One of the most common questions we hear is “does homeowners insurance cover water damage?” While you are looking for a simple yes or no, unfortunately, it’s not that easy. From the source of the water involved to the terms of your individual policy, there are many factors that determine whether or not your homeowners insurance will cover the cost of water damage restoration. Our guide to understanding water damage and insurance will help you navigate exactly what types of water damage your insurance will cover.
Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Water Damage?
Unfortunately, understanding whether homeowners insurance covers water damage can be extremely complicated. Generally speaking, most insurance policies will cover water damage that is sudden and accidental.
Basically, this means an unexpected event needs to cause water damage. There were no previous signs of a potential problem and the damage occurred abruptly and without warning.
However, your insurance company is likely to deny your claim due to pre-existing damage negligence. For example, if you knew there was a leak but did not make repairs, they will not approve your water damage claim.
Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Water Damage From Rain?
Although this seems like a straightforward question, the answer is somewhat complicated. Your homeowners insurance will cover water damage from rain, but not if the rain touched the ground first. Confused yet? We’d be surprised if you weren’t.
When it comes to water damage from rain, there is a very fine line between what is covered and what is not. If the water damage is caused by rain that touched the ground, say a basement flood, for example, the damage is usually not covered at all.
Unfortunately, once rain touches the ground it is almost always considered a flood. It usually doesn’t matter if the were actual floodwaters or if the rain just seeped through the ground into your basement.
However, if the rainwater comes through the roof and damages your attic or an upper floor, your homeowners insurance may cover repairs. Depending on the situation, they may only cover the water damage and not repairs to your roof.
Understanding Your Homeowners Insurance Coverage
In order to protect yourself from the expense of water damage, check what is covered in your homeowners insurance policy at least once a year. If you have questions about your policy, contact your insurance agent for a detailed explanation of your coverage.
Dwelling coverage will only cover damage to the structure of your home. For example, if a pipe breaks in your ceiling, dwelling coverage will cover the cost of repairs to the broken pipe and the ceiling damage. You will need to pay out of pocket to repair or replace damaged personal items.
Personal Property Coverage
Personal property coverage still includes structural damage, but also covers damages to your possessions. In that same example of a broken pipe in the ceiling, personal property coverage will cover the same cost of repairs and cover damage to anything underneath as well. This includes furniture, electronics, and other personal items damaged in the incident.
What To Look At When Reviewing Your Insurance Policy
In addition to confirming the type of coverage you have and what your homeowners insurance covers, there are a few other important things to review as well. Specifically, you need to look at your coverage limits, deductible, and exclusions. Again, if you have any questions, contact your agent immediately.
Every insurance policy will have a maximum amount that your provider will pay on a given claim. Make sure your coverage limit is enough to cover repairs for the most common types of water damage. Review your policy carefully, as there may be several coverage limits depending on the type and cause of damage.
You also should review your deductible. This is the amount you will need to pay out of your own pocket for a covered claim. Policies with a lower monthly rate often have a higher deductible. While paying less each month may sound great, it won’t help if you can’t afford to pay your deductible when you have to file an insurance claim.
Every homeowners’ insurance policy will exclude some type of coverage. The most common water damage-related exclusions include floods and hurricanes. Review your policy and see if you need to add separate policies to cover those exclusions.
Types of Water Damage Covered By Insurance
Again, your insurance policy will likely cover any water damage incident that is sudden and accidental. Some of the most common types of water damage covered by insurance include:
- Damage caused by a rain or snow storm, as long as it did not touch the ground first
- Plumbing malfunctions or failures, including supply line breaks, frozen or burst pipes, hot water tank failures, etc.
- Damage associated with putting out a fire
- Roof leaks, although coverage may not include replacing the roof itself
- Plumbing overflows, including toilets, bathtubs, washing machines, etc.
- Mold, as a result of water damage that was promptly addressed
Types of Water Damage Not Covered By Insurance
Insurance policies can be extremely complicated and there are several common coverage exclusions to understand. In some cases, you can purchase additional insurance. However, most policies have at least a 30-day waiting period. For that reason, it’s important to review your coverage regularly and adjust your policy as necessary.
Regardless of the cause of water damage, your insurance company is likely to deny your insurance if there are signs of negligence. Your insurance adjuster will look for signs that you did not perform preventative maintenance or were otherwise neglectful.
This includes not replacing damaged appliances, repairing the damage, or fixing roofing or siding as necessary. Additional insurance is not available to cover negligence. For this reason, it is important that you perform regular maintenance to prevent damage to your home or business.
