Dealing With An Insurance Carrier Takes Care
From your first call to your agent through the entire process, dont ever refer to the situation in your home as a flood. The term has a specific definition with insurance companies that negates standard coverage. Always refer to your frozen burst pipe problems as water damage.
Be prepared to thoroughly document your claim. Most insurance carriers are very fair with customers, but they wont pay for cleanup and repairs outside your jobs scope. If you expect a new dining room or man cave from your claim, youll probably have to pay for it out-of-pocket.
How Can You Tell If You Have A Water Leak
In many cases, a leak will be obvious and disruptive. Other times, it could go on for days without you noticing, causing an increasing amount of damage until itâs fixed. Use these tips to uncover any leaks you might have in your home:
- Look: Even if the leak is not directly visible, it will often create a sagging spot on your ceiling, a bulge on your wall or stains and discoloration. While appearing minor at first, these spots will quickly grow larger and more obvious, and they indicate additional damage you can’t see. Responding to the problem as quickly as possible is important, both to minimize the damage and to make sure your insurance company will honor your claim.
- Listen: If you suspect you have a leak, listen when the house is quiet, such as at night. A faint trickling sound or a dripping noise is a telltale sign of a leak.
- Smell: Does a certain room in your house smell musty? This is a sign of moisture and mold growth, both of which point to leaking. Even if the smell is in an area without water pipes, moisture can leak through cracks in your foundation and cause damage. Run a dehumidifier to reduce the mold risk while you seek the source of the leak.
Homeowners Insurance In Texas
There are two primary forms for homeowners insurance in Texas and each one treats burst pipes differently:
- Named Peril or,
- All Risk which is the most common type.
There are plenty of places you might get unreliable information about your coverage. Most burst pipe claims, before this past week, did not involve a statewide power outage, and that might make a difference.
That means insurance companies usual practices, and many articles written about burst pipe claims, may not arrive at the right answer for you. Your coverage depends on what your own policy says and your individual facts.
So, what your adjuster says may not be accurate for you.
Below are the most common questions and answers regarding Texas homeowners insurance coverage for frozen burst pipes.
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Which Plumbing Problems Aren’t Covered By Homeowners Insurance
- Wear and tear: As a homeowner, you’re responsible for everyday wear and tear on your pipes. If you suffer damage due to improper maintenance, such as failing to fix a pipe you know is leaking, your insurer could deny your claim.
- Negligence: Suppose you go away on vacation during a cold spell and shut off your heat. If a pipe freezes and bursts while you’re away, your insurer may declare this to be a negligent act for failing to take necessary precautions and deny your claim. Frozen pipes are a common occurrence, but you must take appropriate steps to prevent a loss from occurring.
- Sewer backups: Most homeowners insurance policies also won’t cover sewage backup. Ask your insurer about optional coverages that can protect against sewage backups and sump pump failures.
- Flooding: Homeowners insurance may cover you for water damage caused by failed plumbing, but it doesn’t cover flood damage caused by excess rainfall. If you live in a high-risk flood area, you should discuss your options to invest in a separate flood insurance policy with your agent or carrier.
The Right Homeowners Insurance Package Can Protect Your Plumbing
A home insurance policy pays for water damages from leaky or burst pipes when the cause is sudden or accidental. You can also fortify your coverage with optional riders for water backups and mold.
If you’re unsatisfied with your current home insurance coverage or think you’re paying too much, you can shop for an affordable new policy with enough coverage to protect your home. Get afree homeowners insurance quote so you can compare coverages and rates. Enter your zip code below to get started.
About the Author
Dani Milton is a senior content strategist and insurance specialist for SmartFinancial. She received her B.A. in English from the University of Missouri-Columbia. The Georgia writer loves making complicated topics accessible. Her past work has appeared on NPR and other news outlets. She once served as a public relations specialist, NASA Solar System Ambassador and Georgia Radio Reading Service volunteer host. In her spare time, she creates art, reads books, listens to music and watches online content.
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A Case Where Insurance Denies Freezing Pipe Coverage
The Court of Appeals recently rejected an appeal of the decision in the case titled Stephenson v. Allstate Indemnity Co. The Appellate Divisions decision, from which the homeowners representative appealed, had dismissed a lawsuit based on a denial of coverage. Gloria Thornhill, now deceased, had owned a home in Binghamton, New York . She was away from the home from December to March, and upon her return discovered that a frozen pipe had burst and caused a large amount of water damage to her home. Thornhill had not shut off the water nor drained the pipes before she left.
