Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Water Leaks?

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  • Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Water Leaks?

Two aspects of your homeowners policy, dwelling coverage and personal property coverage, can help you if you suffer water damage. Your dwelling coverage guards the physical structure of your home. If the roof, walls, or windows of your house are destroyed or warped by water, you may be covered under your dwelling coverage.

Personal property protection can reimburse you if your stuff is damaged. If your furniture, computer, TV, bike, or even clothes were rendered useless due to unforeseen water in your house, your insurance company could pay for replacements thanks to your property coverage.

But these safeguards only apply if the water damage is covered under your policy. You’ll likely be covered if the water was the result of a hurricane, tornado or blizzard, but what about smaller forms of damage?

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Water Leaks?

Oftentimes, what determines if a leak is covered by your policy is the nature of the leak. You’re more likely to be covered if it happened suddenly or accidentally. Air conditioners, washing machines, radiators and dishwashers can malfunction seemingly out of nowhere.

If one of these broke out of the blue and damaged your house or personal belongings, you could be covered. For example, if your dishwasher malfunctioned and coated your kitchen floor in water, you could be covered. If a washing machine hose suddenly tore and your garage became a water park, you could be covered.

What insurance companies don’t like are leaks that occur because of policyholder negligence. Your provider expects you to carry out routine upkeep or common sense housekeeping.

When inspecting your claim, if an adjuster finds signs that water damage took place over some time, not all at once or signs of deterioration like rust or an attempted patch-up repair job gone wrong (like duct tape over a cracked air conditioning duct), you may be denied coverage.

A provider isn’t responsible if something breaks due to general wear and tear, either. Appliances and pipes need maintenance to work properly, and if you’ve left yours decaying for months or years, the insurance company may deem you responsible if they break.

Also, if the water damage was caused by a leak that was preexisting, it’s probably not covered. For example, if the foundation of your house or a pipe in your wall had a crack in it when you bought the residence, and you file a claim for damage due to water coming from this crack years later, you may not be covered.

Remember, just because a problem appeared to you for the first time doesn’t mean it’s a new problem. As a homeowner, you should be caring for your house responsibly. This could include fixing rusted pipes when you see them, getting your air conditioner inspected regularly, and other reasonable tasks necessary for a healthy house. 

You may be covered for an issue that’s been going on out of your sight for a while as long as you file a claim as soon as you find it. For example, if your refrigerator was leaking behind all your cabinets and you discover some immense damage it’s caused one random afternoon, you could be covered.

But, if you knew the fridge was leaking a little and allowed it to persist until you could report a reasonable amount of damage in a claim, you’ll probably be denied. Adjusters look for telltale signs of both situations when inspecting your claim.

Water Damage From a Broken Pipe

Your policy could cover you from damage from a broken pipe, as long as the damage was sudden or accidental. Pipes can burst or break without warning, and they can cause significant damage to your property, like warping wooden flooring or ruining drywall.

A common way for pipes to burst is when freezing water suddenly expands. This can be covered as long as you didn’t fail to heat your home or cause the frozen water in any way.

If your insurance company deems you’re at fault for causing the frozen water in your pipes that caused them to burst, you likely won’t be covered. Also, as mentioned previously, if you had a small leak that wore away an area over time, your insurer likely won’t reimburse you for damages. 

Steadily leaking pipes can cause ceiling damage or mold issues. Allowing these to fester in or around your house can cause all sorts of problems. It’s important to remedy these quickly when you see them to avoid serious consequences.

Water Damage From a Plumbing Leak

Some forms of plumbing damage aren’t covered under typical homeowners policies. Sewage backup or sump pump failure are usually excluded, as well as plumbing issues caused by policyholder negligence. For example, if a toilet you left backed up for days finally overflows and wrecks your bathroom, you may not be covered. 

You’re still usually covered from any plumbing leaks that were sudden or accidental. Also, your provider may offer endorsements or riders for extra coverage that can protect you from sewage backups or similar situations at an additional cost.

Water Damage From a Water Heater

If your water heater erupts unexpectedly, you could have quite a mess on your hands. Your homeowners policy should cover repair and cleanup costs as long as your water heater wasn’t an ancient piece of technology.

Like with pipes, if your insurer deems your water heater broke as a result of negligence or failure to update an extremely old one, you may not be covered.

Your insurance likely won’t pay for a new water heater unless it was damaged by another covered peril, like a fire or hurricane. It’s important to perform routine water heater maintenance to avoid being in this situation as best as you can.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Water Damage From Rain?

While your homeowners insurance can cover you from some scenarios involving rain, a typical policy won’t cover any flood damage. This can get tricky, and it’s best to contact your insurer about the intricacies of your policy.

If you live in a flood-prone area, you may be eligible to purchase flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program or a private company like Clovered.

Generally, damage caused by a rainstorm can be covered if it spawns a freak accident, like a fallen tree onto your roof that allows rain to pour in. Similar snow and hail incidents are also covered.

Rain damage due to carelessness isn’t covered. For example, if you left your sliding glass doors open to your back patio and rain comes in and destroys the carpeting of your home, your provider isn’t responsible. 

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The editorial content on Clovered’s website is meant to be informational material and should not be considered legal advice.