Home Insurance and Storm Damage
Does Your Home Insurance Cover Weather and Water Damage?Winter Storms, Spring Thaws and Water Damage. Are You Covered?By Mila AraujoUpdated October 29, 2017
Winter Storms, spring thaws, water damage and other losses caused by weather variations are often covered by your home insurance.
Consider that in 2015 Winter storms caused an estimated $3.5 billion in insured losses according to Munich Re. As weather patterns change bringing harsh conditions to areas that traditionally do not see such heavy winter activity, claims due to winter storm damage will likely rise.
Are You Insured for Winter Storm or Water Damage?
Many homeowners are insured and can make a claim if they sustain damage from a winter storm, spring thaw or cold snap. Depending on the type of policy you have, several types of risks and damage arising from weather, heavy snowfall, thaws or cold snaps that may be covered and you may be able to get help and compensation for losses from your insurance company.
What Kind of Weather Related Damage Is Covered by Insurance?
The most common causes of winter storm or weather damage include:
Loss due to power failure (which may include food loss, depending on your type of policy)
- Hail Damage
- Roof Damage
- Water Damage
- Sewer Back Up
- Freezing Pipes
- Fallen Trees - There are many reasons a tree might fall, and whether or not it caused damage to property becomes important for the purpose of paying a claim. Different policies offer different types of coverage.
- Ice dams forming on the roof
- Weight of snow and ice on the roof causing damage
- Wind damage (Which can include fallen trees and shingles or bricks flying off buildings and roofs)
- Flooding due to melting snow, a sudden thaw, or excessive rainfall
- Water infiltration into the home. This may or may not be covered depending on how the damage is happening. Always call to find out what you might be eligible for.
Although not all damages are covered by standard insurance, most of the above items are.
The major exception to most policies is flood damage. Flood damage is not usually covered by the home insurance company in the United States; you can find out more about flood insurance frequently asked questions here.
Winter Weather Can Also Put You at Risk of Being Sued: Liability Claims
We often think about the risks of damage to our own homes, but there is also a significant risk that if you do not maintain your property, other people could get injured on your property and hold you responsible. Your home insurance covers liability.
Contact your own insurance Company Immediately even if you think the damage or injury is not your fault. The insurance company can help give advice on the next steps and get involved to help you.
Insurance companies help with this legal aspect and legal defense costs if needed as part of the liability portion of your insurance in many cases as well. Take advantage of their services, this is what you pay an insurance company for: to help you!
The Insurance Agreement for Claims and Your Responsibility
Your Policy is a Contract with the Insurance Company and you as the homeowner have agreed to keep them aware of circumstances that might impact liability.
Do not try and solve the issue by yourself, in doing so you may create a problem for your own insurance coverage. Your insurance representative is in the best position to explain how you are covered and what they will do to help you in the situation.
Examples of Winter Liability Risks and Claims
- Property damage to others. For example, a tree falls on your neighbor's fence or home.
- Personal injury: the mailman comes to deliver a package and slips on ice on your walkway. You have to do your best during storms to keep walkways de-iced and clear of snow to avoid injury to yourself and others.
- Snow or ice on the roof of your home suddenly crashes down on a parked car, or a person walking along your property and injures them. This is a very dangerous risk, which is why it is important to pay attention to accumulation on your roof and take preventative measures following a storm.
What to Do If You Have Winter Storm Damage to Make a Claim
- Don't wait if you notice damage to your home, call your insurance company as soon as possible. Most insurance companies have 24-hour claims numbers that can help you in an emergency.
Insurance does not cover gradual damage, so leaving things until later could cost you a lot of money, and may even cause further damage that would not be covered and you claim could be denied.
IF Water is Coming Into Your Home? Call Your Insurance Company!
Normally if you have damage happening, like water coming into your home, the insurance company can be really useful because as soon as they become alerted they may send an emergency crew out to help you prevent further damage. Take advantage of all the advice and services your insurance company can offer during a claim. You don't need to go through the situation alone.
In many cases, because of the insurer's experience with claims, and the established relationships insurance companies have with emergency contractors and service providers, going through your insurance company will get you help immediately. If you try and contact contractors on your own or after hours, you may not be on the top of their list. Give your insurance company the opportunity to get things resolved by experienced professionals as quickly as possible.
Preventing Further Damage
While you wait for the insurance company, you are responsible to prevent further damage. In this process, you might be tempted to take things and throw them away, or move things. Before you do this take a few minutes to document what is happening. It could become very important when the insurance company reviews the claim.
