How to Get Insurance to Pay for Water Damage
A rainstorm comes down a little too hard; the water main suddenly bursts. The insulation you thought was impenetrable turns out to be anything but that.
These are all situations that any homeowner can find themselves in, no matter how proactive and prepared. If your home suffers water damage, it’s essential to know how to navigate the process of submitting a claim to insurance.
Will your insurance company cover slow, gradual damage? What about a sudden accident? Do you know your policy, and are you prepared for the worst? Here are the best ways to get insurance to pay for water damage.
What Types of Water Damage Are Covered by Insurance?
A homeowner’s insurance policy isn’t going to cover water damage carte blanche. It’s a case-by-case basis, depending on what caused the damage.
These are the top five most common water damage causes that insurance typically covers.
So-called “acts of God” fall under the category that most insurance companies cover for water damage.
Nobody can prevent a hurricane from tearing through a city or a freak snowstorm piling 100 pounds of ice onto an old roof. You should have coverage in the event of a natural disaster.
Check with your insurance company on their policy on pipe bursts. If it’s the water main or a nearby sewer line, they may tell you to take it up with the city and offer you no coverage.
But if your pipes are new and well taken care of, and they still burst, you should not be financially responsible for replacing them and having the damage cleaned up.
Same with burst pipes—you aren’t always going to have a leaky roof covered by insurance. If it’s clear that your roof was derelict and needed improvement for a long time, you may not be entitled to compensation for the water damage. Insurers will attribute the damage to homeowner negligence.
But a regular leaky roof may not be a total wash. Homeowner’s insurance tends not to discriminate when it comes to severely water-damaged homes when the culprit is a leaky roof.
An ice dam is a sheet of hard ice that naturally builds up at the roof’s edge. Rain pours down and collects inside or near the gutter. As temperatures drop, that water turns to ice.
From there, you face a couple of dangers. First, that ice can suddenly dislodge and fall to the ground. You don’t want to be in the way of that. The second threat is more gradual but no less damaging.
As more rain pours down, it has nowhere to go because of the ice. That excess water and moisture from the melting ice may seep through the roof and drip into the attic. In this event, your insurance should have you covered.
You can’t always foresee or prevent someone from causing intentional damage to your home. Kids can break in while you are away and mess up the place. A burglar can breach the window and leave the house vulnerable to water damage.
In these cases, speak to your insurance provider. Most insurance policies include a clause covering vandalism and other acts of unforeseen malice.
When Does Homeowners Insurance Exclude Water Damage?
Damage due to Lack of Maintenance
If your home’s water damage has occurred over a long period, your insurance company can credibly claim it’s due to negligence. It’s up to all home and property owners to maintain the health and integrity of their pipes, foundation, and everything else.
Suppose there’s a sudden, unavoidable break in the water main. It’s not your fault, and insurance will see that. If your pipes give way after years of neglect, you’ll be on the line for it.
Mold, Rot, or Fungus
Mold, rot, and fungus sprouting up due to (many, but not all types of) water damage is the homeowner’s problem, not the insurance company’s.
According to the EPA, once mold gets into a home, it’s tough to get it out and negatively impacts your family’s health. Mold, rot, and fungus result from water damage left to sit for too long.
Mold can crop up on interior surfaces within 24-72 hours of exposure to water. Keep a leak detector close by, and be vigilant whenever you suspect your home may have sustained water damage.
Most Groundwater Mishaps
According to FEMA, most basic homeowner’s insurance policies don’t cover flooding. You will need to purchase flood insurance to bundle in with your homeowner’s insurance plan.
Especially if you live in a flood-prone area, where there are frequent mishaps with the groundwater, you need to seek out a high coverage plan.
How to File a Claim After Water Damage
If your home has sustained water damage, follow these steps to get the most out of your homeowner’s insurance coverage.
1. Determine the Source of the Damage and Document It
It may already be too late when you first suspect your home has sustained flood or water damage. It’s essential to take precautionary measures, like sandbagging your home before a major rainstorm and taking regular care of your roof and pipes.
But if you find that your home has fallen victim to water damage, you first need to find the source. Locate the affected area, survey the extent of the damage, and make sure not to move anything before documenting it all.
Throughout this process, be sure to document everything. Take your camera and take notes. Photograph the walls, the floors, damaged furniture, books, keepsakes, photo albums, children’s toys, etc.
Water can damage just about anything it comes into contact with, so take pictures of everything. These will be what you submit to insurance when you make your claim.
2. Determine if Your Homeowner’s Insurance Will Cover the Damage Repairs
Next, you need to review your policy to see if your coverage includes the specific type of water damage.
If your basic homeowner’s insurance plan doesn’t cover flood and water damage, you may want to look into FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program. It’s federally funded and available to homeowners in all fifty states.
3. Call Provider and Report a Claim
Next, call an insurance agent and make a report. More than likely, if it is covered, you’ll need to get a professional assessment.
4. Schedule a Professional Clean-Up Service
Homeowner’s insurance may cover the costs if you do repairs yourself and wish to avoid expensive repairs. However, certain DIY mistakes can void the insurance.
The safer bet is to hire a professional water damage repair company. Some companies also may be able to help with the claim filing process.
The contractor’s sole job should be to clean up the water at this stage. You can wait on repairs until you receive the insurer’s estimate for repairs and coverage.
5. Meet with Your Adjuster
Once you file a claim, the insurer will schedule an adjuster to visit your home. This agent will assess the damage and create their own record of it.
The adjuster’s task is to estimate the total costs for repairs and determine the fault. It’s not to say that they are looking to blame you. Instead, they want to see if someone, such as a hired plumber, was at fault.
6. Review the Estimate
The adjuster will provide a written estimate of the total repair costs. Note that there may be a difference between actual cash value and replacement cost value. The ACV figure represents the actual cash value of your property rather than the replacement value.
You may have to negotiate the settlement with the insurance company for larger projects. Getting quotes from contractors can help with this.
7. Hire a Clean-Up Service
Once you have the estimate, you can get quotes from several contractors to see who can provide the necessary repairs within your budget.
When you have found a contractor to your liking, it’s time to hire them and let them start working on water damage and mold remediation.
Undo the Damage to Your Home
Your home should be a safe, clean, and dry place for your family, but water damage can threaten that.