Oftentimes, water damage that seem relatively minor can turn into a prohibitively expensive problem if you don't notice the issue right away. Thankfully, most homeowners insurance policies cover water damage as long as it's sudden and accidental or the result of a covered peril, like a burst pipe or overflow of an appliance.
However, home insurance generally does not cover damage caused by outside flooding, and it also won't cover water damage or mold growth that occurs gradually or over a long period of time due to neglect.
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Does home insurance cover water damage?
A standard home insurance policy covers water damage as long as it’s sudden and accidental. The damage also generally has to originate inside your house or result from a covered peril in order to be covered.
Learn more >> What does home insurance cover?
When water damage is usually covered
Burst pipes or frozen plumbing
Accidental overflow of a malfunctioning appliance (like a dishwasher)
Sudden pipe or roof leaks
Mold growth (if unnoticeable and caused by covered water damage)
Wind-driven rain or snow
Water damage from an extinguisher or sprinkler during a house fire
When water damage is not usually covered
Water damage generally is not covered if it's caused by a home insurance exclusion or if your insurer can prove the loss was obvious or preventable.
Sewer line backups
Neglect or poor maintenance
The cost to repair the source of the water damage (like leaky plumbing or washing machine repairs)
Mold caused by uncovered water damage
Here’s a more in-depth look at common types of water damage and whether it is or isn’t covered by standard home insurance policies.
Does homeowners insurance cover flooding?
Most standard home insurance policies won't cover water damage caused by natural flooding. That means water damage caused by flash flooding, coastal waves or tide, groundwater seepage, or any floodwater that flows into your home from the outdoors is not covered by homeowners insurance.
To cover your home and personal belongings from flood damage, you’ll need to purchase a flood insurance policy.
Does homeowners insurance cover water damage from rain?
Yes, while home insurance won't cover flash flooding from heavy rains or snow runoff, it may cover water damage from rain, snow, or ice that enters your home due to a covered loss. In other words, if your roof collapses due to the weight of snow or ice or a storm damages your roof and rainwater gets in, your home insurance policy should cover the damage.
However, if your roof had existing maintenance issues or prior damage that you never addressed — and your insurer can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were aware of the problem — insurance may not cover the water damage.
Does homeowners insurance cover water damage from appliances?
Damage from overflow of water from appliances, including washing machines, dishwashers, HVAC units, and water heaters is usually covered under home insurance. This means if your dishwasher accidentally malfunctions and floods your kitchen, insurance should help pay for the damage.
However, insurance won’t pay to repair or replace the source of the water damage, such as the appliance that caused the loss. You’ll have to pay for that out of your own pocket.
Does homeowners insurance cover water damage from leaking plumbing or broken pipes?
If your pipes burst or you discover a leak due to faulty plumbing, home insurance should help pay for the water damage, including potentially wood-rotted floorboards as well as damage to a slab foundation.
However, the word suddenly does a lot of heavy lifting when it comes to whether or not water damage is covered, as leaks or maintenance issues that aren't immediately reported or worsen over time due to neglect may not be covered. For example, if a bathroom sink pipe leaks over the course of months and it can be proven the damage was caused by poor maintenance, home insurance likely won't help pay for it.
Does homeowners insurance cover water damage from frozen pipes?
If your plumbing freezes up and bursts, resulting in water damage to your home or belongings, insurance should help to repair the damaged portion of home or replace your belongings.
However, coverage only applies if your is sufficiently heated at the time of the loss. If your home is unoccupied for an extended period of time and your pipes freeze up because you forgot to turn off the water supply, your insurer will likely deny your claim.
Does homeowners insurance cover mold growth?
Homeowners insurance covers neither water damage nor mold growth due to neglect or poorly maintained systems or appliances.
But if the mold damage is hidden away in your floors, walls, or atop your roof and your insurer can't prove you were aware of it, your insurance may cover it. Be sure to read the fine print of your policy or ask your insurance company how mold and hidden water damage are covered.
Does homeowners insurance cover water damage from sewer backups?
A standard home insurance policy normally doesn't cover water damage from sewer line backups or clogged pipes. That means if your basement sump pump overflows, the ensuing water damage wouldn’t be covered.
However, most insurance companies offer water backup coverage as an optional add-on to protect against these losses, and some companies even include this coverage in their standard policy offering.
How to get insurance to pay for uncovered water damage
In conjunction with your homeowners insurance, you can protect your home from most types of water damage by adding water backup coverage to your policy or purchasing separate flood insurance.
Flood insurance: You can purchase flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program or a private insurance company that offers the coverage.
Water backup coverage: A popular homeowners insurance add-on, water backup coverage modifies your policy to cover water damage caused by broken sump pumps or sewer line backups. However, similar to your standard coverage, it won’t pay to replace the source of the water damage.
Service line coverage: Another homeowners insurance add-on, service line coverage reimburses you for repairs to damaged utility lines that run underneath your property. It also covers excavation and landscape restoration after necessary repairs are complete.
Mold damage rider: Some insurance companies offer a mold damage rider or endorsement which expands your policy’s coverage limits for mold damage. But not all states offer this type of home insurance add-on — and it can be expensive if you live in a mold-prone area.
How to file a water damage insurance claim
If your home starts to smell musty or you notice dark or wet spots on your floors, ceiling, or walls, you may have an expensive problem on your hands. And when it comes to water damage, time is not on your side, so be quick to act.
Here are six important tips to remember when filing a water damage insurance claim:
Shut off the main supply line if the damage is due to plumbing issues.
Move your personal belongings away from the impacted areas of your home.
File a home insurance claim ASAP if the damage is extensive and covered under your policy.
Document the damage with photos and videos, and create an inventory of all of your damaged possessions.
Make temporary repairs if water is entering through your roof, windows, or doors — your insurance company will likely pay for these expenses when you file a claim.
Keep hotel, restaurant, and pet boarding receipts if you need to live somewhere else temporarily while your house is being repaired. If the water damage claim is covered, home insurance will likely reimburse you for your temporary living expenses.
How to prevent water damage
When it comes to homeowners insurance coverage, water damage is a tricky and confusing topic. What one insurer considers sudden and accidental water damage, another may view as preventable and expected.
Even in cases where water damage is covered, you still have to pay your out-of-pocket home insurance deductible before your insurance kicks in. Additionally, water damage claims often lead to higher insurance premiums.
To prevent water damage, consider the following:
Inspect your home’s plumbing
Inspect hoses and water lines connected to your appliances
Shut off your water if you leave your home for an extended period during the winter months
Make sure your roof, windows, and doors are sealed and in good condition
Check and remove leaves and twigs from your gutters
Don’t store your belongings in unfinished areas of your home where plumbing is exposed — or if you do, make sure they’re in water-proof containers