Soggy carpet, ruined drywall, damaged furniture, and electronics. Water can cause lots of problems for homeowners. One of the biggest questions is: “Will my homeowner’s insurance cover water damage?” Sometimes homeowners insurance will cover water damage and the resulting cleanup and restoration, but not always.
Much depends on what types of damage your policy will cover, along with the water source. A leaky pipe is often handled differently than water from a backed-up sewer. You’ll need to check your insurance policy carefully to determine what types of damage are covered. The most common form of homeowners insurance is HO-3 Special Form policies.
These policies cover your home and personal belongings but have several limitations. HO-3 policies won’t cover damage from floods, mold, fungus, or damage resulting from defective construction or maintenance. Trying to decide if a certain homeowners insurance policy gives you the protection you need? You’ve come to the right place. We’ve put together this guide to help you understand the types of water damage affecting your home and the best way to claim if necessary.
Different types of water damage
If you need to make a water damage claim against your homeowner’s insurance policy, it’s important to understand the different sources of water damage. You may be surprised to discover that your policy doesn’t cover the type of damage you have. Most policies have many limitations on what is covered.
Some of these coverage limitations can be removed with optional policy add-ons, but some types of coverage will need to be purchased separately. Knowing this information may save you headaches and thousands in unexpected costs if you consider buying a homeowners insurance policy.
Rain and Flooding
Most policies won’t cover water damage resulting from flooding. Storm damage is often covered as long as heavy rains don’t result in water pooling in your house. Depending on your policy, covers, carpet cleaning, and restoration can be paid for or reimbursed along with damage to furniture and fabrics.
However, if the cause of damage is a window or door being left open, this is usually not covered. Flood insurance can be challenging to obtain from most agencies. If you live in an area at risk of flooding, you may need to take extra steps to secure the protection you need. Special flood insurance is available from FEMA under the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
This program allows homeowners to obtain flood protection provided they live in one of the 23,000 NFIP communities. Depending on your location, this program may be the only way to purchase flood insurance. To learn more or to see if this protection is available in your community, visit their website at: https://www.floodsmart.gov/.
Snow Water Damage
If your area has heavy seasonal snow, it’s important to remember how it can lead to water damage and whether or not your homeowner’s insurance cover water damage. Most policies cover “weight of ice and snow,” which can protect you from roof damage caused by heavy pileups. A snow or ice pileup collapses part of your roof can lead to severe water damage.
Luckily most policies cover this type of damage and the resulting cleanup. Accumulating ice or snow on your roof can cause damage that isn’t related to weight: often, this can lead to ice dams which allow pools of water to collect in areas where it shouldn’t. A water pool on your roof can leak through, damaging roofing material and supporting structural members.
If enough water seeps in, it can harm ceilings and drywall. If your insurance company decides this damage was partly the result of existing roofing weakness, they may only offer partial coverage or deny a claim.
If an appliance malfunctions and causes a sudden and unexpected release of water, will your insurance cover it? In most cases, the answer is yes. Most insurance policies will cover the ensuing damage if the malfunction doesn’t result from your neglect. However, your claim may be denied if you’ve skipped regular maintenance or let a minor problem grow out of control.
You should check with your insurance company to determine what regular maintenance must be completed to ensure you’re covered in a sudden appliance failure. Refrigerator drip pans and air conditioner condensation drains need periodic checks to ensure they work correctly. Floor drains near water heaters must be checked regularly to ensure they are flowing clearly to protect your structure in the event of a water tank leak.
Water Damage from Pipe Leaks
Pipe leaks can cause significant damage to floors, rugs, drywall, and appliances. A water pipe breaking when you’re away from home can quickly flood your house, causing substantial problems when you return. Slow leaks can be damaging as well. Slow leaks are easier to overlook. Over time, they can gradually seep water into flooring and drywall, leading to mold and structural damage.
Homeowner’s insurance policies will cover some types of leaks but not others. Sudden, unexpected leaks and pipe breaks are often covered. What isn’t covered is long-term damage from slow leaks which haven’t been repaired. Over time, a leaky water line supplying an ice maker can cause significant damage to flooring. Often, insurance companies expect this type of leak to be repaired as a part of regular maintenance.
