Indoor plumbing is a major perk of living in the modern era of homes, but along with comfort and convenience comes a certain amount of risk — plumbing or pipe leaks, specifically. Corroded or cracked pipe replacement, water leaks under a slab foundation and freezing conditions leading to busted pipes are all real possibilities. Luckily, if you’ve got the right homeowner's insurance policy you will likely be covered if you’re dealing with a surprise shower in your home.
Does homeowners insurance cover damage from leaking, broken or collapsed pipes?
Homeowners insurance will generally cover water damage from frozen, burst or collapsed pipes that cause sudden water leaks. However, leaks that have been happening over a long period of time won’t be covered. Pipes that weren't installed properly or plumbing that has not been maintained well likely won't be covered, either.
Subtle differences in the wording of home insurance policies can mean a drastic difference in the event of a claim, so it’s important to understand what kind of insurance you have for your home.
Home insurance policies are written as open peril, named peril or a mix of both. For a named peril policy, the homeowner needs to prove that damage was caused by a covered peril (the cause of loss) listed on the policy. Open perils, as the name suggests, cover any cause of loss and except for those that are specifically excluded in the policy.
Which type of policy covers leaking pipes?
Homeowners coverage is not one-size-fits-all, and whether or not you’ll be covered if you file a claim will come down to which type of policy and the coverage level you’ve got. Each policy will cover basic perils (causes of loss) such as fire, lightning and internal explosion — but that’s where things start to differ by form. An HO-2 form is less common because it only protects your property against the 16 perils listed below.
- Lightning or fire
- Hail or windstorm
- Damage caused by aircraft
- Riots or civil disturbances
- Smoke damage
- Damage caused by vehicles
- Falling objects
- Volcanic eruption
- Damage from the weight of snow, ice, or sleet
- Water damage from plumbing, heating, or air conditioning overflow
- Water heater cracking, tearing, and burning
- Damage from electrical current
- Frozen pipes
Open peril coverage means that any cause of loss is covered unless it is specifically excluded in the policy.
HO-3, also referred to as a special form, is an upgrade to the HO-2 mentioned above. It expands coverage for any cause of loss to your residence unless it is specifically excluded (open peril). The HO-3 form also protects your personal property against named perils.
HO-5, the comprehensive form, allows for open peril coverage for your dwelling as well as personal property. Similar to the dwelling coverage on HO-3, any peril is covered unless it is specifically excluded.
Both HO-3 and HO-5 cover accidental discharge of water from things like air conditioners, household appliances or plumbing. Both of these forms also cover loss of use, so if the damage involves broken pipes under a slab or another major situation that prevents you from staying in your home during repairs, this is a convenient benefit to have.
What isn't covered?
If you aren’t sure if your situation or a specific type of leaky pipe is covered, take a look at the following scenarios that are generally excluded from all home insurance policies. The first exclusion is good to keep in mind if the home you’re insuring isn’t actually being lived in.
- Freezing pipes or systems in vacant dwellings
- Damage to foundations or pavement from ice and water weight
- Theft from a dwelling under construction
- Vandalism to vacant dwellings
- Latent defects, corrosion, industrial smoke, pollution
- Settling, wear and tear
- Pets, other animals and pests
- Weather conditions that aggravate other excluded causes of loss
- Government and association actions
- Defective construction, design, and maintenance
Will insurance pay for fixing the damage as well as the new plumbing?
Again, it really depends on what kind of coverage you have. If the leak or broken pipes are caused by a peril that is covered in your policy then your dwelling coverage would cover the structure and your personal property coverage would cover the contents that were damaged in the leak. Potentially, insurance could pay for fixing the damage in the home or replacing belongings, but not installing new plumbing or pipes.
It’s important to remember that homeowners insurance won’t cover normal wear and tear, as noted on the list above. For instance, if you have a slab foundation and pipes underneath that are old, corroded or damaged by tree roots this won’t be covered by your insurance. Slab leaks are especially tricky because they can go unnoticed for an extended period of time.
Freezing temperatures that cause your sink pipes to burst and damage your kitchen cabinets and flooring is an example of a sudden and unexpected event that is usually covered. Remember, if the leak has been slowly happening over time then your homeowners insurance is unlikely to help.
Don't forget the deductible
When considering the damage to your home and what insurance might be able to cover, don't forget to account for your deductible. This will vary by policy but is probably between $500 and $2,500. This is the amount that you'll have to pay yourself before any insurance payout will kick in.
Learn more about deductibles.
Find the right protection for your home today.
How can I get extra protection from leaking or broken pipes?
If you’re concerned about being protected from leaking or broken pipes, talk to your insurance company about your current coverage and ask about endorsements you may be able to add, or changes you can make to your current policy. You may have plenty of coverage with your current policy, but unless you’ve memorized the details you may not be certain of what perils you’re protected against — it's good to get a refresher on the specifics of your coverage if you haven't changed anything recently.
It's also good to shop around with multiple home insurance companies and get new quotes every six months to a year, in case you haven't compared rates in a while.
Below are a few common endorsements to add an extra layer of protection to your home in regard to water leaks, pipe replacement and related issues.
Fixing damage to a home is usually first and foremost on the to-do list after a claim. Where water is concerned, however, it’s important to eliminate mold and the health hazards that come along with it. But mold remediation is an exclusion on homeowners policies and will require an additional endorsement if you want to carry that extra protection. Learn more about mold insurance to see if it might be right to add to your coverage.
Although it definitely can cause serious damage, leaks that are actually connected to sewer backup, or water backup, aren’t going to be covered by typical home insurance policies. The good news is that you can still have peace of mind by adding an endorsement.
A sewer backup can be caused by issues we’ve already explored, like tree roots or breakdown of older pipes, which wouldn’t be covered in a typical policy either. If you’ve got clogged sewer pipes or drains that are causing backup or leaks, it’s best to have a professional plumber take a look before major damage can occur.
Another option to consider for a slightly different layer of protection, but good peace of mind, is a home warranty. Since insurance doesn’t cover things like appliances a home warranty can be a great addition when you purchase a new place and will have your back in the event of a dishwasher or HVAC system issue. Learn more about home warranties from our handy guide.
Service line coverage is another add-on that offers protection for the pipes and utilities that run into your home, such as water and sewer lines. As mentioned earlier, your typical insurance coverage may pay for damages to the home from broken pipes but not necessarily the replacement of the pipes themselves. Ask your insurer to learn more about this endorsement.
The coverage your home insurance offers aren't always crystal clear, so it's important to ask questions and educate yourself before an emergency situation occurs. If you’re looking for a new insurer, or simply want to explore options, you can call our agency at (888) 255-4364 to compare quotes and shop around to find the best affordable home insurance for your needs. For more information about all things insurance-related check out the additional resources from The Zebra.
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- Homeowners Insurance Policy Endorsements
- Does Home Insurance Cover Hail Damage?
- Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Foundation Repair?
- Homeowners Insurance and Fire Damage
- Scheduled Personal Property Coverage
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