How to Tell if Home Insurance Covers Flooded Basements
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In many ways, a basement is a perfect target for water damage. The low level, cooler temperature, and potentially overlooked plumbing problems all factor into a basement as a high-risk area for flooding. If a single pipe bursts, the resulting buildup of water can cause damage to the structure and electrical framework of your home, not to mention your personal belongings. It also introduces the possibility of mold.
A flooded basement can prove catastrophic for your bank account, and homeowners will want to protect themselves in such an event. Unfortunately, coverage for a fully flooded basement is not guaranteed for all but the most extensive policies. Here’s what you need to know about flood coverage in your home insurance policy, plus what to do if your basement is flooded and how to prepare a claim accordingly.
Will my insurance policy cover the flooded basement?
The answer is most often no. Approximately 50% of the most common home insurance claims are based in water damage, and flooding usually implies water damage in its costliest form. Needless to say, it’s something that home insurance companies are wary of; flood damage is not covered by insurance plans, and claimants usually need special additions to their policy in order to be covered.
Unlike car insurance, where policies are regulated, there isn’t a common standard to refer to when it comes to home insurance. Although home insurance policies will cover certain incidents of water damage less ambiguously, making a claim for a flooded basement may be complicated.
Keep the guarantee and longevity of your house’s components in mind, both when you’re choosing your insurance and making renovations. As parts like pipes age, the risk of a burst increases. Houses built in the U.S. before 1950, for instance, may use a galvanized pipe system. This time of piping has a 50-75 year maximum life span, after which point they are likely to cause problems. Getting your house and plumbing checked by a professional can spot an issue early on before it manages to erupt.
There are different subset types of insurance for water damage that relate to the specific cause. Insurance add-ons can increase the amount of money you’ll be covered for if it results from the given source. Sewer back-up coverage is protection against one such instance where a storm outside creates such an overflow of rain that the sewage backlogs and flows back up into the basement.
Check your policy to see what situations are specifically accounted for, or contact your insurance provider to see what options are available to add-on in the event of water damage.
Your insurance company may offer special plans specifically in the case of flooded basements and extensive water damage. Speaking with your insurance representative may be helpful if you deem this a significant risk. In order to compensate for this grievous lack in the insurance industry, the government’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) sponsors a National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
The NFIP offers homeowners special policies that will give direct compensation in the event of a flood. Because flooding coverage is not seen as feasible from a business perspective, insurance companies will seldom go near it. Especially if you’re in a home or area that is at high-risk for flooding, the NFIP may be a welcome alternative to the private sector.
Because there are so many variables at play, such as the source and severity of the water damage and the conditions of the policy, it’s impossible to say how much (if any) your insurer will cover if an incident has occurred. If the damage has occurred due to an accident or a sudden incident beyond your control, it may be covered at least in part. Gradual “wear and tear” situations are unlikely to be covered by your insurer, however; insurance companies expect customers to give reasonable maintenance and care for their insured assets, and hesitate to dish out money if the problem is an obvious case of negligence.
The likelihood of a successful claim also depends on the way the problem is described and the amount of evidence (such as immediate photos of the damage) a homeowner can produce to back their story.
Preparing a valid water damage claim
Although there are a lot of variables that color any different flooded basement situation, there are a few broad protocols you should follow. If you know in advance that your home insurance policy will cover certain types of water damage, you should abide by those provisions and prioritize what you try to fix and solve on your own accordingly. With something as chaotic as water and flooding, it helps to have a good idea of your policy in detail beforehand.
Step 1: Stop the problem in its tracks. Before you do anything else, you should do whatever’s necessary to stop the problem from getting any worse first. If a pipe has burst, for example, you should turn of the water as soon as the issue is discovered.
Any valuable items and belongings that are precariously close to damage should be saved at once. If you’re lucky, you’ll find the issue when its only at its beginning stages. There is a major difference between a flooded basement that’s an inch deep with water, and one where the water level has risen to the point of submerging power sockets.
Stopping the issue as quickly as you found it also covers you from the insurer denying you on the merit that you waited too long to fix things.
Step 2: Take photos and gather evidence. Take pictures of the flood damage early on and collect whatever’s available to prove the flooding problem as you found it.
Having receipts at hand for items that were damaged or destroyed helps to assure you’ll be reimbursed the real value of the items. Also take pictures of the walls to capture material damage to the house itself. Pictures of the basement before help to give a better context.
It’s standard fare for an insurance company to view every case with some cynicism, and providing some hard evidence will make it easier on both parties.
Step 3: Deduce the source of the problem and form an explanation. Before talking to your insurance company, you should also have a good idea why the problem occurred.
An insurer isn’t likely to cover you if they think the problem could have been reasonably prevented, or was the natural result of “wear and tear” and poor maintenance. Document potential reasons in the past that could have happened to account for the problem, particularly if it was due to the negligence of someone else, such as a professional working on your house.
Step 4: Claim for water damage that applies to your policy. You should always keep in mind that an insurance company will back away from the notion of a flood.
When you’re describing your problem to an insurance representative, you should be careful with your words. Importantly, do not use the words “flood” or “flooding,” referring instead to the more insurance-applicable water damage. Look over your policy and try to get a grasp of what may be covered before you move in with it.
Step 5: Make the necessary repairs. Whatever you do, you should always run a repair plan past your insurer before you commit to it. This way, you now if it will be paid and relieve yourself of any confusion or liability. Whether the problem is covered or it’s out of pocket, a flooded basement is always going to be a major undertaking to fix.
Once you’ve made the repairs, it’s recommended you take the extra steps to waterproof the basement and prevent a similar issue from ever occurring again.
Basement flooded prevention techniques to keep in mind
If you’re ever in the situation of buying a home, you should make a point of spending extra time surveying the basement; it’s important to spot any potential omens of future leaks. Certain regions are at a considerably lower risk of flooding, but a basement can still get flooded due to bad pipes.
Although this shouldn’t be as much of an issue with newer homes, issues such as earthquakes may create plumbing problems that erupt later on. If there’s been an earthquake or other circumstance that may have affected the integrity of your pipes, you should hire a professional to give the plumbing a look over.
Talk to your insurance provider to explore potential options for improving your water damage coverage. If you have the money on hand, hiring a contractor to waterproof your basement is smart if there’s a perceived risk. In addition to that, there are a number of flood prevention devices available to purchase for your home. A water sensor or sump pump can do so much to minimize the risk of a flooded basement, and the money you spend will be a slight fraction of what you’ll save in the event of a household catastrophe.