How Homeowners Insurance Covers Plumbing and Burst Pipes
If you have homeowners insurance, then you likely assume it covers plumbing issues and burst pipes.
Most home insurance policies cover sudden, unexpected water damage caused by plumbing problems and broken pipes.
However, most home insurance policies do not cover damage caused by long-term plumbing issues – like a pipe that leaked over a long period of time.
Today, we’re explaining everything you need to know about how homeowners insurance covers plumbing and burst pipes.
How Insurance Covers Water Damage from Broken Pipes
Most home insurance policies cover sudden and accidental damage from your home plumbing system.
If your pipes suddenly froze and burst, for example, then flooded your house, then your homeowners insurance policy should cover your claim.
If your home is damaged by a burst pipe or plumbing issue, then you could receive compensation under three parts of your policy:
Dwelling Coverage: Your homeowners insurance policy has dwelling coverage, which protects your roof, walls, floorboards, and other parts of the structure of your home. If a plumbing problem damages your home’s walls or flooring, then dwelling insurance should cover the cost. Dwelling insurance also covers built-in home appliances like your water heater if they’re damaged by a plumbing issue or any other covered event.
Personal Property Coverage: Your homeowners insurance policy also has property coverage, which covers things inside your home – like your TV and furniture. If a burst pipe sprayed water over your possessions, then you can request a claim under your property insurance coverage. Some insurance policies might have a limit of around $1,000 to $2,000 per item, and you may need to provide extra documentation for high-value items (say, over $500). However, as long as the damage occurred due to a covered event, you should be able to make a personal property claim.
Additional Living Expenses (ALE) Coverage: home insurance policies cover additional living expenses, which are expenses you must pay when temporarily moving out of your home because of the damage caused. If your burst pipe flooded your home and made it unlivable, then you might need to move into a hotel for a few weeks while your home is being repaired. Home insurance covers accommodations, meals, rental cars, and any other costs you need to pay after being temporarily forced out of your home.
Thanks to dwelling coverage, property coverage, and ALE coverage, your home insurance policy should cover most of the costliest parts of a burst pipe insurance claim.
However, there are plenty of plumbing-related issues that home insurance will not cover.
What Insurance Does Not Cover
Home insurance does not cover certain plumbing problems and water-related disasters. Even if you have a good home insurance policy, it may not cover many types of plumbing problems.
Here are some of the things that are not covered by a typical home insurance plan:
Damage Related to Wear and Tear
Insurance is designed to cover unexpected costs – like a sudden winter storm that causes your pipes to freeze. Insurance is not designed to cover expected costs – like regular home maintenance and damage related to wear and tear.
All homes need regular maintenance over time. If you ignore maintenance, it leads to serious issues, you likely won’t be able to make a successful home insurance claim for covering any damage.
If water enters your roof during a rainstorm, for example, and floods your attic, then you may not be able to make a home insurance claim if maintenance and repairs were neglected. If your roof was 30 years old, had weathered shingles, and was filled with holes, then you cannot make a home insurance claim and expect your insurer to cover all damage.
Gradual Plumbing Damage or Long-term Leaks
Many homeowners are surprised to find their claim was denied because of long-term leaks or plumbing damage.
If you ignored a plumbing problem over a long period of time, or if the damage occurred because of a long-term leak, then your insurer will likely deny your claim.
Let’s say your home has had a funny smell in the basement for months. You notice some discoloration on the walls, but you decide to ignore it. Finally, you walk into your basement and notice the walls are bulging. A long-term leak has turned into a serious issue. Your home insurance may deny your claim because you ignored the problem over a long period of time.
Damage Caused by Lack of Maintenance
You can’t simply ignore plumbing issues, wait for them to turn into bigger problems, then file an insurance claim when pipes erupt and expect and easy claim settlement to fix the problems.
If an insurer determines your water damage occurred due to lack of maintenance, then the insurer will deny your claim.
If you notice a minor leak or any signs of water damage, then don’t wait for it to go away on its own. Take action immediately. Contact your insurer or call a plumber.
Burst Pipes in the Winter Caused by Lack of Home Heating
Insurers often deny certain burst pipe insurance claims. If your insurer finds your pipes burst because you failed to turn on the heat in your home, then your claim could be denied.
Let’s say you leave town for a winter vacation. You turn off the heat in your home. While away, temperatures plummet, and the pipes burst in your home. Nobody checked on your place, leaving a mess when you return to your property.
