Insurance talk can be very confusing to most of us. So many legal terms. So many unusual words to describe something simple. Even this blog about water damage is a bit confusing. With insurance the question “Why” is so important.
A “peril” is how insurance companies decide if a “loss” is paid. To get the insurance company to pay for what happened, it must be a covered peril. I know, it still is not even clear to me!
Most insurance companies consider the following as perils. A big to do for yourself is check your policy. Although the following are perils, they may not be covered on your policy! This may not be a complete list of perils covered by any policy.
- Fire or Lightning
- Windstorm or Hail
- Falling Objects
- Weight of ice, snow, or sleet
- Water or sewage backup
- Volcanic Eruption
- Earth Movement
As you see, the above list does not include “Water” as a peril. However, let us look at some examples of water damage to a home and whether it is covered by your policy or not.
Example 1 – I have water backing up into my home from the toilet.
Most of us have been there, and all of us can say YUCK! The peril in this case is sewage backup. This peril is not standard on most insurance policies. It is something you would need to add to your policy. If you have Sewer and Water Backup on your policy, then most likely you will have coverage to help pay the cost of clean-up (after you pay your deductible).
The coverage may not pay for fixing the problem that caused the sewage backup. Maybe this backup was caused by tree roots destroying your sewer line from your house to the city sewer, then possibly if you have underground service line coverage on your policy, you may have coverage for that too. It is very important to know your coverages.
Example 2 – Water dripping from my living room ceiling.
To know whether this is covered on your policy we again must know why/where is the water coming from. What is the peril?
Maybe it rained and came in during the rain. Rain itself is not a covered peril. Is it because the shingles on the roof are old and damaged from wear and tear? Then no, there would be no coverage for the damage inside the house.
Is it because there were strong winds during the rainstorm and shingles lifted or were torn off the roof, causing water to leak through? That may be covered if the peril was determined to be wind. In this example you may want to call a company that does renovation work to find out the cause of the issue before you make a claim with your insurance.
Example 3 – You go into your basement and there is water all over the floor.
Again, we need to know the peril. Did you just get four inches of rain in two hours? Did it seep through your basement walls or windows? Did it back up through your basement toilet or basement sink? Did the sump pump fail? Did a pipe burst? Did an appliance like a washing machine malfunction?
If it came in through your walls or windows that would be a flood and would not be covered by a typical insurance policy. External sources of water into a basement are rarely covered by a standard home insurance policy. It may or may not be covered by a flood policy.
If it came from the sewer or bathroom sink, or the sump pump could not keep up or the electricity stopped and the sump pump quit working in the basement, that could be sewer/water backup, but you would need to have that on your policy, it is not standard on most policies.
Did a pipe suddenly burst? If so, why? Was the pipe old and rusted out? Then it is possible insurance will help pay the damage caused by the water, but they may not pay to fix the pipe. Did the pipe freeze? If maintained properly, most pipes will not freeze, but if it did and the house was heated, there is a good chance that this would be covered. If the house was empty and not heated it may not.
If the washing machine malfunctioned, this water damage should be covered. The broken washing machine would not.
With water claims, it is so important to keep asking “the why” until you find the true cause of the issue.
One important thing to keep in mind. Once you have an issue, you must safely do what you can to prevent further damage while you wait on the insurance company to complete the investigation. You should also call experts in to come assess the damage, help you determine what caused the damage and give you an estimate of the cost to fix the damage. Remember, safety first. If your ceiling caves in, is it safe to stay in the house?
What kind of water damage does your policy cover? Please review your policy and if you have any questions feel free to contact us or your local insurance agent!