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Water Woes: Are You Covered?

About 70 percent of the world is covered by water. What happens when some of it enters your home during the spring and flooding season?

Water is sneaky. It can find countless ways into your home uninvited. Whether it’s due to overland flooding, a sewer back-up, broken hot water tank, torrential rain, or spring thaw, the damage it can cause can be significant. When you’re experiencing water woes, however, are you covered under your home insurance?

Water Damage and Your Home Insurance

Water damage, and whether or not it is covered under your insurance, is a complicated issue. Coverage depends on what caused the water to enter your home as well as the optional add-ons you may have purchased when getting your policy.

Let’s start first with water damages that are typically covered by most policies, no optional add-ons needed.

Yes, you’re covered!

If your dishwasher, boiler, hot water tank, washing machine, sprinkler system, or air conditioner suddenly breaks down and springs a leak, any damage caused by the outpouring of water is typically covered by a home insurance policy. The same is true if a pipe bursts (that isn’t due to freezing) or you accidentally left a tap on in the kitchen or bath.

You’d also have coverage if a municipal watermain bursts near your property, flooding your home. In cities like Toronto where watermain breaks are common due to aging infrastructure, this is good news.

Back-up options

Extreme, localized rains are increasingly more common and can overwhelm a sewer system. When the system’s capacity is exceeded, sewage is sent back through the pipes into your home. A sewer back-up can also stem from a blockage caused by tree roots or items that clog your pipes that shouldn’t have been flushed or poured down the drain (like sanitary products and cooking grease).

Damages caused by a sewer back-up will be covered, so long as your home insurance policy includes the sewer back-up endorsement which is optional. Coverage, however, is limited to the maximum outlined in your policy, so if you have a finished basement review your policy’s limit to ensure you have adequate coverage.

Put the freeze on a spring thaw

After a long cold winter, most Canadians look forward to the spring, but a rapid thaw can wreak havoc and dampen the mood. Overland water, whether from a river, lake, torrential rainfall, or fast melting snow, until about five years ago was rarely covered.

The floods in Alberta and Toronto in 2013, however, which resulted in $3.2 billion in insured losses, changed all this. Today, about three-quarters of home insurers offer an optional endorsement that provides protection from damages resulting from overland water. This endorsement is typically packaged together with the sewer back-up coverage.

What water damages are normally not covered?

Water damage caused by a lack of maintenance on the home is not covered by your home insurance policy. If for example, you experience water damages caused by: a roof that needs to be replaced, a crack in your home’s foundation, weeping tiles that are in need of repair, or pipes that freeze because they’re not insulated, you’ll likely have to foot the bill yourself for the repairs.

Also, if your home is left vacant for a long stretch of time, water damages caused while it’s empty will not be covered. However, this exclusion can be avoided by having someone check in on the house who can help mitigate the damages should something happen. Each insurance provider is different, but all have some sort of policy in place regarding steps you must take if your house is going to be empty for an extended period—usually 30 days. If you’ll be away from home, call your provider to see what they require to ensure your coverage remains valid.

Waterproof your home insurance today

As we head into spring, make sure your home insurance policy is water-tight. Shop your home insurance rate to compare home insurance quotes from 30+ providers who can help you ensure you have the coverage you need when the rains fall.

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