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A water damage insurance claim is one of the most common claims for homeowners, accounting for roughly 20% of insurance losses in 2020, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Each year, nearly one in 60 insured homes in America experiences property damage due to water damage or freezing.
The cause of water damage to a home determines whether it’s covered by homeowners insurance. Generally, water damage is covered when it’s sudden or accidental in nature.
Here’s what you need to know about water damage insurance claims:
- What type of water damage does homeowners insurance cover?
- What type of water damage is not covered?
- How to file a water damage claim
What type of water damage does homeowners insurance cover?
Not all water damage is covered under a standard homeowners insurance policy. Typically, only sudden or accidental damage or storm-related damage is covered, like:
- Burst pipes or sprinklers
- Accidental leaks
- Ice dams
- Appliance overflows
- Fire extinguisher/hose damage (in the event of a fire)
Some policies provide coverage for sewer and drain backups, but often this requires purchasing a sewer insurance rider.
Dwelling coverage vs. personal property coverage
Home insurance policies include several types of coverage. If certain events (or “perils,” as they’re referred to in the insurance industry) cause damage to your home’s structure, it falls under your policy’s dwelling coverage. Detached structures, like garages, sheds, and fences are covered under most policies as well.
Damage to items like clothing, furniture, and other personal possessions falls under your policy’s personal property coverage. Generally, insurance policies provide 50% to 70% of your home’s total coverage for personal property damaged by water or other eligible perils. However, it’s a good idea to review your policy to understand your level of coverage.
What type of water damage is not covered?
As mentioned, homeowners insurance doesn’t cover all instances of water damage. For example, most standard insurance policies don’t cover water damage from the ground up.
The following situations aren’t covered under most insurance policies:
- Flooding: Damage from floodwater falls outside of standard insurance coverage. Purchasing a separate flood policy can help protect your home, especially if you live in a floodplain. You can do this through a private insurer or the National Flood Insurance Program.
- Negligence: In some cases, your insurance company may deny claims for covered perils if it determines the damage occurred because of negligence on your behalf. For example, your policy wouldn’t cover water damage from burst pipes if it was due to you failing to heat your home properly.
- Lack of maintenance: Your insurance provider won’t bail you out for failure to address maintenance issues that eventually result in water damage. For instance, water damage from a leaking faucet or plumbing fixture that you knew about but never fixed wouldn’t be covered.
- Repairing or replacing the source of the water damage: Your policy covers damage from water but won’t cover fixing the cause of the damage. If your dishwasher breaks and floods your kitchen, your insurer may cover repairs to the floor, but not the cost to repair or replace your dishwasher.
- Sewer backup: Standard insurance policies typically don’t cover damage from a sewer or drain backup. Many insurance carriers offer separate sewer or water backup coverage. This type of coverage may also protect you if you have a sump pump that fails and causes a backup.
- Mold: Mold is usually only covered under a homeowners policy if it’s the result of a covered peril. If your pipes burst suddenly and cause mold to build up, your insurance will most likely cover the removal. In some cases, you may need to add mold coverage to your policy.
Check Out: How to Compare Home Insurance Quotes
How to file a water damage claim
Before you file a home insurance claim, review your policy to determine the deductible. You’re responsible for this out-of-pocket expense. It may not be worth filing a claim if the damage isn’t severe, or if you have a high deductible.
Homeowners insurance deductibles generally range from $500 to $5,000, depending on the insurer. The average cost to repair water damage to your home is $3,303, according to HomeAdvisor, but it may cost more depending on the severity of the damage and other factors.
The process of filing a property claim varies depending on your insurance carrier. Generally, the process involves the following steps:
- Contact your insurance carrier. Call your provider and inform them of the incident. Have your policy number on hand to speed up the process. The insurance agent will guide you through the claims process and explain whether your policy will cover the water damage or not.
- Fill out and submit claim forms. Complete the forms provided by your insurer and properly submit them. Many insurance providers allow you to file claims online, through mobile insurance apps, or by phone. Fill out the claim forms thoroughly, including any details relevant to your claim. Keep in mind the submission deadline for filing a claim.
- Make temporary repairs. To prevent further damage to your home, make any necessary temporary repairs, such as using duct tape to stop a leaking pipe. Consult your insurance carrier if you have questions on what temporary repairs are allowed under your policy. Only make repairs that can be completed safely.
- Provide documentation. Document any damages to your home, detached structures, and personal property. Take photos of the damage and any temporary repairs you make, and compile a list of damaged items for the insurance adjuster. Having the proper documentation available will help you navigate the claims process quicker. Provide receipts, repair costs, and any other documentation your insurance carrier may need to process the claim.
- Wait for the insurance adjuster and final approval. Your insurance provider will review your claim once it’s submitted and will let you know if it needs any other information. The insurer may send an insurance adjuster to your home to assess the water damage, or may ask you to submit photos instead. Then, your insurance carrier will provide an estimate of repair and send you payment for the estimated amount.
- Make repairs. Typically, you can use any contractor you want to complete repairs. Check with your insurance carrier for any restrictions or guidelines. You may receive another payment if the repair costs exceed the insurer’s estimated amount.
You can track the progress of your claim through your insurer’s website or mobile app or by calling an insurance agent. They are also available to answer any questions you have throughout the claims process.
Disclaimer: All insurance-related services are offered through Young Alfred.