Is It Covered? Snow, Ice & Sleet

snow coverage - REInsurePro

Do your investor clients know that damage from the weight of snow, ice, or sleet is only covered under certain policy formats? For your clients who invest in more northern or mountainous areas, it is important they know which type of coverage they will need for winter storms.  

 Does My Investor Client’s Insurance Cover Snow Damage? 

Basic, Broad, and Special Form property policies offer different levels of coverage. Basic and Broad Form are named peril policies, meaning perils must be listed within the policy to be covered. Special Form is written on an exclusion basis, meaning that unless that peril is excluded from the policy, coverage is afforded. Damage from the weight of snow, ice, or sleet is not covered under the Basic Form, only Broad and Special formats. Of those three, Basic and Special Form are the most offered in insurance programs for investment properties.  

Exceptions to Weight of Snow, Ice & Sleet Coverage

Bear in mind that even if your investor client has coverage for Weight of Snow, Ice & Sleet, that coverage still does not typically extend to certain items. Stipulations of the coverage may look like this: 

“This does not include loss to awnings, canopies, fences, pavements, patios, swimming pools, foundations, retaining walls, bulkheads, piers, wharves or docks when such loss is caused by freezing, thawing or by the pressure of weight of ice or water, whether driven by wind or not.” 

How much snow or ice is too much for a roof to bear?

Unless the roof structure is damaged or decayed, most residential roofs can potentially support up to 20 lbs. per square foot of snow before they become stressed. Ice and snow tend to more readily accumulate on low slope and flat roofs over porches or parts of the home that are next to a taller section of the house. 

Just two feet of old snow and two feet of new snow could weigh as much as 60 lbs. per square foot of roof space, which is way beyond the typical load capacity of most roofs. Bear in mind the closer it is to freezing (32 degrees), the more dangerous snow becomes to the investors’ roof, as these “higher” temperatures typically produce wetter, heavier snow. 

Why should your investor clients be concerned about ice dams?

Ice dams are a common winter hazard. Ice dams form when snow on the surface of the roof melts and then quickly refreezes. This can put a heavier load on the roof decking and trusses and can also cause water to seep in between poorly constructed soffits. This ice buildup can cause roofs to sag and may even cause a collapse. 

Is there a way to add coverage for Weight of Snow, Ice & Sleet and does it cost extra?

Yes, your investor client can be sure they have coverage for the Weight of Snow, Ice & Sleet by purchasing Broad or Special Form coverage. These two forms do cost more than Basic Form coverage, but when it’s considered how many more perils are insured, it’s easy to understand the difference in pricing. 

What does the technical lingo for this exclusion look like in the investor client’s policy?

Sample policy language may look like this: 

“When Basic is shown in the Declarations, Covered Causes of Loss means the following… 

Windstorm or Hail, but not including: 

  1. Frost or cold weather; 
  2. Ice (other than hail), snow or sleet, whether driven by wind or not” 

*As insurance policies may vary, investors should check their own policy for language specific to covered properties.    

What can this type of damage cost the investor client?

Losses resulting from the weight of snow, ice, or sleet can vary from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands depending upon the extent of the water intrusion or collapse. Prolonged moisture can also cause catastrophic mold damage if not attended to within 24-48 hours. If your investor client owns a multi-unit property, adjacent units could also become “casualties of war.” Lastly, a tenant or one of their guests could be seriously injured by a collapse which could lead to long-term medical bills. The falling materials could even kill someone. 

How can investors protect themselves?

First, investors should know what is in their policy: The investor should refer to the sections of their insurance policy that address coverage of Weight of Snow, Ice & Sleet. It is important that your investor clients know what they are and are not covered for. If you or your client have questions, don’t hesitate to ask your Sales Manager, who would be happy to help!  

Remove snow to prevent a roof collapse: Since the weight of snow can vary depending upon the amount of water it contains, investors should play it safe. They may want to remove the snow at two feet if the home has a newer, pitched roof that is in decent shape, and if the weather has not made it heavier than normal. If the roof is older, the property has a flat porch roof or if it is a manufactured home, investors will want to be even more conservative. In those cases, they may want to use 12 inches as your cue for snow removal. If your investor client can’t safely remove the snow with removal tools from the ground, it’s best to call in a professional roof snow removal service. Just make sure they are properly licensed and insured! 

Insulate the roof: Ice dams can be prevented, which is good news! The main key is to make sure the attic is well insulated. This means sealing any air leaks, properly installing correctly rated insulation and properly venting the roof. These steps can help encourage air movement and prevent heat from building up. The vents also help eliminate excess moisture which can cause mold or other health hazards. 

About that mold: Mold can grow very quickly when a property sustains water damage. In fact, it can grow within 24-48 hours (or sooner!) after a water event. Add heat to the equation and you have a recipe that mold loves. As such, it is imperative after a storm to dry out the property as quickly as possible. Your investor client may need to call in a water mitigation company to help if the job is a large one. Mold is typically excluded from most property policies so swift action to remediate any mold issue is critical! 

Investors should make sure their tenant understands that their personal property isn’t covered: Your investor clients will want to include a clause in the lease requiring tenants to carry renters insurance- and make sure to enforce it. Tenants should be aware that any insurance the investor carries on the property does not apply to the tenant’s personal belongings. Stress the importance of reporting any hazardous conditions on the property to the investor immediately. It may be beneficial for investors to include a section in the lease where the tenant acknowledges their understanding of these items. Another option is to purchase a product like our Tenant Protector Plan that does provide contents coverage for tenants.