In the event of a flooded basement, homeowners insurance covers many causes of "sudden and accidental" water damage. But there are various coverage exceptions depending on the cause of the flood, as well as your insurer's policy requirements.
This article will cover:
Does my home insurance cover a flooded basement?
Barring any exclusions noted in your policy, standard homeowners insurance covers flood damage due to sources including:
Flood due to frozen or burst pipes
Standard homeowners insurance usually covers sudden and accidental damage caused by frozen or burst pipes flooding the basement. If your pipes freeze during the winter and burst, for example, the resulting damage should be covered. Providers usually have certain requirements that need to be fulfilled before they pay out on a claim for burst pipes. These include:
- You've kept your home at a minimum temperature.
- You're living in the house at the time of the basement flooding.
- You've kept up with basic home maintenance.
Broken basement appliance flood damage
If your washing machine, freezer or other appliance in the basement causes accidental water damage, your home insurance should cover it. If it turns out the flood due to a fixture or appliance was because of poor maintenance, odds are your claim will not be approved. Your insurance company will only cover the cost of the water damage, not the cost to repair or replace the appliance.
Water heater leak
If your water heater in the basement leaks and causes damage, your homeowners insurance policy should cover it — assuming the water heater isn't old and poorly maintained. If that's the case, your home insurance claim can be denied. Home insurance takes care of the water removal, debris cleanup and damaged furnishings, but not the replacement of the water heater itself.
Flood due to water discharge or overflow
Home insurance usually covers water damage from an accidental discharge or overflow. An example of discharge is when water pours out of a broken pipe. Overflow is when water in a container like a pool, sink or tub exceeds capacity and spills onto the floor and surrounding area. Homeowners insurance also covers damaged flooring, furnishings or belongings stored in the basement.
When homeowners insurance doesn't cover basement flood
Home insurance usually won't cover any flood damage from natural or weather-related causes. The same applies if the flood source is outside of the house. These exclusions include:
Storm surges and rain
Water damage to the basement from storm surges, heavy rain or natural disasters isn't covered under standard homeowners insurance. The water didn't come from the home's piping system, so it's not really under your policy's domain of coverage. This is an issue for flood insurance.
Home insurance doesn't cover damage from seepage, as it's often considered a maintenance problem. If groundwater accumulates near your house, it can seep under the home's foundation — especially if your foundation is old and cracked. This can damage the foundation and flood the basement through the bottom of the floor.
Water and sewer backup
A standard home insurance policy doesn't cover water or sewer backup floods. You can add water and sewer backup insurance to your policy. However, it normally only covers the damage to a $10,000 maximum.
Sump pump flood damage
Sump pump floods are not covered under a standard homeowners insurance policy. But coverage for sump pumps is available as an endorsement.
Homeowners insurance vs. flood insurance
Homeowners and flood insurance are two distinct policies. Their differences in coverage often come down to one question: where did the water come from?
If the water damage came from a source inside the home, homeowners insurance probably takes care of it. That's assuming it was sudden and accidental, and not gradual or caused by poor maintenance. If the water is due to other external sources like tides, rain or city water, and sewer lines and two or more properties are involved, you'll need flood insurance.
However, there are flood insurance coverage limitations for basements. While personal belongings and appliances are usually covered, you may face exclusions for the structure and finishing materials.
Tips on filing a claim for a flooded basement
If you're filing a claim for water damage from flooding in your basement, use the term "water damage" rather than "flood" when talking with your insurer. Insurance providers have strict rules on what a flood is — much stricter than the word's everyday usage. If you call your homeowners insurance company to file a claim for a flood, there's a good chance they'll tell you you're out of luck. By using the term "water damage", you have a better chance of advancing your claim — assuming it's due to a covered peril.
When filing a claim for basement water damage, first look over your homeowners insurance policy. Be as clear as you can on what your homeowners insurance coverage and exclusions are before you pick up the phone. Your provider will be able to help with everything else required to complete the filing.
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