Claim Water Damage House Insurance – Paul West is a seasoned personal risk advisor with over a decade of experience advising successful families and individuals.
You come home from vacation to find that a small puddle has formed in your basement. Something in the house has leaked, leaked or exploded. Your first reaction? Panic. Your second:
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If you’re sure it’s safe to do so, take immediate action to stop excess water from flowing where it shouldn’t. This means turning off your home’s main valve (which often requires a wrench) or turning off a single water supply valve, also known as a “stop.” Stops leading to your dishwasher, toilet, washing machine or ice maker can usually be turned off manually (clockwise), stopping the water flow. Here is more information on how to close water supply valves.
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By the way, it’s a good idea to research leak detection systems and automatic shutoff valves before disasters strike. With one small investment, you can avoid a serious claim and save money through a home insurance discount.
Nearly one in four home insurance claims in 2018 were the result of water damage. From 2014-2016, the number of water damage claims in the United States actually exceeded the number of losses caused by wildfires and hurricanes. What do these numbers mean? Water damage is quite common. But not all types of water damage are covered by a typical homeowner’s policy.
As a general rule, home insurance covers water damage if it is accidental or accidental. In other words, you cannot predict that it will happen. Water damage is not covered when it is the result of home maintenance / neglect (eg a roof you haven’t repaired in 30 years). Flood water damage is also not covered (unless you have a separate policy for flood insurance in Massachusetts).
While homeowners insurance covers most water damage situations, there are certain situations that your insurance policy may not cover. Familiarizing yourself with these common exclusions can help you better manage and maintain your property to avoid costly repairs. Here are some examples of water damage typically not covered by insurance:
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To ensure you have adequate coverage for your specific needs, review your insurance policy and discuss any concerns with your independent insurance agent. By understanding the limits of your policy, you can take proactive steps to maintain your property and reduce the risk of experiencing costly, uncovered water damage situations.
When it comes to water damage, time is of the essence. According to FEMA, mold and mildew can begin to grow 24-48 hours after exposure. So, if your pipe bursts on Friday night, don’t wait until Monday morning to let your agent/insurance company know what happened. Most carriers maintain 24/7 phone numbers to guide you through the claims process and advise you on cleaning.
Clean and dry your own area, at least it makes sense to contact a water damage / restoration company. Insurance companies may be reluctant to recommend a specific water damage company, but they should be able to help you identify several local options to choose from.
Note: If your dedicated insurance agent is not available to speak with you at the time of the claim, make sure you follow up during business hours. why? There is a big difference between insurance
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. Ideally, they should both know what’s going on in your home. In the event of a claim, it is your agent’s job to act as your advocate and help ensure that you receive a timely, satisfactory response from the carrier. Agents can also be valuable in helping to negotiate a settlement for any damages (see Step 6)—one reason we recommend working with an independent agent rather than a direct writer or “slave” agent.
A water damage/restoration company (WD/RC) is often required to pump out any standing water and thoroughly dry any surfaces before moisture or mold can spread. If mold is already present, WD/RC may need to apply special cleaning solutions after sealing and venting the wet area.
Not all water damage and restoration companies are created equal. Some, unfortunately, may try to take advantage of an emergency situation where you need immediate help. Before signing any contracts or work orders, be sure to get an estimate and written proof that the company is licensed/insured. Read online reviews of the company. Ask clients in your city or neighborhood for referrals.
Remember, the WD/RC you choose doesn’t have to be the same company you use to repair walls, floors, woodwork, ceilings, cabinets, etc. Many water damage companies offer contract services in addition to water and mold remediation, but that doesn’t mean they’re the best choice for your renovation. Again, don’t sign any contracts or agree to additional work without getting a quote…and at least don’t talk to another contractor. Often, the best person to do carpentry, flooring, or drywall is a carpentry, flooring, or drywall expert – not a WD/RC.
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In severe cases, water damage can lead to unsafe or unhealthy living conditions in the home. Major flooding can draw household chemicals or waste water into the mix—not something you should be walking on. There may be a risk of electric shock. Even after standing water is gone, mold spores can contaminate the air.
If you suspect any of these issues are at play, ask your agent and your WD/RC team to advise you on the safest course of action. Most insurance policies include coverage for hotel stays and even dining expenses if you’re forced to evacuate. But you’ll want to understand how much (if any) coverage you have for these items, as well as how you expect to present and itemize these expenses (and pay for them yourself before getting reimbursed). If you stay and eat elsewhere, be prepared to save the receipts.
Your home renovation team will likely take photos of the damaged area, but you should take your own. (If you later decide to cut ties with this company, you don’t want to have to chase them down for documentation.) You should also take photos of any items that need to be cleaned or replaced. With water damage, objects that get wet are only part of the damage. Objects in drawers or closets where mold has spread should also be professionally cleaned. You may be entitled to reimbursement for those expenses.
Note: When water damage occurs, most insurance policies do not cover the equipment that caused the problem in the first place. For example, if your ice maker or dishwasher leaks behind your cabinets, your insurance may cover replacement drywall and cabinets, but not a new refrigerator or dishwasher.
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As soon as possible, the insurance company will send an adjuster to your home. He or she will assess the damage, take photos and measurements. The adjuster will also ask questions about how and when the damage occurred. His goal is twofold. First, he tries to estimate how much it will cost to repair the damage. Second, he seeks to determine whether anyone has committed an offense.
Don’t worry. If you didn’t intentionally create the problem (eg insurance fraud), your policy is still there for you. Insurance is meant for accidents. Even silly accidents. If you light a candle overnight and your house burns down, you’re still covered—even if it’s your fault. The same principle applies to water damage. If you install your own toilet (unauthorized, accidentally), and water starts raining through your ceiling, you’re still covered.
However, if it is someone else’s fault, the insurance company has an interest in finding out. say for example,
That toilet is improperly installed; Say it’s a licensed plumber who should know better. In that case, your adjuster and insurance company may be looking at “passing,” which means going after
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Insurance company for the damage he caused. Ditto for a faulty device. Your insurance company may try to collect damages from the manufacturer of the faulty washing machine. This is good news for you, because if they are able to successfully submit, they may prevent you from paying your deductible for the claim.
At some point after his evaluation, your adjuster will send you a written estimate of what he thinks it will cost to repair your damage. He will often create a line item list for labor and materials (drywall, paint, insulating mortar, tile, etc.). Depending on the amount of the claim, he may issue a check for all or some of this amount, so you can begin repairs. Yay!
Be prepared; The settlement value seems a bit low. If your home insurance policy is not written to provide “replacement cost value,” the sum of your estimate may be based on actual cash value, or ACV. ACV represents what your property is actually worth today – not what you paid for it or what it would cost to make it brand new. For example, if you spent $20K on new cabinets 15 years ago, your loss settlement will reimburse you for the $20K.
Now, here’s a tricky caveat… In some cases, insurance companies will offer what’s called
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