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Lights Out: Frozen Pipes and Spoiled Food

You’re hosting the party for the big game. The invitations are out, responses are in and it’s going to be a big one. Your shopping is done and the refrigerator and freezer are stocked with the finest party fare money can buy.

Then the ice storm comes. And with it freezing temperatures. In fact, this particular cold snap is so extreme that it knocks out power to every home in a six-mile radius. The outage takes hours to restore, and when the lights come back on, you open the refrigerator to find the remains of what used to be fresh food for the party. Here’s the question: Will your home insurance policy cover the cost to replace the spoiled items?

Spoiled Rotten

Finding coverage under a home insurance policy for spoiled items depends on why the power supply was interrupted. For example, if the outage can be sourced to your premises and caused by a covered loss, such as a tree branch falling onto your power meter in your yard, many home insurance policies will cover the cost of the spoiled items.

However, if the outage is generated off of your premises, such as at a utility company’s transfer station or downed power line, your home insurance policy may not cover resulting damage. Some communities may have programs available for reimbursement of damage caused by the outage. However, such dollars are usually paid by the utility company, not your home insurer.

Some home insurance carriers will cover spoiled items if the outage is caused by a surge in power. This may happen when the utility company flips the switch to restore power to your area. Even in cases where spoilage is covered, don’t get too excited. Keep in mind that your insurance company will not pay anything until you have kicked in for you deductible. This is typically $500 or $1,000 that you must pay out-of-pocket, meaning the spoilage loss would have to be significant to justify a claim.

Note you can also ask your home insurer about specific spoilage coverage, sold via an endorsement to your policy. This coverage typically has a limit of $500 to $1,000—but your deductible is zero or $100 max, which is usually less than your regular homeowner deductible. Bonus: Many of these endorsements cover not only spoilage due to power failure, but also if the refrigerator or freezer simply breaks down.

Frozen Pipes

But wait: A power outage that occurs during freezing conditions can cause more headaches than some spoiled party food. Lack of heat not only means discomfort for you, your family and guests—it also can leave pipes in your home vulnerable to freezing. A frozen pipe can easily burst, exposing your home and its contents to resulting water damage. When a pipe bursts, damage can happen very quickly and will continue to worsen until the problem is isolated.

Most home insurance companies will cover damage resulting from a frozen pipe provided you can prove that you took measures to prevent the pipe from freezing. For example, many policies say that coverage applies if you can show that you either 1) shut off the water supply and drained your system, or 2) maintained heat to your home.

If a power outage prevents you from maintaining the heat, many home insurance policies will cover the resulting loss from the frozen pipe.

Summary

Cold weather conditions pose a number of threats to homeowners. If the threat manifests into damage to your home or its contents, is it covered by your home insurance policy? Sometimes the answer is “yes” and sometimes it’s “no.” Either way, waiting until the damage happens is the wrong time to learn about coverage. A phone call to your Trusted Choice® independent insurance agent can help. Your agent will help you understand the types of losses you are most vulnerable to, types of losses that are and are not covered, and options that exist which may prevent a high out-of-pocket expense to you. It’s a brand new year—why not call today?

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