Q: My wife and I bought a new house and we suspect the basement may have flooded in the past. It's not my first home, but it is my first basement, and I like to be prepared. If flooding happens in my basement, will my homeowners' policy cover the damage?
We posed this question to Andrew "Jack" Fitzpatrick, an agent based in Irving, Texas. Here's what he had to say:
A: The last thing any homeowner expects or wants to see is water in the basement, but it's the type of thing that can occur. Whether your incident will be covered under the policy usually depends on what caused the damage. Here's how I think about questions based on these situations.
A homeowner insurance policy will typically cover structural damage caused by "sudden and accidental" events that occur inside the house, like a burst pipe or a broken washing machine. This will likely cover the walls and carpeting. Depending on the amount of personal property coverage in your policy, some damaged belongings may be covered as well. If you're in an apartment building and a water overflow causes damage to someone else's property, your liability insurance will likely cover it.
"What if it's damage from flooding during a storm?"
Damage from a weather event outside your house is another thing entirely, which I make clear to customers when helping them understand their coverage options.
Homeowners policies in general do not provide coverage for flooding that comes from rising water levels due to a hurricane, rainstorm, melting snow, etc. You can, however, purchase separate flood insurance via the National Flood Insurance Program. Your insurance agent can help you with the purchase.
Only about 12 percent of homeowners have a flood insurance policy , according to the Insurance Information Institute. Some mortgage lenders require that you purchase flood insurance if you live in a flood-prone area, but you might want to consider purchasing such a policy regardless of where you live. Floods are the most common national disaster in the U.S., and more than 20 percent of flood claims occur in properties that aren't in a high-risk flood zone, according to the National Flood Insurance Program
Sometimes groundwater gets into a basement through cracks in your foundation or due to inadequate drainage around your house requiring maintenance. Damage typically is not covered in those cases.
You seem like the type of homeowner who knows this already, but regular maintenance and upkeep are also essential to help reduce your chances of needing to file a claim at all. Chores like regularly inspecting your appliances, draining outdoor faucets and knowing where your emergency shut-off valve is located can help keep you on top of emergency situations before they happen.
Given that water-related damage can occur, it's important to make sure that you understand what is and isn't covered under your current policy. If you have questions, or want to learn about available insurance options, a conversation with an agent might be beneficial so you can get the coverage you want.
Talk to an agent about a home insurance policy today.
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