More on Home Insurance
More on Home Insurance
Homeowners insurance protects your home and personal property against damage or loss, such as fire, severe weather, and certain kinds of water damage. Water damage caused by faulty plumbing is covered by your policy if the break and damage was abrupt and didn’t accumulate over an extended period of time.
That means if you came home to a network of pipes that recently burst in your basement, you may be reimbursed for the replacement pipes, valves, and tanks. Plumbing is often embedded inside your homes internal walls, so if your plumber needs to cut out a section of walls to access the wrecked pipes, your wall-repair costs may also be covered. If the burst pipes caused a buildup of mold, mold remediation may also be covered.
However, if the damage to your property was caused by a gradual leak, or a backed-up sump pump or sewage system, or your pipes were rusted, your home insurance claim may be rejected. There are also certain types of pipes, such as polybutylene pipes, that are considered hazardous and loss that’s sustained by this type of plumbing typically won’t be covered. To limit unneeded expenses, you should inspect your piping often, or consider adding a sump pump or sewage backup rider to your policy.
There are a number of clauses in your policy that cover plumbing repair and residual damage in the event that there’s an accidental discharge in your home.
Your dwelling coverage may cover your water heater, pipes, and ceiling repairs, as structural damage, built-in appliances and plumbing may be covered by this provision.
Your personal property coverage may cover your stuff if the water damage from the burst water heater damages all of your stuff.
Your other structures coverage may cover your water heater, pipes, and ceiling repairs if the damage took place in a guesthouse, backyard workshop, or other detached building on your property.
Your loss-of-use coverage may reimburse you for travel, hotel, and food expenses if the damage causes you to be displaced from your home for an extended period of time.
Your personal liability coverage may reimburse you if the plumbing accident causes damage to your neighbor’s property and you’re held liable for repairs.
In general, you should expect to be reimbursed for the following plumbing accidents:
If your plumbing abruptly bursts and the cause can’t be directly attributed to lack of maintenance, repairs to your plumbing and any residual damage all may be covered.
If your neighbor’s pipes freeze up and burst through into your home and damage your stuff, you may have to initially pay for the cleanup or damage out of pocket, or your insurer may cut you a check in the meantime. But after the claims process is complete and it’s determined that your neighbor is liable, their personal liability coverage may reimburse you or your insurance company for the damage.
If your plumber makes a faulty connection between, say, your dishwasher and its water intake hose, and that causes water damage to your floor and soaks everything a floor below, you may be covered. The plumbing company will likely offer to fix the plumbing, but be sure to contact your insurance company about the floor and other property damage. Your plumber or contractor’s plumbing insurance should be able to reimburse you if they’re held liable.
When filing a plumbing-related claim, your insurance adjuster – a trained inspector who comes to your home and determines the insurer’s extent of liability for damages – will inspect the damage thoroughly and may be on the lookout for any hint of negligence on your part. What may seem like an unforeseen pipe-burst to you may be regarded as a preventable accident by your insurance company. Be sure to check your policy and see what type of plumbing accidents are covered, or speak with a licensed representative at Policygenius, who can help you better understand the extent of your plumbing coverage.
Generally, your insurer will refuse your claim if the following conditions apply:
If your plumbing has clear signs of cosmetic and functional deterioration, you may not be covered if a resulting leak or burst causes damage to your stuff.
If your pipes freeze and burst because your home was freezing cold or you forgot to shut off the water supply, that may not be covered.
Going back to the water heater example for a moment, if your water heater is over 10 years old – the average water heater life cycle – and your insurance company determines that you were both aware of its age and ready and capable of replacing it, they may not reimburse you when it breaks.
Polybutylene plumbing, a style of piping that was common in homes built between the 1970s and 1990s, may not be covered if it ruptures and causes damage. That’s because this piping is notoriously faulty and viewed as high-risk to insurers, as chemicals in public water, such as chlorine, were found to make the pipes brittle and cause breakage. If you have a home with polybutylene plumbing, your insurer may make note of that during your home’s underwriting process and specifically exclude pipe repair and any residual damage from your policy.
Your insurance company will typically refuse to cover property damage caused by water overflow from plumbing or sewage that’s considered a public utility. If your basement sump pump overflows, that also isn’t covered in a standard policy. However, most carriers offer additional coverage, or riders – sewer backup coverage and sump pump coverage – for a small additional premium.
The location of your home is often a good indication of how much additional insurance you need to protect your home against plumbing accidents. If you live on or near a floodplain prone to flooding and sewage overflows, there are several riders, or endorsements, that you should ask your insurance company about.
If your home’s sewer lateral – the line between the city’s sewer main and your house – backs up, you’re liable for the damages that result from water overflowing or seeping into your home. Sewer backup riders provide coverage for a small additional monthly premium. Coverage may include repairs to your home’s sewer lateral and property.
If your home is located in an area prone to groundwater accumulation and flooding, there’s a good chance your basement has a sump pump – a system that pumps excess water out of your home’s “sump pit”, or excess water drain. Occasionally, these pumps back up and leak or burst. While the standard provisions of your policy won’t cover sump pump discharge, most carriers offer additional coverage that will.
Flood insurance covers your home and personal property when they’re engulfed in flood waters. If the plumbing in your home bursts or incurs damage due to flooding, flood insurance may reimburse you for the loss
Your standard policy covers most types of water damage, but it may not cover the subsequent mold that forms after the water damage. Depending on your insurer, you may want to inquire about additional coverage for mold damage.
Having financial protection against pipe and appliance damage is nice, but there are a number preventative steps you should take to limit hazards and keep your insurance rates low.
Pipe-freezing and breakage is a common cause of damage – be sure to winterize your plumbing, especially if you expect to be away from your home for an extended period of time. This may include: shutting off your water; removing excess standing water from your pipes; opening drain valves; draining water from your hot water tank; and checking sink and tub drains that have drain traps.
If your plumbing is old, or corroded, you should consider hiring an appraiser or contractor to come by and inspect the pipes – they may suggest that you replace certain pipes or appliances, and it may save you money in the long run.
If you suspect that the your backyard oak tree’s extensive network of roots is interfering with your sprinkler system, or if the roots have crept uncomfortably close to your home, that could spell a potential hazardous plumbing situation.
Pat Howard is a homeowners insurance editor at Policygenius in New York City. He has written extensively about home insurance cost, coverage, and companies since 2018, and his insights have been featured on Investopedia, Lifehacker, MSN, Zola, HerMoney, and Property Casualty 360.
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