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Does My Insurance Cover Water Damage?

Water Damage
Author: ServiceMaster Restore

Although this question seems simple, there are a lot of variables to take into consideration when it comes to insurance coverage and water damage. What was the cause of your water damage? Was it hurricane or flood related? Was it caused by damage to your roof or home due to a storm? Was there a burst pipe or a sewer back up? What kind of insurance do you have? Is it homeowners’ insurance, or renters’ insurance? Furthermore, does your insurance cover mold remediation, that was caused by your water damage? Dealing with water damage is stressful enough without the storm of questions that come flooding in during a loss.

Water damage (including damage from hard freezes) is one of the most common, and most costly, types of homeowners insurance claims. Every year, about one in 50 homeowners’ files a water damage or freezing claim, accounting for 29% of all homeowner’s insurance claims, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Generally, water damage that is considered gradual, like a leaking bathroom sink, isn’t covered, but water damage that is considered “sudden and accidental” is covered (like a burst pipe).

It’s not always easy to figure out when water damage is and isn’t covered by your policy. Although each insurance carrier, and policy may vary in what is covered, there are some general guidelines, most standard insurance policies follow.

Types Of Water Damage Commonly Covered By Homeowners Insurance:

  • Sudden or Accidental Water Discharge, Burst Pipes.
  • Accidental Leaks. (Such as leaking plumbing/appliances, or a broken washing machine/dishwasher.)
  • Water Damage After A Fire. From water used to extinguish the flames, such as water from a sprinkler system or a hose from the fire department.
  • Water Damage From A Roof Leak. Such as damage from a storm or a tree that falls on your roof. Keep in mind, if an accident (like a fallen tree) damages your roof, you’ll be required to fix the damage in a reasonable amount of time. Failure to do so could result in further water damage that won’t be covered.
  • Water Damage From Storms. Heavy rainfall or hail.
  • Ice Dams. Ice that builds up in your gutter and damages your home, may be covered as long as the damage was sudden and wasn’t caused by a lack of maintenance.

Types Of Water Damage Commonly Not Covered By Homeowners Insurance:

  • Flood Damage. Most notably, damage from floods is not covered by home insurance policy. Flood water includes hurricanes, tsunamis, storm surges, water from overflowing rivers, and water due to heavy rain. If you want coverage for these problems, you should look into getting flood insurance.
  • Water Damage Due To Lack Of Maintenance Or Negligence. Not repairing a plumbing problem or failing to keep the heat on during freezing temperatures.
  • Water Damage From Intentional Acts. Setting a fire to your home or purposely turning off the heat during the winter.
  • Water Damage From “Earth Movement” like an earthquake, landslide, or mudslide. For example, if your pipe burst because of an earthquake, the water damage most likely won’t be covered. If you want coverage for earthquake damage, you’ll need to buy a separate policy specifically for earthquake insurance.
  • Water Damage That Backs Up. A sewer or drain back up (unless you purchased special coverage for this problem.)
  • Water Damage From Leaks from a swimming pool or other outdoor water structures.
  • Water Damage From Seepage Or Leaks Through A Foundation.
  • The Cost To Repair Or Replace The Source Of The Water Damage, like fixing a broken dishwasher or washing machine.
  • Water Damage From A Sump Pump Failure or related equipment. You may want to consider sump and water backup coverage for those types of problems.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, water damage is one of the most common causes of home insurance claims, second only to wind and hail damage claims. When water damage strikes your home, stress levels may skyrocket. Dealing with the insurance claim process can seem overwhelming, but you’re not alone. While an insurance adjuster will be able to help you with the specifics of your policy, we’ve put together some water damage insurance claim tips. These tips can help you understand the insurance claim process better and help keep the stress to a minimum if the unthinkable does happen. It's important to know exactly what your homeowner's insurance policy does and doesn't cover regarding water damage, so always check your policy before filing a claim. After informing your insurance company of the water damage to your home, you may immediately want to start a claim to get the money needed to do repairs. However, it’s important to take a few steps beforehand to ensure that no further damage happens to your property.

Before You File A Claim:

  • Ensure that all people inside of your home are safe and accounted for
  • Turn off the water from the source or the main supply to avoid further damage
  • Take your surviving valuables away from the affected area
  • Board up doors or window to prevent more water from entering
  • Remove standing water (if it can be done safely)
  • Dry the affected area to the best of your ability
  • Take photos/videos of all of the damage

A Couple Tips To Keep In Mind When Filing A Claim:

Throwing Damaged Items Away. During the inspection, the insurance company will need to analyze the evidence of your water damage claim. You may have a desire to throw away damaged items, but only do so after being authorized by the insurance company in writing. If you do throw away these items, you may not be compensated for those items during your claims process.