Gradual Leaks or Seepage
Gradual leaks or seepage include slowly leaking pipes, water seeping through basement cracks, leaky roofs, and water coming in around your chimney. Over time, this small amount of water entering your home can slowly do damage.
If you have a leak or there are signs of seepage, take action immediately to resolve the issue. Your insurance may cover the damage, but only if you address the situation promptly.
Repairing or Replacing the Source of the Water Damage
Another thing typically not covered by your insurance is the source of the water damage. While they will usually cover damage from a faulty hot water tank or dishwasher, the cost of replacing the unit itself is typically not covered. Review your insurance policy or contact your insurance provider for complete details about your coverage.
As we outlined above, standard homeowners insurance policies do not cover flood damage. In this case, the term flood includes any groundwater that enters your home. If you live near a floodplain or other body of water, you may consider adding separate flood insurance. Note that flood insurance will likely not cover flood damage associated with a hurricane.
Often related to floods, sewage backups are not covered for similar reasons. Contact your insurance company if you have a sewage backup that is not associated with rains or flooding to determine if the damage will be covered.
Hurricanes and Tropical Storms
Due to their force, regular insurance policies do not cover wind or water damage from hurricanes and tropical storms. Separate windstorm and hurricane policies may be available in our area. Contact your insurance provider for additional information.
Earthquakes, Landslides, and Sinkholes
Since they deal with the earth beneath your home, damage from earthquakes, landslides, and sinkholes are normally not covered by standard homeowners insurance policies. In some cases, separate earthquake insurance may be available. Call your insurance agent to discuss your options.
What Does Homeowners Insurance Cover
Assuming your insurance claim is valid, most homeowners insurance covers the following as part of water damage restoration.
Water Extraction and Dry Out
Your insurance policy will cover the cost of removing any standing water associated with the incident. In addition to extracting the water, your insurance will also cover drying out damaged materials.
Mold Removal and Prevention
Once the water is removed, your insurance may also cover mold removal and prevention as long as it is directly associated with the water incident. Mold may not be covered if there was a significant delay in the cleanup or if there was mold prior to the incident.
Reconstruction and Restoration
Finally, your insurance will cover the cost of rebuilding and restoring your property to its original condition. This includes the installation of new flooring, drywall, ceilings, cabinets, and other structural items damaged in the water event.
Replacement of Personal Items
If you have personal property coverage, your insurance company will also cover the costs associated with replacing water damaged personal items. However, this may not include the item that caused the water damage, such as a dishwasher or washing machine. Review your policy or contact your agent for complete details.
Water Damage Insurance Claim Tips
The key to getting your insurance to pay for water damage is taking action quickly. Use these water damage insurance claim tips to navigate the process and make cleanup easier.
1. Document the Water Damage
As soon as you notice something, take photos and video to document the water damage for your insurance claim. Remember to document both structural damages as well as damage to your possessions.
2. Take Action to Stop or Limit Damage
Shut off your water immediately If the cause is a burst pipe or leak. If you can’t shut off the source of the water, begin removing it as soon as possible. You can do this yourself or call a water damage restoration company to help.
3. Contact Your Insurance Company
Contact your insurance company quickly to ensure that your water damage claim is covered. Also, most water damage restoration companies are happy to call your insurance company with you. They know the language and can help prevent you from saying something that could result in your claim being denied.
4. Continue to Document the Water Damage
Unfortunately, insurance claims often move slowly. Continue to document damage and update them regularly while they are reviewing your case.
5. Get Your Own Estimate
Your insurance company will send an adjuster out to estimate the damage. Although they will do a fair and honest appraisal of the damage, it’s in their best interest to provide the lowest estimate possible. Water damage restoration companies will offer a free estimate, so it’s worth getting at least one independent estimate.
6. Keep Receipts for All Expenses
Keep all of your receipts for expenses related to the water damage. For example, if you needed to spend the night in the hotel or you rented a pump or hired a company to remove the water. Your insurance will reimburse you for some or all of those expenses if they approve your claim.
7. Choose a Company You’re Comfortable Working With
Your insurance company will often recommend that you use one of their preferred vendors for repair. While there is nothing wrong with this, it’s in your insurance company’s best interest to get the work done for the lowest possible amount. However, you are always free to choose the company you’re most comfortable working with.
Get a Free Water Damage Restoration Estimate Now
As the #1 network of restoration companies in the nation, Restoration Local will connect you with a local water damage company. For emergency services call 1-888-443-3110 now for a free estimate and 30-minute response from our on-call contractor in your area.
You can also choose a local water damage contractor from our directory. We have listings for popular brands like Belfor Restoration and ServiceMaster Restore and independent contractors. This will assess the situation, help you document the damage, and restore your home or business to its original condition after a water damage event.