Does homeowners insurance cover basement flooding?
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Even if your home is not located near a body of water, flooding is still a risk for all residential properties. You might assume that your homeowners insurance policy covers basement flood damage, but it depends on what caused the flooding. Standard home insurance policies exclude damage from most floods caused by a natural disaster or by your sewer backing up. However, if a pipe bursts in your home, a standard policy may do the trick. Bankrate’s insurance editorial team, which includes licensed agents, digs into some of the scenarios where a standard homeowners insurance policy might cover your flooded basement — and where it might not.
When does homeowners insurance cover basement flooding?
Basement flooding can be caused by a number of things. Your home insurance policy might cover some of these situations but not others. It’s important to review your home insurance policy and talk with your insurance agent to see what specific perils are covered and which ones are excluded. Below is a list of common scenarios that can cause basement flooding and are typically covered by homeowners insurance, but it’s important for you to see how your specific coverage would apply in these scenarios to avoid any financial surprises should an incident occur.
If your basement floods because a pipe bursts during a freeze, or the pipe to your washing machine breaks, the resulting damage will most likely be covered by your policy. However, there are a few caveats to keep in mind. You need to be living in the home and keeping it at a minimum temperature for your claim to be eligible. Also, if your insurer discovers that you have not kept up with maintenance on your pipes, your claim may be denied.
Let’s say your water heater springs a leak and you don’t discover the flood damage in your basement until hours later. Again, you would typically be covered by your home insurance policy unless the heater turns out to be poorly maintained or the leak has been ongoing. There may even be questions about your coverage if the heater is very old and its age is the reason it broke. The same rules hold true for a washer, refrigerator or other basement appliances. It pays to practice preventative maintenance by making sure all appliances are working properly and kept clean.
If your basement flood is the result of a structure in the basement that overflows, like a sink or tub, you might be covered if the overflow was sudden and accidental. However, if your insurer can show that the flood was the result of a continuing maintenance problem, your claim could be denied. So, for example, if your toilet habitually overflows because of a blockage that you haven’t fixed, you may not receive a payout. Additionally, some home policies exclude this type of scenario from coverage. It’s best to review your policy and talk with your insurance agent to determine what kind of overflows are covered in your home insurance.
When does homeowners insurance not cover basement flooding?
There are some times when standard home insurance policies won’t cover water damage to a basement, some of which may be surprising. We’ve broken down some of these scenarios and what type of coverage you might want to consider if you’re worried about any of these happening to you.
Flooding from a storm
If your basement is flooded due to a storm, your regular home insurance policy is not likely to cover the damage. A storm could flood your basement regardless of whether you live in a flood zone, so if you have a basement, you may want to consider purchasing flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or a private insurance company. Although this type of flooding usually requires a separate policy, consider that just one inch of water can cause $25,000 in damage, according to FEMA. If you purchase a home in a flood zone, your mortgage holder may require you to carry a flood policy.
Sump pump backups
Flooding caused by a sump pump that stops working or malfunctions is not covered by regular HO-3 policies. If you have a working sump pump in your basement, it’s a good idea to consider adding an endorsement to your policy that will cover this sort of mishap. Almost all homeowners insurance companies offer sump pump coverage for an additional charge, although it is likely to pay for itself after a single claim. You may want to consider installing an alarm on your sump pump to make sure you’re notified if your sump pump fails.
This one is a little tricky. Say there is a backup in your basement caused by your washing machine or another appliance. In that case, you will likely be covered, as noted above. However, if the flooding is the result of an external sewer backing up, involving outside pipes that may not even be on your property, it typically will not be covered.
This is another area where many homeowners insurance companies offer sewer backup insurance, typically as an endorsement, to add coverage to your policy. Since sewer backups can be very expensive, it’s a good type of coverage to consider adding to your policy. Typically, this coverage is purchased with the same endorsement that covers sump pump backups.
If you have problems from occasional or chronic water seepage into your basement, your policy will probably not cover it. Seepage may be caused by building a home on top of a high water table or can be the result of an older home with a cracked foundation. In most cases, your insurer will consider this a maintenance problem and will likely deny any related claims.
If your flood is caused by anything related to the lack of maintenance of your appliances, pipes or other items in your home, you will probably not be covered. In other words, if your insurer can prove that you were negligent in caring for your home and its belongings, and that your lack of care caused the flood, you would be out of luck. Your claim might also be denied if you saw a leak and didn’t mitigate the water damage.
Coverage options to consider for basement flooding
If it seems like there are multiple circumstances that your policy won’t cover, there are solutions for ensuring you have the coverage you need. Although additional coverage does have a cost, it is possible to carry enough insurance to financially protect you if your home and personal property experience a peril that leaves water damage. Here are the most common ways to augment your insurance.
- Flood insurance: As we mentioned, flood insurance comes as a separate policy, usually through the NFIP or private insurer. If your home is in a flood zone or you have repeated problems with flooding or you feel your property is at risk of flooding, you may want to strongly consider purchasing a flood insurance policy. It may even be required by your mortgage company.
- Water backup coverage: This is an optional coverage that can be added to your primary homeowners policy. It is designed to cover you for water damage caused by a drain or sump pump backup.
- Service line coverage: Service line coverage is an endorsement that covers utility pipes, like water and sewer lines, if they get damaged in a covered peril. This endorsement can be beneficial, as damage to utility lines can cause flooding in and around your home.
- Contents replacement cost coverage: If you store personal items in your basement, consider adding a contents replacement cost coverage endorsement to your home insurance policy. It covers your personal belongings at their replacement cost value (without depreciation), which means you can replace the items after a claim by buying a newer version.
Frequently asked questions
You can find out if your home is situated in a FEMA-designated flood zone by inputting your address into FEMA’s flood map search tool. If your home is located in a flood zone, it’s especially beneficial to have a separate flood insurance policy (if not required by your mortgage lender).
Yes, generally if you file a claim for basement water damage and it gets approved, you can expect your insurance rate to increase. This is also the case with flood insurance claims, if you have a policy through the NFIP or a private carrier. Even if you have a flood claim and it gets denied, your premium could still increase, and you will also be responsible for paying for the repairs out-of-pocket.
Yes, you can purchase flood insurance even if it is not required for your property, and it might be a good idea even if you don’t think you are at high risk for a flood. Be aware that if you are purchasing optional coverage, you may need to make payments directly to your insurance company, and flood premiums are typically due in full up front. Premiums for supplementary coverage usually cannot be rolled into your escrow account with your required homeowner’s insurance payment.