Water damage in the home is often covered by homeowners insurance. For example, insurance may cover your losses due to a burst pipe or leaking appliance. However, if your home is flooded because a nearby river overflowed its banks, you're on your own (unless you have a national flood insurance policy from the National Flood Insurance Program).
Water damage claims are tricky. For example, if your home floods because a high wind event blew off the roof and torrential rains damaged your home, the damage will likely be covered but if the flood is the result of storm surge, you're probably on your own.
Below are a few water damage claims that are typically covered by insurance:
o Burst pipes
o Bathtub and sink overflows
o Washing machine and other appliance overflows
o Water damage from leaking roof
However, insurance policies are filled with loopholes. For example, if your pipes burst because they froze overnight while you were sleeping, the insurance will cover the water damage. However, if you left the home with the heat turned off while on vacation, then expect the insurance company to deny the claim on the grounds that you did not perform necessary upkeep of your home.
In addition, say your washing machine overflows causing extensive water damage. The insurance company will likely pay for the water damage to the building and its contents but they will not necessarily pay to repair the washing machine.
Likewise, a leaking roof can cause water damage which is usually covered by homeowners insurance. However, the roof repairs are considered a maintenance issue and therefore the roof itself is not covered. The exception to this is if the roof leaked because of damage from a covered event such as hailstones, falling trees, or high winds.
The following water damage claims are generally not covered by standard homeowners insurance:
o Flooding from an overflowing river or lake
o Sewer backups
o Water seepage
If you want to be covered from natural flooding such as overflowing rivers, tidal surges, and flash floods, you will need to purchase a national flood insurance policy from the federal government. While many people believe that these policies are only for homeowners who live in designated flood plains, it's important to understand that flooding can occur outside of recognized flood zones.
Sewer backups are not generally covered by standard homeowners insurance policies. In fact, this type of water damage is often specifically excluded from the policy. This does not mean that you can not insure your home against this type of loss though. Check with your insurance company about purchasing a special endorsement that adds coverage for sewer and drain backups.
Water seepage, which is a common cause of flooded basements, is also excluded from typical insurance policies. Seepage is considered a preventable maintenance issue, not an accidental loss. If you're concerned about water seeping into your basement, take the necessary steps to maintain your home and prevent this type of damage. For example, you may need to re-grade your lot, install a sump pump, or seal your walls with a waterproofing sealant.
Clearly, water damage related insurance claims are complex. Professional water damage restoration experts in both mopping up the mess as well as navigating the complexities of what's usually covered and what's not.