How to Make a Claim and Get Paid for Winter Storm and Water Damage
Regardless of the situation, anytime you notice damage to your property or home, or you get accused of being responsible for damage to others, you should contact your insurance representative immediately. They will guide you through the process to protect your best interests and let you know what is covered.
Find out what coverage is available to protect yourself and if you do not have it, make the necessary changes to your home policy to get the best homeowner coverage possible for the future. With changing weather patterns you may be at risk for extensive damages that you may not have been subject to before.
With a few adjustments and a good plan for home winter maintence and prevention, you should be able to keep your home safe from storm damage, and if you do have a claim, get the help you need from the insurance company so you don't lose money and come out on top.
Examples of Storm Damage Claims
'My Neighbor's Tree Fell on My Fence, or My House! What Do I Do?'
A very common issue between neighbors is when damage occurs across property lines. The example of the tree is very common. Branches can fall and hit a neighbor's home, fence, or garage. Sometimes trees fall over driveways and hit the neighbor's cars.
Contact your insurance company right away so that they can help you determine if you can recover damages from your neighbor using the proper channels. You do not need to handle these issues alone. They will be able to help you take care of the situation and get you back on track.
Damages to Your Roof
For homes that are connected, or semi-detached, damages on the roof or within the walls can also cross property lines. The help of experts in these situations, like those of your insurance company, is in your best interest. You have a responsibility as part of your insurance contract to make them aware of any issues or potential claims being brought against you.
What to Do If You Aren't Sure Who Is Responsible In a Claim
In the scenario above, for example, your neighbor needs to contact their insurance company and you need to contact yours. This will facilitate the situation for you. You're not alone in these situations.
Anytime you have a claim brought against you, you should call your insurance company so they can help, that's why you have liability coverage.
Resources By The Balance.com
Mold and Statutes for Retail & Commercial Properties
Legal Issues of Mold Contamination
The legal issues associated with toxic mold are complicated primarily by the natural presence of molds in indoor environments and scientific uncertainty concerning toxic molds and their causal connection to adverse health impacts. Molds occur naturally and there are hundreds of thousands of varieties of molds and fungi. Molds produce tiny spores to reproduce and mold spores waft through indoor and outdoor air continually. When mold spores land on a damp spot indoors, they may begin to grow and to digest whatever they are growing on in order to survive.
When Mold is Discovered & Not Addressed on Retail & Commercial Properties, Mold accumulates indoors, mold growth will often occur. There is no practical way to eliminate all molds and mold spores in indoor environments. Fortunately, most molds are harmless aside from their tendency to produce mild allergic reactions in allergy suffers.
From a regulatory perspective toxic mold has received mixed attention from federal and state regulators. In 1994, OSHA proposed rulemaking for standards addressing general indoor air quality in work environments. The proposed rulemaking considered exposures to toxigenic fungi and mycotoxins, but at least partially in recognition of the difficulty of developing a comprehensive regulatory regime for indoor air quality in all work environments, OSHA withdrew its proposed rule making on December 17, 2001.
Addressing Mold in Leases and Purchase Agreements
Given the increased attention to toxic mold, owners and tenants of commercial buildings and their attorneys are starting to address mold prevention and remediation directly in leases and purchase agreements. And, due to the current lack of scientific knowledge and regulatory uncertainty, the focus should be on risk assessment and prevention of mold problems.
Tenants and purchasers considering a transaction should have an assessment for toxic mold performed by a competent consultant with experience in industrial hygiene, mold sampling and mold remediation. This protocol should become part of their due diligence process. An assessment of indoor air quality for the presence of toxic molds will establish baseline conditions and, if necessary, allow the parties to correct a pre-existing mold problem.
Practices and customs for assessing toxic mold risk and indoor air quality are still developing. Some building owners may develop protocols for regular testing and may provide results to prospective tenants or purchasers. However, most retailers contemplating a lease or purchase transaction will likely have to request permission to perform a toxic mold assessment.
Although a matter for negotiation, it is likely that the retailer will pay the initial expense of an assessment. If a problem is identified, contractual provisions addressing the next steps should be considered:
- Will the building owner be required to perform remediation and to what extent?
- Who will control the consultant performing the assessment work and who will own the consultant's work product?
- Will the work product be confidential?
Because toxic mold problems can require expensive and intrusive remediation work, and negative publicity associated with a mold problem could result in serious financial and legal consequences, savvy owners will seek to control the information flow and to avoid making any open-ended commitments to resolve mold problems identified during the due diligence process. Such provisions are reasonable as long as the prospective tenant or purchaser can evaluate baseline conditions and the prospective tenant or purchaser is protected from disclosure obligations and non-disclosure liability should the assessment reveal a problem that could cause adverse health effects.
