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Under your homeowners policy HO3 policy, you must know what to do to have coverage.

You must show reasonable care to maintain heat in the building and shut off the water and drain all systems and appliances of any water to have damage from freezing covered on your HO-3 homeowners poloicy.  Otherwise, loss caused by the freezing of a plumbing, heating, air conditioning, or automatic fire protective sprinkler system or of any household appliance is excluded. In addition, any discharge, leakage, or overflow from within the system or appliance caused by freezing is also excluded. Any freezing of these units is considered to be, at least partially, within the control of the named insured. The named insured can often take prudent precautions to reduce this risk. This is the primary rationale for this exclusion.

Two key exceptions apply to this exclusion. The exclusion does not apply if the named insured has used reasonable care to (a) maintain heat in the building or (b) shut off the water and drain all systems and appliances of any water. If the structure is protected by an automatic fire protective sprinkler system, the named insured must use reasonable care to continue the water supply and maintain heat in the building for coverage to apply.

For example, suppose that John Smith has a summer lake home in Maine, covered under his homeowners policy. At the end of the summer, he shuts off the water supply and drains all his various systems of water in his lake home, including any appliances, and prepares the home overall for the winter. In this case, the freezing exclusion is not applicable, since he has taken the appropriate and reasonable steps to safeguard his property. However, if he fails to take these same precautions and the freezing of pipes occurs resulting in water damage, no coverage applies. These situations are often not clear-cut. For example, if John had taken these various steps but somehow a small amount of water was still left in the system, coverage could still apply. The key question is the following: did John take prudent and reasonable steps to safeguard the property? If the answer is yes, coverage applies.

This exclusion does not apply to the freezing of a sump, sump pump, or related equipment or a roof drain, gutter, downspout, or any similar fixtures. A “sump” is a “pit or reservoir serving as a drain or receptacle for liquids; a cesspool.” A “sump pump” is “a pump (as in a basement) to remove accumulations of liquid from a sump pit” (both definitions from Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 10th ed.).



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