In most homeowner insurance policies coverage for natural disasters such as wind, hail, fire, or lightning are included in your standard policy that covers your personal property, your dwelling, and personal liability for injury or damages to another property. However, water damage covered by home insurance will usually be subjected to scrutiny by your insurance company, and it may or may not require additional insurance by the homeowner.
Once you experience water damage in your home it can leave you vulnerable and asking yourself: What should I do? Who should I call to help clean up the water? Will my homeowner’s insurance policy cover the damages?
One of the first things you should do is to stay calm and stop the water from flowing. Once you stop the water from flowing, you will want to contact a disaster restoration company that is IICRC certified (Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration) to mitigate the damages. Then you will need to contact your local insurance agent to discuss the loss in detail to determine if your insurance company will cover the damages. During this process, your insurance company will identify the type of loss from one of four instances of losses:
- Overflow Discharge
Often, they will need to send out an insurance adjuster to inspect the damages to confirm whether it’s covered under your homeowner’s insurance.
While waiting for your insurance adjuster to inspect the damages, you may be trying to determine if the damage is going to be covered under your homeowner’s insurance policy. You can do this by reviewing the declarations page on your policy. The standard homeowner’s insurance water damage policy will typically cover sudden or accidental water damages such as a burst pipe or accidental overflow.
Ask yourself what caused the damage?
- Was it sudden or accidental?
- Was it from a burst pipe?
- Was it from flooding due to wind or rain?
- Was it from an ice dam on the roof?
- Was it caused by frozen pipes?
- Was it from an appliance that malfunctioned?
- Was it from issues in the home that have not been addressed?
- Was it from flooding from a storm?
- Was it from a sewer backup?
Claims that your insurance policy does not typically cover unless you have additional endorsements:
- Sewer backups
- Damage from a flood
Examples of items that are usually excluded from Insurance coverage.
- The source of the damage: For instance, your washing machine overflowed causing water damage to the floor of your laundry room, your homeowners’ insurance will not cover the costs to repair or replace the washing machine but it will cover the repair or replacement of the floor.
- Your boiler fails and floods your basement. The repair to the boiler will not be covered under your policy.
- A tree falls on your home and causes water damage inside your home. The removal of the tree will not be covered.
- Pipe burst in the ceiling of your home. The repair to the pipe that caused the damage will not be covered but the resulting damage will typically be covered.
- Damage caused by lack of maintenance such as a leaking pipe that has gone unrepaired.
- Neglect, for example, water damage that occurred and the insured was aware of but did not address the damages for an extended period which resulted in additional damages to the property.
The best way to know what is and isn’t going to be covered by your homeowner’s insurance policy is by knowing what your insurance policy includes and by making sure you have the correct endorsements on your insurance policy. One of the biggest mistakes a homeowner makes when purchasing homeowners’ insurance is not insuring their home adequately to keep their premiums down.
To ensure that you have adequate insurance with the correct endorsements you will need to contact your insurance agent to discuss the best options for you and your home. Below is more information about water damage on insurance policies in general.
Check Your Insurance Policy Before Damage Occurs
Few would argue that insurance is a numbers game—one that is not in favor of the policyholder. Therefore, “Is water damage covered by home insurance?” is not the question you want to ask your agent after the fact. Homeowners should thoroughly read and comprehend their policies not only to ensure that their home is fully covered but to know the limits of that coverage.
Insurance policies should have an exhaustive list of what is covered in the event of a disaster. It may be grouped by category or even alphabetized. Though the coverage may list a considerable number of perils and protections for the homeowner benefits, just as important is that which is not listed. If your house or property is damaged, then the insurance company will only payout on any claims that are listed on the policy.
Water Damage and Freezing: Leading Home Insurance Losses
Water damage is one area of coverage that should be well-defined on your policy. It is listed as a peril on standard policies under “Water damage and freezing.” Water damage is one of the most frequent causes of damage to a home and, on average, according to the ISO (Insurance Services Office provides statistical and actuarial information for companies and businesses), is third in home insurance losses after fire and lightning, and wind and hail. In 2015, water damage and freezing were actually the leading home insurance losses by cause according to data collected by the ISO.
Water damage claim situations will most likely be subjected to a degree of scrutiny and interpretation. The good news is, most homeowners carry a basic homeowners’ insurance policy referred to as an HO-3 policy. The HO-3 policy carries a broad range of coverage that includes specific perils or problems that protect your home and personal belongings in the event of a disaster.
Common perils that relate to water damage that most policies cover are for the accidental overflow of water as a result of:
- Plumbing, heating, air conditioning or automatic fire protection system issues;
- when a steam system, heating system, air conditioning or automatic fire protection system suddenly cracks or fails due to an accident;
- or freezing of plumbing and other systems.
Unfortunately, if the water damage in your home is gradual then it probably will not be covered by your insurance. Gradual water damage occurs slowly, over time, and can be due to many reasons. Some claims for water damage that may be denied are for plumbing issues like leaking pipes and faucets that result in damage to walls, floors or ceilings and the accompanying mold that may form.
- Cracks that form in the foundation that causes water seepage.
- Deterioration, age or rot of window sills, door frames, roof tiles, shingles or flashings that show an obvious need of repair and have been neglected.
When in Doubt, Call the Professionals
Homeowners face many risks and it is important to have the right coverage for their property. Be prepared and know in advance the extent of your coverage. When water damage happens it can occur rapidly and should be addressed immediately to limit further damage to your property. Your insurance agent will most likely advise you to contact a professional water damage restoration company like Octagon Cleaning & Restoration. They can help homeowners through the difficult cleanup and challenges ahead. Octagon Cleaning & Restoration is certified by the IICRC —the governing body that sets the standards and certifications that sets the standards that insurance companies adhere to.