Spring cleaning for summer storms

We all know that if you don’t like the weather in Alberta, you only have to wait 15 minutes for something else to come along. Sun can turn to wind, then rain, then back to sun in the span of an afternoon as we relish every minute of our all-too-short summer.

But in the past few years, Alberta has really been hit hard by those summer storms that thunder through the province. In 2015, the four most damaging weather events in Canada all hit Wild Rose Country, with the wind, rain, hail and tornadoes in those four storms alone causing an estimated $540 million in damage across the province.

Look, we can’t stop bad weather from happening any more than we can stop the Incredible Hulk from turning green and angry every time he stubs his toe, but there are some spring cleaning steps you can take to help ease the pain of potential storms.

  • Clean out your eavestroughs and downspouts and make sure your yard drains water away from your home instead of towards it.
  • Check your sump pump to make sure it’s working (or install one if you don’t have one) and keep your basement floor drains clear of obstructions. Some sump pumps even have alarms that can be linked to your security system.
  • Inspect your roof and siding. If your shingles are curling up or your siding is falling off or damaged, it’s time to repair the outer shell of your home. Damage caused by a roof leaking due to wear and tear isn’t covered under your insurance policy.
  • Keep your trees trimmed. Cleaning up the branches can reduce the risk of one falling on to your roof, fence, deck or shed and causing damage.
  • If you’re heading out for a relaxing summer getaway, make sure to have someone check in on your home regularly.
What will your insurance cover?

If the worst happens and you find yourself with weather damage around your home, it’s also important to know what is and isn’t covered by your insurance policy.

Wind ripping shingles off your roof or nightmare-sized hail breaking your windows? Check. In fact, your home policy will typically cover any wind or hail damage to your home’s exterior and your personal property — though your policy may have limits on the amount of coverage you receive. It will also cover damage to the interior if it’s due to water entering through holes the storm made.

Water damage is a little trickier. Basement seepage, where water from below the surface enters through the foundation walls or basement floor or windows, typically isn’t covered by residential insurance policies in Canada. Coverage for overland water — resulting from a creek or river overflowing, for example — is a relatively new product for Canadian insurance policies and isn’t yet universal, so you’ll want to check with your advisor to see if you’re covered for it or if you’re able to add coverage. Sewer back-up coverage is often an optional addition to your policy, but it’s so important that we usually include it up to a certain limit. Sewer back-up covers you when water comes back into your house from a sewer, sump or septic tank but doesn’t cover damage caused by overland flooding that caused the sewer system to back up. [The Enhanced Water Endorsement is being updated June 1, 2016]

Here are a few other things to keep in mind:

  • Damage to detached buildings such as a garage or shed is typically covered under your home policy, provided those buildings are located on the property.
  • Damage to trees, shrubs and outdoor plants is usually covered up to a specified limit in most home insurance policies.
  • If a storm knocks out the power to your home for an extended period of time, your insurance policy may provide you with coverage for spoiled food in your fridge or freezer.

It’s a good idea to check your insurance policy to see what you’re covered for before storm season starts, and consult your insurance provider with any questions about your coverage.

Watch Over Your Wheels

Hail damage to a vehicle is covered under your auto insurance policy, and a big storm can cause thousands of dollars of damage. Save yourself a potential insurance claim by parking inside your garage or investing in a portable shelter for your vehicle.

Since 1962, AMA has been providing reliable auto insurance to Albertans. We are proud of our strong Alberta roots and our history of protecting what matters most to you.