HARRISBURG – Homeowners can take steps to protect their properties and minimize the need to file an insurance claim stemming from winter weather-related damages, said acting Insurance Commissioner Michael F. Consedine.
Consedine said that insurance companies cannot non-renew or cancel homeowners insurance policies because of claims, but consumers should know that filing numerous claims could result in policy surcharges. Being proactive and keeping your home and property well-maintained will minimize wintertime damage, as well as decrease the need of filing an insurance claim.
Keep gutters free of ice and debris so that water from melting snow can flow freely.
Otherwise, ice damming could cause water to seep into your home. If water damage occurs, it is important to make sure everything is properly dried in order to prevent future mold problems – as mold cannot survive without moisture.
Damaged tree limbs should be trimmed back because the weight of ice and snow could cause limbs to break off and strike your home, a vehicle or pedestrians. Also, when using a wood stove, electric heater or fireplace, consumers should watch them closely and make sure they are working properly.
Consedine added that even if you take steps to prepare, damage to your home and property might still occur. Damage to your house and its contents caused by weight of snow or ice, creating a collapse, is covered under standard homeowners insurance policies.
If you have experienced damage to your home or property, take the following steps:
- · Contact your insurance company immediately to report your loss. Follow the instructions given to you by claims personnel.
- · Take notes and photos. Start from the beginning and keep a log of the people you spoke to and when. Summarize your conversation. Ask questions if you do not understand instructions. If possible, take pictures of the damage, both inside and outside of your home.
- · Wait for the adjuster to arrive! Your adjuster’s visual inspection of your loss may be necessary before repairs are undertaken. Do not throw away damaged property until your adjuster advises you it is all right to do so. If your home is damaged, make only temporary repairs until a claims adjuster looks at the damage. Making permanent repairs before the inspection could trigger a denial of your claim.
- · Be careful when choosing a contractor to make repairs. Before signing a contract, check references to make sure you are working with a reputable firm. Consumers need to be prepared so they are not taken advantage of by unscrupulous businesses or people. Consumers should examine their options, get more than one estimate, ask for and check references, and, most importantly, get everything in writing.
If your claim is denied, review the terms of your policy for what is or is not covered.
You may also file an appeal to your insurance company’s claim manager. If questions remain, feel free to contact the Insurance Department.
For more information, visit www.insurance.pa.gov or call the department’s toll-free, automated consumer hotline at (877) 881-6388, or either of the department’s Bureau of Consumer Services’ regional offices: Harrisburg at (717) 787-2317; or Philadelphia at (215) 560-2630.