To make a successful water leak insurance claim, it’s important to document the issue with photos of the initial and resulting damage. Then, assess the damage with a contractor to determine the cost of repairs. You also should take steps to control the leak and make minor repairs yourself to reduce the extent of the damage.
Some water damage can be categorized as sudden and accidental, such as flooding or storm damage, while other instances are gradual and caused by regular wear-and-tear. While most home insurance policies protect for water leak damage, it’s important to double-check what your policy specifically covers before filing a claim.
Types of water damage commonly covered by insurance
Typically, water damage must be sudden or accidental to be included in a standard homeowners insurance plan.
In cases of sudden and accidental damage, “sudden” doesn’t necessarily mean “quick” or even “unexpected.” Typically, courts interpret sudden and accidental damage to mean that the damage took place in its entirety at a specific time and place. Examples include:
- Sudden or accidental water discharge
- Storm-related water damage
- Accidental sewer backup or overflow
- Flood damage (if you have flood insurance)
In addition to covering sudden and accidental instances of water damage, some home insurance policies will also cover resulting damages from water leaks. This means that if sudden and accidental water damage leads to another issue in your home, you can be reimbursed for the cost of fixing that problem too.
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Types of water damage not commonly covered by insurance
Unfortunately, some forms of water damage are not covered under insurance. Gradual water damage is damage that occurs slowly and over time. Because this type of damage is related to regular wear and tear, it is not usually covered. Examples of gradual water damage include:
- Lack of maintenance
- Broken pipes
- Mold or rotting
- Foundation seepage
- Roof damage
To determine if you have coverage for gradual damage, you’ll have to check the specific wording in your policy. However, most insurance policies exclude coverage for regular wear and tear, such as pipes deteriorating over time.
How to file a water leak insurance claim
To file a successful water leak insurance claim, follow these steps:
- Review your homeowners insurance policy to ensure you understand the specifics of what is covered and have grounds to make your insurance claim.
- Before you begin cleanup or repairs, take photos of the damage (and potential resulting damage, such as a wall collapsing when a pipe bursts). These photos will be essential to getting your claim approved.
- Work with a contractor or specialist to assess the cost of repairs and begin fixing the water damage and related issues. Request estimates at each stage of the repairs, as you’ll want to submit these estimates to your insurance company.
- Gather all details relevant to your insurance claim, such as when and how the damage happened, estimates and receipts for repairs, and a complete list of damaged items.
- Keep records throughout the process, such as noting the date and time of calls with insurance representatives.
If you understand your policy well and document the water damage thoroughly, you’ll have a better chance of getting coverage for a water damage claim.
Water damage claim checklist
Even though gradual water damage isn’t typically covered by insurance policies, there are exceptions to the rule. If another incident leads to water damage—for example, a leak occurring after a tree falls on the roof of a home—you can seek coverage for damages related to the initial issue.
Overall, it is advisable to avoid water damage, as much as possible, when making a claim. Instead, focus on the source of the water damage and maintain documentation of the issue to refute the idea that the water damage is gradual.
Some other pointers include:
- Keep a log of all the times you’ve had your plumbing and appliances checked by a professional
- Regularly inspect your property for potential sources of water damage
- Consider adding additional coverage, such as flood insurance, to your existing plan
If you keep a thorough record of your efforts to resolve potential water damage, you’ll have a better chance of getting your claim approved.
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What to expect after filing your water damage insurance claim
After you file your insurance claim, your property will be inspected by an adjuster sent by your insurance company. To ensure you get a fair settlement, you should share your own estimates with the adjuster, who will ask questions related to the condition of your home before the damage occurred. The adjuster will then submit a report to your insurance company.
Once your insurance company reviews the report, they may issue a settlement: an amount of money, agreed upon by both parties, to fix the property. The time it takes to receive a settlement varies based on the extent of the damage, the time it takes to send an adjuster to your property, and whether you and your insurance company can agree on an appropriate settlement to fix the damages.
It’s important to note that different states have different laws setting timelines for the claim process, so you should check with your state insurance department for further clarity on what to expect.
Key Takeaway After an adjuster inspects your home, your insurance company will make a decision about your settlement. If your claim is approved, you will receive funds to fix your property.
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What if my water damage claim is denied?
Unfortunately, not all water damage insurance claims are approved. If this happens, the likely reason is that your policy didn’t cover the damage to your home. This could be because the coverage was never offered to you, or because you chose not to include the coverage in your plan initially.
Another reason why your claim might be denied is if the insurance company has reason to believe that you have failed to perform proper maintenance on your home. You can seek a second opinion if you feel you’ve properly maintained your home, as some insurance companies try to avoid paying out.