Is water damage covered by homeowners insurance?
Water damage is any damage caused by water, including water that comes from inside a plumbing fixture, such as a bathtub or sink, and water that comes from outside the home, such as wet basements and flooded streets.
However, the answer to the question of “is water damage covered by homeowners insurance?” is not as simple as a yes or no answer.
Because there are so many different causes of water damage, there are several variables that come into play.
These variables include how the water damage occurred, where it occurred, and whether or not you have flood insurance.
Also, not all homeowners insurance policies are created equal, so it is important to read your policy.
Flood damage will be covered by standard homeowners coverage only if you have a separate flood insurance policy.
Another important subject is the amount of coverage you have. For example, if you have $100,000 of flood insurance coverage and your home was damaged beyond the amount of coverage you may have to pay the remainder out of pocket.
If your home has faced sudden water damage most providers will cover the damage.
However, if the damage was a result of an accidental event or neglect on your part, you may not be covered at all or only on a limited basis.
Depending upon where your home is located, you may also need to purchase specific insurance coverage. For example, if you live in an area with a high risk of flooding, you may need to purchase flood insurance.
Because flood-related damage is usually excluded from standard homeowners insurance coverage, you must purchase a separate flood insurance policy.
Even if you don’t live in an area that is classified as a high-risk flood zone, your home may be at risk for flooding.
When buying insurance coverage, it is important to keep in mind that it is unlikely you will be covered for all types of water damage.
This includes water damage resulting from poor drainage or flooding. Home insurance coverage is frequently very limited and does not cover damages caused by natural catastrophes such as hurricanes.
For a claim to be covered, you must prove that the damage was not caused by your neglect. It should also be sudden and without any external factors involving other parties.
For example, if your water heater springs a leak due to faulty manufacturing and causes flooding in the home, you will likely be covered.
However, if a pipe in your home that you have neglected develops a leak and causes flooding, you will likely be responsible for the costs of repairs and/or replacement.
Both of these situations may be considered water damage, but most insurers would not cover the latter situation.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common causes of water damage, and if they may be covered by your policy.
Plumbing failures often cause water damage, probably the most common type of home water damage.
If your appliances or plumbing fixtures suddenly spring a leak as a result of your negligence your insurer will not cover it. Since you are the reason for the leak, you will be held liable for damages.
Let’s say you have used harsh cleaners that erode the rubber components in your toilet and cause it to leak. If the water seeps under the flooring and causes damage to the framing and drywall you may not be covered.
However, if the city administration is responsible for the road outside of your home and they fail to properly maintain it causing the water to propagate to your home and cause damage, you may be covered.
If you have a sewer backup due to clogging or line blockage that results in damage to your home, you may be covered.
However, if the blockage is a result of tree roots invading the sewer line as a result of neglect on your part the damage will likely not be covered.
Some policy providers may consider this an act of nature, and therefore it would be excluded from the policy.
If your washing machine, dishwasher, or sink is connected to a waste disposal unit that is not properly configured you may be liable if the unit backs up and causes water damage.
This includes cases where you directly contribute to the clogging by throwing food down the drain when it should be disposed of elsewhere.
All water damage caused by plumbing failures falls under this code if you are deemed responsible for the cause of the accident.
Rain or Snowstorm
The acts of heavy rains are considered an act of nature or unavoidable and under normal circumstances, your homeowner’s insurance will cover it.
The same is true for faulty gutters and downspouts that allow rain to accumulate and cause water damage to your home.
However, if you have not maintained your gutters and downspouts or you have exacerbated the issue by not caring for your green roof correctly then the damage may not be covered.
Your insurer may also deny your claim if you neglect to install gutter guards and allow them to become clogged with debris.
Vandalism is defined as the willful or malicious destruction of property. If someone vandalizes your home and this results in water damage, you may be covered for the costs to repair and/or replace the structure and damaged possessions.
However, in order to claim vandalism, you may need to prove it. This can be difficult if the vandal is not caught in the act.
A similar case would involve damage to your home that was caused by a third party but deemed accidental or unintentional.
Mold growth is the result of moisture. It can grow on anything organic, including carpeting, drywall, and wood.
The water source may be any type of plumbing or appliance failure that causes enough moisture to promote mold growth.
However, if your insulation becomes wet due to a plumbing leak or breakdown and starts to grow mold before you address it with your insurance provider you will not be covered.
