Water Damage: Am I covered for...?
11315 Sunrise Gold Circle
Rancho Cordova, CA 95742
Water Damage: Will I be covered in
the following scenario...?
Water damage is one of the most common reasons people
make claims on their home insurance. Did you know that
22 out of 1000 homes suffer a water damage related loss
each year! Burst pipes, leaky appliances and flooded
basements often lead people to discover the details
of their home insurance policies.
"Water damage and homeowners policies can be a
volatile issue in many ways," says Don Griffin
of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America,
a trade group. "Generally, the damage caused by
water will be covered, but whatever causes the damage
— say, a leaking dishwasher hose — may not be."
Although your insurer might pay to replace a carpet
damaged by your dishwasher leak, you probably have to
replace or repair the hose at your own cost. If a sudden,
unforeseen problem such as a frozen pipe leads to water
damage, your home insurance covers repairs to both the
broken pipe and your home and furnishings.
Here are common water-damage scenarios and their insurance
No. 1: The temperature drops to 10 below zero,
causing your water pipes to freeze and burst. Frozen
pipes (both copper and PVC) can cause a lot of damage
to your home, vacation property or business. Frozen
pipes can burst, causing water to leak inside walls
and floors, causing expensive water damage that can
go far beyond just the expense of repairing the pipes.
A three millimeter crack in a pipe can spew up to 250
gallons of water a day, causing water damage to possessions
and irreplaceable assets. Your floor is now covered
in 6 inches of water.
Are you covered? Yes, you're covered for water damage
from burst pipes, but most policies won't cover you
if you've left the house unoccupied and without heat.
If that's the case, your claim could be denied because
you've failed to perform the necessary upkeep that would
prevent the accident.
Let faucets connected to vulnerable pipes drip during
extremely cold weather. This keeps the water moving
and helps to reduce the chance of freezing.
No. 2: Water leaks from your backyard pool, ruining
your manicured lawn and flooding your basement.
Are you covered? The damage to your basement and your
personal property are covered, but not the damage to
your lawn. According to a sample policy, "We do
not cover land, including land on which the dwelling
is located." However, your lawn is covered if it's
damaged by certain "named perils." These include
fire, explosion, riot, aircraft, vehicles not owned
by you and vandalism. The amount of coverage for lawns
and plants is small — usually only up to $500. Swimming-pool
leaks are not a named peril. But if your leak was caused
by a tree falling on the pool, it would be covered.
Pools are meant to be watertight but sealants will
deteriorate while other parts of your pool shift and
settle or just plain wear out. Pools can leak through
any of the fittings or accessories, plumbing, or even
right through the shell. It is important to repair leaks,
not only to save water, heat, and chemicals, but also
to prevent undermining pool structural components and
washing away fill dirt. A list of independent pool professionals
who specialize in leak detection is available a www.PoolLeak.info
No. 3: Your washing machine overflows, flooding
Are you covered? Yes. But it depends on your home insurer's
view of the problem: Did you fail to maintain the washer
properly or did sudden, accidental damage cause the
"Most of the time, if an appliance breaks and
water goes all over, insurance covers it. In the case
of a washing machine, you might need to purchase replacement
parts out of your own pocket because they were not maintained
correctly, but the damage to your basement is covered,"
Consider replacing hoses to major appliances such as
your washer and dishwasher every two to five years.
Steel, so-called "no burst" hoses have been
shown to have a longer lifespan than other models. When
you go on vacation, turn off the water to your washer
while you’re out of town. Many homeowners have returned
from vacation to find their washer hoses have burst,
flooding their homes.
No. 4: A sewer backs up, flooding your basement
or crawl space.
Are you covered? No. Standard home insurance policies
don't cover sewer backups, and many specifically exclude
damage from sewer back-ups. Special endorsements are
available, at added cost, for sewers and drains.
Category 3 water is referred to as “Black Water.” Black
water contains pathogenic agents and is GROSSLY unsanitary.
Black water includes sewage and other contaminated water
sources entering or affecting the indoor environment.Toilet
backflows that originate from beyond the toilet trap
is considered black water contamination, regardless
of visible content or color.
No. 5: Water seeps from the ground into your basement,
damaging your foundation and interior.
Are you covered? No. Seepage is considered a maintenance
problem, not "sudden and accidental" damage,
and is excluded from home insurance coverage.
When the groundwater levels outside the basement rises
above the level of the floor, the basement acts like
a boat in a pond. If a boat is sitting in water, water
will leak in through any open cracks or holes. It works
the same way with a basement. Hydrostatic pressure can
push water through hairline cracks.
No. 6: During a heavy rainstorm, water leaks through
your roof. The roof is damaged, as is furniture.
Are you covered? Somewhat. You're unlikely to be reimbursed
for roof repairs because that's a house-maintenance
issue. But the water damage to your home is covered.
Damage to your furniture is also likely covered if you
have a standard H0-3 homeowners policy, but not if you
have a generic HO-1 policy (which many insurers don't
even sell anymore).
If your neighbor's tree falls on your roof, the damage
to your roof, home and belongings is covered. Your policy
also reimburses you up to a certain amount, usually
around $500, for the cost of removing the tree.
Clean out gutters and downspouts regularly. This helps
prevent overflowing, which may damage your roof.
No. 7: A nearby lake or river overflows its banks,
causing a flash flood in your living room.
Are you covered? No. Flood damage is not covered by
home insurance. You must purchase flood insurance for
that. You can purchase flood insurance as long as your
community participates in the National Flood Insurance
Be careful how you report damage to your insurance
company. While you should be truthful, make sure you
explain the situation using the most accurate language
— or you could find your claim denied.
Homeowner’s insurance generally covers household water
damage if the damage is sudden and accidental, such
as damage caused by burst pipes. It does not cover damage
of the sort covered by flood insurance, i.e., rising
water from outside; or damage caused over time by lack
"What you say initially can affect the outcome
of your claim. Many people believe their house is flooded
because it's full of water — but it's not a 'flood'
by the insurance definition," says Allan Sabel
of Sabel & Associates, a Bridgeport, Conn.-based
This may seem like a minor distinction, but your insurer
has a very narrow definition of a "flood,"
which is not covered by home insurance. To an insurance
company, flooding means that the water came from an
overflow of a lake, stream, river or other body of water.
If it didn't, don't even say the word "flood,"
says Sabel. If your basement is filled with water due
to a burst pipe, it's not a flood — even if its depth
"You just have to be careful," Sabel says.
"Know exactly what is in your policy, what's covered,
what's not covered, and report your claim accurately."
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