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As Snow and Ice Melt, Homeowners Find Their Insurance Companies May Not Cover Resulting Damage

Snow Blower

After a particularly harsh winter, many Americans are now finally seeing the snow in their communities melt as daily temperatures rise. Unfortunately, this warmer weathers comes with problems of its own: From ice dams to flooding basements, the sudden rush of water from the melting snow is taking its toll. Moreover, many home insurance companies say they cannot cover the damage, as standard homeowners insurance policies exclude flooding, and flood insurance is very specific about it will and will not pay for.

Take Northampton, MA, for example, where an insurance company recently explained exactly how much water damage constitutes a flood. “In order for it to be considered a flood,” Richard Green of Richard R. Green Insurance Agency told his local 22News, “it must be surface water greater than two acres or involving two properties, one of which must be the homeowner, who also happens to have a flood policy.”

No matter how much snow and ice melts, it is extremely unlikely that water would reach this level. Additionally, homeowners policies and flood insurance also exclude water seeping through a home’s foundation. This means that even if water seeps into a house from the melting snow, it does not matter if it affects another property or somehow covers two acres: flood insurance would not cover the damage.

As for ice dams and other forms of ice and snow damage, experts say that homeowners insurance will typically cover consequences, which usually include leaky roofs and compromised structures. However, homeowners are required to take reasonable measures to care for their home, such as clearing snow off their roof in a timely manner.

In light of this revelation, many policyholders have argued that insurance providers should make exceptions for special circumstances, such as severe weather. However, Green says that the only way exceptions can be made is through a change to the language of the policy, which can occur if there is enough demand or a court order is issued.

While there is little most homeowners can do to prevent the damage that will occur as the snow melts, experts are already recommending that people take steps to prevent a similar situation from happening next year. When it comes to water seepage, this will mean checking a home’s foundation for cracks and sealing or repairing any problems before next winter.

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