When Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Plumbing Issues?
Homeowners insurance will typically cover water damage that is considered sudden and accidental. Usually, this includes:
- Water heater or water line bursts
- Air conditioner leak
- Overflowing sink or washer
Homeowners insurance will not cover any water damage or plumbing malfunction that is not sudden and accidental. Some examples include:
- A slow leak that happens over a long time from a water heater or other appliance
- You neglect to protect your pipes in the winter, and they freeze and burst
- Natural wear and tear or old plumbing materials
- Sump pump or water backup
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Homeowners Insurance and Water
Often if you experience water damage in your home, it is a complete nightmare and can cost an arm and a leg to do repairs. Generally speaking, water damage is not usually covered under a homeowners policy as it usually happens over time. For any water damage or plumbing event to be covered, it has to be sudden and accidental.
Understanding How Homeowners Insurance Covers Plumbing Issues
Your homeowners insurance policy may or may not cover plumbing problems, a frequent cause of insurance claims, making it advantageous to understand the extent of coverage for your specific policy.
Plumbing Coverage Eligibility
While it’s always best to review your policy and speak with your insurance agent to understand your specific coverage, some common circumstances where plumbing damage may be covered by homeowners insurance include:
- Sudden or accidental discharge of water or steam from plumbing, heating, air conditioning, or sprinkler system.
- Burst or frozen pipes due to extreme cold weather conditions, as long as you have taken the proper precautions.
- Water damage resulting from a roof leak caused by a broken or damaged plumbing system.
- Damage resulting from accidental damage to plumbing pipes, such as damage caused by drilling or hammering into a wall.
- Damage caused by sewage or water backup due to a blocked or broken pipe.
When Will Homeowners Insurance Not Cover Plumbing Damage?
The list of exclusions, or when an insurance company will not pay for plumbing damage, is much longer. Because each insurance company will be different, check your policy for the following exclusions:
Damage From Negligence
Water damage from negligence refers to damage due to your failure to properly maintain your property or take necessary actions to prevent water damage. This includes failing to fix a leaky faucet, neglecting to repair a roof leak, or not correctly maintaining plumbing systems, among other things. If you have water damage for any of these reasons, your homeowners policy will not cover it.
Sump Pump and Sewer Issues
Standard homeowners insurance policies typically do not cover pump pumps and sewer systems. If your sump pump or sewer system fails or backs up, it can cause water damage to your home, which can be costly to repair. Sump pump overflow is not typically covered, but some insurers offer an endorsement you can add to your policy.
Homeowners insurance policies usually don’t cover damage caused by normal wear and tear or age-related deterioration, including damage caused by old or deteriorating pipes. If your home has old pipes that burst or leak, it may not be covered by your homeowners insurance policy. However, if the damage is sudden and unexpected, such as a sudden pipe burst, your insurance policy may cover the resulting damage.
Your homeowners policy will usually cover damage caused by sudden and accidental events, such as a pipe bursting due to freezing temperatures. However, some policies may have exclusions or limitations for damage caused by frozen pipes, primarily if you didn’t protect the pipes from freezing, such as keeping the home heated to a sufficient temperature or using heat tape.
Homeowners insurance policies may not cover mold damage if it is caused by factors such as high humidity, leaks that were not adequately addressed, or negligence. Some insurance policies may provide limited coverage for mold damage caused by a covered peril, such as a sudden and accidental water leak.
What Homeowners Insurance Parts Cover Plumbing Damage?
Your homeowners insurance policy comprises several coverage parts, and not all of them will cover plumbing damage. The following coverage parts do.
This coverage applies to damage to your home and attached structures. Damage caused by water from a covered peril, such as a burst pipe or a roof leak, is covered here. Your policy may cover the cost of repairing or rebuilding the damaged areas up to the policy limit.
Other Structures Coverage
Other structures coverage refers to coverage for structures not attached to your home, such as a shed, fence, or detached garage. This coverage is typically included in a standard homeowners insurance policy and can protect against damage caused by covered perils, including water damage.
Personal Property Coverage
Like dwelling coverage, personal property will cover your property damaged by water. Again, this has to be a covered peril, sudden and accidental. Personal property includes furniture, electronics, cookware, clothing, and related items.
Loss of Use/ALE Coverage
If your home is damaged by water and is unhabitable, your insurance policy may provide loss of use coverage. This is coverage provided by homeowners insurance that can help cover living expenses if your home becomes uninhabitable due to water damage or other covered perils. This coverage can help pay for additional living expenses, such as temporary housing, meals, etc.
Ensuring Coverage From Plumbing Issues: Coverage Riders
Coverage riders, also called endorsements, are extra coverage parts you can add to your policy. Coverage riders help to fill in the gaps that your standard homeowners policy may have, like sump pump overflow coverage.
Water Backup/Sump Pump Coverage
If you have a sump pump in your home, consider adding the water backup/sump pump rider. It provides additional coverage for water damage caused by a backup or overflow from a sump pump or other water removal system. This coverage can help pay for the cost of repairs or replacements of damaged property and can also provide coverage for the cost of cleanup and removal of water and debris.
