What to Know About Homeowners Insurance and Water Damage

D.P. Taylor
Written by D.P. Taylor
Updated May 24, 2022
A father helping his daughter to load the dishwasher
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Highlights

  • Homeowners insurance typically covers water damage that is “sudden and unexpected.”

  • It will not cover water damage caused by negligence, poor maintenance, or gradual damage.

  • It will also not cover flooding from a storm.

  • When you file a claim, your insurance company will send an adjuster to investigate the damage.

  • If your claim is denied, you can file an appeal, or even a lawsuit as a last resort.

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Homeowners insurance: It's what every homeowner needs to have, but not a single one of them ever wants to use. But when it comes to water damage, there are some need-to-knows about what your insurance actually covers.

Whether or not your homeowners insurance covers the cost of water damage depends on the nature of the damage. This guide breaks down what you can expect.

What Water Damage Does Homeowners Insurance Generally Cover?

Homeowners insurance typically will cover any water damage that is "sudden and accidental.” But this doesn’t include everything. 

Flooding is not covered, so if a storm rolls in and floods your basement, you're out of luck. Also, if it's a slow, gradual leak that you don't notice for months, that will also come from your own wallet.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Water Damage From Sump Pump Failure?

Surprisingly, even if a sump fails suddenly and unexpectedly, your homeowners insurance often won’t cover it. As a result, you may need to get separate sump and water coverage for your home. Otherwise, you could be on the hook for replacing both the sump pump and fixing the damage from the water.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Water Damage From Water Heater?

Top view of a father and son washing their hands in the sink
Photo: Taiyou Nomachi / DigitalVision / Getty Images

If your water heater is well maintained and still springs a leak, your homeowners insurance should cover it. That said, if you’ve been neglecting your water heater upkeep, your insurance company can deny your claim. 

At the end of the day, if the damage is caused by the homeowner’s negligence, that’s on you. 

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Water Damage From Flooding?

No, homeowners insurance will not cover flooding, even from a storm. The reason comes down to cost: Generally, when there is a major flooding event, a lot of homes are affected and that costs the insurance company a ton of money. If they covered flooding, they would be out a massive amount of money whenever a hurricane hit an area. As a result, homeowners insurance policies stopped covering flooding decades ago. 

However, your insurance may still cover damage caused by a heavy rainstorm if it got into your home somehow and caused sudden water damage. You’ll need separate flood insurance to protect your home.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Water Damage From Leaking Pipes?

Yes, homeowners insurance does cover water damage from leaking pipes in certain circumstances, but it comes down to how sudden and unexpected the event was. 

Did a pipe burst and flood your basement? That will almost certainly be covered. Has a pipe been leaking behind your cabinets for months and seeping under the floorboards? The insurance company may fight you on that one.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Water Damage From Dishwashers?

If your dishwasher leaks and causes damage while you were at work, that's a sudden and unexpected event that will most likely be covered under your homeowners insurance policy. However, if you neglected to perform proper maintenance or didn't fix an obvious issue with your dishwasher, the insurance company may deny the claim. 

Also, the insurance won't pay for a new dishwasher: you'll be on the hook for that.

What Happens After the Home Insurance Adjuster Evaluates Your Water Damage?

If you file a claim with your homeowners insurance company, they will send out a claims adjuster. The adjuster will create a report that will serve as the basis of the insurance company's decision to approve or deny your claim. 

Keep in mind that they are looking out for the insurance company's interests, not yours, and will be looking for reasons to deny your claim or offer you a lowball amount. That's why it's important to gather as much evidence as possible before they come out so that you can contest a denial if it comes to that (or if they don’t offer you enough money to fix the damage).

What if Your Water Insurance Claim Gets Denied by Your Insurance Company?

If the insurance company denies your claim, first determine if this case is worth appealing. What does your homeowners insurance policy say, exactly? Did you abide by those terms? Do you have evidence that the damage is covered, such as a report from a plumber?

If you think you have a case, write a letter to your claims adjuster laying out your view of what happened and providing any evidence. Be polite and give them time to respond—maybe a couple of weeks.

If all else fails, file a complaint with the department of insurance in your state. If even that doesn't help and you are sure that you will win your case and the dollar value is high enough, look into hiring a lawyer to file a lawsuit.

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