Water damage can be a serious threat to your home. The amount of damage that even a brief leak or burst pipe can do to your house can cost thousands of dollars. There are many types of water damage, but not all of them are covered by home insurance.
This article will cover:
When is water damage covered by homeowners insurance?
Whether water damage is or isn't covered by home insurance often depends on what causes it. Home insurance usually covers sudden and accidental damage, like a burst pipe. Another factor is how long the water damage has been building up. A sudden leak in your water heater in the basement would likely be covered for repair and water removal.
Your dwelling coverage helps pay for any water damage to the structure of your house, while your personal property coverage helps pay for damage to your personal belongings.
Types of water damage covered by home insurance
The following incidents are often covered by an HO-3 policy, the most common type of homeowners insurance:
- Burst or frozen pipes. Note that your home insurance only takes care of damage due to the burst pipe, not replacing the pipe itself.
- Sprinkler system. Water damage from a sprinkler system in the course of putting out a fire is generally covered by home insurance. Furthermore, it should also cover damage if the water from the sprinkler causes mold later.
- Vandalism. If someone damages the piping in your home with malicious intent, your home insurance policy would cover it.
- Faulty plumbing parts. Water damage due to defective plumbing parts is covered, as long as the damage has not occurred over time or is due to negligence.
- Septic tanks. If your septic tank backs up, your home insurance should cover it. Keep in mind that sewers are a separate system and are covered differently.
- Appliances overflow. If your toilet overflows, homeowners insurance usually covers the resulting water damage. This includes overflow damage from washing machines, dishwashers and tubs.
Does home insurance cover water damage from bad weather?
If heavy precipitation causes damage to your house, your home insurance should help pay for it. If a storm causes an opening in your roof and water seeps in, your home insurance policy may cover the water damage.
Your home insurance policy protects your home and belongings from damage due to certain perils, including:
- Ice storm
- Weight of ice, snow or sleet
Does home insurance cover living expenses after water damage?
If your home is unlivable due to water damage and you have to move out until repairs are made, the loss of use section of your home insurance policy may cover additional costs while you wait for repairs to be done. It can also cover other costs due to relocation such as food, storage costs and furniture rental.
When is water damage not covered by homeowners insurance?
The following are examples of water damage that are typically excluded from HO-3 home insurance policies.
1. Long-term water damage
Water damage to your home is not covered if the damage is not caused by a sudden and/or accidental event. Regular wear and tear on pipes that naturally occurs is excluded as well. Home insurers expect you to handle the responsibility of ongoing home maintenance.
No standard home insurance policy covers flood damage.
If you need to file a claim for a burst pipe, refer to the problem as “water damage” rather than “flooding.” Insurance providers have very different meanings for the two terms, and you don't want to exclude yourself from coverage accidentally.
You can purchase flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) and some private insurers.
3. External backup
Water backups from external drains and sewer systems usually aren't covered on the basis that the source of the damage started outside the covered premises. You can add coverage for events like this with a sewer endorsement to your home insurance.
Seepage is when water leaks into the house due to external cracks and fissures that have gradually formed in the structure of the house. Home insurers consider water damage due to ground seepage to be a maintenance issue. It is not usually covered by homeowners insurance.
Mold due to water damage
Home insurance companies usually only cover mold if it's the result of a covered peril, such as sudden and accidental water damage.
If a pipe bursts or leaks and causes a mold outbreak in your ceiling, the damage should be covered. Mold damage resulting from a damp and humid room is typically excluded, as well as mold damage that results from an excluded peril.
How much mold damage your insurance company will cover may vary. Cleaning up mold damage can cost thousands of dollars. To cut back on costs and keep premiums low, home insurers put a limit on mold damage repair. This limit is usually between $1,000 and $10,000.
If coverage for mold is a concern of yours, look into a mold endorsement. It increases the limits of mold coverage after a covered peril. Review your home insurance policy to see under what conditions mold is covered, then ask your home insurer how a mold endorsement might improve your coverage.
Filing a water damage claim
Here are steps you can take to help your water damage claim process be successful and get paid out quickly:
- Clean and mitigate: Remove any excess water and make repairs needed to stop further damage. Move undamaged items to an area not affected by water. Do not throw anything away until the adjuster can inspect it.
- Check your home insurance policy: Make sure that your claim is covered. You do not want to waste time with a claim that'll be denied automatically. Also, filing a claim could raise your home insurance rates, even if it isn't covered.
- Document: Make an inventory list of items that are damaged, along with pictures. Your home insurer will need this information in order to determine an accurate payout.
- Contact insurer: Call your home insurance provider and start the claim process. Let them know what steps you have made so far. They will let you know what further actions you need to take.
- Inspection: An adjuster will be sent out by your provider to assess the damage. Be at home when they're supposed to be there in order to show the damaged areas, answer questions and to show them any areas that they might otherwise miss.
How to prevent water damage
You can prevent water damage by maintaining your home and taking these preventative steps:
- Caulk or seal off windows and doors.
- Check your roof for any openings.
- Inspect plumbing, showers, hoses and faucets for leaks.
- Inspect gutters and remove any debris in gutters so that water can drain.
- Make sure your sump pump is working.
- Check if there are any cracks in your pipes.
Safeguarding your home can prevent thousands of dollars worth of repairs.
- Facts + Statistics: Homeowners and renters insurance
- Do I need flood insurance for my home?
- 2016 Consumer Insurance Survey
- Flood Water Cleanup Procedures Indoor Environmental Quality
- Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Water Damage?
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