We all know the scene: It’s the middle of the night and you’re frantically Googling, “Does homeowners insurance cover plumbing repairs?” When it comes to plumbing and leaking pipes, understanding your policy couldn’t be more important.
Knowing what your insurance does and does not cover is essential, and can help prevent restless nights. So review all paperwork and any fine print that accompanies your policy. If you have any questions whatsoever, pick up the phone and ask to speak with an agent.
The problem, ultimately, is that there is no uniformity across providers. Even a policy that covers leaks of any kind will significantly limit or exclude any related mold damage.
Water damage is second only to wind and hail damage with it comes to claim frequency. Between 2013 and 2017, 2.05% of insured homes filed a claim relating to water damage. The average claim severity for water damage was $10,234.
If you don’t want to spend $10,000 on plumbing repairs, the first step is understanding your policy as it relates to plumbing.
Does my home insurance policy cover plumbing?
Many people often ask, “Does homeowners insurance cover leaks?” or “Does Homeowners insurance cover plumbing?” The answer to both questions depends on the circumstances.
If the damage is from a burst pipe that happened suddenly in the middle of the night your home insurance provider likely will cover the cost of repairs.
Likewise, if the damage is caused by a frozen pipe, and you took every precaution possible to prevent it from happening by keeping your home warm, your provider will likely work with you.
Plumbing damage repairs and expenses are often covered with the following coverage options:
- Dwelling Coverage: Dwelling coverage will pay for any damage done to the overall structure of your home. So if a pipe bursts and the resulting water damages your walls, this type of coverage would pay for repairs up to your policy limit.
- Property Coverage: Any personal property in your home that is damaged by water will be replaced up to your policy limit with this type of coverage. For example, if a pipe bursts and damages your laptop, property coverage would pay for its replacement.
- Additional Living Expenses Coverage: If your home is damaged and must be extensively repaired, additional living expenses coverage would pay for the costs of lodging and meals while you are away from home (provided the damage was done by a covered event, such as a burst pipe).
When does home insurance not cover plumbing?
There are a few situations where your insurance provider will deny your claim.
- Long-term leak: If the pipe has been leaking for years unnoticed, your insurance provider will likely deny your claim. It is your job to take care of general maintenance issues.
- Negligence: If you made no attempt to keep your home heated during the winter months, you will be expected to pay for repairs out of pocket. As the homeowner, you have a responsibility to take care of your home and do whatever you can to prevent mishaps from occurring.
- Old Plumbing: If it’s determined that your plumbing system is old and that you were aware it needed to be replaced (because it showed signs of aging, rust, wear or corrosion), your provider will likely not pay to have it replaced or repaired.
- Your sump pump caused the damage: Sump pump damage to your plumbing system is covered by an optional add-on sump pump coverage and is not covered with a standard policy.
How to avoid leaking pipes and other plumbing damage
There are four things you can do to protect your home’s plumbing.
Replace Your Home’s Old Plumbing
If your home’s plumbing is visibly old and is showing signs of wear and tear, you’re better off replacing it before there are any issues. If you’re on the fence about whether you should pay to have your entire plumbing system overhauled, make an appointment with a home inspector. They will be able to give you a professional recommendation about what to do.
Cut Down Invasive Trees
If you have any trees that are close to your home, you should strongly consider having them cut down. Some trees have such invasive root structures that they can actually interfere with your home’s plumbing system.
Insulate Your Plumbing
Pipe insulation can prevent freezing in the winter, and you should do it for both cold and hot water pipes. Insulators are easy to install and you can learn how to install them correctly by watching professional videos online.
Prep Your Home for Winter
If you’re not going to be home during the winter months, you should prepare your home for your absence. This involves:
- Turning off your water
- Draining pipes once the water has been turned off
- Draining all hot water heaters
- Opening all drain valves
Insurance providers often view many of the insurance claims for faulty plumbing to be caused by preventable issues. Have your home inspected by an inspector and ask him or her if your home needs any work. They will know whether your home is in safe working order or is on the brink of disaster.