Water damage and freezing are the second most common home insurance claims filed nationwide, according to the Insurance Information Institute.  That said, water damage claims can be tricky to prove at times. To be covered, you’ll need to prove to your insurer that the water damage was caused by something sudden and internal, like a burst pipe. Flooding is never covered by home insurance, nor is regular wear and tear or maintenance issues. Here’s what you need to do to get insurance to pay for your water damage claim.
How to file a water damage insurance claim
When filing a water damage insurance claim, you’re going to need to make sure the cause of the water damage is covered by your policy. Here are some steps to take when filing a water damage claim.
1. Determine the source of water damage and stop the flow of water
Before you file a claim, you’ll want to find the source of the water damage and where it’s coming from. Did an old window leak during a rainstorm and flood your basement? Then you may not be covered. Did a pipe burst and damage your home? Then you likely will be covered.
Once you determine where the water is coming from, try to stop the flow of water to prevent further damage. You should also take photos and videos so that you have evidence for your claim.
2. Check your home insurance policy to determine if the water damage is covered
Once you figure out the source of water damage, check your policy to see if it’s covered. Below are some sources of water damage that may be covered by home insurance.
What kind of water damage isn’t covered?
Flooding or groundwater seepage
Gradual water damage
Water damage due to maintenance issues, like a hole in your roof
Sump pump or drainage backup
Frozen, burst pipes in an unheated home
If the water damage was caused by a covered incident, here’s how home insurance may pay for the loss.
Dwelling coverage: Pays for repairs to the structure of your home, like if water destroys your hardwood floors.
Other structures coverage: Pays for repairs to detached structures, like if a pipe bursts in your pool house.
Personal property coverage: Pays for damaged personal belongings, like if your dishwasher breaks and water damages your things.
Loss of use coverage: Pays for additional living expenses if you need to temporarily relocate while your home is being repaired after water damage.
Hot tip: If you’re not sure if the damage is covered, call your insurer and ask.
If you’ve looked through your home insurance policy and you’re still not sure if the water damage is covered, reach out to your home insurance company. They’ll be able to tell you whether it’s worth filing a claim and the odds that it will be accepted.
3. Notify your insurance company and present evidence for the water damage claim
You’ll want to call your insurance company right away to get the claims process started. You’ll also want to make sure you have proof of damage on hand to send to your insurance company — the more thorough your evidence, the faster your claims process will be.
You can provide evidence through photos and videos of the water damage and its source. If you’re filing a personal property claim, having an updated home inventory on hand will also help expedite the process.
4. Wait for the claims adjuster and consider hiring a licensed contractor
Once you file a claim, your insurance company may send out a claims adjuster to assess the damage and determine a claim settlement. Claims adjusters generally reach a mutual agreement on payouts, but if you want a second opinion, consider hiring a contractor to give you a repair estimate.
What to do if insurance won’t pay for your water damage claim
If your insurance company denies your water damage claim — and you believe your policy should cover it — you may want to consider hiring a public adjuster. Public adjusters work on behalf of you as the homeowner, and have your best interest in mind (claims adjusters are usually third-party contractors hired by the insurance company).
A public adjuster can come to your home, assess the damage, and give you a repair estimate. If the public adjuster agrees that your water damage claim should be covered, they can negotiate directly with your insurance company for you. Just keep in mind that you have to pay the public adjuster, not the insurance company. Public adjusters may take anywhere from 5% to 20% of your final claim settlement. Because of this, you’ll need to look at the size of your claim and the public adjuster’s fee to determine if it’s worth it to hire one.
Extra coverage for water damage
Standard home insurance policies only cover certain types of water damage — typically only water damage that was started suddenly, accidentally, and internally. But you may be able to add additional coverage, called endorsements, to your policy for further protection against water damage.
Water backup coverage
Standard home insurance excludes coverage for damage caused by sump pump, drain, and sewage backups. If you want protection against this type of damage, your insurer may offer water backup coverage. This endorsement protects your home and personal property in the event either is damaged by a sewage or sump pump backup. You can typically add water backup coverage to your home insurance policy for an additional $30 a year.
If you live in an area that’s at risk for flood damage, consider purchasing flood insurance. Flood insurance can protect your home from water damage from high tides, hurricanes, heavy rain, and other sources of flooding. If you live in a high-risk flood zone, your mortgage lender may require you to purchase flood insurance.