Imagine returning from vacation to discover a water pipe has burst in your home. This is a situation no one wants to deal with. Water damage is often expensive, and it can destroy your belongings. Unfortunately, it happens. About one in 50 homes with homeowners insurance submit a water-related claim each year.
To be properly prepared as a homeowner, it’s important to know whether or not you are insured for water-related damage. This article will outline the types of water damage typically covered by standard homeowners insurance as well as when you might need to opt for additional coverage. This article will also provide a list of tips for filing a successful water insurance claim.
Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Water Damage?
Depending on your specific homeowner's insurance plan, some water damage is usually covered. What is covered will largely depend on the source of the damage.
According to Nationwide Insurance, most standard home insurance policies cover water damage if it occurs “suddenly or accidentally from a source inside your home.” So, if you experience a burst pipe or a burst hose on your washing machine, then you may be covered. However, if the water damage is due to negligence or lack of maintenance, you might be out of luck.
What type of water damage is covered by homeowners insurance
Different types of water damage are insured by different types of insurance policies. The Insurance Information Institute provides a helpful rule of thumb when thinking about standard water damage coverage.
When water enters from the top down (think rain or a burst sprinkler), it is typically covered by your homeowner's policy. Water that comes from the bottom up (think groundwater) generally requires additional coverage.
Here’s a list of water-related damage that is typically covered by standard homeowners insurance:
- Burst pipe. Water damage from a burst pipe is usually covered unless it is due to negligence. For instance, if you turn the heat off while you’re away and the pipe freezes.
- Accidental leaks. This could be from a leaky appliance or leaking plumbing, as long as it is not due to negligence or lack of maintenance.
- Rain or snowstorm. When water damage is the result of a storm, it is typically covered.
- Ice Damming. If you experience sudden ice damming on your roof that causes a leak, it’s likely covered.
- Water damage from fire. If you have a fire in your home and you have to use a fire extinguisher to put it out, any damage is probably covered.
What types of water damage aren’t covered by insurance?
Water damage that is usually not covered by homeowner insurance include:
- Flooding. While water damage from flooding isn’t typically included in a standard homeowners insurance policy, you can check with the National Flood Insurance Program to see if you can purchase additional flood insurance.
- Seepage. Water seepage is not typically covered by standard homeowners insurance. If seepage is due to flooding, it may be covered if you have separate flooding insurance.
- Mudslides. Purchasing separate flood insurance will often cover damage due to mudslides.
- Lack of maintenance. If you are aware of a leaky faucet or toilet and do nothing about it and it causes water damage, this likely won’t be covered.
- Earthquakes. Standard homeowners insurance does not cover damage from earthquakes. You may be able to purchase separate insurance.
- Sewer and backup. While most standard policies don’t cover sewer and drain backups, you might be able to find some that do. If you want this type of coverage, consider purchasing water backup coverage.
- Source of water damage. If your water pipe bursts on your dishwasher and the water destroys your hardwood floor, your insurance will likely cover the cost of replacing your floor but it won’t cover the cost of a new dishwasher.
Mold from water damage
Some homeowners insurance policies will cover mold from water damage but only if the mold results from a covered peril. A peril is simply an event that is covered by your insurance. If your water pipe suddenly bursts and soaks your floors which then causes mold, this is likely covered. A burst pipe is a covered peril. However, if you experience mold due to flooding (which is not covered in most standard policies), then you’re probably out of luck.
If your policy offers mold coverage, be sure to investigate the limits of the coverage. Many policies limit the amount of mold coverage to a few thousand dollars.
If your standard policy doesn’t offer mold coverage, you may be able to purchase an endorsement for additional coverage.
Tips for filing a successful water leak insurance claim
Here are some useful tips to consider if you have to file a water leak insurance claim:
- Stop the leak. Find the source of the leak and stop it as soon as possible to prevent further water damage.
- Move your valuables. Move your undamaged possessions out of the way to prevent additional damage.
- Review your coverage. Different homeowners insurance policies can cover different types of water damage. Review your policy to determine your coverage.
- Document everything. Take pictures, videos, and jot down some notes to thoroughly document the leak and the associated damage. The more information you can provide, the better.
- Notify your insurance provider. Once the leak is under control and you’ve documented the situation, get on the phone with your insurance provider. The sooner you speak with your provider, the sooner you can get your claim started. Your provider can give you additional instructions for what to do next.
- Conduct repairs. Once you’ve determined a plan of action with your insurance provider, it’s time to make the necessary repairs. Getting quotes from multiple contractors can help to ensure you get a fair price.
Keep damaged items. Don’t throw away your damaged items. You want to keep these so the insurance adjuster can include them in the claim.