If you're like most homeowners, your homeowner's insurance policy is paid for with an escrow account administered by your mortgage lender. While you have complete control over your policy and are free to speak with a representative from you provider at any time, you may go weeks or months without even thinking about your homeowner's insurance coverage. Of course, you probably sleep easier with the knowledge that you won't have to pay out of your own pocket for certain damages to your home.
There are three basic types of homeowner's insurance policy. Unless you live in a disaster-prone area or own a new, expensive home for which your mortgage lender insists that you provide top-of-the-line coverage, you probably have a "broad form" policy that covers some or all of the costs associated with a wide range of potential problems. Most "broad form" homeowner's insurance policies cover the cost of cleaning up and repairing damages associated with sudden weather events, car-striking-house accidents, vandalism, theft, neighborhood explosions, riots and malfunctioning appliances. In general, this type of insurance policy covers most events that can reasonably be considered "sudden" or "accidental."
Fortunately, rooftop snow and ice buildup generally meets this definition. Despite the fact that winter precipitation can build up on your roof over the course of many weeks and may only cause problems when it begins to melt or becomes particularly heavy in late winter, most homeowner's insurance providers will pay for structural damage or water-related issues that arise as a result. You'll be able to file a successful claim for problems ranging from a partially-collapsed roof to an electrical shortage caused by a persistent leak from your roof into your attic.
However, you shouldn't automatically assume that your homeowner's insurance policy will cover the cost of cleaning up or repairing damage associated with excessive snow and ice buildup on your roof without first contacting your provider. Some providers consider such buildups to be preventable and may only pay for a small portion of the associated costs. Others specifically exclude homeowners who live in certain regions.
If you live in a snow-prone region that sees massive snows followed by sudden springtime melts, you may wish to check the fine print of your policy to determine whether you're covered. Common "snow-prone" locations that may be excluded from coverage include high terrain in the Sierra Nevada, snow belts near the Great Lakes, and arctic or subarctic locations in Alaska and northern Canada.