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Does home insurance cover water damage?

Make sure your property is protected

Get the most out of your insurance policy

Homeowners insurance safeguards your home and personal belongings against a wide range of hazards, from extreme weather and fires, to vandalism and theft. For most perils, what’s covered will be easy to understand, but water damage can be more complicated. Depending on the source of your water problems, damage to your home and personal property may not be covered, so it’s important to read your policy carefully.

According to research from the Insurance Information Institute (III), around one in 50 insured homes submits a water-related property damage claim each year. Whether caused by flooding, plumbing issues or excessive rainfall, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect if you have a sense of how water damage is assessed by insurance companies. To help you better understand, let’s take a close look at the details.

Homeowners insurance and water damage coverage

Standard homeowners insurance covers several types of water damage, most of which are considered sudden and accidental. For example, if a pipe in your basement were to burst unexpectedly, your home insurance would likely cover any resulting losses. However, if that same pipe had been leaking gradually for several months, the ensuing damage likely wouldn’t be covered by your policy. As pointed out by III, water that “comes from the top down,” such as rainfall and ruptured sprinkler systems, is generally covered by standard homeowners policies. Water “coming from the bottom up,” including floods and sewage backups, isn’t covered unless the homeowner purchased a special rider or policy endorsement.

What types of water damage are covered?

As a general rule, water damage is typically covered if it results from one of the 16 common perils outlined in basic homeowners insurance, known as HO-3 policies. (A peril refers to the hazard that caused the damage.) These “named perils” are listed in your policy. Some examples of water damage typically covered under a basic HO-3 policy result from:

  • Burst pipes and plumbing fixtures
  • Heavy rain, wind and hail
  • Roof leaks caused by falling objects
  • Appliances that break down suddenly (washing machines, dishwashers, etc.)

So, if your water damage was caused by a sudden and accidental peril listed in your policy, the damages are likely to be covered. When you file a claim for water damage with your insurance company, an adjuster will inspect your home and determine if the source of the water damage was preventable. They’ll review their findings with you as well as your policy language to determine if the damage is covered.

What types of water damage aren’t covered?

Standard homeowners insurance does not cover water damage caused by floods or sewer overflow, nor does it protect against long-term, gradual leaks. Additionally, losses that result from neglect or maintenance issues wouldn’t qualify for reimbursement, which is why proactive home care is essential. Types of water damage that wouldn’t be covered under your base policy include:

  • Seasonal and flash flooding
  • Groundwater seepage
  • Poorly maintained plumbing and HVAC equipment
  • Sump pump overflow or failure
  • Prolonged roof leaks

Keep in mind that while only certain causes of water damage are covered under a base policy, you can sometimes purchase coverage for other causes. For example, while most insurance companies don’t offer protection for groundwater damage, you can purchase flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program. Some insurers also offer additional riders for water damage related to sump pump failures and water backup situations. Depending on where you live and the features of your home, it may be wise to extend your coverage to protect against these types of non-basic perils.

How to file a water damage claim

Knowing which types of water damage are covered by your homeowners insurance, you’ll have a better idea of what to expect if you file a claim following an incident. It’s important to contact your insurance carrier as quickly as possible to inform them of the damage. Most insurance experts recommend taking photos of the affected area and any personal items that were damaged, as this will help with the initial investigation. If the damage was caused by a burst pipe or sudden hole in your roof that requires you to make emergency repairs before your insurance representative can come inspect, be sure to take plenty of pictures of the source of the leak before it’s fixed.

Your insurance representative will ask specific questions about your claim to help determine if it’s covered by your homeowners policy and to estimate your losses. In some cases, you may need to call in a contractor to make immediate repairs to avoid further water damage. If you find yourself in this position, be sure to document any work completed on your home and keep all relevant receipts handy.

Some homeowners also hire a contractor to evaluate the water damage and quote their repair costs, which can be useful when speaking with your insurance representative. You’ll likely have to pay a deductible even if your losses are covered, so be sure to anticipate at least some out-of-pocket expenses.

We can help protect your home from water damage

For over 100 years, Amica has helped families customize their homeowners insurance to match their specific needs and lifestyles. Our representatives understand that purchasing home insurance can be intimidating, which is why we’re committed to supporting our policyholders. If you’re concerned about water damage, we can help you understand what your policy covers and where it could be enhanced.

Alongside our standard home insurance—which protects against “sudden and accidental” water damage—we also offer a variety of extended coverage options that can safeguard your property from nonbasic perils.

  • Flood insurance: Whether you live in a low-lying area or along the coast, flood insurance policies can help protect your home and personal belongings from sudden disasters. According to the III, the average flood claim in 2018 was upwards of $42,580, with 20% of claims located outside of high-risk flood zones. Since standard homeowners insurance wouldn’t cover that type of water damage, the National Flood Insurance Program recommends that every homeowner purchase some kind of extended coverage.
  • Dwelling replacement coverage: Even if your water damage losses are covered under your standard homeowners insurance, some accidents lead to costly repairs and replacements that may exceed your policy limit. Purchasing dwelling replacement coverage can provide up to 30% additional reimbursement above your limit, ensuring you can fix up your home.
  • Scheduled items coverage: Water damage can also lead to the loss of valuable personal items including furniture, artwork and electronics. Most basic home insurance policies have a limit on the amount of coverage available for personal property damage. If you own items that are very valuable, it could be beneficial to insure these items specifically by scheduling them on your policy.

To learn more about water damage coverage and homeowners insurance, contact our representatives with your questions or concerns. If you’re an existing policyholder looking to report a water damage loss, you can submit a claim online or reach out to a representative at 800-242-6422.

Your Policy, Policy Declarations or Amended Declarations in effect on the date of loss is the primary source of reference for your coverage, coverage limits and deductible amounts.

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