This winter it is natural to ask ourselves if we and our clients learnt anything from last year's experience. I believe it is fair to say that even if an insurance cover provides good economic protection from damage caused by snow load, it is always better to try to avoid such damage.
First and foremost, we all need to realise that snow load represents a significant risk that could compromise building structures. In some cases, people may also be severely injured, even fatally, by collapsing buildings or snow sliding off roofs and the like.
Watch for signs – is anything starting to give way? Any cracks or noise? Are doors and windows increasingly hard to open or close? These may all be signals that something needs to be done sooner rather than later. In the long run, monitoring the girders of buildings is not uncommon. Such monitoring is a good and relatively easy way to detect deformation and gives an early warning if something needs to be done. Monitoring and measuring snow depth on roofs should always be considered a viable option to detect possible problems early.
Sometimes frozen drainage systems may cause snow and ice to build up on the roof. To avoid this, consider installing heating in the drainage system, especially in geographical areas with a climate where the temperature frequently varies from below freezing to a milder temperature.
Even though old buildings may have been exposed to a heavy snow load over many years without suffering any damage, the structure may have been weakened over time, and may therefore be more prone to such damage than in previous years. One should take this into consideration when deciding the need for an inspection, and deciding when to start unloading snow. Sometimes an unusual wind direction in combination with heavy snow may cause stress to the building structure that is unusual and causes unexpected damage.
Most property insurance covers damage caused by snow load. If you are in doubt about whether your insurance policy would be sufficient, ask us!
The cover is normally dependent on property owners taking good care of their buildings, meaning that the owners do what they are reasonably expected to do to avoid snow load damage. The owners must, to the best of their ability, make sure that snow is removed before the snow load becomes a problem.
In the real world, unexpected situations happen. The snow may be accompanied by heavy rain; the snow may be heavier than expected; and the wind may be stronger, come from an unexpected direction, and add to the stress. If the building code of the building is met, and the owner has acted in a way than corresponds to normal and prudent behaviour, things tend to end well without damage. However, unexpected things may happen and cause damage, for which insurance will provide cover.
What may the consequences be if you fail to be aware of the responsibility to unload snow?
Apart from the fact that people may be injured, a lack of prudent unloading may have consequences, and may result in a reduction in the insurance settlement.
Prepare and monitor
Beware of the risk. Snow load may lead to the collapse of building structures, and it poses a significant risk of damage to both people and property. Monitor the building and be aware of signs of overload. Use professionals to safely remove snow load.
If damage still occurs, If is there to help you!
Leader Major Property Claims, If