Does Your Insurance Cover Water Damage?
Water damage is one of the most common types of damage affecting homes and represents the majority of insurance claims. Water damage can occur from various sources including plumbing and appliances, severe weather or storms including hurricanes and tornadoes, accidents and infiltration. The costs can vary depending on the extent of damage and so it’s good to know what portion of that your insurance will cover.
What Type of Water Damage Causes are Covered by My Insurance?
Most of the time when water damages are sudden and accidental they are often covered by most home insurance policies. It really depends on the type of home condo insurance or renters insurance you have. You may have coverage for damage caused by water, in a standard home policy like an HO-3 some basic water damage is covered. Other kinds of damage may not be covered if you did not include an endorsement in your policy. A standard homeowner policy will likely include the following:
*Damages caused by the weight of ice, sleet or snow which can cause a roof collapse, water damage and various other problems.
*Discharge and/or overflow of water including if it’s accidental.
*Coverage for your steam or hot water heating system including tearing, cracking, burning or bulging.
*Freezing of plumbing and pipes. (Note: Exclusions may apply if you did not heat your home during the heating season in areas with colder temperatures. Exclusions may also apply if you leave your home for an undetermined amount of time and have not asked anyone to care for it in your stead. These exclusions will vary depending on the insurance company so be sure to verify the details especially if you plan to be out of town for any length of time.
Note: If you purchased the least expensive type of policy like an HO-1 or HO-8 know that you might have very limited coverage. These policies are not like standard policies and are more limited in what coverage they provide. These types of policies will likely not cover the items listed above.
Understanding the Different Types of Water Damage Coverages
Frustration about water damage coverage and what your insurance encompasses is very common. Below you will find definitions and explanations of some of the most confusing water damage terms and what you’ll want to know about your coverage if you ever have to make a claim. Understanding these terms will help assist in making sure you water damage claim isn’t denied.
3 Types of Water Damage in Home Insurance
Most types of water damage are pretty self-explanatory, listed below are the three types that are helpful to understand when you call to make a claim or to find out if you’re covered. We contacting the insurance company they may use terms like the following:
*Sewer backup or water backup
*Overflow and discharge
If you call your insurance company in order to determine if you’re covered in a water damage claim they may use these terms when determining how the damage occurred. They will also send an adjuster who will manage your claim and investigate the cause of the damage to determine if you are covered.
Possible Limitations on Your Insurance for Water Damage
If your coverage doesn’t include as much as you desire you may be able to add water damage coverage. Take a look at your policy’s declaration page to determine if special water damage coverages like sewer backup might be added as an endorsement.
Type 1 – Sewer or Water BackUp Coverage – Home Insurance Claims
Sewer backup refers to water damage that has occurred due to water rising or being pushed into your home either through pipes originating from the sewer or drainage systems. This type of water damage is very unpleasant as it involves sewage water that will not only destroy your home and personal property but can also damage your health because it’s unsanitary.
If you’ve never had to make a claim you may not know much about sewer backup coverage. Without coverage sewer backup can cost thousands of dollars in damage. This is coverage you won’t want to do without. The Civil Engineering Research Foundation states that the rate of which sewer backup incidents are occurring has increased at a rate of 3% per year.
Here are several possible sources of sewer backup:
*City Sanitary Main Blockage – if the city main becomes blocked it can cause water to back up into your pipes and home.
*Aging Sewer Systems – systems that require maintenance can cause unwanted problems.
*Tree Roots – Tree roots can find their way into older pipes, sewer lines and water entry pipes and cause blockages. You can avoid this problem by having a plumber check your pipelines and performing some basic preventative maintenance on your home.
*City-related Pipeline Issues – Combined pipelines will combine the sewage and stormwater into one pipeline instead of separate pipelines for each type of water. When a system is set up this way is can become overwhelmed during a storm and the water can back up into your home causing water damage.
* Drainage system overflow or backup into your home. Gutters or rainwater pipes can become overwhelmed by debris or extreme water flow and this can cause a backup of water into your home.
Sewer backup coverage is not usually included in most homeowner policies, this typically must be added as an endorsement for adequate protection. Coverage typically costs as little as $40-$50/year according to the Insurance Information Institute. Considering the amount of sewer systems that are aging and the increase of severe weather and storms that are causing claims you might consider contacting you insurance company to inquire about the specific costs for you.
Type 2 – Overflow Water Damage and Discharge Damage
This is the kind of damage that most people think about when they think about a water damage claim. Overflow water damage includes damage from water escaping from appliances, pipes or water outlets in your home like your bathtub or washing machine for instance.
Discharge happens when plumbing or an appliance fails and there is a sudden discharge of water. If your water heater gives out or a pipe ruptures this is an example of discharge.
The key to defining these two types of coverage is that they must have been sudden and accidental and not due to daily wear and tear.
Seepage is another type of water damage that can often confuse homeowners. Seepage is not sudden water damage and is not usually covered. Seepage is usually a small amount of water causing problems over the course of time where overflow and discharge involve a large amount of water in a short amount of time.
Type 3 – Flood Insurance Water Damage
There is a difference between water damage and flood damage and so it can be confusing when insurance companies tell you they do not cover flood damage but do cover “water damage floods”.
The Definition of “Flood” in Insurance Terms
“Flood” is officially defined as the following – “a general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of two or more acres and two or more properties of normally dry land.”
A helpful way to understand if you have either a flood damage claim or a water damage claim is to determine if one or more homes have been affected. More than one home and you may be looking at a flooding situation or a flood claim.
If only your home has been affected then you probably don’t have a flood claim. Instead your claim would likely fall into one of the scenarios listed above. If the damage was sudden and accidental and not due to any maintenance it’s likely covered by a water damage claim.
Flood insurance varies from state to state and most home insurance policies do not cover a flood. Check with your local state commissioner’s office to see what’s available in your area.
What Type of Water Damage Coverage Do You Need?
Usually the most difficult part of dealing with water damage is understanding what’s covered and what’s not. Now that you have a better understanding of the different types of water damage most often covered in insurance terms you can now discuss your coverage with your insurance representative and see what’s covered on your policy.