Q

Does homeowners insurance cover water damage?

A

Homeowners insurance may cover sudden and accidental water damage from something like a burst pipe, but won’t cover water damage from flooding, sewage backup, or gradual leaks.

Homeowners insurance is fairly straightforward, it protects the structure of your home and your personal property from perils like fire, wind damage, and burglary. But when it comes to water damage to your home and belongings, it’s not as clear cut whether you’re covered or not.

Water damage is never covered when it results from flooding or sewer line backup, but homeowners insurance may cover water damage that is sudden and accidental, like if a pipe bursts in the middle of the night and drenches your home. Water damage from wind-driven rain may also be covered if a storm causes a hole in your roof or foundation.

However, water damage as a result of neglect or gradual deterioration won’t be covered, even if it originated inside the house, and the residual mold that forms won’t be covered either.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Homeowners insurance covers sudden water damage from something like a burst pipe

  • Homeowners insurance also covers water damage if the proximate cause is a covered peril, like wind-driven rain during a storm

  • Homeowners insurance does not cover water damage caused by floods, sewer backup, or general maintenance issues

  • You can add water backup coverage to your home policy for protection against sewer or sump pump backup

When does homeowners insurance cover water damage?

A standard homeowners insurance policy will cover water damage within the home if it’s determined that the cause was sudden and came from inside the house. Certain weather-related perils that cause water damage may also be covered in a standard homeowners insurance policy.

Homeowners insurance protects both the structure of your home — like your walls, foundation, ceilings, and roof — as well as your personal property from certain types of water damage. If you need to stay elsewhere while your home is being repaired, your homeowners insurance loss-of-use coverage can pay for additional living expenses like a hotel stay.

There are a few common instances when homeowners insurance will protect your home and personal property from water damage.

Water damage from rain and snow

Rain, snow and ice dams that form on your roof are usually considered windstorm and weight of snow perils on your homeowners policy. Water damage from wind-driven rain or snow and collapsed roofs from ice dams may be covered if it’s determined that the damage was caused by a covered weather event or condition.

However, if it's determined the water entered your home because of leaking, corrosion, or rotting to your roof, siding, or foundation, your insurance won’t cover it. Your insurance also won’t cover rain damage from leaking or damaged windows.

Water damage from a burst pipe

It’ll most likely be spelled out in your policy as “accidental discharge” or “overflow of water or steam,” but water damage that’s caused by sudden bursts or blockages in your plumbing system may be covered. This includes fire sprinkler systems, air conditioners, outdoor sprinklers, water heaters, and other circulatory systems throughout your home.

Water discharge from appliances like your washing machine or dishwasher are also covered. However, repair or replacement of the appliance itself may be excluded. For that, you’ll need equipment breakdown coverage.

Water damage caused by a separate event

If a separate covered peril causes the water damage, your insurance company will likely consider it a covered loss. For example, say your house catches fire and the fire department extinguishes it with water hoses, your homeowners insurance will cover the water damage, as well as the damage that the fire caused.

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Is ceiling water damage covered by homeowners insurance?

Homeowners insurance dwelling coverage includes protection for your home’s ceiling. If your ceiling has water damage, whether or not it’s covered will depend on the source of the water damage.

For example, if a pipe bursts and causes a water leak down into your ceiling, your homeowners insurance will likely reimburse you for ceiling repairs..

When does homeowners insurance not cover water damage?

If the water damage didn’t happen at a moment’s notice and is considered to be gradual, it probably won’t be covered by home insurance. If the water landed on the ground and flowed into your home, that also isn’t covered.

It may be possible to add an endorsement to your policy to cover certain types of water damage and residual damage like mold or rot. Talk to your insurer about what add-ons are available for your policy, or speak with a licensed representative at Policygenius who can walk you through the different coverages offered by your insurance company.

Floods

Floods, regardless of how the water originated, are excluded from every basic homeowners insurance policy. This includes, but isn’t limited to rainwater, surging rivers, and water seeping up from the ground.

Sewage water

Water that overflows from sewage or drains and finds its way into your home is also not covered. However, most insurance companies offer water backup coverage to supplement this gap in coverage.

Poorly maintained plumbing

If water leaks from poorly constructed or old piping and causes water damage and mold, that would be considered “neglect” by your insurer and won’t be covered.

How to get insurance for water damage

There are no standalone insurance policies for water damage, however you can add an endorsement to your homeowners policy to protect yourself from certain types of water damage, or you can purchase a flood insurance policy.

  • Water backup coverage: Also called sump pump or sewer backup coverage, water backup coverage is a popular endorsement that you can add to your homeowners policy to protect you from water damage caused by sewer or sump pump backup.
  • Flood insurance: If you live in a high risk flood area, you can likely get flood insurance through your homeowners insurance company if they participate in FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). You can also get private market flood insurance if it's available in your area.

Read our complete primer on flood insurance here

How to protect your home against water damage

Water damage is a finicky thing and can be difficult to determine when exactly your insurance company will cover repair costs. What one insurer views as sudden and immediate water damage, the next may espouse that it occurred over a long period of time.

Even if the damage is covered, you’ll still have to pay your out-of-pocket deductible, and frequent claims have a propensity for causing your premiums to go up. Water damage is one of the costliest types of damage your home can incur, costing homeowners around the country billions of dollars annually, according to the Insurance Information Database. You’ll want to take these precautions to ensure your home is protected from avoidable water damage.

  • Inspect bathroom plumbing
  • Inspect appliance hoses
  • Shut off the water when you’re on vacation
  • Seal roof, windows and doors
  • Check gutters
  • Inspect irrigation systems
  • Ensure that your belongings are properly stored
Homeowners Insurance Expert

Pat Howard

Homeowners Insurance Expert

Expertise
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.

Education
Pat has a B.A. in journalism from Michigan State University.

Property and Casualty Insurance Expert

Kara McGinley

Property and Casualty Insurance Expert

Expertise
Kara McGinley is an insurance editor at Policygenius, specializing in home, auto and renters insurance. She previously worked as a freelance writer and copywriter, and has been writing about insurance since 2019. Kara is an expert at making complicated topics like property insurance simple to understand. Her work can be found in Teen Vogue, The Culture Crush, and more.

Education
Kara has a B.A. in English from East Carolina University.

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