Homeowners Coverage for Gradual Water Damage

Winston-Salem, NC 1/27/2015

Home ownership is a big responsibility. When you take into account the interior and exterior maintenance for which an owner is responsible, on top of the daily chores, owning a home merits a lot of planning and forethought.

Obtaining the right homeowners coverage is a complex element in taking care of your home. Without the proper coverage, a homeowner's investment can quickly be destroyed. Many homeowners purchase their homeowners insurance and never look back, not realizing that there are many perils that are excluded, even with the best possible homeowners insurance forms. That brings us to today's topic: gradual water damage. This type of loss is an excellent example of a common peril that is typically not covered under a homeowners insurance policy.

Gradual water damage is often the result of a variety of issues such as wear and tear, gradual deterioration, rot and/or corrosion. All of these conditions are excluded under a homeowners insurance policy because the insurance company considers these conditions to be foreseeable damage or routine maintenance, which are the responsibility of the homeowner.

A homeowner may say, "I had no idea the water pipe was leaking." If the homeowner did not realize there was a problem that was happening over time, then shouldn't the homeowners insurance company cover the damage? Actually, insurance companies do not distinguish between gradual damage that was obvious to the homeowner or gradual damage that the homeowner did not realize.   Even if the homeowner did not realize there was a slow leak that eventually made the floor fall in, it is the homeowner's responsibility to perform routine maintenance on their water pipes.  This maintenance includes checking the water pipes on a regular basis.

It is often difficult for a homeowner to understand why their gradual water damage claim was denied. It is obvious when a floor is getting "spongy" that there may be a problem.  If the homeowner ignores it, that spongy floor may soon give way.  What about when the homeowner walks into their bathroom and takes a step and the floor falls in? That was sudden damage, right? Well, according to most carriers, it depends. 

If the floor fell in because of a slow water leak, even if the homeowner had no way of knowing it was there, it is an exclusion.  Secondly, insurance companies make it clear that an incident is not covered if the cause of the damage was gradual, regardless of whether the discovery of the damage was sudden.

If a homeowner wants to make sure they are not stuck with a denied gradual water damage claim, they need to make sure that they understand their homeowners insurance policy completely. Every homeowner should sit down with their agent and go through the policy to answer all of the underwriting questions each year.   Every homeowner should have a regular schedule to perform maintenance on their water pipes. If they become aware of any indication of a problem, they should take immediate steps to try to mitigate further damage and should contact their homeowner's agent as soon as possible.

Most importantly, please contact our agency so that we can help you analyze these complex coverage issues for your household. It’s always best to double check your specific situation and coverage needs.

Wilson Insurance Services - Our Knowledge is Your Best Assurance™.

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