When she filed a claim with Allstate for the water damage, Allstate denied the claim. Thornhills policy excluded the type of damage that her home had suffered. The courts opinion quoted the policys exclusion of coverage for damage caused by freezing of plumbing. . . while the building structure is vacant, unoccupied or being constructed unless you have used reasonable care to: maintain heat in the building structure or shut off the water supply and drain the system and appliances. During an interview with a claims adjuster, Allstate claimed that Thornhill admitted that she had not arranged for someone to check and see whether the home was being heated while she was gone. Allstate also presented evidence showing that there had not been enough natural gas usage by the home to keep it heated and prevent the pipes from freezing while Thornhill was gone.
Burst Pipe Insurance Claim Tips
Dealing with a burst pipe can be stressful and chaotic. Communication with your insurance agent is a key part of this process. Before you know it, everything will be as good as new.
Here are a few burst pipe insurance claim tips to help the process go a little more smoothly.
Contact the plumber or cleaning company, depending on what needs to be done. Many companies have crews available 24/7 for just this kind of plumbing emergency.
Get an estimate from any companies youll be working with.
Let the professionals get your home back into shape.
Submit your final claim. Often, the insurance company will send out an adjuster to look everything over before the claim is finalized.
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Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Pipes That Burst
Most policies cover water damage from burst pipes, but the good news is that homeowners insurance covers burst pipe repairs as well. However, if you turned the heat off and left the property unattended and the pipes burst as a result, your policy might not cover the damages. Contact your insurance agent for details.
Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Plumbing
Homeowners insurance generally covers plumbing damage when itâs sudden and accidental. If the water damage is caused by frozen pipes, and your home was properly heated at the time, homeowners insurance will help cover the cost of repairs. If a plumbing leak is hidden away in your walls and unknown to you, you may also be covered for repairs, even if the leak occurred over the course of weeks or months.
Your homeowners insurance policy includes several types of coverages that can protect your home, belongings, and temporary living expenses after a major plumbing accident. Here are the different ways youâre covered.
If your plumbing or a household system breaks and the resulting water damage is covered by your policy, youâll need to file a homeowners insurance claim to be reimbursed for replacement or repairs. Youâll also have to meet your policy deductible, which is the amount youâre responsible for paying on each claim before your insurance will pay out for a loss.
If you have a water damage claim for $5,000 and you have a $1,000 deductible, your insurance company will pay you the remaining $4,000 for cleanup and repair costs. If your claim is for $1,200, your insurance company would only pay you the remaining $200. Water damage claims often result in higher insurance premiums, so itâs advised you only file a claim if you absolutely need to.
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How Do You File A Claim For Plumbing Damage
Heres how to file a claim for plumbing damage with your homeowners insurance company:
Different Insurance Plans Will Cover Different Things
The two most common insurance policies are the HO-3 policy, and the HO-5 policy. Both policies will likely cover unnamed perils, however, the extent of coverage will change depending on the policy. HO-3 policies, for example, will cover the cost of repairing water damage to the actual structure or interior of the house, if the insurance accepts the claim. This might include things like replacing flooring or walls. However, they oftentimes will not cover the loss of personal property from water damage in particular. With an HO-5 policy, you can expect to have structural and interior damage covered, as well as personal property damaged by a burst pipe. However, neither plan is likely to cover the cost of replacing the damaged plumbing itself, although you may be able to get loss of use coverage to compensate for the cost of living outside of your home, which may offset the cost of the plumbing.
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Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Water Damage From Leaking Pipes
Your home insurance policy should cover any sudden and accidental water damage resulting from a plumbing failure, such as a burst pipe or ruptured water heater.
Water damage could cause enough damage that you’d need to repair part of your home’s structure, replace destroyed property and possibly relocate from your house for a few nights. Fortunately, there are three different clauses in your homeowners insurance policy that may provide coverage if your house has water damage:
- Dwelling coverage: Your policy’s dwelling coverage clause insures the structure of your home, such as its roof, walls and floorboards. If part of your house is damaged by a covered leak or if you have to remove a part of a wall in order to repair a leak, your dwelling coverage will reimburse you. Dwelling insurance also covers your home’s built-in appliances, such as a water heater, if they’re damaged.
- Property coverage: Your policy will reimburse you for any personal property, such as clothing, TVs and furniture, that is destroyed when a plumbing malfunction causes damage to your home. However, certain luxury items, such as jewelry, may only be covered up to a $1,000 to $2,000 limit, unless you add an optional rider to your policy.
