If the long-term predictions prove to be true and we have a snowy Winter in 2013-14, policyholders may be faced with the issue of whether insurance covers damage to a business facility or home due to a roof collapse from the weight of heavy snow or ice?
The answer depends on whether the policyholder's business property or homeowner's policy uses the basic form of coverage or a broad form. Basic form policies exclude coverage for collapse due to snow, while the broad forms (specialty forms and all risk forms) cover such loss.
Even when there is coverage for collapse, the definition of collapse has been much litigated. Generally, there must be an actual physical downward movement in the roof or structure. Mere weakening of the structural supports is not enough for coverage to apply.
Further, even if the policyholder has the right coverage and an actual physical collapse, there are further issues that could cause problems in covering such a loss. One is that every policyholder has an obligation to mitigate damages. So, policyholder's must take reasonable steps to move inventory or personal property to another location where it will not be exposed to weather or theft. Business owners also should keep track of business income losses suffered from the roof collapse, as they may be covered for such losses under the policy as well.