The same goes for any damage caused by an insect infestation, including termites, carpenter ants, and other wood-devouring insects.
Insurance companies often try to blame the bug problem on homeowners’ lack of care or attention in pest prevention to avoid covering the damage due to the possibility that the infestation was preventable.
Damage from a falling tree
If one of the trees in your yard falls and causes damage to your home, and eventually caused water damage, you will likely be covered.
However, if the tree roots were damaged as a result of your neglect and poor maintenance then the damage will not be covered.
If your tree becomes weakened by insufficient water or sunlight, if the tree is diseased, or if it’s heavily damaged in a storm and falls on your home, you will likely not likely be covered.
A burst pipe or sprinkler line is typically covered under your homeowner’s insurance policy.
However, if the pipe bursts due to your lack of maintenance or if you have not checked for leaks and damage periodically it is unlikely that your insurer will cover the cost of the damage.
The same goes for water damage caused by a deteriorating water heater, dishwasher, washing machine, or sump pump. If you neglect to maintain these items, your insurer is unlikely to cover the associated damage.
How to file a claim after water damage?
Once you have identified the source of the water damage and ensured that it has been taken care of, you should file a claim with your insurance provider.
In order to do this, you will need to be prepared with documentation that proves their responsibility for the cause of the initial water leak or if they are responsible for vandalism as defined by your contract.
Take time-stamped pictures of the damage, including areas that appear unaffected by water.
This will help you prove that what you are claiming is the truth. An adjuster will come to evaluate the damage, assess its scope, and determine your insurance company’s responsibility in paying for it.
If you have older pictures of the area in question, be sure to include these in your claim documentation. These are great since they prevent the confusion of having to explain what the problem looked like previously.
If there is any mold on your property as a consequence of the water damage covered by your insurance, these images will be important if you intend to claim mold damage as well.
I highly discourage you from making any repairs or alterations to damaged areas before an adjuster has come to evaluate the damage.
Because otherwise, the adjuster might not be able to make an accurate assessment of your damages.
Once the damage has been assessed, you will receive a restoration estimate. You then need to decide if you want your insurance company to handle the restoration, or if you would rather hire a contractor of your own choosing.
If the job is large, it’s often best to hire a contractor through your insurance company. This prevents any misunderstandings or disagreements about the scope of work.
Once you’ve chosen someone, your insurance company will cover the costs of restoration based on the scope of the damage.
Usually, an insurance company will cover the costs of repair or replacement to the damaged area, lost furniture and belongings, as well as any temporary housing you might need for a short time following the water damage.
If your insurer quotes coverages at unacceptably low amounts, don’t be afraid to haggle! Insurance companies are meant to make money, but they also need to be aligned with the laws of your state.
Before negotiating your coverage pricing, do your own research to seek out where their numbers stand.
Once you and the insurance have reached an agreement on the cost of repairs and the amount covered by your policy, you can proceed with hiring a contractor.
In some cases, an insurance company may give you a choice between repair or replacement. It is important to understand that these terms are not the same thing.
Replacement means giving you money for the cost of buying a new item to replace the one that was damaged.
Repair means paying for services rendered in bringing your items or places back to their previous state before the water damage.
If you choose a replacement, and not repair, your item or area will be restored to its pre-damage condition.
However, you might find yourself paying a higher premium the next time you buy insurance with your company.
Likewise, if you choose repair over replacement, you will have to pay the difference between the cost of repair and what it would have cost to buy a new item.
If your insurance company realizes you are knowledgeable about your policy, such as knowing what replacement and repair mean, they will be less likely to try to slip anything past you.
I highly recommend reading your policy to be clear on what it means when your insurer uses replacement and repair.
This is because, depending on the wording of your policy, you may or may not be responsible for the difference between repair and replacement costs.
You should also watch the video below, which explains everything in great detail.
Water damage is covered by most homeowners insurance. Be sure to document the damage and take pictures of any mold that may exist.
An adjuster will assess your policy and determine what needs to be done, based on coverage limits. If you choose replacement over repair, you might end up with a higher premium in the future.
If you find yourself in a situation where your insurance company is refusing to pay for water damage, then you need to raise a claim with the insurance commissioner’s office in your state.
This is important because it establishes a paper trail that proves the refusal actually occurred and is not just a misunderstanding between you and your insurer.
All this paper trail will do is help you in the long run, but it may take some time.