Does Insurance Cover Water Damage? Your Guide to Understanding Whether Your Insurance Will Cover Water Damage
One of the most common questions we hear is “does 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 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.
Is Water Damage Covered by My Insurance Company?
Unfortunately, understanding whether your insurance will cover water damage can be extremely complicated. Generally speaking, most insurance policies will cover water damage that is sudden and accidental unless the water touches the ground first.
Sudden and Accidental…
Basically, this means the water damage needed to be caused by an unexpected event. There were no previous signs of a potential problem and the damage occurred abruptly and without warning.
For example, sudden wind damage to your roof results in accidental water damage to your attic and ceiling. In this case, your insurance will likely cover the water damage because it was unpredictable and there was no pre-existing damage.
However, your insurance company is likely to deny your claim if there are signs that your roof was in poor repair before the wind damage. In that case, the damage was neither sudden nor accidental because you were negligent in properly maintaining your roof.
…Unless Water Touches the Ground First
If the water that caused the damage touched the ground first, it will almost never be covered. This includes floods caused by over-saturated ground and overflowing streams, rivers, ponds, lakes, and oceans. Most types of sewage backups fall under this same category as well.
Understanding Why Floods Are Not Covered By Insurance
A general understanding of how insurance works will help explain why floods are not covered. The same goes for any other exclusions. Regardless of the company you use, insurance is a business based on probability.
Given a number of factors, like your location and the amount you pay for insurance, what is the probability that damage will occur? Insurance companies use complicated equations to figure this out.
They then balance the probability and expense of damage across you and other policyholders in your area. While you may only pay a small amount every period, the goal is that cumulatively everyone pays enough to cover the cost of repairs for a given type of damage.
However, when it comes to flood waters, the math gets much more complicated due to the volume of damage. Floods typically affect many customers at once and are likely to cause significantly more damage. In this case, the premiums necessary to cover the cost damage are prohibitively high.
Understanding Your Insurance Coverage
In order to protect yourself from the expense of water damage, check what type of coverage your policy includes. You should also review your insurance policy every 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 for 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 policy 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 out for 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 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 appliances, repairing damage, or replacing 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 Will My Insurance Cover
Assuming your insurance claim is valid, most insurance policies will cover the following:
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 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 in 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.
What To Do If You Have Water Damage
Contact your insurance company quickly to ensure that your water damage claim is covered. After contacting your agent, take photos and video to document the extent of the damage for your insurance claim. Remember to document both structural damages as well as damage to your possessions.
Unfortunately, insurance claims often move slowly. Continue to document damage and update them regularly while they are reviewing your case. If water is still entering your home or there is a significant amount of water, you may consider calling a restoration company first.
A water damage restoration company will assess the situation, prevent more water from entering your home, and extract the existing water to limit the damage. Always keep receipts for those expenses, as your insurance may reimburse you.
Consider Getting Your Own Estimate
Your insurance company will estimate the cost of repairs and may recommend you use one of their preferred vendors. While there is nothing wrong with this, but it’s in your insurance company’s best interest to get the work done for the lowest possible amount. By getting an independent estimate, you ensure that your property is restored to its original condition for the lowest out of pocket cost.
Restoration Local Knows How To Talk To Insurance Companies
When it comes to ensuring the maximum water damage is covered, you need to know how to talk to your insurance company. From navigating the right words to ensuring that nothing is overlooked, Restoration Local is experienced in all aspects of water damage restoration.
Our water damage restoration specialists will assess the situation, help you document the damage, and restore your home or business to its original condition after a water damage event. If you have water damage, call 1-888-443-3110 now for a free estimate and 30-minute emergency response.