Once a decision to proceed with a transaction is reached, addressing ongoing responsibility for mold is important in leases (in purchase transactions where toxic mold issues are not resolved prior to closing, transaction specific provisions would be required), and this presents some challenges for drafters. As previously noted, molds thrive in moist environments where excess water is present and mold spores move through indoor air constantly. Thus, a small roof leak in a tenant space could lead to a moisture problem with resulting mold. In a multiple tenant building, the mold could spread from one tenant space to other tenant spaces. Disputes and possible litigation could result.
For single structure retailers, building owners are, over time, likely to require tenants to hire qualified consultants at tenant expense to perform periodic assessments for the presence of mold, to provide the assessment results to the building owner, and to perform remediation if necessary. Owners may also seek access to the premises to verify test results or to perform independent analysis. Although a regular assessment regime adds costs, it is sensible prevention and it may provide liability protection to retail tenants.
Some retail tenants may find it advantageous to adopt a testing regime even in the absence of a lease requirement. The main issues for lease negotiation are responsibility for remediation and reasonable limits to owner access. If the cause of the mold problem is a latent construction defect as opposed to a tenant failure to perform required maintenance or repair, it may be appropriate to allocate remediation responsibility to the owner. As with other owner access to perform or verify a mold assessment should, if possible, be conditioned upon reasonable prior notice and limited to times when the space is dark.
Focus on Prevention
Addressing mold issues in leases of space in multi-tenant buildings should also focus on prevention of conditions that can lead to mold and prompt remediation in the event of a mold problem. If the owner assumes the general repair and maintenance obligations for the building exterior and all building systems, tenants should require the owner to perform periodic mold assessments - whether or not the owner recovers its costs as a common expense. Indeed, because a mold problem could originate in one space but manifest itself in another or other spaces, there is tenant incentive for comprehensive landlord oversight of mold prevention.
Where tenants are responsible for maintenance and repair of their interior space only, owners will want some right of inspection to the extent that the maintenance and repair involves building systems that could lead to moist conditions or mold growth. Additionally, tenants may want the owner to promise to oversee all tenant-performed maintenance to make sure that compliance is reasonably uniform. As with single tenant buildings, leases should also address responsibility for remediation costs and acceptable times of access.
Owners & Tenants- Retailers should devise a plan that will be ongoing and protect both parties interest.
SERVPRO of Mount Pleasant does Mold Remediation Services . 843-884-2258
Coastal Flooding in Charleston SC
Living on the Coast in Charleston, SC you probably have experienced or been impacted by coastal flooding. “Coastal flooding” is defined as the phenomenon when salt water from the ocean floods or inundates areas that are normally dry. You might think these flooding tides are mainly the result of strong storms or hurricanes. However, it’s really coastal flooding from very high astronomical or “normal tides”, which are a result of the gravitational pull of the Sun and the Moon on the water surfaces of the Earth, that have been on the increase. High Tides combined with winds blowing from the water toward the coast, the water levels can be even higher and more damaging. To make the situation worse, cities such as Charleston, SC have an added issue with coastal flooding. When heavy rainfall occurs around the time of high tide the result is even more widespread flooding of streets, roads, and some homes and businesses across the city.
If your Homes or Businesses are affected by the rising waters, SERVPRO of Mount Pleasant is there to Assist with Water Removal and Dehumidification. Call us when this Water or Storm Event happens at 843-884-2258.
Resources by National Weather Service by Ron Morales- Warning Coordination Meterologist.
Importance of Knowing Where Shut Off Valve is on Homes
Locating and Operating Your Main Water Shut-Off Valve
Not Knowing Could Cause Major Damage to Properties if you don't know where it is and Water Pipes Burst. In Case of Property Damage Please Call SERVPRO of Mount Pleasant at 843-884-2258
Knowing how and where to shut off your home’s main water supply is as important as knowing how and where to turn-off or reset an electric breaker or replace a fuse.
Learn where your main shut-off valve is inside your home, have it plainly tagged/marked and operate it at least annually to ensure it is in proper working order. It is also a good idea to show this valve to any of your children you feel are responsible enough to utilize the valve in your absence. We can Provide that TAG to your family.
Every home was required to have a main water shut-off valve installed inside the home during initial construction. In most Cases they are located near where the water service line enters your home and are usually near the water meter.
There are also underground shut-off valves installed at the property line. This shut-off is typically referred to as the “curb-stop”, which is protected by and accessed through a “curb-box”. The curb-box has a 4” diameter, round, cast iron lid with the word “WATER” stamped on it. It is also important to know the location of this Shut off Valve. This valve can be used to shut off your private, buried, water service line in the event of a leak. PLEASE NOTE that many water service lines develop a leak where they pass through the foundation wall before the main shut-off valve.