Making Repairs Before You Have The Approval. During the inspection, your insurance company will make note of what repairs will be needed and the estimated cost. If you begin repairs without prior approval, you risk not having the repairs covered. Larger damage will often require more time, so patience is needed to ensure that you get covered for the full cost to repair any damage fully and properly.

Six Steps For Filing A Water Damage Insurance Claim:

    1. Review your homeowners or renters’ insurance policy. Your insurance company or agent can provide a copy if the original is missing or damaged. The declarations page has important information regarding your policy's water damage coverage, deductibles, limitations, or exclusions. It should also list any claim filing deadlines.
    2. Take photos and/or videos of the damage before any cleanup or restoration begins.
    3. Once the inspection is done, work with professionals like the team at ServiceMaster Restore for damage assessment, cleanup estimates, and restoration. A professional company can quickly perform complete water extraction and drying, pack-out services, board-up and full mold remediation as needed.
    4. Ask for written estimates at each stage of the process. You will need to provide this information to your insurance agency.
    5. Keep detailed records or a log of each person you speak with at the insurance company. This log should include the date and time of the call, the representative's name, and a brief description of your conversation. Keep a copy of every written communication with the insurance company, including a file for digital communication like emails.
    6. Gather the necessary information needed to file a water damage insurance claim. This information may include, but isn't limited to:
        • Date of water damage
        • Location of damage
        • Contact information for the property owner
        • Your personal contact information if you're not the property owner
        • Cleanup and remediation estimates
        • Receipts for all cleanup, repairs, and other related costs
        • Receipts for lodging and meals if you had to leave your home before or during cleanup and repair
        • Complete list of all damaged items and building materials

Once you have filed your water damage claim, you will commonly be contacted within a couple of days. A detailed description of the process will be provided, including your responsibilities and any documentation you need to complete. Once done, your claim will be investigated and if you are approved you will receive reimbursement for damaged property and a direct payment to the company in charge of restoration shortly after.

Coverage of your policy will depend on a variety of factors, and in some cases your insurance company may deny your claim. When this happens, in most cases it’s because your policy may not have had the coverage necessary to cover the damage that occurred to your home. In these situations, it’s important to clarify why that coverage was not added to your policy. You may have denied the additional coverage upon signing the policy or it may have not been available from your current insurance company. If the coverage you need is not available with your current company, you may consider switching insurance to another company who does provide that coverage for future events.

If you’re still confused about why an item was not covered or think there was a misunderstanding, ask your insurance agent or a licensed profession for a review. It’s important to fully understand why a claim was denied. While you may not get any further compensation for the current situation it will make you a more informed insurance shopper and help you be better prepared for the future. If you took proactive steps before the incident and the insurance company claims that you failed to practice regular maintenance, mitigate damages, or otherwise prevent the damage from becoming a bigger problem, make sure to ask for a review or second opinion. You will have to provide evidence, so ensure that you have the proper receipts and communications saved to back up your claims.

There are many people throughout the claim process who each have a different role including insurance agents, insurance adjusters or contractors. Be sure to ask for a clarification to better understand who issued the decision, why it was denied, and ask for a formal decision in writing to have for your records. While water damage claims cannot be guaranteed, there are a variety of steps you can take to ensure the likelihood of your claim being approved in the future.

How Avoid Having A Water Damage Claim Denied:

  • Ensure that your homeowners insurance policy has the coverage you need
  • Make sure that you understand the policy exclusions (remember, insurers want your business - don’t be afraid to ask any and all questions until you feel comfortable)
  • Hire a professional to do regular inspections of your home to ensure no problems exist (document and keep these records)
  • Ensure regular maintenance of your home throughout the year to avoid large and costly expenses in the future
  • Keep a log of repairs done to your home in case of another disaster

Any type of water damage event is stressful, but the tips above should give you a better understanding of the steps needed to take when filing a water damage insurance claim. A lot of different things affect the cost of water damage restoration. And cost isn’t the only thing about fixing water damage that’s complicated. This kind of restoration work is as complex as it is crucial. That’s why it’s so important to call the experts at the first sign of trouble.

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