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Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Plumbing and Leaks?
Not sure if your homeowners insurance policy covers plumbing and leaks? You’re not alone! Reading through a standard HO-3 homeowners insurance policy to determine if your insurer covers plumbing and leaks can be confusing and frustrating.
You might have to jump to and from several pages covering insured events and exclusions to get a picture of your coverage. And sometimes, that picture is as clear as mud!
Read on to learn when homeowners insurance covers plumbing and water leaks and what the exclusions are before filing a water damage insurance claim.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, about one in 50 insured homes has a property damage claim caused by water damage or freezing each year.
When Does Insurance Cover Plumbing and Leaks?
Most homeowners insurance policies typically cover plumbing and leaks if the cause is sudden and accidental.
Examples of claims that are usually covered:
Burst Pipes – If a pipe suddenly and unexpectedly bursts.
You might not have coverage for damage resulting from frozen pipes unless your home is adequately heated. A standard HO-3 homeowners insurance policy typically includes the following (or similar) wording:
“We do not insure, however, for loss:
Freezing of a plumbing, heating, air conditioning or automatic fire protective sprinkler system or of a household appliance, or by discharge, leakage or overflow from within the system or appliance caused by freezing. This provision does not apply if you have used reasonable care to:
– Maintain heat in the building; or
– Shut off the water supply and drain all systems and appliances of water.”
Roof Leaks – Sudden and accidental roof leaks caused by a covered event, such as a storm with high winds or hail.
The age and condition of your roof are taken into account. Homeowners insurance won’t cover all roofs irrespective of age and condition.
When Does Insurance NOT Cover Plumbing and Leaks?
Most homeowners insurance policies exclude damage caused by plumbing and leaks that occur gradually, such as slow, constant leaks.
Examples of situations that are typically not covered by home insurance:
Wear and Tear – Water damage that results from normal wear and tear, such as pipes that naturally corrode over time.
Lack of Maintenance – When you fail to maintain your property, such as not fixing or replacing old or defective plumbing.
Negligence – When you fail to act the same way a reasonable person would, such as not keeping the heat on during freezing temperatures.
Earth Movement – It includes plumbing problems and water leaks caused by earthquakes, landslides, sinkholes, and mudslides.
Flood Damage – It includes surface water, waves, tidal water, and an overflow of a body of water.
Sump pump or Sewer Line Backups – Water or water-borne material which backs up through sewers or drains.
Water Below the Surface of the Ground – Water damage can occur when water below the surface exerts pressure on, seeps, or leaks through a foundation. It’s commonly known as a slab leak.
What if I Wasn’t Aware of a Plumbing Problem or Leak?
What if you’re not at home or visible signs of water damage remain hidden for a period of time after the occurrence of a covered water damage event?
Unfortunately, many insurance companies have temporal exclusions or time limitations in their insurance policies to protect their interests, such as:
“We do not cover any water, or the presence of water, over a period of time from any constant or repeating gradual or slow seepage, leakage, trickle, collection, infiltration or overflow of water from any source… whether known or unknown to any insured.”
Based on the above, it might not matter when you discover the water damage. The only thing that matters is when the event leading to the water damage occurred.
Note that some insurance companies like American Family Insurance (AMFAM) provide optional coverage for hidden water damage. In the case of AMFAM:
“It covers the cost to repair damage done by a hidden water leak you can’t see within the walls, floors, ceilings, cabinets, beneath the floors or behind or under a home appliance.”
How to Protect Your Home From Water Damage
Here are some tips on how you can protect your home from plumbing problems and leaks:
- Take preventative measures – Perform routine maintenance and don’t delay making any necessary repairs.
- Drain water heaters – Draining your water heaters a couple of times every year can help prevent sediment buildup.
- Replace old or corroded plumbing – Hire a plumber to inspect your plumbing and replace it, where necessary. Keep all receipts or reports for insurance purposes.
- Install smart water sensor leak detectors – Water leak detectors, such as DetectIt, act as an early warning system. It can send you an instant notification if it detects a water leak, potentially preventing severe water damage.
- Perform regular inspections – By regularly inspecting your roof and things like hoses for your washing machine and dishwasher, you can timeously identify problem areas.
In addition to the above, consider getting optional homeowners insurance coverage. It includes flood damage insurance, water backup endorsement, and earth movement endorsement.
What to Do if You Have a Water or Plumbing Leak
If you find a water or plumbing leak, your insurer expects you to take steps to limit any damage. Your failure or neglect to do so might compromise your insurance claim.
For example, a standard HO-3 homeowners insurance policy typically includes the following (or similar) wording:
“Neglect means neglect of an “insured” to use all reasonable means to save and preserve property at and after the time of loss.”
Here are some steps you can take to mitigate water damage:
- Turn off the main water valve to your home, if necessary, to stop the leak.
- Remove or elevate any items, such as furniture, from the affected area.
- Open windows and doors to air out the room(s).
- Turn off the electricity before touching and moving items with wet electrical wires.
- Use a dehumidifier to remove moisture from the air.
- Use a wet & dry vacuum cleaner or sump pump to remove standing water.
- Hang wet floor coverings, such as rugs, to dry.
- Use towels to help dry your floors and other items.
That's a Wrap
Homeowners insurance coverage for plumbing and leaks can be tricky. We trust that after reading this article, you have a better understanding of how it works.
Always ensure you read your homeowners insurance policy to familiarize yourself with the cover you enjoy and whether it’s sufficient for your needs.
If you suffer substantial water damage due to a plumbing problem or water leak or have a complex claim, we recommend hiring a licensed public adjuster.
A public adjuster acts in your best interests. They can help you overcome the challenges of managing your claim and can assist you in getting the best possible settlement offer you’re entitled to.
Avner Gat, Inc. has 17+ years of experience as a public adjuster in Los Angeles, covering Southern California. We protect homeowners from the games and fine print that insurance companies are known for.
Call us at (818) 917-5256 to find out how we can assist you.