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Does Flood Insurance Cover Broken Pipes?

Flood insurance is an optional insurance policy for homeowners insurance that protects you against floods in the home. Storms and burst pipes are common perils that lead to flooding on all levels of the home. This guide will look at the different coverage options you have in a burst pipe scenario. We’ll also look at the coverage options you have related to water damage. Mold damage is common after water leaks for a few hours and it can cost thousands of dollars to treat. In some cases, you’re automatically covered while in others you have to purchase optional riders.

Does flood insurance cover broken pipes? Yes, flood insurance covers burst pipes. Flood insurance treats pipe damage based on circumstances that lead to the burst. Was your pipe a massive burst that caused a flood or was it a slow leak that you noticed but didn’t bother fixing? These circumstances can be detrimental to filing a successful flood claim. Flood damage that occurs gradually due to a rusty or leaky pipe will not be covered. You can override a claim denial by hiring an expert who can prove the pipes weren’t compromised before they leaked.

Flood Insurance

Flood insurance is automatically included in homeowners insurance in low-risk states while it’s offered as an optional rider in high-risk states. States such as Florida and Louisiana that are prone to flooding have optional flood policies you can add to your homeowners insurance. FEMA also offers a flood insurance program called NFIP. This will include all possible sources of flooding, external and internal. 

If a flash flood ends on your street floods your basement, you’ll automatically be covered. What happens if a pipe bursts and floods your basement? In this case, you’ll have to prove it wasn’t your fault the pipe burst. Fixing the damage could cost tens of thousands of dollars because you’d have to repair part of the structure/foundation, replace appliances, and maybe even relocate to a hotel while it’s being fixed.

If your flood claim is approved, you can use your homeowners dwelling and property coverage to fix the damage in your home. The dwelling coverage is used to fix internal structural issues in the home while the property coverage is used to replace appliances and personal property that was damaged in the process. The following are two levels of coverage you can claim through flood insurance:

Dwelling Coverage

Dwelling coverage protects the entire structure of the home including the side properties. If there’s any damage caused by leaks in the basement or the floor where the leak took place, this coverage will help you replace the walls or foundation that you need to repair the leak. This will also extend to electric wiring and other parts of the structure that were damaged. The dwelling coverage covers everything from the roof to the foundation.

Property Coverage

The property coverage covers all personal property damaged in the pipe leak. Most pipe leaks occur in the basement where you have integral heating systems. If your furnace was damaged, you will be covered for a replacement up to a certain policy limit. If you stored any personal items that were damaged, you can get them replaced at the current market value. The policy limit is usually $1,500 per item which should be enough to replace most items that were damaged.

How Flood Insurance Claims Work

Flood insurance claims work to resolve the circumstances surrounding the leak before they approve or deny a claim. The key here is to prove you maintained the pipes in your home adequately. As a homeowner, you’re tasked with maintaining the pipes. This means you should keep them from freezing and clogging. You also must check them periodically to make sure they’re screwed tight and there’s no mildew or mold that would indicate water leaks. If you notice any cracks in your pipes, you must fix them immediately.

Note: If you were aware of potential damage and didn’t do anything to prevent it, the insurance company will deny your claim. Many pipes burst after slow leaking for a few months or rusting. Deteriorating pipes are never covered by flood policies. In some cases, a deteriorating pipe can flood the entire home. Make sure to hire a plumber to check the pipes every 6 months and fix any damage they find.

If you live in the Sunshine Belt, you’re highly unlikely to have frozen pipes in the winter  – this is caused by extremely cold temperatures, and only Americans living in the north experience this. Unfortunately, insurance companies can claim negligence if you fail to heat your home enough to unfreeze the pipes. 

Unmaintained pipes either burst suddenly or take a few months to reach a certain breaking point. If you ignore a leak in your pipe, the pressure can build up and lead to a massive eruption. In this case, the insurance company will have evidence that you didn’t pay attention to the leak and you were aware of the impending danger. The bottom line is that you must carry out regular maintenance and prove you were negligent in the process if you want to get reimbursed.

Early Damage Vs. Resulting Damage

In some cases, you might luck out and have a small leak that you can claim up yourself. This is the best-case scenario for a broken pipe. If you have a large leak that ends up flooding your home, you must look for the specific coverage listed in your policy to find out if they’ll compensate you for all damage. Some companies separate water damage based on initial and resulting damage. 

Example: The pipe bursting is the initial damage and the mold/structural damage is the resulting damage. It’s very common that insurers cover you for resulting damage and not for initial damage. In this case, you’ll have to pay for the pipe replacement and plumbing services out of pocket while the insurer pays for the structural damage and the personal property.

How to Avoid Having a Water Damage Claim Denied

To file a successful claim, you must provide evidence you maintained the pipes. Hire a professional plumber to examine your pipes every couple of months. Different portions of the plumbing system in your home have shorter life spans and have to be replaced periodically. If your plumber notices a pipe is ready for a replacement, you should replace it right away. This same plumber could testify that your pipes were maintained adequately and change the outcome of the denied insurance claim.

It’s important to take action at specific parts of the year such as the winter. If the temperature drops, make sure you leave the heating on at the lower levels and the basement because the pipes could freeze and burst. Even if you leave the heating at a low level, it’s preferred to leaving them without heating. 

Different portions of your home’s plumbing will have various life spans. Replace pipes that are beyond their intended service lives. In northern climates, be sure to leave your home’s heat on, even if it is set to low, during the winter. This is especially the case if you are leaving for an extended vacation. Every home, regardless of climate, should have a water shutoff valve. Know where this valve is located, and make sure it is operable in case you need to turn off the water during a water leak.

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