Resources Provided by Highland Sewer and Water Authority
Basics of Mold
What is Mold?
Mold, is a type of fungus. Molds are decomposers of dead organic material such as leaves, wood and plants. The spores and hair-like bodies of individual mold colonies are too small for us to see without a microscope. When a lot of mold is growing on a surface, it often appears black or green. The color of mold is influenced by the nutrient source and the age of the colony. If mold is growing behind vinyl wallpaper, colorful pink or purple splotches may appear. Mold growing on fabric is called mildew.
What Does Mold Need to Grow?
Mold needs water to grow; without water mold cannot grow. Mold also needs food, oxygen and a temperature between 40 degrees and 100 degrees F. Since mold decomposes dead organic (once living) material it can grow on wood, the paper facing on gypsum board (drywall) and other materials made from wood. Mold can also digest some synthetic materials such as adhesives, pastes and paints. While mold cannot get nutrients from inorganic material such as concrete, glass and metal, it can grow on the dirt present on these surfaces. Molds like damp and wet materials and moisture in air. Some molds get moisture from the air when the air has relative humidity above 80%. The high humidity makes surfaces damp enough for mold to grow.
How Does Mold Spread?
Mold can grow by extension of hyphae that are like tiny root hairs. In this way, a small colony of mold can expand to cover many square feet of material. Mold can also make spores that are like very small seeds. Spores can survive conditions that are too sunny, hot, cold, dry or wet for mold to grow. When spores are released they can be carried by air or water to new locations. Some spores are so small that they are more affected by air currents than by gravity. When spores land on a damp surface that has food and oxygen available, and if the temperature suits them, they will start to grow. It is important to realize that mold spores are present everywhere, in outside air as well as indoor air – unless very special precautions are taken to remove or kill them. Everyday we are exposed to airborne mold spores from outdoor sources, sometimes at high concentrations. It is almost impossible to create a mold free space or to keep a space mold free. What we can do – and should do – is control the amount of mold in our indoor environments.
SERVPRO of Mount Pleasant does Mold Remediation. We give Free Estimates on Mold Remediation. Call us at 843-884-2258
Resources by Building Science Corporation
Frozen Pipes During Winter Storms
Why Pipe Freezing is a Problem
Water has a unique property in that it expands as it freezes. This expansion puts tremendous pressure on whatever is containing it, including metal or plastic pipes. No matter the strength of a container, expanding water can cause pipes to break.
Pipes that freeze most frequently are:
- Pipes that are exposed to severe cold, like outdoor hose bibs, swimming pool supply lines, and water sprinkler lines.
- Water supply pipes in unheated interior areas like basements and crawl spaces, attics, garages, or kitchen cabinets.
- Pipes that run against exterior walls that have little or no insulation.
How to Protect Pipes From FreezingBefore the onset of cold weather, protect your pipes from freezing by following these recommendations:
- Drain water from swimming pool and water sprinkler supply lines following manufacturer's or installer's directions. Do not put antifreeze in these lines unless directed. Antifreeze is environmentally harmful, and is dangerous to humans, pets, wildlife, and landscaping.
- Remove, drain, and store hoses used outdoors. Close inside valves supplying outdoor hose bibs. Open the outside hose bibs to allow water to drain. Keep the outside valve open so that any water remaining in the pipe can expand without causing the pipe to break.
- Add insulation to attics, basements and crawl spaces. Insulation will maintain higher temperatures in these areas.
- Check around the home for other areas where water supply lines are located in unheated areas. Look in the garage, and under kitchen and bathroom cabinets. Both hot and cold water pipes in these areas should be insulated.
- Consider installing specific products made to insulate water pipes like a "pipe sleeve" or installing UL-listed "heat tape," "heat cable," or similar materials on exposed water pipes. Newspaper can provide some degree of insulation and protection to exposed pipes – even ¼” of newspaper can provide significant protection in areas that usually do not have frequent or prolonged temperatures below freezing.
- Consider relocating exposed pipes to provide increased protection from freezing.
How to Prevent Frozen Pipes
- Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
- Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
- When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe - even at a trickle - helps prevent pipes from freezing.
- Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a much more costly repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
- If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55° F.
How to Thaw Frozen Pipes
- If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.
- Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.
- Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device.
- Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you can not thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber. In case of Water Damage - Call SERVPRO of Mt Pleasant. 843-884-2258.
- Check all other faucets in your home to find out if you have additional frozen pipes. If one pipe freezes, others may freeze, too.
