Most of us remember sitting in class learning the most common ways we botch the English language. You know: fewer vs. less, who vs. whom, bring vs. take, sit vs. sat, and affect vs. effect. Filing an insurance claim may give you flash backs to those times in school, and leave you feeling like you are dancing a less entertaining version of Ginger Rodgers and Fred Astaire's roller blade routine of "tomato vs. tomato". Although a seemingly minuscule detail, what you say to your insurance company can affect the outcome of your claim!
What you need to know to file your water damage claim right!
- Perform an insurance check. Know exactly what is in your policy, what's covered, what's not covered, and report your claim accurately. Many people report that their house is "flooded" when they observe water damage; however, it's typically not considered a "flood" by your insurance company. This may seem like a minor distinction, but your insurance company has a very narrow definition of flooding, which is typically excluded from standard homeowner's coverage. Unless the water filling your kitchen came from a nearby lake, stream or river, your insurance company won't consider it a "flood".
Think about it this way, water that comes from an overflowing body of water such as a lake or river, drains, and sewage pipes are considered water flood damage and require a separate flood insurance policy or rider. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is the umbrella organization for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) which regulates and provides separate and comprehensive flood insurance to homeowners.
The key to remember when it comes to water damage and filing a claim is "sudden and accidental" damage, and the water source. Water damage caused by "maintenance" problems, such as continuous or repeated leaks, seepage, landscaping drainage, and trapped condensation are not covered by standard policies. If you are unsure of the water source and moisture issues contacting a certified specialist is key! They can help you determine the true cause(s) of the water damage and give you the proper terms to relay to your insurance company, so you can say it right the first time!
- Visit floodsmart.gov to see if you should consider a separate flood policy for your home. Keep in mind 20% of flood claims in the US come from areas where flooding is considered low risk. The Insurance Information Institute found that "water damage is one of the most common and costly disasters affecting U.S. residences."
- Don't forget the importance of maintenance and preparation: As far as water that comes from components in your house such as a broken pipe, overflowing sink, broken water heater, or sewage back up, this requires you to get to know your policy very well. Insure.com lists many common water damage scenarios and lets you know if your standard policy typically does or does not cover the incident. Also, in some cases add-ons like a sewage back up or mold rider (not usually covered) can be purchased at additional premium costs.
Check out: Frozen Pipe prevention and Three Best Practices to prevent Water flood damage, so you can have fewer vs. less headaches when dealing with water damage in your home.