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December 24, 2013

Heavy ice can cause damage, pose problems for homeowners

OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma Insurance Department is warning residents to not take the weight of ice, snow or sleet lightly.

“Oklahoma is no stranger to extreme weather,” said Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak. “We have witnessed the damage thick layers of ice can cause.”

The weight of ice could potentially damage roofs, causing stress cracks in shingles and siding. In many cases, attic support beams could also be broken, resulting in costly damage.

“The weight of ice and snow is covered in most policies, but it has to be listed that way,” said Doak. “If you read your policy for covered perils and you do not see it mentioned, it is not covered.”

Falling ice and tree branches also can pose a problem. Watch for branches that could break or fall due to the weight of the ice. Also, the weight of the ice may have weakened branches, making them a danger when strong winds hit them.

Property damage caused by fallen trees can be the most misunderstood coverage in a homeowners insurance policy. If you carry homeowners insurance, you will be covered for damage to a structure and its contents from fallen trees and branches. The cost to remove the tree or limb also is covered by the insurer. Additionally, your homeowners policy will cover damages when the tree is on someone else’s property and has caused damage to your structure or property. An example of this would be if a tree limb is stretching across your property and falls due to wind, lightning or hail, causing damage to a structure. In other words, it is the responsibility of the owner on whose property the tree limb fell to contact their homeowners insurance provider.

In most cases, the homeowner who sustained the damage files an insurance claim.. However, if your neighbor knew that their tree was a safety concern and nothing was done, your neighbor could be considered negligent. This could be true if the tree was in poor health or not properly maintained. The policyholder’s insurance company may try to collect from the neighbor’s insurance company in a process known as subrogation. If the insurer is successful, you may be reimbursed for the deductible.

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