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Does Your Insurance Cover Water Damage or Floods?

September 30 2010

Many times a distraught homeowner has had to deal with water damage or flooding only to find out that their home insurance policy does not cover the damage.  Here’s how to make certain that you are not caught in that position.

Avoid water damage

Proper home and appliance maintenance is the best prevention to water damage. Have your heating, cooling and water heater serviced regularly. Don’t leave an appliance such as a dishwasher or washing machine running while you are gone.  Check occasionally under the sinks for leaks and that the pipes are dry.  Stay in the room while filling a bathtub, it fills faster than you think. 

Get regular inspections of plumbing and drain systems.  Whenever the plumber is at your home, ask him or her to check on all the plumbing.  Turn off the water supply to outdoor spigots before winter.  Make certain all drains are clear and operating.

Repair any leak promptly.  Even minor drips can grow into bigger problems, possibly hiding pipe leaks or worse, plumbing issues behind a wall.  Mold and mildew issues usually stem from undiscovered and unrepaired leaks.

Get enough insurance

Don’t be satisfied with basic or minimum coverage insurance contracts.  Your idea of basic protection may differ broadly from your insurer. Many insurance providers charge extra for more complete coverage, and it can be surprising what is and isn’t covered. 

Read your policy carefully to make certain that your home has the coverage necessary for all kinds of situations, from a child flushing a toy down the toilet to a tree falling on your roof during a storm.  Severe problems such as a sewer backup may not be covered and may require extra coverage.   

Is your home insured for full replacement cost? Be sure that in a catastrophic circumstance, you will be able to rebuild and replace your valuables. 

Does your policy cover mold damage and remediation?   Under what circumstances and what restrictions apply?

If you own rental property, be sure that it is adequately covered.  The tenant should carry his or her own insurance for personal items, but you want to make certain that water damage problems caused by the tenant are covered.

Flood insurance

Floods can happen in any area where it rains and at any time of the year.  Snow thaws, flash floods, levee or dam failure, hurricanes, and construction errors are all risks.  Find out what applies in your area as a risk and insure accordingly.

Since floods are considered a recurring event, basic insurance policies never cover floods.  Special insurance called flood insurance must be purchased to cover your home in addition to your regular coverage.  

Special Flood Hazard Areas are defined by FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) for areas that are high risk, http:www.fema.gov.   Your insurance provider can help you determine if your home falls into a floodplain area.  Mortgage lenders will require flood insurance coverage for such areas, but areas nearby are also at risk and should be considered for flood insurance. 

Flood insurance is available to homeowners, renters, and condominium owners and renters.  For communities, the National Flood Insurance Program was developed to provide flood insurance to  homeowners, renters, and business owners through community participation where ordinances are adopted and enforced which meet or exceed FEMA requirements that reduce the risk of flooding.

Ask your insurer to define flood and water damage insurance for you. What does your insurer consider a flood and how is that different from a water leak? It may seem self-explanatory that a flood comes from an outside source, whereas water damage is typically caused by interior appliances and fixtures.

Don’t be one of the unfortunate homeowners who learned that water leak insurance didn’t cover catastrophes such as Hurricane Katrina. Make sure you have both.