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Experiencing a water event can be daunting. Trying to salvage your items, deal with the cause of the water, then figuring out how to handle the entire insurance claim process. Here’s some helpful hints that hopefully will give you some peace of mind while navigating the process.
Dealing with the immediate crisis
As soon as you discover the standing water, you’ll want to:
() Identify the source of the water. Is it a busted pipe? Make sure to shut off the water to your house. Perhaps the most common culprit is the water line that runs to your refrigerator and freezer. Should that line leak or completely rip off the unit, a large amount of water will leak onto your kitchen floor each minute the water isn’t shut off. That water will begin soaking into your flooring, soaking your cabinets and should you have a basement, will begin dripping into your basement. In other cases, water heater lines will leak or basement toilets can overflow and back-up clean water and/or sewage. No matter what the reason, work quickly to identify the source of the water and prevent it from spilling more water.
() Remove dry items. If there are items that are still dry but in the danger zone of getting wet, remove them immediately and make sure you put them in a dry place.
() Remove soaked items. If there are things you can easily move that have been soaked, try to get them into a dry area that is getting plenty of air flow.
() Extract the water. If you’re able to get some of the water out, using buckets or a wet/dry vacuum, then do what you can. If it is sewage water, it is not recommended that you handle any of the extraction process. In most cases, you will want to call a professional water extraction company. You do not have to go through your insurance company in order to secure these services. In fact, it’s in your best interest, as well as the insurance company’s, that you handle the water extraction process quickly.
Once you’ve called a water extraction company, you’ll want to:
() Take pictures. Document everything from the loss! This can not be overstated. Take photos with your phone, videos, etc. Make sure to document all of the areas affected as well as any items within the house that were damaged. Also make sure to document the source of the water, no matter if it’s a backed-up sewer line, leaking water heater, or refrigerator water line.
() Keep receipts for any work performed or other costs incurred. Make sure you keep any receipts of any work performed by a water extraction company, or of any drying equipment you might have rented during the process.
() Begin the claims process. In most cases, the water extraction company will help you navigate the claims process. Most already have a relationship with the main homeowners insurance providers and they can work directly with your adjuster to file the claim and handle any billing. Water extraction companies call this direct billing, and the only money you’ll need to pay them is your deductible.
Navigating the claims process
If it’s the case you’re handling your insurance claim directly with your insurance company, it’s important to understand your homeowners insurance policy and know what is covered under that policy and what isn’t.
Generally speaking, your policy will cover any water losses whose source is within the existing structure of the home. Things like malfunctioning toilets that overflow, refrigerator water lines, busted pipes, leaking water heaters, are all covered under your insurance policy in most cases. However, if you experience heavy rains and water gets into your basement, that is typically not covered under your policy.
If you live in an area that might be more likely to experience a flooding event, you’ll want to consider getting a separate flood insurance to protect against any flood your home might experience.
Assuming you have followed the steps above, your insurance adjuster’s goal should be to make sure they take care of your issue quickly. If you’ve already paid for water extraction services, they are legally required to quickly reimburse for the costs of those services. If there has been significant damages that will require restoration services, you’ll want to get bids from reputable companies…in many cases, the same company that performed the water extraction service will offer restoration services as well.
If you find yourself in a situation where your kitchen or bathrooms are completely ruined and you’re unable to live in your home while you deal with the problem, make sure you hold onto receipts from hotels, meals, etc. In many cases, hotels can directly bill your insurance company for the cost of your stay there.
In some rare cases, insurance companies might be concerned about whether or not the water event was due to an accident or whether or not if could have resulted from negligence on your part. In most cases, that negligence would be the result of not properly maintaining the household item that resulted in the water loss. This is called a ‘house maintenance’ umbrella within your policy.
Hopefully this quick guides is helpful for you should you need water extraction and/or water damage restoration services. It’s just important to remember:
() use a reputable, certified company
() document the entire process
() act quickly but diligently to protect your home and property
() understand your rights
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