The old saying goes that in every life a little rain must fall. Though chances are you don’t want that rain falling into your house through a roof leak, gutter backup, or damaged plumbing. The unfortunate truth is that even the smallest water problem in your home can cost a big amount of money to clean up and repair.
This is exactly the sort of time when you’re hoping for your homeowner’s insurance to come through in the clinch. However, if your home doesn’t have specific flood coverage or a specific water damage clause in the fine print, it can be challenging to get the most out of your policy coverage.
Knowing the ins and outs of how to navigate the insurance process will go a long way toward getting the most out of your insurance carrier when water shows up in an unwanted supply in your home.
A homeowner’s insurance policies lack blanket coverage for water damage. Most of the time, insurance companies treat it on a case-by-case basis, depending on what caused the damage. One possible benefit is if your home specifically has flood insurance. However, most insurance companies already require flood insurance in flood-prone areas and pro-rate the premiums accordingly.
It’s important to note that from the insurance company’s perspective, there are different types of water damage, and the underlying cause will factor heavily into just how much if any coverage they are willing to honor in a claim.
Water Damage Caused By Natural Disasters
Natural disasters or weather-related “Acts of God” falls are a category that a lot of insurance companies cover for water damage. After all, you can’t be expected to prevent a hurricane from tearing through a city, a freak hailstorm punching holes in your roof or a historic snow storm damaging the rafters in your attic.
These natural disaster clauses are a standard part of most homeowners’ insurance policies, and you should have covered the water damage they cause. Though some policies might have bigger deductibles and out-of-pocket costs. So, make sure to read the fine print.
The cause of the rupture will factor heavily in whether or not you have coverage for a burst pipe or sewer line. If it can be in any way levied against the local city services, your insurance company might tell you to take it up with the city.
If it is indeed a plumbing problem in your home and you have new pipes that have been well taken care of, and they still burst, you should not be financially responsible for the repair and water damage cleanup. Though your insurance company might make you pay your out-of-pocket deductible.
Roof Leaks & Gutter Problems
Here again, the underlying cause of the roof leak or gutter problem will factor heavily into whether or not your insurance company will cover the cost of water damage. If it’s clear that your roof has been in poor condition and needed improvement for a long time, you might not be entitled to compensation for the water damage. This often evokes a claim of negligence on your part to void coverage.
If your roof has been in good condition and your gutters were well maintained, but an act of God, like unforeseen hail damage or a tree branch striking your house caused the damage that lead to the roof leak, then you might have some degree of coverage under your homeowner’s insurance policy.
Water Damage Caused By Ice Dams
An ice dam is essentially a sheet of hard ice buildup that can naturally develop at the edge of your roof in the late winter. When spring comes and the snow on your roof thaws or it starts to rain, water can collect near your roof line and compromise shingles.
Sometimes ice dams can be prevented by clearing heavy snow after a storm. If you have been lax about maintaining your roof in the wintertime, your insurance company might not cover water damage caused by an ice dam. If you did your best to clear the roof of your house, but an ice dam still developed from severe winter weather, your insurance company might cover the roof repair as well as the water damage cleanup costs.
When Homeowners Insurance Excludes Water Damage
There are some times when homeowner’s insurance explicitly doesn’t cover water damage or the long-term results of water damage. This includes some of the following things:
Water Damage Caused By Lack of Maintenance
If the water damage happened to your home over a prolonged period, your homeowner’s insurance company can credibly claim it’s due to negligence. It’s up to all home and property owners to maintain the health and integrity of their pipes, foundation, and everything else.
Should your pipes give way after years of neglect, or your gutters are overflowing with dead leaves, the insurance company might very well leave you on the hook for the repair cost citing a lack of proper maintenance and upkeep.
Mold Fungal Problems & Rot
Mold problems, fungal infestation, and rot caused by age or poor maintenance falls into a gray area full of legal loopholes that the insurance company is likely to slip through to avoid paying a claim. At the same time, these things can cause structural damage to your home, as well as put everyone at risk for chronic health problems.
Under the right conditions, mold can go from a spore to an active colony in as little as 24 to 72 hours. When it arises, you could be liable for the health problems mold spores and mycotoxins cause to others.
An increasing number of states and municipalities have new laws on the books stating that you must disclose a past mold problem when listing your home for sale. Though having that mold problem professionally remediated and providing accurate documentation will go a long way toward resolving these concerns with your insurance company as well as any potential home buyers.
How To File An Insurance Claim For Water Damage
If your home has suffered significant water damage, and you want to file a claim under your homeowner’s insurance policy, it helps to take a step-by-step approach.
Step One: Accurately Determine the Cause of the Water Damage
Sometimes the cause of water damage is unclear, it helps to find out exactly how it happened and then take steps to prevent further damage. Make sure to document the source with photos, as well as document the measures you took to minimize the damage. This might be placing sandbags to block flood waters, or trying to temporarily seal a roof leak to prevent further water intrusion.
Step Two: Document the Extent of the Damage
Make sure to find all the little places where water damage is hiding and take photos of it. The last thing you want is for the insurance company to only cover part of the repair because there was no clear documented proof of the extent of the water damage.
Step Three: Read Through Your Homeowner’s Insurance Policy to Determine Coverage
It helps to inform yourself of your coverage, as insurance companies are adept at finding ways to only pay part of a claim or void coverage altogether. If you can’t find your policy, contact your local agent before calling the insurance company directly.
Step Four: Contact Your Homeowner’s Insurance Provider to File A Claim
If you’ve determined that you have a strong case for a claim, contact your homeowner’s insurance provider. They will walk you through the steps, and help you schedule a professional assessment.
Step Five: Contract A Professional Cleanup & Remediation Service
Cleaning up water damage and preventing mold can be daunting for the untrained. Contacting and contracting a professional cleanup service ensures that everything is done correctly. It also helps limit your liability issues, as well as gives you another layer of professional documentation.
Step Six: Meet with Your Adjuster
Once you file a claim, your insurance company will set you up with an adjuster. This is a professional who works on the insurance company’s behalf and will try to minimize the cost to them. They will provide you with an estimate.
Step Seven: Review the Estimate
You will get a written estimate from the insurance adjuster. Make sure to note the difference between actual cash value and replacement cost value. The ACV figure represents the actual cash value of your property rather than the replacement value. You might have to further negotiate the settlement with the insurance company for a larger project.