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Plumbing problems can cause major issues for homeowners, whether it’s a faulty sump pump or a burst pipe that results in flooding. Having homeowners insurance can help, but what exactly it covers will depend on the insurance provider and the individual policy.
Understanding whether or not your home insurance policy covers plumbing damage is crucial since these types of issues can cost thousands of dollars to repair.
Here’s what you need to know about home insurance and plumbing:
- Does home insurance cover plumbing?
- When is damage to your plumbing not covered?
- Other plumbing and water damage coverages
- How to prevent broken pipes
- How to file a claim for plumbing damage
- What to do if your plumbing damage claim is denied
Does home insurance cover plumbing?
Typically, home insurance covers sudden and accidental plumbing damage and leaks. For example, if your home’s pipes freeze — assuming your home is heated properly — and it results in your pipes bursting as well as water damage, then your policy should pay for repairs.
Your home insurance policy offers different types of coverage that may apply to plumbing damage:
- Dwelling: As the main part of your homeowners insurance policy, dwelling coverage pays for repairs to your home’s structure. For example, your policy could pay for repairs to your floor and walls if an accidental leak causes damage to them.
- Other structures: This part of your coverage is for structures that aren’t part of your main dwelling, like your guest house or detached garage. In other words, if a burst pipe or other type of accidental plumbing issue causes damage in these structures, then your policy may provide coverage.
- Personal property: If your personal belongings are damaged due to a broken or burst pipe, for example, your insurance may cover them at actual cash value (depreciated value) or the replacement cost (full value) — the exact type of personal property coverage depends on your policy.
- Loss of use: Your policy could pay for meals, hotel stays, or other temporary living expenses if a plumbing accident causes your home to be uninhabitable. However, loss of use coverage doesn’t cover expenses that you were responsible for before the damage occurred, such as your mortgage, utilities, and insurance payments.
If you’re unsure of what’s covered or excluded from your homeowners policy, take the time to speak to your insurance company or check your policy’s declaration page to see what’s included.
Plumbing coverage limits
Coverage limits for plumbing damage depend on your homeowners insurance policy and the type of damage to either your home or belongings. You should have chosen your dwelling coverage limit when you purchased your policy, so look at the policy’s declaration page for the exact amount.
Insurers typically base personal property and loss of use coverage on a percentage of your dwelling limit. Loss of use coverage is typically around 20%, whereas personal property is usually 50% to 70%. For example, if your dwelling coverage is $250,000 and your personal property is limited to 60%, then the limit would be $150,000. Meanwhile, a loss of use coverage limit of 20% would insure you for up to $50,000 in expenses.
When purchasing your policy, it’s best to choose a limit for your dwelling coverage that’s high enough to cover your home’s full replacement cost. That way, if a plumbing issue causes significant damage to your home, you won’t have to worry about paying out of pocket for repairs.
When is damage to your plumbing not covered?
Unfortunately, your home insurance policy doesn’t cover every type of plumbing damage, including the following causes:
- Regular wear and tear: Homes with older plumbing systems could have worn-out pipes that you’ll need to replace or repair eventually. Since this doesn’t count as a sudden or accidental event, your insurance carrier most likely won’t cover it.
- Lack of maintenance: Insurance providers consider home maintenance as part of the homeowner’s responsibility. If damage is due to your negligence, the insurer may not pay for repairs.
- Repairs that cost more than coverage limits: You’ll need to pay for repairs that exceed your coverage limits.
Other plumbing and water damage coverages
Your standard homeowners insurance policy doesn’t cover other types of damage, so it’s a good idea to consider adding on the following coverages:
- Sewer/water backup coverage: You may want to purchase additional coverage limits if you’re worried about backups causing damage to your plumbing, or if you usually have a large number of rainstorms in your area.
- Mold damage rider: If your plumbing causes mold damage, most insurers won’t provide coverage. Consider getting it if you live in a warm and humid area, or if you think your home might be susceptible to mold.
- Service line coverage: You can add this endorsement to your insurance policy if you’re worried your plumbing might cause damage to a utility line that runs into your home.
Learn More: Does Home Insurance Cover Natural Disasters?
How to prevent broken pipes
You can avoid broken pipes by taking these steps:
- Cut down trees. If you have any trees near your home or see invasive root structures, consider cutting them down.
- Prepare your home for the cold weather. Protect your pipes during the winter months by adding insulation to your home. Seal any leaks that allow cold air into your home, such as those around doors or windows.
- Keep the faucet running. In extremely cold weather, leave your faucet running at a trickle. This will keep water flowing and help prevent your pipes from freezing.
- Leave the heat on. Don’t turn your thermostat off, even if you leave your home during the cold weather. Make sure no area in your home drops below 55 degrees.
How to file a claim for plumbing damage
In most cases, you’ll need to follow these steps to file a claim for plumbing damage:
- Document your losses. Taking photos and videos of the damage and recording an inventory of any damaged personal items will give you and your insurance carrier an idea of what needs to be repaired or replaced. It can also help speed up the process once you meet with the insurance adjuster.
- Contact your insurance provider. In most cases, you can call your insurer, but some allow you to fill out a form online. In any case, follow your insurance carrier’s directions carefully.
- Conduct temporary repairs if it’s an emergency. Your insurance provider may allow you to make repairs in order to protect your home from more damage. To ensure your provider pays for them, save any receipts and submit them for reimbursement later. However, don’t do anything major or permanent until the insurance adjuster has come to your home.
- Work with the insurance adjuster. Your insurer will send an adjuster to your home to assess the damage. Depending on what the adjuster indicates on their report, you may receive a settlement offer from your insurance provider to help pay for the repairs or replacement of the property.
What to do if your plumbing damage claim is denied
Consider taking the following steps if your insurer denies your home insurance claim:
- Get another opinion. Seek out a public insurance adjuster to reexamine your home’s damage. They can help you value your losses and settle your claim, though you’ll need to pay a fee for their services.
- File an appeal. Once you’ve reviewed the denial letter and determined the reason wasn’t based on accurate information, you can file an appeal with the insurance provider and submit additional evidence that supports your claim. Depending on the insurer, you only have a certain window of time to do so.
- File a complaint. Consider contacting your state’s insurance commissioner if you believe your claim was denied unfairly.
Keep Reading: How to Dispute a Denied Home Insurance Claim