12/21/2018 By Agent Ken CobbBy Agent Ken Cobb
One of the questions that a lot of my clients ask is whether their insurance policy will cover damage caused by water. This is for a good reason - water damage accounts for nearly a third of all Homeowners claims, and it is the most common type of loss when the weather isn’t storming.
So will water damage be covered? There is not a simple yes or no answer to this question, as there are several kinds of water losses, some which are likely to be covered, some which are definitely not covered and some which may be covered, depending.
Plumbing Breaks and Leaks
Probably the most common type of water damage loss we see is when water escapes from a pipe or fixture in your house. This could be a water line breaking or it could be break or malfunction of a device that holds water, such as your water softener, water heater, dishwasher, etc.
As long as this occurs suddenly (rather than a slow leak over a long period of time that has been ignored), most standard Homeowners policies* will cover the resulting water damage to your dwelling and/or personal property. (However, do not expect your policy to cover the repair or replacement of the pipe or fixture that caused the leak.)
One exception to this coverage would be if your pipes burst during the winter because you recklessly didn’t take reasonable care to either try to keep heat on or to drain the your water lines.
There are a number of reasons that your roof could leak, from faulty sealing to an ice dam. If water suddenly intrudes through your roof, most standard Homeowners policies* will normally cover the resulting damage to your walls, ceiling, flooring, etc. However, most standard policies* will not cover any personal property that is damaged from your roof leaking.
Again, it is important that leaks are caught right away, as policies may be able to exclude damage caused by neglect.
Weight of Ice and Snow
Water doesn’t have to be in its liquid form to cause damage; sometimes ice and snow build up on a roof could cause the roof to suddenly cave in or otherwise sustain damage. Most standard Homeowners policies* will cover both the damage to the structure and any damage to personal property located within the home.
We’ve talked about some types of water damage that are normally covered; now let’s touch one where coverage may depend. If water backs up through sewers or drains or overflows or discharges from your sump pump, most standard Homeowners policies* will not cover the resulting damage, unless you purchased Water Backup coverage, which you must choose to add for additional premium under most policies. Read more about Water Backup here.
Moving on to losses that are not usually covered, if ground water seeps through your basement walls and causes damage to the interior of your home, unfortunately, you cannot expect your Homeowners insurance policy to cover the damage in most situations.
While there may be a very small handful of carriers that offer or include this coverage, most standard Homeowners policies* clearly exclude seepage. Further, most carries don’t offer any option to purchase water seepage coverage at any price. So the best solution for seepage is to try to prevent it from happening to begin with, such as by installing drain tiles around your home and making sure you have proper sloping away from the house.
Flooding can mean different things to different people, but as defined by insurance policies, a flood happens when surface water inundates normally dry land. Simply put, Homeowners policies do not cover flooding. In most areas, you can purchase a separate Flood policy backed by the the federal government.
Unfortunately, the vast majority of Americans who suffer a partial or total loss of their home caused by flooding report not having Flood coverage in place. Most people think it can never happen to them.
If you decide to play it safe and buy a Flood policy, be aware that the coverage terms set by the government are not always as favorable as what you might see in your private Homeowners policy. For example, a Flood policy will not cover basement improvements, such as finished walls, floors, ceilings or most personal belongings kept in a basement.
I hope the information in this post is helpful to you in understanding how water damage is covered under Homeowners insurance. If you have any questions, I’d love to hear from you.
*This post’s references to “most standard Homeowners policies” refer to the Special Peril Homeowners policy (aka “HO3”), which represents the vast majority of Homeowners policies written today. In addition, Broad Peril policies will also cover plumbing breaks and leaks but not leaking roofs. Read more here.
Coverage descriptions in this post are general in nature and are not intended to fully describe all terms, conditions, limitations and exclusions which may be found in your policy, which you must ready carefully in order to have a fully understanding. Because policy wording can vary from carrier to carrier, some policy forms could exclude or limit coverage for things described as being covered in this post.
About the Author
Agent Ken Cobb
Ken is the owner and principal agent at Pine Country Insurance in Bemidji. Active in the insurance industry since 2000,Ken uses his years of personal insurance knowledge and experience to assist clients in customizing insurance coverage to fit their needs. Ken considers himself a "farmer" rather than a "hunter"; rather than focusing on writing a lot of new policies as quickly as possible, he works on cultivating long term relationships based on trust with his clients. When writing new policies and meeting for annual reviews, Ken spends time with his clients explaining and helping them understand their insurance, and he is also pleased to share his knowledge with his blogging audience as well.
Ken Cobb is owner of Pine Country Insurance and has been active in the insurance industry for over 15 years. Meet Ken.
Coverage descriptions found in this blog are summaries provided for general educational purposes and cannot fully detail the terms, conditions, limitations or exclusions of a specific insurance policy. Please read your policy carefully.