Water Damage Happens with Little Warning
Water damage emergencies can happen with little or no warning. A storm hits, a drain plugs and overflows, or a pipe bursts and floods your property. The ensuing mess needs to be handled quickly and properly to avoid costly repairs. However, it is important to keep some things in mind when dealing with the aftermath of water damage.
Is Your Property Insured?
Water damage is responsible for a large number of home insurance claims, and it can be caused by any number of sources. When filing a claim, homeowners need to know what is covered in their policy and what is not.
When water damage is sudden or accidental, chances are good that the property owner is covered by his or her standard home insurance policy. Some coverage will be included with basic policies, while other sources of damage will require endorsements. It largely depends on the type of home that is being insured.
By default, standard policies typically include coverage for repairs needed due to:
- Hurricane or storm damage, which is a common cause of roof collapse and water damage
- Discharge and overflow
- Burst plumbing
- Tearing, burning, bulging, or cracking of hot water heating systems
By contrast, the least expensive home insurance policies may include very limited coverage options. Unlike standard policies, they generally will not include the situations listed above.
Trying to understand these differences can be frustrating and confusing. Read on for explanations and definitions of the most commonly confused terminology as well as tips on what to know about your insurance should you ever need to make a claim.
Types of Water Damage
When customers call their insurance companies to file claims, customer service representatives might use phrases like:
- Overflow and discharge
- Sewer backup
- Water backup
- Flood damage
The use of these terms helps the company to determine what claims are covered by pinpointing the cause of the water damage. Unfortunately, the source is not always easily apparent. Oftentimes, the company will need to send an adjuster to investigate where the water is coming from, why the damage happened, and whether the claim will be covered by the homeowner's policy.
Sewer backup occurs when water is pushed back up through the pipes from drainage and sewer systems. It is a very unpleasant situation due to the unsanitary water, which not only creates water damage but can also have negative impacts on the health of everyone living in the home. The rate of sewer backup incidents is increasing at an estimated 3% per year, and a single backup can cause thousands of dollars in damages. So this is one coverage option you want to make sure is included or endorsed in your policy.
A sewer backup can be traced to any number of sources, such as:
- Blockage in the city sanitary main
- Aging sewer systems requiring repair or updates
- Tree roots
- Issues related to city pipelines, such as combined pipelines
Overflow is what happens when water escapes from pipes, appliances, and water outlets in and around the home - for example, the washing machine or bathtub overflowing. Discharge, by contrast, occurs when plumbing and appliances release water that causes flooding. This can happen when the water heater gives out or a pipe freezes and bursts.
The key to knowing whether these incidents are covered is that the damage must be accidental and sudden. The problem cannot be linked to regular wear-and-tear or maintenance issues.
Seepage is another term related to overflow and discharge that confuses many homeowners. By its very nature, seepage is not a sudden event, and it does not release a single large amount of water onto the property. So the majority of home insurance policies do not cover it.
The general public often uses the term "flood" as an all-encompassing phrase to describe having water in their homes. Most expect to be covered when the basement is flooded, regardless of the cause, and they are confounded when they find out their policy does not cover flood damage, but rather water damage floods. There is a difference - but it can be confusing.
So what exactly does "flood" mean in insurance terms?
A flood is officially defined as the complete inundation of at least two acres stretching over at least two properties that usually sit on dry land. So by insurance standards, a flood claim would involve a nearby body of water that overflows to the point where water is able to make its way into a home.
An easy way to determine if a customer has a flooding situation is to find out whether more than one property is affected. If only a single home is "flooded," then it is not a flood claim. Rather, the source of the water is likely one of those listed above and the circumstances would be considered water damage instead.
If the homeowner is concerned about flood damage, it is important to realize very few insurance companies will include it in their policies. Those with concerns should contact the their state commissioner's office for details about what kinds of insurance is available in their area, as it can vary between states.
Understanding What Coverage Fits Your Needs
Dealing with water damage is stressful enough on its own. The situation is only aggravated when a homeowner needs to make a claim and does not know whether or not their insurance covers the damage.
In this case, it is best to be proactive. Once homeowners understand the different terms and types of water damage, they can call their personal insurance representative and discuss coverage options. If it is determined that there is a heightened risk for a specific situation, endorsements can be added or removed as needed.
If you find yourself in the position of dealing with water damage or mold removal, contact us. We will work with you to determine what is needed for clean up and get the job done with minimal disruption to you.