Okay, so you have a slight problem: your kitchen is underwater. As much as you enjoy swimming, you would rather not swim…inside your house. In the kitchen. There’s something not quite right about that. At any rate, the question you’ve got now is what types of water damage are covered by home insurance?
We’ll explain what types of water nightmares are and are not covered by home insurance.
What types of water damage are covered by home insurance?
The answer to this question depends on how the damage happened and the cause.
A general rule of thumb is that home insurance is for sudden or accidental losses. That means that the loss was unforeseen and unable to be prevented. In other words, things that are out of your control, like a surprise tree falling on your house or a fire.
Here’s an example.
Let’s say that the underwater kitchen situation was caused by a burst pipe that gushed water all over the place. That loss is sudden and accidental, so chances are it will be covered.
Here’s another scenario:
Your hot water heater fails and sends water cascading into your home. Sudden, accidental, out of your control – and most likely covered.
Now there’s something important to keep in mind: the damage from the water might be covered, but the appliance or cause of the water may not be. Let’s revisit the burst pipe. While the damage will be covered under your home insurance, the replacing of the pipe itself will most likely not be.
Pro tip: Read through your policy very carefully. It’s important that you’re familiar with what it says about water damage. Look for exclusions and ask your agent for clarification where needed.
What types of water damage are not covered?
Some types of water damage are typically excluded from home insurance policies. The following scenarios are usually NOT covered:
1. Damage that occurs gradually due to a maintenance problem.
If the water damage was caused by something ongoing that occurred gradually, it will most likely not be covered (especially if it has to do with home maintenance, which is typically not covered.) So, let’s say that a pipe in your basement was slowly leaking or dripping and causes a good bit of damage to your walls. It will probably not be covered.
The following will most likely not be covered:
- Water seeping into your home’s foundation through fissures or cracks.
- Leak damage from a roof that shows clear signs of needed maintenance.
- Lack of maintenance or upkeep of the home.
2. Sewer backup or sump pump failure.
So, it’s sort of the stuff of nightmares, but what if the sewer backed up and sent disgusting sewer water backward – into your home? It’s gag-worthy and horrifying to consider, yes, but it could happen. And it’s very, very unhygienic and potentially hazardous to your health.
Well, the bad news is that sewer backup and sump pump failure usually are not covered.
The good news is that you can add coverage for sewer backup to your policy with an endorsement. (And endorsement is basically an addition to your policy that adjusts your coverage or changes it.)
If you’re of the better-safe-than-sorry mindset, you may want to consider adding sewer backup coverage to your policy.
Okay, admittedly this gets a little complicated.
In insurance-speak, flooding means that two or more acres of land that are usually dry have been swamped with an abundance of water. (A flood can also be a flood if two or more properties have been affected.) The flood can be caused by a water source like a river bursting its banks or from excessive, heavy rains that cause water to build up quickly.
An insurance-flood event will not be covered by your typical home insurance policy.
You can protect your home against flooding by purchasing flood insurance. You will have to go through an agent and get coverage from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP.) You don’t have to be in a high flood-risk area to purchase flood insurance.
What if my water damage claim gets denied?
If you file a water damage claim and it gets denied, find out why. When you’re filing a claim, be sure to keep detailed records of each call. Note the person’s name and title, and write down what you discussed. Ask for clarification if you need it.
If you’re pretty sure that home insurance should have covered the claim and it didn’t, reach out to your agent to get some insight. See if there were any miscommunications along the line. Since your definition of “flooded” and the insurance company’s definition are probably quite different, you can see how a disconnect in meaning could happen.
And if that doesn’t seem to be the case, you can always reach out to your state’s insurance commissioner. They can help give you advice, or you can file a complaint.
Pro tip: Once you’ve identified the not-covered cause of the water damage, find out if there is an endorsement that would add that coverage to your policy. You might want to consider it to protect your house against future soggy disasters.
Water damage can get tricky when home insurance is concerned. Make sure to go over your home insurance policy carefully and find out what it says about water damage. If there’s anything confusing or unclear, politely ask your agent to demystify it. Of course, we hope you’ll never have to undergo this sort of situation, but it’s good to be prepared.
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