Share This Article
Water damage is one of the most common home insurance claims. It’s also one of the most expensive.
Most standard homeowners policies cover water damage as long as it’s sudden and accidental. This includes things like burst pipes and toilet overflows.
However, water damage from gradual leaks or flooding isn’t covered. For that, you’ll need a separate flood policy.
What is Covered?
Homeowners insurance typically covers water damage that’s sudden and accidental, such as a burst pipe or overflowing toilet. But it may not cover long-term issues, like wet rot or mold. And even when it does, a homeowner must pay a home insurance deductible and the damage may increase premiums.
Regular maintenance can help avoid water-related problems. But if you go on vacation and leave your home unattended, for example, a frozen pipe might burst and cause extensive water damage, which isn’t covered by homeowners insurance.
To make a claim, the insurer will send an adjuster to your house to assess the damage. He or she will take photos, measure the affected areas and ask questions to determine how the damage occurred. The adjuster will also compare the damaged items to similar ones in your home to assess their value. This information helps the adjuster decide how much to reimburse you. The adjuster will then write a report and submit it to your insurance company.
What Is Not Covered?
Generally speaking, a standard home insurance policy (called an HO-3 policy) covers sudden and accidental water damage up to the policy limits. However, it’s important to note that the water damage must originate in your house or result from a covered peril (like a burst pipe or a flooded basement) to be covered by your policy.
Homeowners insurance won’t cover water damage that happens gradually over time due to your negligence or poor maintenance, either. For example, if you ignore a small dishwasher leak and it turns into a major disaster, your insurer may not pay for the damages.
Some policies offer a mold damage rider that expands the coverage limit of your dwelling or personal property coverage for water damage caused by a mold issue. However, this is an optional add-on that isn’t included in all insurance plans. Also, flood damage (from natural flooding from coastal waves or tides, groundwater seepage or a storm-related flood) isn’t typically covered by homeowners insurance; you’ll need to purchase a separate flood insurance policy.
How to File a Claim
The first step in a successful water damage insurance claim is to document the damaged property and take photos, if possible. Make any emergency repairs that are necessary and keep receipts. Wait for an insurance adjuster to survey the damage and approve or deny the claim. If you are denied a claim or the insurance company’s settlement offer is insufficient to cover all expenses, consult with an attorney who can review your policy and fight for a better result on your behalf.
The most common home insurance policies (referred to as HO3 policies) include coverage for sudden and accidental water damage to a dwelling, up to the policy limits. In addition, most standard policies also provide coverage for water damage caused by a covered peril, such as a burst pipe or other event that is specifically listed on the policy. For example, a flood from a sewer backup is likely covered (minus your deductible). However, water damage from gradual causes that aren’t a direct result of the covered peril, such as mold, are usually not covered by home insurance.
What to Expect
Whether your home insurance will cover your water damage depends on the specific wording of your policy and the type of coverage you have. Standard homeowners insurance policies (like the popular HO-3 policy) tend to offer open perils coverage for your house and personal property. This means that most sudden and accidental water damage should be covered.
For example, if your pipes burst because of cold weather and you took precautions to prevent it from happening, that should be covered. But if you left your house for vacation and the pipes burst because of neglect, that won’t be covered.
In addition to the aforementioned exclusions, most homeowners policies also don’t cover gradual or wear-and-tear water damage (like mold growth from leaking pipes) or flood damage, which requires a separate policy for coverage. If you have a flood insurance policy in place, however, that may help you recover from a devastating flood event. In most cases, you can expect an adjuster to visit your home soon after you file a claim to survey the damage and take photos.