Your upfront investment in homeowners' insurance has conditional future value based only on your standard policy's protection for unexpected incidents. Insurance companies are regulated by state departments of insurance. Policies change by the state, even policies from the same company. Therefore, it's prudent to learn the specifics of your water damage coverage by consulting with your insurance agent. Water damage accounted for 22 percent of insurance claims in 2007, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
As a general rule, your standard homeowners' policy does not cover property damage caused by rising water. This includes flood damage, seeping groundwater and backed-up sewers. If you live in a flood zone or in a low-lying area, you need a separate flood insurance policy offered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency's National Flood Insurance Program. Backed-up sewer insurance coverage is not the same as flood insurance. It is usually obtained as a rider to your homeowners' policy, which is a good thing to have, because your sewer can back up for a variety of reasons. Examples include sewer pipes filled with debris after heavy rains and the illegal connection of sump pumps to sewer lines. Property damage from seeping ground water is viewed as a homeowner's "maintenance" issue by most insurers. Insurance protection is not available for these mishaps.
Threats from Above
Property damage caused by water from above, such as rain, is covered by standard homeowners' policies to a certain extent. It's unlikely that you would be compensated for repairs to your roof, because insurers would view that as a maintenance issue. Rain damage to your home and its contents would be covered. If a tree branch fell and caused damage to your roof because of heavy rains, however, you probably would be compensated for roof repairs.
Water Damage from Other Sources
Water damage from appliance failures, such as overflowing dishwashers and washing machines, typically is covered by your standard homeowners' policy. Damage from busted pipes also is covered, except for the plumbing repairs, which would be a maintenance issue. Busted pipe protection from a freeze could be problematic, however, if the house was without heat. Your insurer could claim negligence on your part.
An Ounce of Prevention...!
The purpose of homeowners' insurance is to protect your home and your possessions from unforeseen incidents. Regrettably, any incident that requires filing a claim will likely prove costly. Your insurance deductible demands that you bring money to the table. If you prefer keeping your cash in your pocket, it's best to anticipate and take appropriate measures to prevent mishaps before they occur. Visit the Insurance Information Institute's website to learn about practical steps you can take to defend against water damage before it's necessary to file a claim.
- Insurance Information Institute: Water Damage: What’s Covered; What’s Not
- Insure Me: All water damage is not equal: What will your home insurance cover?
- FloodSmart.gov: About the National Flood Insurance Program
- Rock River Water Reclamation District: Help! My Sewer's Backed Up!
- Claude Reynolds Insurance Agency: Will My Homeowner's Insurance Cover Water Damage?
- Insure.com: Water damage: Seven home insurance scenarios
- Michael Blann/Digital Vision/Getty Images
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