Ask the Home Insurance Expert
I heard that home insurance does not cover floods, but that it does cover certain water damage. How do I know what's covered?
You're correct. A standard home insurance policy does not cover flood damage. For that, you have to buy flood insurance, a separate policy, through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), a division of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
To an insurance company, a "flood" has a precise definition. It means water from a nearby lake, stream, river or other body of water. If your home suffers damage from water flowing from these sources, then you're not covered unless you have flood insurance.
Your lender requires you to buy flood insurance if you get a federally backed mortgage and live in a flood-prone area. But flood insurance is worth considering even if you aren't required to buy it. About a quarter of flood insurance claims come from areas with only low to moderate risk for floods, according to FEMA.
Sewer back-ups are also not covered under standard home insurance policies. You must purchase a special endorsement on your home insurance policy for coverage of sewers and drains.
But standard home insurance does cover water damage from other sources, such as a burst pipe or a leaky swimming pool. Water damage is one of the most common reasons people make claims on their home insurance policies.
Beware, though, these claims can be tricky. Water damage from pipes that burst in cold temperatures would normally be covered, for instance, but not if you left the house unoccupied without heat.