Service Line Coverage
The service line coverage rider covers damage to underground water or sewer lines that connect your home to a public utility. This coverage can help pay for the cost of repairs or replacements of damaged lines and can also provide coverage for the cost of excavation and repair work. This rider can provide peace of mind to those homeowners who may be concerned by the costly repairs that can be required when damage occurs.
Mold Damage Coverage
If you have ever received a quote for mold remediation, you will understand why a mold damage rider may be in your best interest. It provides coverage for damage caused by mold or other fungi. This coverage can help pay for the cost of removing and remediating mold and repairing any damage caused by the mold.
Purchasing a separate flood insurance policy is recommended if you live in a flood zone. However, a flood insurance rider can be added to a homeowners insurance policy to provide additional coverage for damage caused by a flood, such as damage from a storm surge, rising river, or heavy rainfall.
How Much Do Riders Cost?
Premiums for water damage riders on homeowners insurance are calculated based on many factors, including the coverage limit, property location, construction type, and your deductible. Deductibles for these riders typically range from $500 to $5,000, with higher deductibles resulting in lower premiums.
Coverage limits for these riders vary by policy and what you choose, depending on the specific rider and the insurance company offering the coverage. Reviewing the policy terms and speaking with an insurance agent to understand the deductibles and coverage limits for water damage riders on a homeowners insurance policy is essential.
How To Get Riders
Obtaining insurance riders for your homeowners policy is quite simple. You only need to do a few steps.
Evaluate Your Flood Risk
First, you should evaluate your flood risk. Is your location in a flood zone? You can determine this by checking a FEMA map and finding your location. Usually, your insurance agent can also help with this information. A great way to help determine your risk is the history of your property as well.
Contact Your Insurance Company
Whether you want to add some of the riders discussed earlier, help determine your flood zone, or request a quote to add the riders, you should contact your insurance company at your earliest convenience. Be sure to have as much information about your home as possible, which can be found on your settlement documents.
Review The Terms Of The Policy
You should always review your policy carefully. Standard homeowners insurance policies are usually similar, but all insurers will have different inclusions and exclusions. Pay attention to the language used, and be wary of anything that might not make sense. Ask questions.
Purchase The Coverage
After determining your need and desire for the riders you want, you can ask your agent to add them. Once you have told them to move forward, the coverage is effective immediately. However, if you have purchased flood insurance separately, note that there is a 30-day waiting period.
Should You Get Additional Coverage?
Some homeowners may need one of the riders we mentioned, some may need all of them, and some may need none. Knowing the pros and cons will help you decide.
Consider Coverage Riders If…
You should consider plumbing/water damage coverage riders on a homeowners insurance policy if:
- Your home is in a high-risk area prone to water damage due to heavy rainfall, flooding, or other water-related hazards.
- You have a home with older plumbing or sewer lines.
- You have a basement or other lower level that is susceptible to water damage or have a sump pump.
- You have concerns about water damage repair costs.
Adding a plumbing/water damage coverage rider can offer several advantages to homeowners, such as:
- Expanded coverage for water damage caused by various issues, including sump pump and sewer backups, old or faulty pipes, and other water-related hazards.
- Protection for personal property damaged by water, such as electronics, furniture, and appliances.
- Coverage for temporary living expenses if the home becomes uninhabitable due to water damage.
- Reduced out-of-pocket costs for repairs and replacements due to water damage.
- Peace of mind
While plumbing riders can provide additional protection, there are also some disadvantages.
- Since the riders are not free, additional costs will increase the overall premium.
- Some coverage riders may have limited coverage limits or high deductibles, leaving you with a hefty bill.
- Coverage riders may have specific exclusions or limitations based on the age or condition of the home or the plumbing system.
- Homeowners may have to meet specific maintenance or upkeep requirements to maintain coverage.
Preventing Plumbing Damage: Preventative Maintenance
Besides looking at possible coverage solutions on your homeowners policy, you should also look at maintaining the plumbing in your home. Performing routine maintenance will help ensure that you don’t sustain water damage and costly repairs.
Purchase New Pipes
If you have old or outdated plumbing, consider purchasing new pipes. To avoid potential plumbing issues and expenses, it may be wise to have a local plumber or contractor inspect your pipes to see if they are old or corroded. Since they are experienced, they can make recommendations.
Insulate Your Pipes
Insulating your pipes can help prevent freezing during the winter, and it is recommended for both hot and cold water pipes. Pipe insulation is a relatively simple DIY project, but you can also seek professional assistance if you feel more comfortable.
Remove Dangerous Trees
In case you suspect that tree roots are causing leaks or blockages in your plumbing, it is recommended to have a local plumber inspect your pipes and consider hiring an arborist to trim any invasive roots that might be interfering with your plumbing.
Winterize Your Home
To avoid freezing pipes, you should winterize your home during the coldest months if you won’t be there. This involves turning off the water supply, eliminating residual water from the pipes, opening the drain valves, draining the hot water tank, and inspecting drain traps in sink and tub drains.
Putting It All Together
A standard homeowners insurance policy does not typically cover water damage caused by natural wear and tear over time. Additionally, plumbing issues must be sudden and accidental to be covered and only apply to certain coverage parts. Riders, or endorsements, are available to help fill in the gaps but may still leave holes in your protection.