In this case, the insurer may determine the loss was preventable (all you needed to do was leave your thermostat on at a low level), then deny your claim.
Many of these situations can get complicated quickly and each insurance policy can be different. If you need help determining coverage for your specific situation and policy, a state licensed Public Insurance Adjuster can help with a free consultation.
No ordinary home insurance plan covers flood damage. Insurers will not cover damage to your home that occurs because of flooding.
If a river, lake, or ocean nearby floods your property, then you might have severe damage. Unfortunately, you cannot make a claim through an ordinary home insurance policy.
The only time flood damage is covered by insurance is if you buy additional flood coverage insurance, which is almost always through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). If you live in a flood-prone region, then consider buying flood insurance through the NFIP. Otherwise, you receive no compensation for damage resulting from a flood.
Homeowners insurance policies rarely cover mold damage and most specifically list it as an excluded cause of loss.
However, most home insurance policies do cover mold damage if it’s caused as a result of a something that is covered by the policy, such as a pipe that burst. If your pipes suddenly burst and quickly caused mold damage, for example, then you may be covered.
If you ignored a plumbing problem for months, let mold build up behind your walls, and then tried to file a claim, then your insurer may deny your claim.
If you’re concerned about mold and want added protection, consider adding mold protection to your policy.
Homeowners insurance usually does not cover a backed up or flooded sewage system without adding specific coverage.
If your region has flooded, then it could cause sewage systems to back up, overloading your home plumbing system. Although this is a serious issue, it’s often not covered by an ordinary home insurance policy.
Most insurers allow you to add sewage backup coverage to your policy for an extra cost. For a few extra dollars per month, you can cover damage related to sewage backups, which can easily cause thousands of dollars of damage to your home.
Questions Insurers Ask When Approving or Denying a Burst Pipe Insurance Claim
Insurance claims for water damage can be messy. Sometimes, damage from old and new leaks can combine, creating a mess for insurers to unravel.
Your insurance company will send an adjuster to your home to assess the damage. The adjuster will analyze the damage, then determine whether to approve or deny your claim.
Some of the common questions an insurer will ask include:
Did the damage occur because of a new leak or an old one?
Where are the pipes located? Where did the damage occur? Where did the damage originate?
Were there any warning signs of a leak – like rust, discoloration, or strange odors?
Was the leak related to maintenance issues or wear and tear?
Was the water damage caused by a flood or sewage backup?
Did the water damage create mold damage?
After answering these questions, the insurer can decide whether to approve or deny your insurance claim. If your claim was denied, see tips here for how to dispute a denied insurance claim.
Signs of a Water Leak in your Home
You may have a water leak in your home. If you have noticed funny smells, discoloration on your walls, and other issues, then a serious plumbing problem could lurk behind your walls.
Some of the signs of a water leak include:
Sagging or Bulging Areas of your Home: If areas of your home are sagging or bulging, then it could be the sign of a serious plumbing problem. If the sagging gets larger, then you could have an active and serious leak in your home.
Discoloration: Plumbing issues could discolor your walls. It could start as a small, yellowish spot on your wall or ceiling, and then turn into a more serious issue. Watch for discoloration and pay attention to any suspicious areas to see if they get larger.
Dripping or Trickling Sounds: If you’re concerned about a leak, turn off all noises in your home (like your furnace, TV, and stereo) and walk around your home listening for dripping or trickling sounds. A faint trickling or dripping sound behind your walls could indicate a leak.
Musty Smell: A musty or mildewy smell could be the sign of a serious plumbing problem. You could have a slow leak behind your walls. Or, you could have a serious mold problem.
So You Have a Leak: The Next Steps to Take
If you have a leak, then don’t panic.
Take steps to prevent further damage. Disconnect the leaking appliance from the water supply, if possible. Or, turn off your home’s water supply entirely. Try to identify the source of the leak.
Protect your personal property. Remove any damaged items from the area. Elevate other items off the ground to avoid further damage.
Let air flow into the room if safe to do so. Run an air conditioner or dehumidifier to dry out the area as much as possible. Use a shop vac or sump pump to remove water.
Consider contacting the professionals. Call a water damage restoration company for professional assistance. Even if you can’t file an insurance claim, a water damage restoration company can help you avoid thousands of dollars of further damage to your property.
If the damage to your property is significant then you might decide to file an insurance claim for water damage. Read the following water damage claim tips.
If you need help dealing with an insurance claim and getting a fair settlement contact a reputable Public Adjuster for assistance.