Broken pipes are a common and costly problem for homeowners, and many people are unsure if their insurance policy will pay for the damage. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer regarding broken pipes. Whether an insurer will pay for the damage depends on several factors, including the underlying reason the pipes broke.
Pipes break for many reasons. When you file a claim for water damage resulting from a broken pipe, your adjuster will inspect the pipe to determine the cause of the damage. If he determines that the pipe had been leaking for some time and eventually broke due to lack of routine maintenance, he will likely deny your claim. You are expected to perform maintenance to your home, including fixing leaky pipes. This type of issue is excluded from your homeowner's insurance policy.
Sudden and Accidental
If your pipes break because of a "sudden and accidental" loss, your policy will probably cover the damage. One of the more common examples of this type of damage occurs during the winter months, when pipes freeze. The water in the pipes expands when it freezes, which can break the pipe. If this, or any other type of sudden burst, occurs, you have a valid claim and should be covered for the ensuing damage, subject to the terms and conditions of the policy.
Repairing the Pipes
Your insurer may pay to replace the damaged piping, or it may not. While the policy language almost always pays for the damage caused by the water from the burst pipe, it may exclude repairs to the pipe itself. Each insurer is allowed to write the terms of its policies according to its own rules, as long as its state regulatory agency approves. Read your policy to determine if the direct damage to the pipes is covered, or if you only have protection for the resulting damage.
If damage to the pipes occurs as a result of a covered cause not directly related to the pipes, your insurer should pay for all damages. For example, if a strong storm damages your home, including the pipes, all the damage should be covered under your windstorm coverage, if your policy carries it. Similarly, your fire coverage would pay for a fire in the home that damages your pipes. Indirect damage to your pipes is always covered as long as you have coverage for the primary cause of loss.
Stephen Hicks has been writing professionally since 2000. He recently published his first novel, "The Seventh Day of Christmas." He spent three years as a licensed life and property/casualty insurance agent in California. Hicks holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts in cinema studies from New York University.