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Discovering damage from a hidden or sudden leak is a homeowner’s nightmare. Whether the cause is a leaky dishwasher or a burst pipe, you need to know if you’re covered by your insurance policy. After all, around 1 in 60 insured homes claim water or freezing damage per year, according to estimates from the Insurance Information Institute. Today, we look at the question of does homeowners insurance cover water damage?
Most standard homeowners’ insurance policies will not cover all types of water damage. Some types of damage, like flooding, will need a specific policy. In this guide, we’ll explain what’s covered, what isn’t, and how you can ensure you’re fully covered in case the worst happens.
- Does homeowners insurance cover water damage?
- Is mold from water damage covered?
- How to protect your home from water damage
- What to do when filing a water damage claim
Does homeowners insurance cover water damage?
Under standard homeowner insurance policies, you’re usually covered for “sudden and accidental water damage,” such as burst pipes or failing appliances. Water damage from flooding or lack of maintenance isn’t typically covered.
Your dwelling coverage will pay for damage to your home’s structure (e.g., walls, roof, and floor), while personal property coverage pays for repairing or replacing your home’s contents.
Here are the main types of water damage covered by homeowners’ insurance:
- Accidental leaks from plumbing or appliance, such as a broken washing machine or dishwasher.
- Burst pipes – for example, due to freezing – are covered unless damaged by negligence, e.g., not properly heating your home.
- Fires can cause water damage due to a sprinkler system or from the water used to extinguish the flames.
- Storms can cause water damage due to heavy rain or hail.
- Roof leaks caused by a storm, fallen tree, etc., are covered; however, you will need to fix your roof in a reasonable amount of time; otherwise, the subsequent damage may not be covered.
- Ice dams that cause a buildup of water in your guttering are covered unless the dams were due to a lack of maintenance.
Most homeowners are less concerned about what is covered than what isn’t. That’s where they can take action to increase their coverage or perform building maintenance or alterations to ensure damage never occurs.
Here are some common causes of water damage not covered by homeowners’ insurance:
- Flood damage is never covered by a homeowners’ policy. You will need specialized coverage for any damage caused by hurricanes, tsunamis, storm surges, overflowing rivers, and more.
- Lack of maintenance or negligence is one of the main reasons why insurers will reject an insurance claim, e.g., not repairing plumbing, not cleaning gutters, or failing to heat your home adequately.
- Earthquakes, landslides, or mudslides, like flooding, are natural disasters not covered by your homeowners’ insurance. An earthquake policy should be bought separately.
- Intentional acts, like arson or purposely turning off the heat, will render your insurance void.
- Sewage or drain backups leading to water damage require special coverage.
- Foundation leaks or seepage
- Replacing a damaged appliance, like a dishwasher or washing machine.
- Sump pump failure
- Damage from leaks in a swimming pool or other structure
Is mold from water damage covered?
After water damage begins – particularly cryptic water damage – mold will begin to form in a day or two, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. That’s why you need to act fast. Mold is likely to be covered if the cause of the water damage is covered – so burst pipe, yes; flooding, no.
How to protect your home from water damage
Preventing water damage is relatively simple. Following some easy annual checks, performing routine maintenance, and installing a few devices will prevent most cases of water damage and ensure water damage is always “sudden and accidental.”
Consider these steps:
- Smart water leak detectors. Installing these devices will alert you, via phone or email, to a leak immediately. Some devices led to an over 90% drop in water-related claims.
- Inspect appliances. You should perform a routine inspection of the hoses going to and from washing machines, dishwashers, water heaters, and refrigerators.
- Drain water heaters. To prevent sediment buildup, drain twice a year.
- Inspect your roof. Identifying broken or missing roof tiles, cleaning out guttering, and performing general maintenance will ensure your roof remains watertight.
- Prevent burst pipes. Maintaining a home temperature above at least 55 degrees in the winter will prevent your pipes from freezing and bursting.
- Remove roof snow. To prevent ice dams and snow melt, use a roof rake to remove the snow from your roof.
In addition, you should also learn about your home’s water system, including where the main water shutoff valve is – so you can close it in case of an emergency.
What to do when filing a water damage claim
Filing a water damage claim may seem like a daunting prospect. You should consider the likelihood of a payout when filing a claim. If the damage is minor, the payout may not be worth the hassle and raised premiums.
Too many claims may also lead your insurance company to refuse to renew your policy. So, for minor damage, paying for repairs yourself is often the best solution – especially if you’ve already filed a claim in the past five years.
If you file a claim, you will need to:
- Prevent further damage. Any water damage caused after a reasonable time following the leak will no longer be covered. You should shut off the water and take any action that minimizes the final damage.
- File your claim. Submitting your claim promptly will speed up the process of receiving reimbursement.
- Document the damage. Take photos and videos of the damage. You will also have to create an inventory of your ruined belongings for the insurance company.
- Perform temporary fixes. Covering a leaking roof with a tarp or removing items likely to grow mold will help prevent further damage and increase your chance of a payout.
If your home has undergone water damage, contact United Restoration immediately. We deal with all forms of water and mold damage – call us at (844) 979-8500.