Homeowners insurance usually covers pipe bursts and plumbing leaks, but not if you neglect proper maintenance

  • Plumbing and pipe leaks are usually covered by homeowners insurance.
  • However, damage due to lack of proper maintenance will not be covered.
  • Mold damage isn’t covered if it developed due to negligence.
  • 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.

Does homeowners insurance cover plumbing and pipe leaks?

Homeowners insurance covers water damage 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.  

Ashlee Tilford, managing editor for Insurance.com, told Insider that homeowners insurance will cover the damage from burst pipes from a named peril as long as the burst is not a result of negligence. She noted that the repair of the pipe itself won’t be covered, but the damage resulting from it will be covered. 

 Named peril homeowners insurance typically covers these events:

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  • 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

If burst pipes caused damage to your belongings, that would be covered under your personal property coverage. However, if you have high-end electronics or custom jewelry, most homeowners policies have a coverage limit of $2,500. Unless you purchased an add-on rider for special jewelry or electronics, you will be capped on your recovery amount.

If your house is unlivable due to water damage from a burst pipe, some homeowners policies have “additional living expenses” (ALE) coverage for you to stay in alternative housing. However, Tilford warns not to assume your policy will cover additional living expenses. She recommends contacting your provider if you are considering leaving your home because you consider it uninhabitable.

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What isn’t covered?

Not all water damage is covered by homeowners insurance. For example, damage that’s the result of poor maintenance or normal wear and tear of pipes is not covered.

Standard homeowners insurance also doesn’t cover 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.

Additionally, flood damage is not covered under standard homeowners insurance and requires separate flood insurance. 

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. If it’s due to negligence or lack of maintenance, it will not be covered. If mold is not related to a peril, then most homeowners insurance companies will deny coverage for mold damage.

 To prevent mold damage, check for yellow and brown water spots on the floor or ceiling. Look for peeling paint or buckling floor boards. These are usually signs of a leak.

Wilson said that Hippo Insurance offers homeowners a smart home kit with their policy that monitors pipes and plumbing to prevent and detect leaks. Homeowners using smart home sensors are given a discount on the annual premium. Check with your homeowners insurance provider to see if they offer a similar service.

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.

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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