Resources By American Red Cross
HOME FIRE SAFETY CHECKLIST
COOKING- Keep an Eye on Your Pans while cooking, especially frying. Stay in the Kitchen or Near the Grill while their is open flames.
FIREPLACES, SPACE HEATERS-3 Feet from Heat. Keep all furniture, Curtains, Dish Towels, Baseboards. 3 Feet away at all Times.
SMOKING- Never Smoke in Bed or Fall Asleep while Smoking.
CHILD SAFETY- Keep Matches and Lighters out of reach and in a safe place.
SMOKE ALARMS- Check Batteries Regularly and Replace.
Replace Smoke Alarms every 10 years. Test Monthly.
APPLIANCES- Large and Small Appliances should be Plugged Directly Into Wall.
MOST IMPORTANTLY!!! HOME FIRE ESCAPE PLAN-Practice Fire Escape Plan with members of household and Know Escape Route and Time of Fire Drill and how long it takes to execute. 2 Minutes or Less would be the best action plan.
American Red Cross
Filing Insurance for Commercial Loss
As a disaster remediation company, we are always looking for information to provide our clients. One interesting thing we found is “Entrepreneurs often overlook preparation for these rare events and focus instead on more pressing details, but taking steps to prepare for the unthinkable can be the difference between surviving and failing after a major storm.” As a business most watch for pricing, expenses, and such, but don’t prepare. The good thing is, we can come out and help you plan for the event of a disaster. Another interesting thing we found, is its always best to file a claim with your insurance.” Supporting Disaster Damage when Documents are Unavailable
In the case of a disaster that damages your business records, follow a two-step process.
First, document that the disaster occurred. In a recent (2014) Tax Court case, the Court faulted the taxpayer because he had never reported the disaster.
In this case, a taxpayer claimed flood damage had caused his business records to be un-recoverable, but he did not document the flood damage with an insurance claim or other evidence. If you can't prove the records were lost or destroyed, the IRS may assume you didn't have them in the first place.
The best way to document a disaster is to file an insurance claim. Even if you live in a disaster zone, the IRS has no way of knowing if your business suffered a loss unless you put the loss in writing.
How to Document Business Losses
You will need your asset records to document the losses to business assets, including vehicles, equipment, furniture and fixtures. Report casualty losses on your business or personal tax return. IRS Publication 547 describes the process for determining deductions for losses, including reduction in fair market value.
You can also file for assistance with FEMA (the federal emergency disaster assistance agency), or file a disaster assistance claim with the Small Business Administration.
Per the Tax Court case mentioned above, if your business records are lost or destroyed you must make a "serious and persuasive effort" to reconstruct your business records.”
“CNBC Make It” https://www.cnbc.com/2015/08/27/4-steps-for-disaster-proofing-your-business.html
“The Balance” https://www.thebalance.com/what-if-you-lose-business-records-in-a-disaster-397892
Water loss in your business
A commercial water loss can cause be a burden in many ways. It can mean less revenue and customer loss. If you company has a water loss, time is important.
- Identify the source of the water
- Turn off electricity if necessary
- Turn off the water
- Contact SERVPRO of Mt. Pleasant 843-884-2258
- Call local HVAC, plumbers or necessary contractor to fix the leak
- If standing water is present, mark off the area with water signs, to warn people of the danger.
These are some of the things, you should do. The best plan of action is to have an emergency response plan in place. We offer a great plan at SERVPRO of Mt. Pleasant. We work closely with property manager, insurance, plumber, HVAC, or contractors, to get your business up and running in a timely manner. We make it "Like it never even happened." Call 843-884-2258 24/7
Mold in the workplace
Mold can be present in the workplace, as well as, at home. Mold is suspected of causing some health issues. If you suspect mold in your business, follow these tips:
“NIOSH states that excess moisture usually is the cause of indoor mold growth. If supervisors suspect mold is causing health problems among their employees, they should:
- Regularly inspect buildings for dampness.
- Prevent high indoor humidity with HVAC systems.
- Always respond when employees report health concerns.
- Establish procedures for recording and responding to indoor air quality complaints.
- Develop a plan for response and perform remedial action.
- Follow up to ensure corrective action has been successful.
- Encourage employees who have developed persistent or worsening respiratory symptoms to see a health care provider.
- Follow health care provider recommendations for relocation of employees diagnosed with building-related respiratory disease.
We are here to remediate the mold in your business, if you notice its presents. So, don’t panic call SERVPRO of Mt. Pleasant at 843-884-2258
“Safety Health” http://www.safetyandhealthmagazine.com/articles/9007-health-risks-of-mold-in-the-workplace