Whether you have a mortgage or you've already paid off your home, maintaining a homeowners insurance policy can protect what is probably your biggest single asset against financial loss due to a covered event, such as a fire, windstorm, theft, debris falling from the sky or excess weight from ice or snow. Your homeowners policy might cover you against water leaks, but it depends on the provisions of your policy and the circumstances surrounding the leak.
Around 12 percent of all homeowners insurance claim payouts are the result of water damage, according to the MSN Real Estate website. Water is sometimes referred to as the universal solvent, since it will eventually break down just about any material it comes into contact with. Moisture contact with organic materials, such as paper, wood and cloth fibers like cotton or wool, can cause rot or create a breeding ground for mold. The cost to homeowners for water damage runs into the billions of dollars each year, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
Sudden and Accidental
Most standard homeowners insurance policies cover your home against water damage due to a sudden and accidental event. For example, if your roof is damaged by a tornado and rain enters your home through the roof, any damage caused by the water is typically covered. If the water hose to your washing machine bursts in the middle of the night and you wake up to saturated carpets throughout your home, that water damage is typically covered. In both cases the event was sudden and accidental.
Most standard homeowners insurance policies don't cover you against loss due to neglected maintenance issues, since the resulting damage is not caused by a sudden, accidental event. For example, if the hose on your washing machine has been leaking for a couple of years and your bathroom floor develops mold as a result, that damage might not be covered. Water seeping into your basement will typically not be covered under a standard homeowners policy, because that is considered a maintenance issue, according to the Insure.com website.
Ounce of Prevention
Water damage can be costly to both your insurance company and to you. There's not much you can do about a tornado ripping your roof off, but a little regular maintenance can help alleviate some preventable types of water damage due to leaks. The Insurance Information Institute recommends inspecting all of your home's faucets and appliance water lines and hoses for leaks at least once per year. Replace all hoses every five years. Check the caulking around toilets, sinks, tubs and showers. Know where your home's water shut-off value is located, in case a leak becomes a burst pipe or hose.
- Insure.com: Water Damage: Seven home Insurance Scenarios
- MSN Real Estate: Water: A Home's Sneakiest Enemy
- Insurance Information Institute: What Coverage Is Included in a Standard Homeowners Insurance Policy?
- Insurance Information Institute: How to Protect Your Home From Water Damage
- Insurance Information Institute: What Types of Disasters Are Covered by My Homeowners Insurance?
Mike Parker is a full-time writer, publisher and independent businessman. His background includes a career as an investments broker with such NYSE member firms as Edward Jones & Company, AG Edwards & Sons and Dean Witter. He helped launch DiscoverCard as one of the company's first merchant sales reps.