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Does homeowners insurance in Florida cover water damage? 

I just bought my first home in Florida, and I’m curious about what all is covered under my Florida homeowners insurance. We have a lot of severe weather in Florida, and sometimes even flooding where I live. Under what circumstances is water damage covered under my Florida home insurance? 

Water damage in your home can be caused by a variety of incidents, and your home insurance does not provide coverage for all of them. Unfortunately, water damage can be extremely devastating — financially and emotionally. According to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), it costs an average of $39,150 to repair a 2,000 square foot home that has sustained damage from six inches of water! 

Unfortunately, water damage is only sometimes covered under your Florida home insurance policy. Coverage entirely depends on the cause of the damage. 

In general, most standard homeowners insurance policies define covered water damage as sudden and accidental discharge of water. You’ll likely not have coverage for water damage caused by regular maintenance issues or failure to make timely repairs. 

The dwelling coverage portion of your homeowners insurance policy protects your home’s structure from a variety of “covered perils,” or causes of loss. Florida home insurance typically covers water damage if it is caused by one of these covered perils. According to the Insurance Information Institute, typical covered perils include: 

  • Fire and smoke
  • Lightning
  • Windstorms and hail
  • Explosions
  • Vandalism or malicious mischief
  • Damage from an aircraft or vehicle
  • Theft
  • Falling objects
  • Weight of ice, snow, or sleet or water damage due to ice, snow, or sleet
  • Accidental discharge or overflow of water from within a plumbing, heating, air-conditioning, an automatic fire protective system, or from within a household appliance 
  • Sudden and accidental tearing apart, cracking, burning, or bulging of a hot water heating system, an air-conditioning or automatic fire protective sprinkler system, or an appliance for heating water 
  • Freezing of a plumbing, heating, air-conditioning system, an automatic fire protective sprinkler system, or of a household appliance 
  • Sudden and accidental damage from an artificially generated electrical current 

If, for example, you leave the water running in a sink while you are away for the weekend, and water overflows onto your floor, the water damage would likely be covered. Or if rain comes in through a hole in the roof or a broken window during a severe storm, any resulting water damage would likely be covered. 

Remember, preventable long-term problems that could have been avoided with simple maintenance are not covered. But it’s important to note that many Florida insurance companies are increasingly placing restrictions on water damage that IS covered. For example, some policy language will deny coverage for any water damage if mold is present or the leak or source of the water damage can be proven to have been in existence for 14 days or more without being fixed or resolved. 

What’s most important is that you review your policy carefully and understand exactly what the restrictions are for water damage under your specific Florida home insurance policy. 

What is considered to be covered water damage by insurance companies?

In general, insurance companies will consider your water damage covered if it caused by:

  • Rain or snow
  • Plumbing (burst pipes, frozen plumbing, faulty plumbing, accidental overflow)
  • Water damage from extinguishing a fire
  • A leaky roof 
  • Accidental overflow of an appliance or fixture (toilet, sink, washing machine)
  • Mold that results from covered water damage
  • Vandalism

Consider these specific circumstances under which water damage typically is and is not covered.

Flood from a Hurricane or Another Weather Event

Flood damage is not covered under Florida homeowners insurance, regardless of the cause of the flooding or the source of the water. Flooding can occur in a variety of ways, including heavy rains, over-saturated ground, and overflowing or surging bodies of water such as rivers, ponds, lakes, and oceans. In general, flooding is considered to be any rising waters that come from outside of your home.

You can purchase separate Florida flood insurance that is offered by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) through your Florida independent insurance agent. Flood insurance is recommended for homeowners, condo owners, and renters who live in a flood plain or who simply want the additional protection it offers.

Flood insurance covers physical damage to your dwelling and your personal property. Rates vary depending upon the flood risk for your property.

Burst Pipes

Your Florida homeowners insurance will usually cover water damage due to burst pipes. But if your insurance company feels that you were at fault or failed to take precautions to protect your pipes, your claim could be denied. 

Sewer Backup

Sewer backup is not covered under most standard Florida homeowners policies, however, you can add sewer backup coverage with a policy endorsement. These endorsements typically offer $5,000 to $10,000 of coverage for damage caused by a sewer backup. 

Appliance Leaks

Appliance leaks — especially from washing machine leaks — are very common, and unfortunately they can also cause a lot of damage. Damage from leaks that are deemed to be sudden and accidental will be covered by your homeowners policy. Once again, if your insurance company feels that you have been negligent (perhaps you failed to fix an ongoing leak) your claim can be denied.

Ground Water Seepage

Most insurance companies will not cover damage due to ground water seepage. This is typically considered to be a maintenance issue.

Roof Leaks

If your roof leaks and the roof as well as the interior of the home sustain damage due to a covered peril — wind, rain, hail or fire — the damage will likely be covered by your homeowners insurance policy. If the leak and subsequent damage are because you did not properly maintain your roof, your claim will likely be denied. Your claim will likely be denied if a hurricane or a flood causes your roof damage. 

Keep in mind that even if your water damage is covered, most insurance policies will not cover the source of the water damage. So you may be reimbursed for the costs of tearing out and replacing a damaged floor,  but you likely won’t have coverage for the cost of replacing your broken dishwasher, washing machine, or pipe that caused the damage in the first place. 

How else can I protect my Florida home from water damage? 

There are a variety of ways that you can try to avoid significant water damage in your Florida home. Here are just a few tactics from the Insurance Information Institute that can help you keep your home safe from water leaks and devastating water damage. 

  • Consider purchasing a humidity sensor. It can alert you if there is a leak or seepage in walls or behind appliances or other plumbing fixtures, or other areas that are prone to water problems. 
  • Regularly inspect appliance hoses and faucets, including those leading to water heaters, dishwashers, washing machines, and refrigerator ice makers. Immediately replace any hoses that have cracks or leaks, and replace them all every five to seven years.
  • Regularly inspect showers and tubs. Check the seal and caulking around showers and tubs to make sure they are watertight, and reseal if necessary.
  • Shut off the water supply to the washing machine and other appliances that use water before you leave for a vacation.
  • Know the location of the main water shutoff valve in your home so you can quickly shut off the water in the event of a burst pipe or another water emergency. 
  • Caulk and seal windows to protect against water seepage.
  • Regularly inspect your roof for missing, damaged, and aging shingles and make any necessary repairs.
  • Periodically check your downspouts for accumulated debris and remove it. Position your downspouts so that they direct water away from the house.
  • Store off-season and other belongings in waterproof bins to protect them in case of a water event. 

Article Reviewed by | Paul Martin

www.floodsmart/gov

www.iii.org

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