Difference between water and flood damage


If you have had damage caused to your home by water and you want to file a claim, it might be useful to know the policy language so you can talk to your adjuster intelligently. Most home policies at their core are similar. We will share with your the language found in the ISO form policy, which is adopted by many home insurance companies. Your policy may be modified or be unique to your insurance company so we suggest you read your policy and only use what we share as a guideline.

Most home insurance policies do not cover flood damage, but they do cover water damage. What is the difference then? Water damage is most often caused by something such as a broken pipe, overflowing sink or bathtub, broken and leaking toilets, broken washing machine hoses, and similar instances. This type of damage (often classified as sudden and unexpected) is covered under most home insurance policies. Here are the exclusions you should be familiar with:

“We do not insure for loss caused directly or indirectly by any of the following…”
Water. This means:
A. flood, surface water, waves, including tidal wave and tsunami, tides, tidal water, overflow of any body of water, or spray from any of these, all whether or not driven by wind, including storm surge.
B. Water which backs up through sewers or drains or which overflows or is discharged from a sump, sump pump, or related equipment; or
C. Water below the surface of the ground, including water which exerts pressure on or seeps or leaks through a building, sidewalk, driveway, foundation, swimming pool, or other structure;

Some of this language can be a bit confusing and lead to a homeowner not sure of what is covered. Let’s take rainwater for instance. When is rain covered and not covered? I will give a couple of examples I have seen of when water damage caused by rain was covered and when it was not covered.

Example 1. A heavy rain leaks through the roof and causes damage to drywall and carpeting inside the home. In this scenario, the typical home policy will pay for the damage inside the home of the drywall and carpet. It may or may not pay for repairing the roof which allowed the leak to occur. If the roof was damaged by wind or hail, most likely it would be paid for; if the roof was simply old and had not been properly maintained, it most likely would not be paid for. Remember our policy language (sudden and unexpected.)

Example 2. Heavy rain is more than a person’s backyard can handle and the water in the backyard rises and seeps under the back door into the person’s home causing damage to carpet, tile, drywall, and wood furniture. In most cases, this would not be covered as it would be considered flood water and excluded under the policy language. Remember our policy language, “water which seeps or leaks through a building,” is excluded.

Every policy is different and we recommend insureds either work with an agent they trust has the proper knowledge to advise on coverage issues or read the policy language for themselves.

IPA Team

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One Comment on “What is the difference between water damage and flood damage?”

  1. I had no idea that most insurance will cover water damage, but not flood damage. It makes sense that your house would be more likely to be damaged by little water accidents than by flooding, so I guess the insurance makes more sense in that way. I think being prepared in case of something happening probably isn’t a bad idea though, so thanks for sharing.

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