Guide on Homeowners Insurance For Water Damage
Water is one of the biggest threats to your house and belongings, so it’s critical to know what home insurance covers if your home suffers water damage. Homeowners insurance can pay for damage from certain water problems, including burst pipes.
Water damage (including damage from freezing) is one of the most common and most costly types of homeowners insurance claims. Every year, about one in 50 homeowners files a water damage or freezing claim, accounting for 29% of all homeowners insurance claims, according to the Insurance Information Institute. The average cost of a water damage or freezing claim is $11,098.
Read also: 8 Types of Home Insurance Policies
Types of Water Damage Covered by Homeowners Insurance
Generally, water damage that is considered “sudden and accidental” is covered (like a burst pipe) but not gradual damage, like a leaking bathroom sink. And flooding is not covered, such as damage from storm surge during a hurricane.
Water damage covered by homeowners insurance typically includes:
- Burst pipes. This might include a frozen pipe that bursts, but not if you neglected to keep the home properly heated.
- Accidental leaks, such as leaking plumbing or an appliance leak, like a broken washing machine or dishwasher.
- Water damage after a fire from water used to extinguish the flames, such as water from a sprinkler system or a hose from the fire department.
- Water damage from a roof leak, such as damage from a storm or a tree that falls on your roof. Keep in mind, if an accident (like a fallen tree) damages your roof, you’ll be required to fix the damage in a reasonable amount of time. Failure to do so could result in further water damage that won’t be covered.
- Water damage from storms, such as heavy rain or hail.
- Ice dams, such as ice that builds up in your gutter and damages your home, may be covered as long as the damage was sudden and wasn’t caused by a lack of maintenance.
Types of Water Damage Not Covered by Homeowners Insurance
Here are some common problems that are typically not covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy:
- Flood damage. Most notably, damage from floods is not covered by home insurance policy. Flood water includes hurricanes, tsunamis, storm surges, water from overflowing rivers, and water due to heavy rain. Consider flood insurance if you want coverage for these problems.
- Water damage due to lack of maintenance or negligence, such as not repairing a plumbing problem or failing to keep the heat on during freezing temperatures.
- Water damage from intentional acts, like setting a fire to your home or purposely turning off the heat during the winter.
- Water damage from “earth movement” like an earthquake, landslide or mudslide. For example, if your pipe burst because of an earthquake, the water damage most likely won’t be covered. If you want coverage for earthquake damage, you’ll need to buy a separate earthquake insurance policy.
- Water damage that backs up through a sewer or drain (unless you purchased special coverage for this problem.)
- Water damage from leaks from a swimming pool or other structures.
- Water damage from seepage or leaks through a foundation.
- The cost to repair or replace the source of the water damage, like fixing a broken dishwasher or washing machine.
- Water damage from a sump pump failure or related equipment. You may want to consider sump and water backup coverage for those types of problems.
How Can I Protect My Home From Water Damage?
One of the best ways to protect a home from water damage is by taking some preventative measures. Keeping up with routine maintenance and making prompt repairs is key.
Remember, homeowners insurance covers water damage that is “sudden and accidental” but not gradual problems or maintenance issues. If you have a problem like a leaky faucet, it’s best to take care of it as soon as possible.
Here are other steps you can take:
- Drain water heaters twice a year to help prevent sediment buildup.
- Install smart water leak detectors that will send an alert to your phone or email. (Some detectors can automatically shut off the water to prevent damage). In a LexisNexis study of 2,306 U.S. homes that installed a Flo by Moen water leak detector, water-related claims went down by 96% compared to the two years prior to installation.
- Inspect hoses going to and from washing machines, dishwashers, water heaters and refrigerators. Repair or replace any damaged hoses if necessary.
- Inspect your roof and make any necessary repairs, such as replacing missing, rotten or damaged shingles. It’s also a good idea to clean out your roof gutters. Clogged gutters can overflow and allow water to pool near a home’s foundation, which could seep into your basement.
- Prevent frozen pipes if you live in an area that has extreme cold temperatures. Keep your heat set to at least 50 degrees and consider other precautions, like wrapping pipes with insulation. Read more about preventing and thawing frozen pipes from the American Red Cross.
- Remove snow from your roof to prevent potential ice dams. Snow can melt and freeze on roofs and in gutters, causing ice dams, which can lead to damage to both the exterior and interior of homes. A roof rake can help you remove snow from the roof to limit the possibility of snow dams.
- Remove leaves from your gutters each fall to reduce the risk of clogged drains, which can lead to ice dams in the winter.
Does homeowners insurance cover water damage from hurricanes?
Homeowners insurance typically covers water damage from hurricanes, such as rain that gets in through storm roof damage (unless your policy has a “roof exclusion”), but not water damage from rising flood water or storm surges. You’ll need a flood insurance policy to cover flood damage.
Does homeowners insurance cover removal of mold that was caused by water damage?
Homeowners insurance generally covers mold caused by water damage if the water problem was covered by the policy, such as a burst pipe.
Homeowners insurance won’t cover mold caused by water damage from other issues, such as lack of maintenance, leaks from swimming pools, floods and earthquakes.
Does homeowners insurance cover water damage from floods?
Homeowners insurance generally excludes water damage from floods. You’ll have to buy a flood insurance policy if you want coverage for flood damage. You can purchase a FEMA flood insurance policy, or buy one from a private flood insurance company.
How do I file an insurance claim for water damage?
If you discover water damage, it’s a good idea to take pictures of the area and contact your homeowners insurance company as soon as possible. If the water damage is covered by your insurance policy, you’ll be responsible for paying a deductible, which is the amount you’ll pay out of pocket.
Keep in mind, water damage from certain types of events, like tsunamis, floods, sewer backups and leaks from swimming pools are typically not covered. Read more about what homeowners insurance covers.
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