- Additional Living Expenses coverage: ALE coverage, sometimes referred to as loss of use, will reimburse you for hotel, travel and food expenses if you’re temporarily displaced from your home.
How Insurance Views Pipes
Most insurance companies would consider a home’s plumbing to be under normal homeowner maintenance. The property owner is responsible for making sure pipes don’t freeze, are kept unclogged, screwed tight, and generally maintainedand to be on the lookout for mold, mildew, or other signs of water damage that suggest a small crack, hairline fracture, or leak somewhere.
Damage that develops gradually due to a slowly leaking, rusting, or deteriorating pipe is generally not covered. However, leaky pipes are different from broken pipes or burst pipes. These gushers could potentially flood the entire home. So the damage and destruction they bring are covered, usually under the all-perils section of your homeowners insurance.
If you live in a northern climate and your broken pipe is a result of freezing due to a lack of heat in the home, an insurance company could cite your negligence and deny your claim. Broken pipes must happen suddenly and by accident and shouldn’t have been easily preventable. If you ignore a leaking pipe, and it subsequently bursts, the insurance company can see evidence of a long-term leak and deny the claim.
Homeowners insurance only covers floods due to internal causes not acts of nature. A protects havoc wrought by external or natural forces, like rising waters or overflowing sewers.
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How Can You Reduce The Risk Of Plumbing Problems
There are proactive steps you can take to reduce the risk of major plumbing problems:
- Have your pipes inspected annually: A professional plumber can determine whether any pipes have damage or where a leak is likely to occur and repair a potential problem before it starts. A plumber can also tell you whether your pipes need replacements. Many homes built from the late 1970s through the 1990s have polybutylene piping, which is known for being faulty and would likely need to be replaced.
- Invest in a water monitor: These devices attach to the pipes in your home and can alert you to drops in water pressure, which often signal a leak somewhere within the home. If caught early, leaks may be easier to repair.
- Ensure your pipes are properly insulated: This is especially important if you live in an older home and in a colder climate.
- Be careful what you flush: This simple step can avoid clogs in your plumbing system that could lead to costly sewage issues.
Water Coverage On Your Home Insurance
While some cheap policies are sold in Texas that do not cover water at all, let’s assume that you bought one with that does include water coverage. The base level of coverage is referred to as Sudden and Accidental discharge of water. This kind of home insurance policy coverage is to make sure that your home can be reassembled if water explodes on to the scene. Because of the frequency of claims made, this provision is generally thought of as being applicable to things like dishwashers or hot water heaters bursting. And it definitely does. It goes beyond that though.
What happens when a pipe bursts? A bursting pipe is definitely sudden and accidental discharge of water. And it is covered by the home insurance policy. The question with any insurance policy though, is are there any exclusions. When looking at any insurance policy, it’s important to look at things that are excluded from coverage. And when you look at many of the Texas home insurance policies, the subject of freezing pipes or appliances is generally mentioned in very specific ways. The policy has language that will require you to take reasonable care to prevent freezing.
You must either maintain heat to the property or shut off the water and drain to a reasonable expectation.
They have put this in the policy so that you cannot do dumb things and expect to be able to make a claim. Frozen pipes can absolutely be covered, but you have to make reasonable attempts to keep the heat on or shut off the water supply.
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Homeowners Insurance Claims In Texas
Can the insurance company deny my claim?
The All Risk policy has exclusions. It does not insure for loss caused by: freezing of a plumbing system or by discharge, leakage or overflow from within the system or appliance caused by freezing unless the insured used reasonable care to: maintain heat in the building or shut off the water supply and drain all systems and appliances of water.
An insurance company trying to deny a claim might ask whether the heat was on in the building or whether the homeowner had drained the water lines in the house. If the answer to both questions is no, insurance company could try to use those answers to deny the claim.
But the key question is whether the insured used reasonable care to keep the heat on or drain the lines. What is reasonable is usually a question for a jury to answer, and an attorney for the insured could argue that reasonable care was taken to maintain heat based on the actions of the insured, even if the heat was off because of a statewide power outage, which is not in the control of the insured.
How is coverage from a frozen pipe different from other burst pipes?
The All Risk policy excludes wear and tear, deterioration, and mechanical breakdown. However, there is an exception for accidental discharge or overflow of water or steam from within a plumbing system, though that exception does not cover the loss to the system from which the water or steam escaped.