Imagine this scenario: It’s a typical morning and you’re getting ready to hop in the shower. Next thing you know, more water is spraying onto the bathroom floor than the shower interior and there’s no preventing it. You finally manage to stop the water, but the bathroom floor is completely flooded. It’s only a matter of time before the water leaks through, damaging your beautiful hardwood floor and the first-floor ceiling below it. Not the best way to start your day.
Any sort of damage to your home can feel like a burden. Not only is there a chance that your house could be unlivable while it’s facing repairs, but these costs can be sky high. If you’ve purchased homeowners insurance before experiencing damage, you’ve already taken a step in the right direction. Hopefully you’ve received a suitable amount of homeowners insurance for your home and property. But if you’ve experienced damage like the one mentioned in the scenario above, you’re probably wondering if your homeowners insurance policy will cover this water damage.
The answer in short: maybe. It all depends on the cause of the water damage and whether your insurance company believes it’s something you could have prevented or not. When will your homeowners policy cover this water damage? When might you be left in the dark?
When will you receive coverage?
Your homeowners insurance will cover damage that they believe to be “sudden and internal.” If the damage is unexpected and random, it’s considered sudden. If the water comes only from an inside source – and has never been outside – it’s considered internal. What are some examples of times your homeowners insurance will cover the damage?
Water damage caused by extinguishing a fire
Accidental leakage or overflow of an appliance, like a toilet or washing machine
When is the damage not covered?
If the instance is not sudden or accidental, but has been a gradual issue that went unrecognized and/or untouched, you won’t receive coverage for this water damage. This includes damage due to lack of maintenance; you’re considered liable if you don’t replace or repair damaged pipes, for instance. Some examples of damage that your homeowners insurance will not cover include:
Flooding (You will need to purchase flood insurance for this coverage)
Leaks due to pipes that haven’t received proper maintenance
Water seepage through the ground
Are there any extra circumstances?
Mold is a form of damage that may or may not be covered by your homeowners insurance as water damage. It will be covered if the mold was caused by water damage that otherwise would receive coverage by your homeowners policy, as mold is often considered an extension of water damage. Your insurance company may not pay for all of the mold removal costs, so homeowners insurance policies often offer a “floater” you can purchase to add extra coverage if you experience mold in your home.
Mold is not covered by your homeowners insurance if it’s a result of external damage – like floods or seepage – or lack of maintenance. However, mold as a result of flooding would receive coverage if you purchase flood insurance. In other words, if you receive home insurance coverage on the water damage itself, you will receive coverage on any mold that forms, while instances that don’t receive water damage coverage also won’t receive mold coverage.
While your homeowners insurance will not cover damage that is due to negligence, your insurer may make an exception for water damage that occurs as a result of typical wear and tear or the aging of a machine. If a washing machine leaks because it’s getting old, your insurance company might cover the costs to repair or replace the floors, but it won’t pay to replace the machine itself. When in doubt, contact your insurance company to see if you can get some coverage.
What if you’re denied a claim?
Your insurance company has the right to deny you coverage on damage that they believe is your fault. However, as a customer, you have the right to get a full explanation of why you aren’t receiving coverage. Whether you believe there has been a misunderstanding or you want clarification so you can know how to prevent this from happening again, speaking with your insurance agent about the issue might give you some clarity.
If you’ve spoken to your insurer and still believe that you are in the right, don’t hesitate to ask your representative for a second opinion by a licensed individual that is knowledgeable about insurance claims in your area, especially in relation to water damage.
Some Parting Advice
Water damage is a pain no matter what its cause is. While there’s not much you can do to prevent unexpected water damage, you can take some steps to make sure you won’t experience damage that isn’t covered by your insurance plan.
First, make sure you maintain the appliances and pipes in your home so everything is in good shape. You’ll be less likely to experience damage if your home is maintained regularly, and even if you do experience damage, there’s a strong chance you’ll receive coverage on it.
Keep your eyes open for mold in your home. Not only can mold be deadly if you’re exposed to it for extended lengths of time, it can be expensive to remove. If you live in a humid area, vents and fans can circulate air throughout your home, reducing moisture that otherwise might have built up. Pay special attention to places in which moisture can collect heavily, like basements and small spaces, as these spots often grow mold.
To prevent your water damage claim from being denied, keep track of your records of the repairs and maintenance you’ve received over the years. Not only is it a good habit to get into, it could be a lifesaver if you experience questionable damage.
Finally, if you experience water damage in your home, make sure you contact your insurance company as soon as possible. Take photos of the damaged area and the place the water came from, like a burst pipe, so you can share this with your insurer. Filing a homeowners insurance claim might seem like a hassle, but it’s important in keeping your costs down and home safe.