When Insurance Will and Won't Cover Water Damage

flooding in the street.Too much water in your home, especially in the wrong place, usually leads to a soggy, miserable cleanup. And then comes the cost of the ensuing damage, and the stressful issue of whether some or all of the expense might be covered by your home insurance.

As with so many other insurance matters, the answer is: It depends. Here’s a rundown of what insurance probably will and won’t cover when your home gets wet in the wrong way.

What’s Usually Covered

As a rule, most policies cover damage that is deemed to be “sudden and internal.” That includes such watery mishaps as damage from burst, faulty, or frozen plumbing; the accidental overflow of an appliance or fixture (toilet, washing machine, bathtub); water damage from extinguishing a fire; and seepage into the house from a leaking roof (although damage to the roof itself likely wouldn’t be covered). You can also generally rely on damage from rain or a snow storm, and from mold that results from damage from one of the above perils. And if the bad kid in the neighborhood turns on your hose when you’re out, and pushes it gleefully it through a crack in your window? Insurance will probably cover the cost of the ensuing damage.

What’s Not Covered, Most Likely

Rain damage is covered by your insurance, more than likely, but don’t expect much help after flooding. As a rule, coverage will be voided if the rain that damages your home has first touched the ground. That rule of thumb rules out covering damage from not only floods but that resulting from most ground seepage--as, for example, were rain to cause a rise in the water table, and some of the water were then to leaks into your basement.

For flood coverage, you’ll need to purchase additional flood insurance, which may be worth considering if you reside in a high-risk area prone to flooding.

As a rule, you also won’t be covered from water that enters the home through plumbing. If a water sewer line backs up, then, and sends a flood into your home, the insurance company will likely deny the claim. Nor will you be reimbursed if the insurance company determines that negligence is to blame. So your crumbling rain gutters finally failed during a storm, sending a torrent of rainwater through your open windows? Good luck getting the insurance company to pay up.

Filing A Water-Damage Claim

You’ve determined that water damage to your home is likely covered by your insurance policy. How here are the steps to follow to best ensure your claim will be approved.

Move Quickly To Document The Damage it’s imperative that you to 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 of the source of the water, such as the burst pipe or hole in the roof. If you have pictures from before the incident, you should find them so you can show the assessor what the area looked like before being damaged.

Be Prepared With Further Information Your insurer will ask you a host a questions about your claim to help it decide if the damage is covered by your policy. The representative will also best determine if the damage done exceeds your deductible.

Assuming you’re covered, an adjuster will then be dispatched to assess the damage. If you need to make any temporary repairs before the adjuster has a chance to see the damage, be sure pictures are taken and that you keep the receipts for any materials you purchased. Those costs, too, may be reimbursed.

Consider Getting Your Own Estimate For the Repair This usually isn’t required, but having a contractor evaluate the water damage can arm you with an estimate to compare with the one the insurance company may prepare. (Many contractors offer estimates for free.) An independent estimate is especially useful to have in the event the insurance adjuster’s coverage offer is low, since it furnishes you with information that can be useful in negotiating the offer upwards.

Don’t Expect The Entire Settlement Once you have agreed on a reasonable settlement for the cost of repairs, the insurer will generally send you an advance of half the payment to begin repairs and send you the last half upon completion, minus the deductible you’re responsible for paying.

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