a carbon monoxide detector in rooms where you use the heater
Bottom Line for Homeowners
To recap: winter weather is hard on homes. Every homeowner should take precautions against property damage caused by wind, water, ice, and fire. But remember, your best defense against financial losses from property damage caused by winter weather is a comprehensive homeowner's insurance policy.
Ask your independent agent to assess your home and property to identify risks and coverage gaps. Trust the experts at Selective to deliver unique insurance solutions for your home during the winter—and all year long.
About the Author
Allen Anderson, Senior Vice President, Chief Underwriting Officer, Personal Lines, is responsible for all Personal Lines, Flood Insurance, and Contact Center operations across the company. Allen joined Selective in 2006. His prior experience includes 16 years with Allstate Insurance in various underwriting and product development roles. He earned a B.S. in Business Administration from Nazareth College in New York.
1 Selective Insurance Company of America and its affiliates’ homeowners insurance claims data 12/1/16 – 2/28/17, 12/1/17 – 2/28/18, 12/1/18 – 2/28/19, and 12/1/19 – 2/29/20.
Categories: Property Insurance