Understanding water damage insurance claims

Aside from wind and hail damage, the most common home insurance claim stems from water damage. Determining whether you're covered for water damage usually depends on three key factors:

  1. Policy type:

    It's essential that you know exactly what type of water damage is covered by your homeowners, condo, or renters insurance policy. For instance, you may have a sump pump designed to siphon water from beneath your house. If the pump breaks down, your basement might flood. Insurers like ASI, one of the insurers in Progressive's network and part of our family of companies, offer optional coverage called "water back-up and sump overflow." This water back-up coverage protects you in the event of a sump pump failure or clogged sewer.

  2. Source of the damage:

    The phrase "consider the source" is particularly relevant when it comes to water damage. If the source of the damage comes from inside your home, such as a water leak from a broken pipe or overflowing appliance, you'll likely be covered by your homeowners insurance. Roof leaks are generally covered by your homeowners insurance policy as well, but you won't be protected from water damage coming from outside sources like flooding.

  3. Sudden and accidental vs. gradual:

    Most policies won't protect you against gradual damage — meaning "wear and tear." For example, if your bathroom sink has been leaking for several months, your homeowners insurance won't cover any resulting water damage or plumbing costs.

    If frozen temperatures cause a pipe to burst and flood your home, you're generally covered because it's considered a sudden and accidental incident. However, there may be preventative measures you need to take in order for this to be covered.

What types of water damage are covered vs. not covered by homeowners insurance?

Covered Not covered
CoveredSudden plumbing issues Not coveredWater back-up from sewer or drain
CoveredAppliance overflows Not coveredFlooding
CoveredFire extinguisher/hose damage from fires Not coveredSource of water damage (e.g. damaged appliances)
Covered Not coveredDamage caused by negligence

Why are these items not covered?

  • Water back-up from sewer or drain: Water damage from a sewer or drain back-up usually won't be covered on a standard policy. However, most insurers offer optional sewer and water back-up coverage that you can add to your policy for an additional premium.
  • Flooding: When water damage comes from flooding, it's typically not covered on a standard homeowners insurance policy as this type of damage is usually covered by flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program. You should consider flood insurance if you live in a higher risk flood zone or near any body of water or a steep hill prone to water overflow.
  • The source of the water damage: Let's say your dishwasher malfunctions and overflows. Your home insurance will cover the water damage caused by the mishap, but it won't cover the cost of repairing or replacing the dishwasher as home insurance isn't intended to protect against wear and tear. However, a home warranty will cover the cost to repair or replace an appliance.
  • Negligence: Your water damage insurance claim can be denied if you've failed to perform proper maintenance. For instance, if a pipe freezes and bursts because you didn't properly heat your home or your water heater explodes because it wasn't maintained regularly, your claim may be denied.

What you should do if you experience water damage?

Record the damage: Take videos and photos of the affected area and damaged belongings. Don't alter the scene or remove ruined items until an adjuster has completed their inspection.

Prevent more damage: Take steps such as removing excess water and moving undamaged valuables to avoid further harm.

Take a home inventory: Make a detailed list of all damaged items, including their make, model, age, and cash value, whenever possible.

Other frequently asked questions about water damage

Does homeowners insurance cover mold?

Home insurers typically won't cover mold removal or damage unless it was caused by a sudden or accidental incident.

Does renters insurance cover water damage?

In cases of water damage, renters insurance works similarly to homeowners insurance. Your belongings are usually covered if the damage was sudden, accidental, and came from inside the residence. However, unlike homeowners insurance, the responsibility for water damage in a rented residence falls to the landlord's insurance.