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Water damage is sometimes covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy, but not always. It depends on what the cause is: sudden internal water damage is covered, while damage due to lack of maintenance or neglect, as well as flood-related damage, are not.
It’s not always easy to figure out when water damage is and isn’t covered by your policy.
Table of contents:
When does homeowners insurance cover water damage?
Standard home insurance policies cover water damage if it is sudden and internal, with the requirement that the water has never touched the outside ground. This means the water damage must be the result of one of the 16 perils covered by homeowners insurance, such as sudden and accidental tearing, cracking, burning or bulging of a steam, heating, AC or automatic fire protection system.
When water damage is covered by homeowners insurance:
- Rain or snow storm
- Plumbing: burst pipes, frozen plumbing, faulty plumbing, accidental overflow
- Water damage from extinguishing a fire
- Leaking roof (coverage would apply only to the home interior, not the roof itself)
- Accidental overflow of an appliance or fixture (toilet, washing machine, bathtub)
- Mold (only as a result of covered water damage)
When does homeowners insurance exclude water damage?
Water damage isn’t always covered by your home insurance if it’s not the result of an accident or sudden, unexpected occurrence. Neglect or lack of maintenance resulting in water damage means you’re personally on the hook for the cost of repairs. Certain situations where homeowners insurance does not cover water damage are:
- Ground seepage
- Water or sewer pipe backups
- Poorly-maintained pipes leading to leaks
Standard policies don’t cover water damage resulting from a flood, either. For that, you’ll need to purchase flood insurance, especially if you reside in a high-risk area prone to flooding, like Louisiana.
Mold from water damage
Mold is all too common, and is often found after water damages your home, but it’s often not covered by homeowners insurance. Though it’s expensive to rid your home of a mold infestation, costing upwards of $30,000, your home insurance might help cover removal of the mold — depending on what caused the mold in the first place.
When is mold covered by homeowners insurance?
Most homeowners insurance policies cover $5,000 of mold remediation, though some range from $1,000 to $10,000. It’s also possible to purchase a floater or endorsement that adds extra mold coverage to your home insurance policy.
Mold damage is generally covered by home insurance as long as it's not due to lack of maintenance or neglect.
If a pipe in your home has leaked for months and gone without repairs, mold can grow as a result, but it won’t be covered by your homeowners insurance. Since floods can also cause mold, any potential mold that grows as a result of a flood would be covered by flood insurance, if you have it. Should you submit a claim for mold damage, this cause would be evaluated and determined by the flood insurance adjuster.
You can prevent the growth of mold by keeping your home dry and addressing spills and leaks as soon as you find them. While this may be more difficult for homeowners in Florida or Louisiana, more naturally humid states, we recommend using vents and fans to reduce moisture and humidity in areas and appliances prone to it.
Stay on top of repairs and maintenance in your home, especially in basements, crawl spaces and bathrooms, which are ideal areas for mold to grow. Bleaching an area after a spill or leak can help prevent a potential mold infestation, too.
How to file a claim after water damage
Now that you can identify when water damage is covered by your homeowners insurance, it’s imperative that you contact your insurer as soon as possible once you discover water damage in your home. You should take pictures of the affected area and everything that was damaged, as well as where the water came from, such as a burst pipe or hole in the roof.
If you have pictures from before the incident, find them so you can show the adjuster what the area looked like before being damaged. Pictures are especially useful if mold develops in the future, and can support your claim that the mold grew as a result of water damage and not neglect.
Your insurer will ask you questions about your claim that will help them decide if it’s covered by your policy. An adjuster will then be dispatched to assess the damage. If you need to make any urgent repairs before the adjuster has a chance to see the damage, be sure to take pictures before the repairs are done, and that you keep the receipts for any materials you purchased.
You can also choose to hire a contractor to evaluate the water damage and give you an estimate for the cost to repair it. This is useful in case the insurance adjuster’s quote for coverage is too low, and allows you the opportunity to negotiate with your insurer. Once you have agreed on a reasonable settlement for the cost of repairs, the insurer will generally send you an advance of about half the payment to begin repairs. You’ll receive the remainder upon completion, minus the deductible.
Be sure to keep pictures of the water damage and all documents associated with the damage and your claim in the event that mold grows in the future. Your insurance company may be hesitant to agree that any potential mold is the result of prior water damage, but having pictures and records will serve as valuable proof of your claim. If the mold is deemed to have come from water damage, some insurers may make you file a second claim of water damage instead, requiring you to pay another deductible before remediation takes place.