Homeowners insurance safeguards your home and assets from a variety of common hazards, from severe weather and fires to theft and vandalism, but some perils aren’t so straightforward. The Insurance Information Institute estimates that around one in 50 insured homes files a claim for water damage or freezing each year, though not every homeowner is reimbursed for their losses and many do not fully understand what is covered until they file a claim. While most standard policies offer some form of water damage coverage for your property and personal belongings, there are some important exceptions to keep in mind. Understanding the exact parameters of your homeowners policy can prevent you from significant financial troubles following an unexpected accident, so it pays to do a bit of independent research.
WHAT TYPES OF WATER DAMAGE ARE COVERED BY YOUR HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE?
Every homeowners insurance policy is different, but there are some areas of overlap when it comes to water damage. Nearly all insurers require water damage to be sudden and accidental for an incident to qualify under your standard coverage. If your home insurance is based on named perils, the source of the damage must be explicitly listed in your policy contract. Homeowners who have open-peril policies are usually protected against a wider range of risks, though there are still often reimbursement limitations for your personal property. Some examples of covered water damage events include:
- Rain and snow storms
- Accidental overflow of appliances and fixtures
- Faulty plumbing infrastructure
- Burst or frozen pipes
- Leaky roofs
If water damage results from a covered peril, your insurance company will help you repair or replace your home’s physical structure and certain personal items. Damage caused by broken pipes typically falls under “accidental discharge” or “overflow of water or steam” in most standard homeowners policies, though slow leaks over a prolonged period may not be covered. Common issues with household plumbing systems are also included in many basic policies, such as bursts and blockages of circulatory piping, sprinkler systems and air conditioners.
However, if the source of the water damage is a home appliance, you may have to pay out of pocket to restore it to working order. For example, if a faulty washing machine or water heater floods your basement, your carrier may only cover water damage to your floor, walls, support infrastructure and stored belongings, not the equipment itself. To ensure you’re adequately covered, ask you insurance adjuster to walk you through the specific water damage guidelines of your homeowners policy.
WHAT TYPES OF WATER DAMAGE ARE EXCLUDED FROM HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE?
Standard homeowners insurance doesn’t provide coverage for water damage caused by poor maintenance or normal wear and tear, as these hazards are not considered sudden or accidental. If a pipe in your basement has been slowly leaking for weeks, your insurance company may hold you accountable for paying for any damages, which is why it’s a good idea to stay proactive about your home’s long-term upkeep. Water damage caused by external flooding is also not included in base homeowners policies — the only way to obtain flood insurance is by purchasing a supplemental policy through the National Flood Insurance Program. Other examples where basic homeowners insurance would not cover water damage include:
- Groundwater seepage
- Sewer and sump pump backups
- Poorly-maintained irrigation systems
- Gradual water leaks from old plumbing fixtures
One way to determine if your homeowners policy covers a specific peril is to ask yourself whether the water damage could have been reasonably prevented. For example, if your home has an old roof that leaks during heavy rainstorms, you may not be fully covered if severe weather causes a major accident. While your insurer may help you repair internal damages and replace your water-logged possession, they likely won’t provide any financial support for installing a new roof. There is a lot of gray area in standard homeowners policies, so be sure to consult with an insurance agent before finalizing your coverage.
HOW TO PROTECT YOUR HOME FROM WATER DAMAGE?
The surest method of safeguarding your home and assets from water damage is to find an insurance agent that will take the time to understand your specific needs. Nationwide carriers and agencies that do most of their business through online tools and chatbots tend to be less responsive as they’re more focused on supplying quick quotes and broad coverage. At National Advisors Group, we work alongside our policyholders to anticipate common hazards and build personalized home insurance policies that offer maximum coverage at a competitive price. To learn what we can do for you, browse our website or contact one of insurance experts today!