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Our home has extensive damage to the flooring, wall and floor joist in one area due to a leaking washing machine. We were not aware it was leaking until we purchased a new washing machine and were in the process of removing the old one. At that time, we noticed the floor sagging under the washer, and when we investigated, we found wood damage under the house as well. We called our insurance company and an adjuster came out reporting that this was not covered under our policy. Can you help?

Water damage is one of the most common reasons for home insurance claims, and often these situations can be tricky.

Unfortunately, it sounds like damage in your case is not eligible for coverage. Even though you didn't know about the leak, your insurer thinks the damage stems from lack of maintenance rather than a peril covered by the policy. This means you're responsible for the damage. If a pipe by the washer had burst and flooded the room, that damage would be covered if you took care of the problem and called your insurance company right away. But damage is not covered when it is caused by a slow leak that continues for a long time without repair.

Generally, insurance companies can deny claims if they determine the problem stemmed from owners failing to do necessary upkeep to prevent damage from happening. Say, for instance, pipes burst after the temperature dropped below zero. Most policies would not cover the water damage if the owner left the house unoccupied and without heat, setting the stage for the disaster.

For more, see water damage: seven home insurance scenarios and home insurance exclusions: what your policy won't cover.

Last updated: Feb. 8, 2011
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