Q

Does homeowners insurance cover flooded basements?

A

Homeowners insurance covers your basement if it floods due to a burst pipe, but it won’t cover water damage caused by a flood, sewage backup, or old plumbing.

Kara McGinley

By

Kara McGinley

Kara McGinley

Property and Casualty Insurance Expert

Kara McGinley is an insurance editor at Policygenius, specializing in home, auto, and renters insurance. She's been writing about insurance since 2019, and her work and insights have been referenced in Kiplinger and WRAL.com.

Published December 30, 2020|5 min read

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Flooded basements are a common reality for many homeowners, and whether it was caused by rainwater, a leaky pipe, or a sewage backup, a flooded basement could potentially leave you on the hook for thousands of dollars worth of damage.

Homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage, but it does cover certain types of water damage, depending on the cause. If your basement floods and damages your new couch and expensive entertainment center, whether or not you’ll be reimbursed by insurance depends on your home insurance policy, what caused the water damage in the first place, and any additional coverage you may have added, like water backup coverage.

Key Takeaways

  • Homeowners insurance doesn’t cover damage caused by floods, but it may cover other types of water damage

  • If a pipe bursts or a bathtub accidentally overflows and floods your basement, your homeowners insurance may cover you

  • A flood insurance policy can protect your home and personal property from flood damage, but coverage for your basement is typically limited

  • You should consider adding water backup coverage to your home policy to protect your home and basement in the event of sump pump or sewage backup

Does homeowners insurance cover my basement flooding?

Homeowners insurance doesn’t cover flooding of any kind, but it may cover water damage to your basement if it's deemed “sudden and internal,” meaning it was unpreventable and the source of damage came from inside your home, like a burst pipe. There are a few instances when your homeowners insurance would cover water damage to a basement:

Plumbing

Homeowners insurance covers water damage caused by the accidental leakage of plumbing. That means if a pipe bursts in the middle of the night and damages everything in your basement, your homeowners insurance can help pay for repairs.

However, homeowners insurance does not cover maintenance issues or general wear and tear, so if your pipe bursts because it is old or because you didn’t properly maintain it, you likely wouldn’t be covered.

Accidental overflow of water from a tub or sink

If your tub overflows or if your sink is accidentally left on and the water floods your basement, your homeowners insurance may cover you as long as you can prove the damage was sudden and accidental.

Appliance leakage

If an appliance that is connected to plumbing in your home, like an air conditioning system or a water heater, suddenly leaks and damages your basement, your homeowners insurance will typically cover you. Again, if the piping or appliance breaks due to negligence or maintenance issues, you wouldn’t be covered.

Damage caused by a separate peril

If your basement floods due to a separate covered peril, your homeowners insurance may help pay for repairs. For example, if your house catches fire and firefighters have to extinguish the fire using water hoses, your homeowners insurance can cover both the fire and water damage that was incurred. Or, say a hail or windstorm shatters a few windows in your basement and rainwater gets in, your homeowners insurance will pay for repairs that the hailstorm caused.

Malicious activity

Homeowners insurance covers damage that’s caused by malicious activity, like vandalism, break-ins or rioting. If someone breaks into your home and leaves the water running which results in your basement flooding, your homeowners insurance may still cover you.

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When does homeowners insurance not cover flooded basements?

Homeowners insurance does not cover flooding, which means if a hurricane floods your basement, or if a tidal wave crashes into your beachfront home, your homeowners insurance wouldn’t pay for the flood damage to your basement. In order for flood damage to be covered, you’d need a separate flood insurance policy (more on that later). Below are a few common instances when homeowners insurance won’t cover water damage.

Floods or rising rainwater

Homeowners insurance excludes coverage for some natural disasters, including floods. If a flood leads to water filling your basement and your personal property is damaged, you wouldn’t be able to file a claim with your homeowners insurance company.

Seepage of groundwater

After a heavy rainfall, groundwater can seep through to your home’s foundation. This type of water damage isn’t covered by homeowners insurance, and may not be covered by flood insurance unless it was directly caused by a flood.

Sewage backup

If sewage or water backs up into your basement, your homeowners insurance won’t cover the damage unless you have additional coverage, like a water backup endorsement.

Sump pump flooding

If you have a sump pump in your basement to protect it from flooding and that sump pump fails, your homeowners insurance likely excludes coverage for the sump pump itself along with the water damage it causes, unless you have an endorsement on your policy that extends coverage to sump pump failure.

Maintenance issues

Homeowners insurance does not cover maintenance issues or damage that occurs over time. For example, if an old pipe had been leaking and you never got around to repairing it and it eventually burst, you’d be on the hook for the cost of repairs to your flooded basement. Pests are also considered maintenance issues, so if a pipe bursts in your basement because of a rat or mouse infestation, the damage likely will not be covered.

Can I get basement flood insurance coverage?

There’s no such thing as flood coverage for your basement, but you can purchase separate flood policies or add endorsements to your homeowners policy to make sure you’re protected against certain flood risks.

Flood insurance

If you live in an area that is high risk for flooding, you may want to consider purchasing a standalone flood insurance policy. However, flood insurance only offers limited coverage when it comes to protecting basements or any underground area of your home, which means anything that is stored or located in your basement — like your furniture, appliances, flooring, and TVs — likely aren’t fully protected under a flood insurance policy.

You may be able to increase your amount of dwelling flood insurance coverage to extend more protection to your basement, but it depends on your flood insurance company.

Water backup coverage

Water backup coverage is a popular endorsement that protects you from water damage due to a sewage, sump pump, or drainage backup. It’s also a relatively inexpensive endorsement, costing around $30 per year, which makes it a smart addition for most homeowners. It’s important to note that this type of coverage won’t pay to fix or replace your sump pump, just the damage it may cause.

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