Water damage is one of the most common homeowner’s insurance claims. According to the Insurance Information Institute, about 29 percent of all homeowner’s claims were related to water damage or freezing in 2019. These claims are also some of the most expensive, with settlement payouts averaging $11,094.
What Types of Water Damage Does Homeowners Insurance Cover?
Generally speaking, the majority of homeowners insurance policies cover water damage triggered by accidental and unforeseen events.
Gradual damage from lack of routine maintenance (i.e. a leaking pipe) is not covered. Flooding is also not covered, unless separate flood insurance has been purchased.
Common scenarios that may be covered under a standard homeowners insurance policy include:
- Burst Pipes
This includes frozen pipes, so long as the heater was not deliberately turned off and left for an extended period.
- Accidental Leaks
This can include plumbing accidents or leaks from appliances, like a broken dishwasher or laundry machine.
- Water Damage From A Fire
Water damage resulting from sprinkler systems or other means of extinguishing a fire is typically covered.
- Ice Dams
Ice dams are blockages of ice and snow in your gutter system. The weight of these dams can strain the gutters and cause them to pull away from the home, leaving small openings. When the dams melt, water can find its way inside. Provided you have been maintaining your gutters, ice dams and any resulting water damage are usually covered.
- Storm Damage
Water damage caused by heavy snow, rain, hail, or other storm issues is usually covered under homeowners insurance.
- Roof Leaks
Leaks caused by sudden damage, as from a fallen tree or severe storm, are usually covered. Gradually worsening leaks due to lack of maintenance, however, are typically not covered.
When Should I File a Water Damage Claim?
If you have experienced sudden or unexpected water damage, you will want to file your water damage claim as soon as possible. Untreated water damage can lead to long-term complications, including rot, which can attract vermin and increase the risk of mold and mildew.
Don’t assume your situation is not covered. Your insurance carrier should review your policy with you to determine your specific coverage. In the event your claim is not covered, your insurance may be able to at least make suggestions for quality restoration services in your area.
Why Do Insurance Companies Deny Water Damage Claims?
One main reason a water damage claim might be denied would be that the damage was found to be gradual, and potentially the result of negligence. Other instances when a claim may be denied include:
- Intentional Acts
Arson or turning off the heat in winter are considered intentional acts that result in damage and are, therefore, not covered.
- Natural Disasters
Unfortunately, water damage related to natural disasters is not covered under standard homeowners insurance policies. Even a burst pipe will not be covered if it happened due to an earthquake. Likewise, damage from mudslides and floods is not covered. You will need to purchase separate insurance for earthquakes and floods.
- Sump Pump Failure or Sewer/Drain Backup
Some homes include a sump pump at the lowest level. These pumps are designed to pump water out of the home and away from the foundation. They routine maintenance in order to function properly, including regular cleaning. If the sump pump fails and water backs up into the basement, any resulting damage may not be covered. Likewise, water damage from backed up drains or sewer systems is not usually covered under homeowners insurance policies. You will need to purchase Water Backup Insurance for these types of problems.
There are other situations that may not be covered under your homeowners insurance. You will want to speak with your carrier to be sure.
What If My Claim Was Unfairly Denied?
As a policyholder in good standing, you have the right to expect your claim to be processed competently and fairly. Unfortunately, there are instances when this is not the case, and your claim may have been denied unfairly. For example, the extent of your policyâ€™s coverage may have been misinterpreted, or a claim may have been mishandled in some way (delayed filing, clerical errors, etc.).
The Roth Group specializes in leveling the playing field between policyholders and their insurance companies, and we have helped hundreds of clients negotiate a fair settlement.