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Each year, more homeowners file insurance claims for water damage than for property damage caused by theft, or fire and lightning, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Water damage can destroy your personal property, harm the structural integrity of your home, and set you back thousands of dollars if you’re not insured properly. That’s why it’s important you understand how standard homeowners policies handle damages caused by water.

Here’s what you need to know about home insurance and water damage:

Does home insurance cover water damage?

Yes, homeowners insurance plans typically cover water damage. However, it’s vital that you understand how insurers define the term “water damage.”

Most standard home insurance plans provide coverage for water damage and freezing that’s considered “sudden and accidental,” such as a burst pipe or overflowing toilet. If water damage occurs as a result of another covered event (or peril), such as vandalism, your home insurance policy will likely cover you as well. Mold may also be covered as long as it resulted from the covered event.

Keep in mind: Home insurance doesn’t cover water damage from all natural disasters or unfortunate occurrences. For example, water damage from flooding isn’t covered under a standard homeowners policy; you’ll need to purchase a separate flood insurance policy to protect your home. And, if the water damage results from negligence — for example, you knew a pipe was leaking and didn’t repair it promptly — your insurance likely won’t cover it.

Standard home insurance policies include different types of coverage. Your policy’s dwelling coverage, for example, will cover any water damage to the physical structure of your home. So, if an overflowing toilet causes significant damage to your bathroom cabinets and floor, the dwelling coverage portion of your policy will help cover the repair costs.

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Learn More: What Does Homeowners Insurance Cover?

Types of water damage covered by home insurance

Most homeowners insurance policies will cover the same types of water damage. Here are some common examples of water damage a home insurance policy typically covers:

Burst pipes

Pipe bursts are a common cause of property damage, especially if you live in an area where temperatures can quickly plummet and cause your pipes to freeze.

It’s important to mention that while your home insurance may cover water damage from a burst pipe, policies typically don’t cover the repair of the broken pipe itself.

Toilet overflow

Unlike sewer backups, routine toilet overflows occur when the backup is caused by items getting stuck while going into the toilet. This is considered accidental water damage and should be covered by most policies.

Accidental leaks

Washing machine hoses, sinks, dishwashers, and other appliances may leak unexpectedly. These accidental, sudden leaks are often included in typical homeowners insurance coverage.

Water heater ruptures

Although some water heater issues are related to untimely maintenance, sediment will always build up in the tank, which could lead to an eventual leak or rupture.

Water damage coverage limits

Generally, a standard homeowners insurance policy will cover areas that the water has damaged, such as walls or cabinets. Unless you’ve purchased additional coverage, many policies won’t cover the cost to repair or replace the burst pipe or leaking appliance that caused the damage.

Water damage coverage limits vary from policy to policy. For instance, your dwelling coverage limit — which covers water damage to the structure of your home — is typically the full replacement cost of your home. Your personal property coverage limit is usually 50% to 70% of your dwelling coverage limit, and will help reimburse you for any personal property, like furniture or clothing, that’s damaged by water.

Keep in mind: Your homeowners insurance policy likely has a deductible — an amount you must pay out of pocket before your insurance begins to pay for a covered event.

Types of water damage not covered by home insurance

Certain types of water damage are excluded from coverage, including:

  • Gradual leaks: Most policies won’t cover gradual leaks, which are slow leaks from pipes that cause water damage over time. This includes damage from mold.
  • Seepage: Seepage is caused by foundation cracks or exterior drainage issues. Rainwater can seep into these cracks after a storm, causing damage. Seepage is considered a maintenance issue and isn’t covered by homeowners insurance or flood insurance.
  • Sewer and drain backups: As a homeowner, you’re responsible not only for your own plumbing, but for the sewer line connected to your home and the main city line. In the event that it backs up, deteriorates, or is cracked by tree roots, your standard insurance policy likely won’t cover it. Instead, you’ll need to purchase an endorsement or rider to provide adequate coverage.

Water damage vs. flood damage

Insurance providers handle water damage claims and flood damage claims differently, depending on how the water enters your home:

  • Flood damage occurs when a natural disaster, such as an overflowing river or heavy rain, causes flooding in your home.
  • Water damage occurs either when pipes in your home leak or another peril causes water to intrude.

For instance, although a burst pipe may “flood” your basement, it wasn’t caused by a natural disaster like a flash flood or river overflowing, so it wouldn’t be covered by flood insurance. Instead, it would be classified as water damage under your homeowners insurance.

Keep Reading: Does Home Insurance Cover Natural Disasters?

Other water damage coverages to consider

Your homeowners policy won’t cover every type of water damage. Here are some coverages you may want to include to fully protect your home:

  • Flood insurance: Water damage from flash floods and heavy rain aren’t covered under a standard homeowners policy. You can purchase a flood insurance policy through the National Flood Insurance Program or a private carrier.
  • Sewer backup rider: This coverage applies to your home’s lateral pipeline, which connects to the sewer main, in the event it cracks or deteriorates.
  • Mold cleanup coverage: Mold cleanup typically isn’t included in a standard policy. This additional coverage pays for cleanup and mold testing after the moldy items are removed.

How to file a water damage claim

Whether your home has been damaged by strong rainstorms or burst pipes, you’ll want to take the following steps when filing a water damage claim with your homeowners insurance provider:

  • Notify your provider immediately. As soon as you can safely assess the damage, you should call your homeowners insurance carrier and ask to begin the claims process. The sooner you call, the sooner you can start the repairs. Even a small amount of water damage can quickly create more damage to your home, so it’s important that you call right away.
  • Document all damage to your property. Create a list of all signs of damage to your home and personal property. This includes everything from staining on the walls to ceiling leakage to water-damaged furniture. Take photos and videos as well for further visual evidence.
  • Note any mold you find. If you discover any mold, or areas that you think might have mold, make sure you take note of this. You may need to file a separate claim for mold removal.
  • If necessary, make temporary repairs. If safety allows, you’ll want to make temporary repairs to prevent further damage to your home, like covering a hole in your roof with a tarp. Hold off on any permanent repairs until your insurance adjuster assesses the damage.
  • Follow instructions from your insurance provider. If you’re unsure of what to do at any point, don’t be afraid to call your provider and ask for updates or advice.

Check Out: How Much Homeowners Insurance Do I Need?

What to do if your claim was denied

Your insurance provider may not accept every claim you file. In the event that your water damage claim is denied, it’s essential that you know how to move forward to ensure you get the assistance you need. Here are a few things you can do:

  • Call your insurance provider. Ask your claims agent to explain why your claim was denied. They’ll walk you through the process and identify the reasons for the denial.
  • Read over your policy. Alternatively, you can read through your policy to see what is and isn’t covered. You may not have the appropriate coverage type or amount needed for your specific damages.
  • File an appeal. If you believe that you’re entitled to coverage under the terms of the policy, you can file an appeal with the insurance carrier’s claims manager.
  • Reach out to your state’s insurance department. If your insurance provider still denies your claim, you can escalate the appeal by contacting your state insurance department and filing a complaint.
Copyright (c) 2023, Credible Insurance, Inc. d/b/a Credible Insurance Agency (CA Lic. # 0M90597). Insurance Services provided through Credible Insurance, Inc., VA: Credible Insurance Agency, Inc., MN SOS: Credible Cover, Inc. Credible Insurance is a subsidiary of Credible Labs Inc. 1700 Market St. Ste. 1005, Philadelphia, PA 19103.
About the author
Nick Dauk
Nick Dauk

Nick Dauk is a Credible authority on personal finance. His work has been featured in Business Insider, The Edge, Bisnow, The Telegraph, BBC, and Culture Trip.

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