Burst pipes: Are they covered by homeowners insurance?

Ginger Dean

March 26, 2015

By: Ginger Dean, Home Finance Specialist

In: PlumbingFinance and LegalContractors

Burst pipes are a major headache for all involved. Not only is your property damaged, but your home has to be gutted and put back together.

If the damage is extensive, there's the question of where you'll live while your home is being fixed. And how will you feed and clothe yourself during this time?

All of this forces you to get unceremoniously acquainted with the realities of what your homeowner's insurance policy actually covers as you pray that the water evaporates from your baseboards.

The first big question: are burst pipes covered by your homeowner's insurance policy? That depends. Your insurance provider may first ask you to answer these questions:

  1. Did you shut off the water supply and drain your system?
  2. Did you maintain the heat to your home during a period when the house was unoccupied?

If you can prove that you didn't leave the home unoccupied without heat during that time and/or took the necessary steps to prevent the issue by draining the system, then the answer is likely yes, this issue is covered by your policy.

If you failed to do the aforementioned, then unfortunately your claim may be denied. Maintenance issues caused by neglect aren't covered and you'll be forced to cover the damage on your own, which can get pricey. Your insurance company requires that you regularly maintain your plumbing system to avoid disasters such as this one.

Still, every insurance company is different. I remember having a leaky pipe in our basement which damaged the carpet and adjacent flooring. The pipe wasn't old as the home was newly constructed, however they covered the damage without asking many questions about the pipe leak. So it might be worth it to submit the claim anyway to see where your adjuster lands on it.

Once your claims adjuster surveys and deems the damage eligible for coverage, he/she will determine the cost of repair. If you have a contractor in mind, discuss the requirements by the insurance company to make sure they meet all licensing and expertise required. Without this verification by your insurance company, you run the risk of having the contractor complete work for which they will not be paid.

If, on the other hand, you don't have a contractor slated to repair the damage, your insurance company will provide a list of pre-approved contractors they have worked with in the past. This saves you the hassle of verifying that they meet the requirements set forth by your insurance company.

In our situation, we actually came across a contractor who tried to overcharge for the renovation and repairs, thereby potentially forcing us to pay out of pocket over and above the insurance company's covered amount. Once we met with a few other contractors we declined his proposal as it was far above what the insurance company was willing to pay for the repairs. By meeting with at least three contractors, you will have an idea of the average cost to complete the repairs.

Your best bet is to prevent this altogether by routinely maintaining the plumbing system and properly heating and insulating your home during the winter months. Even if you leave the home unoccupied for any length of time. this could mean the difference between shelling out thousands to cover repairs or having your damage covered by your insurance company.

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