Water damage is one of the most common insurance claims in Florida, and for good reason. After all, with 1,350 miles of coastline, more than 10 million acres of wetlands and more than 50 inches of rainfall annually, it’s no wonder that Florida is among the top ten in numbers of water damage claims filed. However, just because you’ve suffered water damage doesn’t mean that your insurance company is automatically going to pay your claim.
The majority of Florida homeowners have a standard insurance policy on their property. While this generally covers water damage caused by issues such as a sudden water-pipe burst or even water damage caused by vandalism, it doesn’t cover everything. In particular, your policy won’t cover long-term water damage.
What is long-term water damage?
Sometimes called gradual water damage, this is damage caused by something that happens over time as opposed to a sudden event. For example, it’s the difference between a slow leak in your roof and a broken washing machine hose. A slow leak causes damage gradually; damage which may include structural issues caused by rot or mold and mildew problems. The broken hose is accidental and sudden and probably causes a flood in your laundry room.
Here’s one of the real problems with long-term or “gradual” damage. While it may take months to see the damage, your policy probably has a 14-day exclusion. This exclusion applies to “non-flood damage” that was caused by “continuous or repeated seepage, leakage of water or the presence of condensation of humidity, moisture or vapor, over a period of time greater than 14 days.”
Although the Florida courts asserted in a 2018 ruling that any damage that occurred prior to the 14-day period should be covered, proving that is difficult. Remember, insurance companies are in the business of making money. So, when they send out an “expert” from their own approved vendor list to inspect the damage and report their findings, the deck is likely already stacked in the insurance company’s favor.
Steps you can take to help ensure your claim is not denied
If you know or suspect you may have a potentially chronic issue with a roof leak, broken pipe or other source of slow seepage, an ounce of prevention is your best cure. Signs of problems include wet spots in the carpet or on floors, a pervasive musty odor in the house and staining or blistering on walls and rings of dampness on concrete block, among others. Insurance companies will not pay for damage caused by neglect, so to help protect your home, you should:
- Clean gutters and downspouts regularly
- Maintain trees and shrubs, particularly those close to the house or near utility pipes
- Keep an eye on your water bill; a higher-than-usual bill could indicate a leak
- If you’re going to be away for an extended period of time, turn off your water main
- Consider installing a water-detection device that can detect small leaks
Most importantly, act quickly to mitigate any damage that may have occurred and contact your insurance company immediately to report water damage.
Get the help you need to fight a denied claim from our knowledgeable Florida property insurance attorneys
Don’t automatically accept a denied claim for water damage from your insurance company. At Johnson & Williams, P.A., we may be able to help you get the compensation you deserve. To learn more, please contact us online or call us at (407) 245-1268 and speak to our Florida water damage claim attorneys to schedule a free consultation to discuss your circumstances and case.