Homeowners insurance offers financial protection from late winter water damage
BY World Special Publications
Monday, March 11, 2013
March in Oklahoma can still mean the threat of a winter storm. With that in mind, it’s a good time to remember that water damage can generate significant economic losses for homeowners and renters alike, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
Water damage caused by either frozen or burst pipes accounted for 22 percent of all U.S. homeowners insurance losses incurred in 2010, the most recent year for which data is available, according to ISO, a Verisk Analytics company.
“Even a small amount of water can cause serious damage to your home,” said Jeanne M. Salvatore, senior vice president and consumer spokesperson at the I.I.I. “That is why it’s important to have the right type and amount of insurance, including flood insurance.”
Standard homeowners and renters policies provide coverage for burst pipes, wind driven rain and damage resulting from ice dams on your roof. Some policies cover sewer and drain backups, but many do not. However, you can purchase a sewer backup rider to a homeowners or renters policy.
Generally speaking, water that comes from the top down, such as rainfall, is covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy, while water that comes from the bottom up, such as an overflowing river, must be covered by a separate flood insurance policy. Flood insurance can be purchased from the federal government’s National Flood Insurance Program, as well as from some private insurers.
A standard homeowners insurance policy will cover you for losses related to ice dams, water that is unable to drain properly through the gutters and seeps into the house, causing damage to ceilings and walls.
Homeowners are expected, however, to take reasonable steps to prevent winter-related losses by keeping the house warm and properly maintaining its pipes and drains. Frozen water pipes represent the biggest potential problem for homes. As such, you should insulate all of your home’s pipes, especially those leading to the outside, and follow these additional tips:
1. Make sure there is clear access to your home’s main water shut-off valve in case there is a leak or a pipe suddenly bursts.
2. When the temperature outside falls below the freezing mark, open your water faucets enough to allow a slow trickle of water to help keep the water lines from freezing.
3. Check pipes under sinks to make sure they are getting adequate heat.