There are many good reasons to make sure you understand your homeowner’s insurance policy; perhaps none more so than claims regarding water damage. Burst pipes and water leaks are among the most common reasons for dwelling insurance claims—third only behind fire and lightning and hail and wind damage claims. When and why a claim will be paid depends on the how, why and when the water damage occurred. Here are three important things to keep in mind:
1. Look out for hidden damage
Not all signs of water damage are as obvious as a flooded bathroom floor. As the owner of an insured home or property, it is still your responsibility to maintain your building. Insurance companies will not cover water damage caused by improper maintenance. It is in your best interest to periodically inspect areas that may harbor hidden damage—not just after a major rainstorm or other weather event but with the change of seasons, when a water bill seems unusually high or if you have any issues with your water heater or HVAC systems, or if you or a neighbor has had any recent grading done that may cause drainage problems. Signs of damage include:
- Visible mold or mildew or musty odors that may signal their presence
- Warped flooring
- Peeling paint and/or water stains on walls or ceilings
- Spongy or rotting wood
- Cracks in the foundation
- Warped door or window frames
- Sagging roof
- Efflorescence on basement walls, which is caused by salt deposits left by evaporated water
2. Gradual water damage may not be covered by your insurance
In Florida, most homeowner’s policies have a “14-day exclusion” for water damage. This can cause real headaches for you, the property owner, who may not have noticed water damage immediately. It may be difficult to prove that the damage happened ten days ago rather than more than two weeks ago. Know your policy and be vigilant.
In addition to taking steps to look for signs of damage, be proactive by turning off your water main if you’re going to be out-of-town for an extended period of time, make sure your water pressure isn’t too high, consider getting water leak detection devices, replace old or worn water hoses on appliances and keep up on water heater, air conditioning, sump pump and roof maintenance.
3. Document your losses
If you notice a problem, take immediate stops to stop any further damage (for instance, turning off the water to stop the leak) but do not make any repairs to the damage itself. Next, make sure you document everything:
- Take pictures and/or videos of all damage before you start any major cleanup.
- Save any busted hoses, broken pipes or failed appliances. Don’t remove or throw anything out as it is evidence that you will need for a claim.
- Keeps copies of all correspondence and log all phone calls made regarding your insurance claim.
Talk to a Florida property insurance attorney for help with water damage claims
Our goal at Johnson & Williams, P.A. is to help our clients get the best possible settlement from their insurance company from a water damage claim. To learn more about how we can help you, please call our office at (407) 245-1268 and speak to our Orlando water damage claim lawyers or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.