While mild weather has been the norm across much of the country so far this winter, the recent ice storms and record snowfall in the Pacific Northwest remind us that damaging winter weather is just waiting to make its mark.

A common problem following snow and ice storms is ice damming. Ice forms along the edge of a roof or in the gutters and prevents melting snow from draining properly. Water backs up under the shingles and can leak into the structure, causing interior damage.

Is this type of damage covered by property policies?

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Under the ISO commercial-property special causes of loss form, in the limitations section, the form excludes coverage for damage “resulting from rain, snow, sleet, or ice” to the interior of a building or property contained in it. However, it gives back such coverage if the damage is caused by the “thawing of snow, sleet, or ice on the building or structure.” Since ice damming occurs when snow or ice thaws but cannot properly drain, such damage would be covered under a form with this type of provision.

In the homeowner’s named-perils forms, there must first be wind or hail damage to the exterior of the dwelling that creates an opening before damage to the interior or contents caused by snow or sleet is covered. The peril provides no coverage for such losses as snow entering the home through an open window, or a water stain on the ceiling or wall due to a leaky roof (unless the leak was caused by the windstorm). An advantage to the HO 00 03 open-perils form is that while coverage for personal property is excluded, coverage for the dwelling is not.