One of the nightmares that homeowners face is a flooded basement, which can happen in many different ways. The potential of this happening leaves many homeowners wondering: will my homeowners insurance cover my flooded basement claim? The answer is that it depends.
Since 1990, the average annual precipitation in the U.S. has increased about five percent, but some areas have seen a larger increase closer to 10 percent. An increased amount of precipitation causes an increased risk of flooding and landslides as more precipitation puts pressure on dams and water levels.
There are many different things that can cause your basement to flood and the cause of the flooding is what determines if it’s covered under your general policy or not. Flooding may be most likely if you live in a flood zone, but flooding from weather and natural disasters is not the only way you could end up with an unwanted pool of water in your basement.
When flooding is covered
Structural damage to your home caused by flooding is generally covered if it happened because of something that was sudden and accidental inside your home. However, there are still gaps and reasons insurance companies may deny your claim that are important to know.
If you have an appliance or machine in your home that has malfunctioned or broken and caused a flood, you will most likely be covered under your general policy. Some appliances that may be culprits of this are your washing machine, air conditioning, refrigerator or water heater. However, it’s not a given that these will be covered. Your claim may be denied if your insurance company determines that the machine broke because you failed to properly maintain it.
Another flooding situation that you may be covered for is frozen pipes that have burst, as long as it wasn’t caused by something like a slow leak over time that you neglected to fix. If you have a pool, bathtub or sink that overflows by accident and causes damage, you may also be covered.
The general rule of thumb is that you will be covered for a flood if it was caused by something inside your home, and it was sudden and accidental. If you properly maintain your appliances, you should be covered if something breaks unexpectedly and causes water damage. Keep in mind you’ll be responsible for paying your deductible before your insurance company covers any remaining costs associated with the damage in a claim.
When flooding is not covered
Unfortunately, general homeowners insurance policies do not cover flooding for things that happen outside of your home. For example, if you live near a body of water that rises during a storm and floods your neighborhood, the damage caused would not be covered under your typical homeowners insurance. You would need a separate flood insurance policy in order to be covered.
Additional flooding situations that wouldn’t be covered are sump pump or sewer backups. If your foundation suffers from cracks or if the drainage around your house is not sufficient, groundwater may make its way into your basement and this wouldn’t be covered.
When to purchase flood insurance
Flooding can cause serious damage and can put a serious strain on your family’s financials. Luckily, flood insurance can help with that. If you live in a high-risk area of natural disasters and have a mortgage on your home, chances are you’re required to have flood insurance coverage on top of your traditional homeowners insurance policy. But just because you aren’t in a high-risk flood area doesn’t mean you should rule out purchasing flood insurance.
The National Flood Insurance Program reports that 20 percent of flood claims happen to properties that are not in a high-risk area. If you live near a flood zone, regardless of the risk factor in your zone, you should consider flood insurance and look into your coverage options.
The majority of flood insurance is offered through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) that FEMA offers. Some insurance companies do offer flood insurance, which you can add it on to your homeowners insurance policy.
Living in a flood zone
Flooding can be a serious catastrophe — flash floods are the top weather-related killer in the United States. Every state has experienced some degree of flooding in the past five years. Even if you don’t live in a flood zone, you should still be prepared for the potential of it happening.
Fortunately, most floods can be predicted as they take time to develop. If you receive warning of a severe flood, your safety should be your top priority. Make sure you leave the area and get to higher elevation to escape being trapped in floodwaters. You should have an evacuation plan if flooding is common in your area and always be aware of flood warnings and watches. In the event of an evacuation, be sure to bring limited personal items with you that include any medication or valuables.
Additionally, there are ways that you can reduce damage to your property by anticipating and preparing your home. Elevate anything in the basement that could be damaged by water and move any valuable items to a safer place where it is less likely to suffer damage in a flood. Check your sump pump to make sure its operating property, and clear gutters and drains to ensure they work properly.
How to prevent floods in your home
While you can’t prevent mother nature from causing a flood in your home, you can prevent other floods from happening inside your home. Always check your appliances and pipes for any sign of leaking or wear that could cause it to break. If you see an issue, make sure to get it fixed to prevent potentially detrimental damage. If you fail to repair the damage in a timely fashion and mold develops, your homeowners insurance may not cover the mold damage. Regularly inspect all appliances, drainage and foundation. You should also know where your water cut off valve is located so you can quickly turn your water off in an emergency.
Always be sure to check with your insurance company to see what your policy covers for water damage and thoroughly weigh your flood risk to determine if you need flood insurance. Perils like flooding create fears for homeowners and a flood insurance policy may give you peace of mind that your home could be covered in the event of a damaging flood.
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