With wintry weather comes ice skating, sledding… and frozen pipes? Water damage caused by bursting pipes can be extensive and expensive. Will insurance companies pay to repair this damage? Well, that depends on your policy.
Most homeowner policies will cover physical damage from water if it started from plumbing within the home under normal weather conditions. The plumbing repair for the broken pipe may not be covered according to the language in some policies, but all ensuing damage to the structure and contents are usually covered. However, although it is unusual to see, freezing pipes that burst within the home due to cold weather may be excluded under some policies — unless you can prove that heat was maintained in the home or building prior to the loss.
“Homeowners living in the Midwest and other cold areas of the country should talk to their agents to make sure that their policies include coverage for freezing pipes located both inside and outside of the home,” said Carl Gross, Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer of Globe Midwest Adjusters International. “If your home is not occupied when this happens, such as a vacation home or a vacant rental property, or if you don’t discover that a pipe in your yard has burst and the water seeps slowly into your home over a period of time, then the resulting damage and those repairs may not be covered by your insurance company.”
Gross notes that one of the biggest risks when it comes to bursting pipes is that the water may not be discovered promptly and mold may grow within the home. Many policies today have been written to either exclude mold completely or to limit remediation to a very small amount.
“We often see damage from broken pipes that is discovered days after the initial loss occurred. By then, the water has saturated walls, insulation and floors,” said Gross. “If you don’t find all of the damage right away and it sits, then it can quickly turn into a mold problem which is obviously a lot more expensive to eradicate.”
What should homeowners do if they sustain water damage? First, they need to take steps to reduce or stop the flow of water.
“All policies require homeowners to mitigate their loss so homeowners should feel free to take steps to limit the water damage since it will not affect their final claim payment from the insurance company. Things like turning off the main water valve, extracting the standing water, and removing carpeting and furniture will help to dry out the house and limit damage. They should also take lots of pictures both before and after the items are removed so that they have proof of what happened and what was harmed in the process,” said Gross.
Once those immediate steps are taken, homeowners should call their insurance companies to report the damage. Depending on the extent of the damage, the homeowner should also consider hiring a professional public adjuster to help them navigate through the claims process. These licensed professionals are experts at completing complicated insurance claims paperwork, documenting lost and damaged property and also working with both remediation contractors and insurance adjusters to get the home renovated and repaired. Public adjusters also assist homeowners with getting expenses covered by insurance companies, such as temporary housing while repairs are being made or hiring security to prevent looting and vandalism to the property.
“Pipes burst frequently in cold weather and can cause extensive damage to a home,” said Gross. “We know that this experience can be very stressful to families and we’re here to help make the process of filing claims and repairing homes as quick and efficient as possible.”
To hire a professional public adjuster to assist you with your claim, call 800-445-1554.