Home insurance covers most plumbing damage, but home insurance policies usually exclude negligence, water damage under the slab and sewer line backup and repair.
This article will cover:
Does homeowners insurance cover plumbing?
Home insurance covers many instances of sudden plumbing damage in your home, such as a sudden leaking drain pipe in your bathroom or a burst pipe in your wall or ceiling. Coverage extends to your personal property as well as the structure of the house. If you need to relocate while the water damage is fixed, your home insurance may cover your additional living costs, too.
When does home insurance not cover plumbing problems?
Home insurance doesn't cover plumbing issues that result from poor maintenance, sewer backups, flooding, mold or certain kinds of piping.
You're responsible for damage due to poor maintenance, such as failing to fix a pipe until after a few weeks or months. You're also responsible for any plumbing issues from wear and tear. Wear and tear is the normal deterioration of an item.
A sewer backup is usually not covered under homeowners insurance. Most of the causes of a backup occur outside the premises of the house, such as tree root damage or city line problems. These are all standard reasons for exclusion. Most home insurers offer a sewer backup rider to cover these instances.
Home insurance does not cover damage due to flooding natural disasters. You can purchase flood insurance separately if you live in an area with a history of flood risk.
Mold will only be covered if it was a result of the plumbing break you file a claim on. If the mold turns out to be a problem that was occurring over time, it is excluded.
Polybutylene pipes were popular between around 1978 and 1995 because they were inexpensive. Over time, it was discovered that chlorine and other oxidants could easily break down polybutylene plumbing. As such, polybutylene pipes have been blacklisted by almost all home insurers.
How does homeowners insurance cover plumbing?
A standard homeowners insurance policy usually covers sudden or accidental damage to the plumbing system of your house within your coverage limits. Your home insurance policy often includes separate types of coverages. Here's how each handles plumbing damage:
Your homeowners insurance should cover repair of plumbing problems involving the structure of your home and the plumbing system itself. Your dwelling coverage may also cover damage to pipes, your ceiling and walls and appliances in your home.
Also known as contents coverage, the personal property portion of your homeowners insurance covers your belongings against perils listed in your policy. This coverage will cover your clothing, furniture and valuables up to a certain limit. If you feel your contents coverage is inadequate, consider upping your limit with an endorsement.
Structures off the main house but still on your property, like detached garages, are covered for plumbing damage.
External structure coverage limits tend to be very limited, usually coming in around 10% of your home's dwelling coverage. For example, if you have your home insured for $350,000, then your coverage limit for external structures is $35,000.
Additional living expenses
In some extreme cases, you may have to relocate to other living arrangements while plumbing repairs are made. In these instances, additional living expenses (ALE) coverage, also known as loss of use coverage, can help with additional costs that can arise due to your relocation, up to your policy limits.
If a plumbing issue causes damage to your neighbor's property, your home insurance provides liability coverage for repairs.
Optional home insurance coverages for plumbing
Some of the optional home insurance coverages you can buy to protect yourself from plumbing issues and damage include flood insurance and riders or endorsements for water backup and mold.
- Flood insurance: You can purchase flood insurance through an insurer who participates in the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or through an insurance agent. The average cost of flood insurance is $958 per year through the NFIP.
- Water backup: Most home insurance companies offer a sewer backup rider or endorsement. This helps cover water damage in your home in the event of a backup. Sump pump floods are not covered under a standard homeowners insurance policy, but coverage for sump pumps is available as an endorsement.
- Mold damage: Mold damage is often not covered by a standard home insurance policy. Home insurance companies may offer riders or endorsements for limited mold coverage, which can be added to your policy for an additional cost.
What to do if you have a leaking pipe
When you notice a leak, move quickly. Water damage moves fast and can quickly cause thousands of dollars in repairs. In the event of a plumbing leak, here are the steps to follow:
- First you need to find the source of the leak and stop the water from flowing to other parts of the house.
- Take pictures of any damage caused by the water.
- Remove any excess standing water, and make the necessary repairs to prevent further water damage from occurring. Move undamaged items away from the region of the damage. Do not throw anything away until your insurance company's adjuster can inspect it.
- Look over the details of your policy and make sure the problem is covered by your home insurance. Filing a claim for an uncovered peril will not only be automatically denied, but it may also still raise your premium.
- Compile a list of the damaged items. This is easiest if you have a home inventory list you can refer to while making your list.
- Give your home insurance company a call and initiate the claim process. If you've had to do any mitigating repairs, make sure to let them know. They will send you the appropriate documents to fill out and tell you what other steps you need to take.
- Your home insurer will arrange for an adjuster to come to your home to inspect the damage. Make sure you're available when the adjuster arrives to answer any questions they may have.
How to avoid leaking pipes
You can better protect your home from future issues with your pipes by following these steps:
- Insulate your pipes
- Replace old plumbing in your home
- Keep a tap running on cold days
- Winterize your plumbing
- Shut off main water valve
- Open drain valves
- Open taps
- Remove excess water from pipes
- Check all sink and tub drains that could have drain traps
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