The only constant in Idaho is the wind.
If you live in the state of Idaho there are very few things you can count on when it comes to predicting the weather. Most people tend to ignore the 10 day forecast opting to rely on the 5 minute forecast instead. It is not uncommon to experience all four seasons in one day. With all of this volatility the only weather prediction that is widely accepted is this; the wind will blow.
Typically the wind blows the hardest between March and April with average high speeds around 20 mph however, it is not unheard of to have wind gusts above 30 mph at any given time throughout the year.
Any time there are strong winds there is the potential for damage to personal property. This damage can occur as a direct result of the wind or from falling debris. Many times the high winds can be accompanied by hail that can cause dimpling from the impact. This dimpling can damage your vehicles as well as the siding and shingles on your home.
As restoration professionals we get a lot of calls this time of year to go do inspections on homes damaged by high winds or falling debris. One of the things that people tend to struggle with the most is knowing what would be considered a covered loss.
The answer to this question is not a simple one and should never be answered by a restoration professional. Insurance companies employ or hire professional adjusters to interpret the policies written and sold by their licensed agents and underwriters. As restoration professionals our job is to agree on the scope of work and determine the most cost effective manner in which to restore the property to pre-loss condition. The adjusters are the ones who will make determinations about loss coverage.
This sounds like I’m dancing around the question, however, if the customer and agent have discussed the policy and both have an understanding about all of the details contained therein, then there shouldn’t be much left to interpretation. The problem is that a homeowner policy in a legal binding agreement that is written in legal jargon that may be difficult for the lay person to understand. A truly good agent will help bridge the gap between the policy and policy owner by ensuring that they understand the agreement that they are entering into. In the agents defense however, a lot of people shop for a policy with only the monthly premium in mind. Once they find a price that is acceptable to them the rest of the details about the policy tend to hold less importance.
This last point is where we in the restoration industry tend to get caught in the crossfire. Many people never truly understand the details of their policy, and don’t really care to, until there is a reason. Often homeowners are surprised when they learn how much out of pocket costs are associated with a loss. It is not that uncommon for customers to express frustration when they learn that they will have to cover a thousand dollar deductible, or even worse, the whole cost due to lack of coverage. If I had a dollar for every time I have heard “What do I even pay this premium for?” These conversations are uncomfortable for all parties involved, but they are avoidable with a little education.
While it should be the policy of any reputable restoration company to NEVER tell a customer what is, or is not a covered loss, (that is the adjusters job) we do have an obligation to look out for the best interest of all parties involved. While we do not have the ability to interpret a homeowner’s policy, we do handle restoration work on hundreds of claims a year with many different types of causes. This diverse experience gives us the ability to discuss possible outcomes with customers to help them determine the best way for them to return things to normal.
A very common type of homeowner’s policy is a Named Perils Policy. What this means is that there are a list of “known perils” that are predetermined to be covered if they should occur. In regards to wind damage there are a few types of things that are covered under these policies. Damage caused by windstorm or hail, falling objects, weight of snow or ice, or sudden and accidental tearing apart are the most common.
The one big piece of the puzzle that is the hardest to explain to a home owner is the sudden and accidental part. What this means is that if damage occurs to a roof or structure that is well maintained then it would be covered, however if the damage was exacerbated by neglect or poor maintenance then it would not be covered. So, if your home was missing shingles in many places due to age and weathering and a wind storm came through and blew off more shingles, it might be determined that the condition of the roof prior to the wind factored in to the loss and therefor wouldn’t be covered. This is true in any case, for instance, if your roof collapsed due to heavy snow pack, the condition of the roof prior to the collapse would be considered. In this scenario, if the roof was leaking and the decking was weakened due to prolonged exposure to water and the elements, this could contribute to the collapse making it a maintenance issue rather than a sudden and accidental loss.
Another thing to be aware of in a wind damage scenario is that damage to one slope of your roof from a wind storm does not always justify replacing the entire roof. Often times the affected slope would be the only area covered. The same is true with damage from hail. If the roof shingles are damaged from the impact of the hail on one slope, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the whole roof would be replaced. With regards to hail it is also important to understand that the damage will often be looked at closely to determine whether or not it is structural damage or merely cosmetic.
There are a few simple things that a homeowner can do to minimize the risks of having a loss, as well as, ensuring that if there is a loss that it would be covered by their policy. The easiest thing to do would be to review your policy with your agent. Any agent would be happy to set up an appointment to discuss your policy. This is a great time to discuss the types of things that could possibly occur at your property to see they would be covered by your policy. This is also a time of discovery, when you and your agent can determine if your policy is still applicable, and whether there are any gaps that leave you exposed.
The other thing you can do to minimize the risk of a loss is to examine your property for things that could be vulnerable to strong winds. Make sure to keep all of the trees around your home groomed and free of dead branches, as well as, cutting away any heavy limbs that overhand the structure. Always makes sure that shutters are secure and all doors have stops fastened to prevent wind from catching them.
As far as coverage to you roof is concerned, the best thing to do is to maintain it. Keep your roof free from debris such as ice and dead leaves to prevent damage to the shingles. Always repair loose shingles and loose rain gutters to prevent further damage from high winds. The other thing that can really help if there is a claim is to keep current photos of the condition of the roof to take credit for maintaining it.
Many insurance agents have relationships with trusted restoration companies such as On The Spot Cleaning and Restoration, that will come out to your home and do a risk assessment inspection to help you recognize things that can be done to help minimize the effects of wind damage as well as other types of losses. The thing to remember is that staying informed about your policy along with proper maintenance of your property will keep you ahead of the game should an incident occur.
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