Water Damage and Insurance Claims

If Water Damages Your Home Will Your Insurance Company Pay?

That depends on the type of insurance policy you have and the actions you take before and after the loss occurs. In this post we are going to look at a typical Florida water damage insurance policy and claim and try to give you the best chance of getting compensated. The good news is Florida law protects homeowners when an insurance company wrongly refuses to pay.

We buy homeowner’s insurance to pay for the structure and contents of a home when it’s damaged by an unexpected occurrence or act of God. If the plumbing or the roof begins to leak during a storm, ceilings, walls and fixtures get wet and moldy and have to be replaced. Personal property, like clothes, furniture and computers, may be ruined as well. Is it covered?

Insurance Coverage for Water Damage

Let’s consider a common homeowner’s policy in Florida: the HO-3. It has the minimum insurance coverage required by institutional home lenders and offers coverage for (non-flood related) water damage. It can cover you for liability, fire, theft, and water damage to structures and personal property, subject only to specific exclusions. Under this policy, the insurer should pay to repair and replace walls, furniture, personal belongings, etc., ruined by water intrusion, up to policy limits and after any deductible. It may also pay part of your expenses if you have to move out of your home during repairs.

Note: Flood insurance is an entirely separate policy that insures you specifically against the risk of rising or storm driven water. Coverage for damage from hurricanes, excluding flood, is generally offered as part of a homeowner’s policy.

What you should do when a loss occurs

When a loss occurs you should make any necessary emergency repairs to prevent further damage and take careful photographs of everything. Immediately notify your agent and insurance company of the claim verbally and in writing. Dig up receipts for personal property. Hire licensed and insured contractors to perform repair work. At some point you may have to submit a formal “proof of claim,” detailing your losses. You don’t want to give the insurance company any excuse to deny the claim so be responsive and involved during the process.

What you can claim

Under a typical HO-3 policy you can claim repair and replacement costs for water damage to your “dwelling,” (the home you actually live in), “other structures” on the property (like a shed), “personal property” (furniture, electronics and personal belongings) and “loss of use/additional living expenses” (if you have to pay for lodging during repairs).

Note: Mold can grow in your home as a result of water intrusion and poses serious health hazards. Your insurer should replace ceilings, walls, carpets and any affected surface.

What your insurance company has to do

Upon receipt of your water damage claim, an insurance company must (a) acknowledge your claim in writing within 14 days after you report the claim, (b) inspect the damaged property within a reasonable amount of time and (c) pay your claim, or deny it, within 90 days of its receipt of your notice of the initial claim.

If your insurer fails to adequately settle your claim within this time period you have the right to pursue a remedy in court.

If you have to go to court

You should hire an experienced insurance attorney to investigate, present and prove your claims. Florida insurance law holds your insurance company responsible for your costs and attorney’s fees when it wrongly denies a claim, and an attorney will generally take your case on a contingency basis, freeing you from having to finance a lawsuit.