Q

Does homeowners insurance cover water damage from leaking plumbing?

A

Water damage caused by leaking plumbing inside your home would be covered by homeowners insurance only if it occurs suddenly or accidentally. But water damage caused by poorly maintained plumbing would not be covered.

Most homeowners insurance policies cover water damage that is sudden or accidental, but water damage that occurs over time would not be covered. If a leak in your pipes is caused by a sudden event — say an extreme temperature change causes your pipe to suddenly crack — homeowners insurance may pay to repair the leaking pipe and associated water damage. But if the pipe was poorly maintained or neglected, and you don’t know when or why the leak began, then a standard policy won’t cover it.

Certain endorsements, or optional coverage add-ons, can add coverage for your plumbing that isn’t included in a basic policy. Service line coverage is additional coverage you purchase to protect the utility lines on your property but outside of your home, (including your plumbing system), when they are damaged. Maintenance issues related to your plumbing system, like deterioration and regular wear and tear, would also be covered by this endorsement whereas standard homeowners would not cover those causes of damage.

If a backed-up sewer system is the cause of your leaking plumbing, another optional endorsement, water backup coverage would cover necessary repairs. But without adding those endorsements to your policy, leaks caused by damage to your service lines or by backed-up plumbing wouldn’t be covered.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Homeowners insurance may cover leaking plumbing inside your home if the cause of the leak was sudden or accidental

  • If water is leaking because of a poorly maintained or neglected pipe, homeowners insurance won’t pay to repair it

  • You can purchase service line coverage to repair the plumbing running beneath your property if it is damaged

  • If your leaking plumbing is the result of a backed-up drain, you can add water backup coverage to your policy to cover the resulting water damage

Does homeowners insurance cover water damage from leaking plumbing?

A standard homeowners insurance policy will generally cover water damage from a leaking pipe if the cause of the leak is sudden or accidental. For example, if a sudden increase in water pressure creates a crack in your plumbing system, homeowners insurance may pay to repair the leaking pipe and associated water damage. Same with a pipe that was cracked when a tree limb fell on your house, or leaking plumbing caused by vandalism during a break-in.

But a pipe that’s been slowly leaking over time would not be covered nor would the associated water damage. That’s because homeowners insurance won’t cover any kind of damage, water or otherwise, that could easily have been prevented or avoided with better maintenance.

What types of water damage are not covered by homeowners insurance?

Homeowners insurance will not cover water damage that occurs over time, nor will it cover a leaking pipe that’s backed-up into your home. Basically, if a leaking pipe could’ve been prevented with maintenance and urgency at the time it was damaged, homeowners insurance won’t cover it. Causes of leaks that likely won’t be covered by your homeowners insurance policy include:

1. Damage from existing maintenance issues

Common causes of leaking plumbing include pipe corrosion, untreated drain clogs, and deteriorating pipe seals. A leak in your plumbing system that results from any of these maintenance issues would not be covered by a standard home insurance policy.

2. Water backup from an outside sewer or drain

Homeowners insurance does not cover water damage from backed up sewers or drains, or water that discharges or overflows from a sump pump. However you can purchase water backup coverage to cover these risks and service line coverage to repair a damaged sump pump.

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3. Issues resulting from a flood

Natural floods are one of the most common homeowners insurance exclusions. A standard policy won’t cover surface water, tidal waves, the overflow of a body of water, or spray from any of these natural causes, even if wind-driven.

4. Mold

Coverage for both mold damage and removal are excluded from a standard home insurance policy, but mold created by a covered leak may be covered, especially if it develops rapidly following damage from a covered peril. It can take as little as 24 to 48 hours for mold to form, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, so if a leaky pipe was caused by an insured risk and is to blame for the mold, then homeowners insurance may pay to remove the mold.

What to do if you have leaky plumbing

If you discover a leak in your plumbing system, you should act quickly in order to avoid further damage.

  • Stop the flow of the water - Follow the leak to its source and take measures to stop it. You may just need to tighten a loose connector to prevent the water from spilling out. But if the option is available to you, you can also turn off your home’s water supply while you investigate the leak.

  • Take photos of the damage - If you decide to file a claim, you’ll be asked to provide photos of the damage. Take pictures of the crack in your pipe and the water damage from the leak to better defend your claim.

  • Turn off electricity - If there are electrical wires in the damaged area, turn off your electricity to avoid electrocution.

  • Move damaged furniture to another room - Once you’ve discovered the source of the leak and gathered all your evidence, you should move furniture away from the source to prevent further damage. You can prop your furniture and appliances up on higher ground or place them in another room, then hang any wet rugs out to dry.

  • Remove water from the damaged area - You can remove water from the room by dropping towels onto the ground and taking measures to evaporate the moisture in the room. Allow air to flow through the room by opening up your windows and run an air conditioner or a dehumidifier to dissolve the water in the air.