Homeowners insurance usually covers water damage, but there are some exceptions

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  • Depending on your homeowners policy, you could be covered for water damage.
  • Water damage is generally covered with named peril insurance.
  • You need separate coverage for flood or sewer line damage.
  • Policygenius can help you compare homeowners insurance policies to find the right coverage for you, at the right price »

Homeowners insurance protects your home from damage, theft, and liability. But there are limitations to that coverage — and it depends on the type of “peril” your policy insures against.

There are eight types of homeowners insurance, but they all fall into one of two categories: named peril or open (all) peril. A named peril policy covers you for listed events, like a fire, storm, or theft, whereas an open peril policy covers just about anything that might happen, unless your policy specifically notes that it’s not covered. Open peril provides more coverage than named peril.

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Insurance company Lemonade provides the following example of an open-peril policy: If an apartment flood ruined your computer, and your policy doesn’t specifically say flooding isn’t covered, your insurance company will have to approve your claim, by default.

Most homeowners insurance policies are named peril policies. However, special (HO-3) and mobile home (HO-7) policies have open peril coverage for the structure and named peril coverage for belongings.

Does homeowners insurance cover water damage?

Water damage must be as a result of a named peril or covered event. For example, if water damage is from a burst pipe, it could fall under “sudden, accidental, cracking or tearing” or “freezing” or “windstorm” perils, according to Steve Wilson, senior underwriting manager at Hippo Insurance.  

Named peril homeowners insurance typically covers these events:

  • Fire or lightning
  • Windstorm or hail
  • Explosion
  • Riots
  • Aircraft
  • Vehicles
  • Smoke
  • Vandalism
  • Theft
  • Falling objects
  • Weight of ice, snow, or sleet
  • Accidental discharge or overflow of water or steam
  • Sudden and accidental tearing, cracking, burning, or bulging
  • Freezing
  • Sudden and accidental damage due to short circuiting
  • Volcanic eruption

Source: Data from The Zebra and Lemonade

Water damage that isn’t covered by homeowners insurance

Not all water damage is covered by homeowners insurance. For example, damage that’s the result of poor maintenance of pipes is not covered. Additionally, flood damage is not covered under standard homeowners insurance and requires separate flood insurance. Standard homeowners insurance doesn’t cover water damage from backup or sewer lines, but it’s available as an add-on rider. You need to check with your provider to see if additional coverage is offered for backup and sewer lines.

Flood insurance is an addition to your homeowners insurance policy that can cover flood-related damage. A flood is defined as surface water entering the inside of your home structure through existing openings that are above ground level. 

Flood insurance specifically excludes water damage from sump pumps, sewer water, broken pipes, rain from an open window, and rain from windstorms, Ralph Blust, CEO of the National Flood Services told Insider.

Flood insurance is not required unless you live in a high-risk flood zone. However, the majority of homeowners who experienced flooding in 2020 did not live in flood zones and were not covered under their homeowners insurance. 

Damage Covered by homeowners insurance Covered by flood insurance
Sump pump Yes* No
Sewer water Yes* No
Basement water Yes* No
Broken pipes Yes No
Rain water from window or windstorm Yes No
Accidental discharge of water or steam Yes No
Flood No Yes**
Windstorm or hail Yes No
Ice, snow, sleet Yes No

*Available as add-on coverage if not part of policy

**Flood insurance is available through the NFIP and approved insurers

What about mold?

As for mold, if it’s a result of water damage from a covered peril — such as a burst pipe, wind or hail storm — it may be covered under standard homeowners insurance.

Mold needs time to grow and warm weather, which is why you normally see mold after a hurricane. If you have water damange, Wilson recommends taking damaged drywall or insulation out of the house to dry it out and hopefully avoid mold. If mold is not related to a peril, then most homeowners insurance companies will deny coverage for mold damage.

How to file an insurance claim for water damage

Wilson gave these four steps for filing a claim for water damage with your homeowners insurance company:

  1. Contact insurance carrier. Your carrier may provide a list of contractors.
  2. Ask your carrier for advice to help prevent further damage. 
  3. Take pictures or video of the damage and where it is located.
  4. Prevent further damage to property. Focus on a temporary fix so insurance can look and properly access a permanent fix from a professional. Make sure water can run in all faucets. Leaks are usually a sign of a problem, especially in less used rooms like guest bedrooms.

Renters insurance covers personal property, not the building, so the process is a bit different from homeowners insurance. Renters should contact their insurance carrier and property management or landlord. Take pictures of damage before disposal and clean up.

Prevent further damage by protecting your property — television, laptops, etc. — with plastic. Most renters policies have “loss of use” coverage to pay for the cost of being displaced until your home is liveable again. 

Ronda Lee is an associate editor for insurance at Personal Finance Insider covering life, auto, homeowners, and renters insurance for consumers. She is also a licensed attorney who practiced litigation and insurance defense.

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