Leaky or corroded pipes should be fixed before they burst. Many insurance companies will deny the resulting water damage claim if these repairs aren’t completed and a severe water leak develops.
Unfortunately, most homeowners insurance policies don’t cover sewer backups. Sewer backups can happen on your property or from shared street pipes. Your local city or municipality usually maintains the latter. When these pipes experience blockages, it can lead to severe water damage, including flooded basements and destroyed carpets and drywall.
Policies vary, so take time to read and understand if and when you’re covered for this damage. Some policies will cover backup damage if it occurs in the street and flows onto your property but won’t cover backups on your property, even if the cause is out of your control. If you’re concerned about water damage from backups, your best option is to consider buying additional sewer or water backup damage coverage. This type of protection is often available as an add-on to your existing policy and can extend coverage beyond what a standard policy offers.
Damage from toilets
Homeowners insurance will cover some water damage caused by toilets, but not all. Usually, policies will cover damage caused by sudden accidents. If a toilet’s water supply line is broken during mopping, this will usually be covered because it results from a sudden accident. However, if the water line was leaking and corroded, some insurance companies could say it needed maintenance and deny the claim.
If a child accidentally flushes a toy and causes a backup, this is also an accident, and a resulting claim may be approved. Most homeowners insurance policies will cover toilet backups if the blockage is on the property. Some homes have basement sump pumps that can malfunction, failing to remove waste water and causing a jam. This water damage is often covered if the sump is on the property.
There are several situations where most homeowners insurance policies won’t cover water damage resulting from toilet backup. A clogged main sewer line can cause water damage, but most resulting claims will be denied because the blockage isn’t on the property. If the main sewer line has a backup resulting from flooding, then any water damage claims would be rejected.
Most policies don’t cover any damage caused by flooding, including any toilet backups that may result. Some homes may have sump pumps located outside of the property. If one of these sumps fails, it can cause a homeowner to have a toilet backup. But because it is located off the property, most insurance companies will consider it equivalent to a clogged main sewer line and deny the claim.
The general rule with water damage resulting from clogged toilets is that you’re usually covered if it’s an accident or a blockage on the property. However, most homeowners insurance policies don’t usually cover any damage resulting from floods, maintenance issues, or a blocked sewer line outside the property.
Most homeowners insurance policies won’t cover water damage caused by maintenance problems. This policy can often surprise homeowners who have claims denied. Policies vary, and it’s essential to learn what your specific policy won’t cover due to maintenance problems. Clogged gutters, roofing damage, plugged drains, and siding damage is just a few things that can lead to water damage if unaddressed.
If these items aren’t fixed and lead to water damage, your insurance claim will often be denied. To ensure you’re fully protected, start a regular inspection schedule to verify that all areas of your home that might need maintenance are in good repair.
You can do this yourself or hire a professional. Getting a professional to handle inspection can cost more, it can also save you time and give you confidence that nothing is being overlooked. Talk to your insurance company to see what regular inspections they recommend. When problems are found, repair them as soon as possible to prevent further damage and lower the possibility of a denied claim later.
How to file a water damage insurance claim
You’ll never need to make a water damage claim on your homeowner’s insurance policy. If you do, it’s ideal to have reference pictures before damage occurs. This reference is valid for many types of claims but can be especially important in the event of water damage.
Having good pictures of your structure and any insured items before damage occur can help your insurance company understand the extent of damage and may help speed your claim processing. Good reference pictures can be critical if your insurance company doesn’t want to honor your claim or doesn’t reimburse you fully.
Most insurance claims aren’t contentious, but you want clear and ample documentation for when this isn’t the case. When making a claim and dealing with the aftermath of water damage, here are some common steps:
- Make a detailed inventory of all items and parts of your home which have been damaged. Include clear photographs and video with extra detail to show the damage’s full extent.
- Keep all receipts. This documentation includes anything you need to buy to cope with the damage and can also have receipts for hotels or eating out if you cannot live in your home.
- Talk to your insurer to see what documentation they need to process your claim. This process may be as simple as submitting your claim with a mobile app or can involve working with a claims center or agent.
- Allow time to meet with a claims adjuster. While not always necessary, a claims adjuster may need an in-person visit to determine the cause and thoroughly assess the damage.