Your homeowners insurance is meant to be a safety guarantee against the possibility of damage to your home. Depending on where you live, the requirements and restrictions on what your homeowners insurance does and does not have to cover will change. Also, most homeowners insurance policies do not cover what insurers refer to as "Acts of God," such as a meteor striking your property. Thankfully, the odds of a celestial object surviving re-entry into the atmosphere and striking a private residence are so incredibly small as to be impossible.
For example, homeowners insurance in the state of Florida will not cover flood damage, including flooding caused by hurricanes. So, in order to be protected from flood damage, Florida homeowners need to purchase extra insurance from other sources, such as the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).
What about other forms of water damage, such as from a burst pipe? Will homeowners insurance cover the damaged or broken pipe itself?
The answers to these questions rely on a few different factors.
What Insurance Can Cover
First, was the pipe's failure because of age or a lack of maintenance? If the insurance adjuster inspects the pipes and finds that they were not properly maintained, they may throw the insurance claim out based on that alone. This is because if the pipe is damaged as a result of preventable negligence, then the insurance company will not be obligated to pay for damages, as they will hold you responsible for failing to perform proper upkeep on your home. Insurance covers mishaps and accidents, not negligence. Although Florida homeowners insurance regulations prevent insurers from denying coverage based solely on the age of a dwelling, they can still deny claims based on a lack of regular and proper upkeep, including the repair or replacement of old pipes.
However, if the pipe's failure is because of faulty workmanship on the part of the installer or because of a sudden, severe event that you are unable to foresee or prevent, then you are much more likely to be able to get your claims adjuster to authorize payment for the damages. Examples of faulty workmanship include if a professional workman performed maintenance on the pipes which actually caused more damage than good, or if during a particularly harsh winter, the water in the pipes freezes and causes the pipes to burst (water expands when it freezes, one way to prevent this is to wrap the pipes in your house and insulate them from the chill of winter).
Another example of an accident that could be covered by homeowners insurance would be if a tree or other heavy object fell in such a way as to cause damage to the pipe. In this event though, your insurance company may desire to seek damages from the person or persons responsible for the accident.
Your insurance adjuster will also use the placement of the break in the pipes as a factor in determining if the damage is covered. If the sewer line connecting your house to the municipal line breaks, you will have a more difficult time obtaining insurance coverage for breaks that occur beyond the limits of your house's foundation than for those occurring underneath the foundation. This is because the area directly underneath your home is more easily identifiable as being part of your property, and thus yours and the insurers responsibility.
As for the damage that the water from a burst pipe can cause, your homeowners insurance will most likely cover the cost of repairs for that water damage. It is important to remember that this is only the case if the pipe itself qualifies for coverage under your insurance policy. Once again, if the pipe became damaged or broken because of old age or a lack of maintenance, your homeowners insurance provider will not reimburse you for the resultant water damage.
Most homeowners insurance policies cover damages that are not the result of negligence. However, it may be prudent to contact your insurance provider to obtain an extra copy of your insurance paperwork to check exactly what events are and are not covered by your insurer. If you live in an area where cold snaps, earthquakes, or other natural events can cause damage to your home and plumbing systems, it can never hurt to check your insurance coverage and make sure that you are insured against every likely natural event for your area.
You can also save yourself from the hassle of dealing with insurance adjusters by performing the required maintenance on your home. If you regularly check your home's pipes and perform maintenance at regular intervals, as well as performing the necessary winterization or other weather-specific preventative maintenance, you can prevent your home from suffering water damage from leaky or burst pipes in the first place. If you need help checking your home's plumbing system for potential faults, do not hesitate to contact an expert for advice.
Unfortunately, not all insurance policies are created equally. If your policy has gaps in coverage, it would be prudent to find ways of acquiring extra protection to smooth the process of recovering from a disastrous event. Do not wait until a pipe burst happens, take charge of your home's safety and upkeep as soon as possible.