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Does home insurance cover water damage caused by household appliances?

Some household appliances hold large quantities of water including hot water heaters, air conditioning units, dishwashers and washing machines. And every so often, much to a homeowner's dismay, one of these appliances will fail and release a large amount of water unexpectedly into a home.

Hot water heaters are the most common culprit as older units will often rust and leak. If a homeowner is home when this occurs- the water line to the unit can quickly be shut off at the first sign of leakage. However if this occurs when no one is home to intervene, extensive damage may result.

The good news is- most standard homeowners insurance policies will cover water damage repairs caused by failed household appliances as long as there is not evidence of the unit being damaged. For example, if the hot water heater burst because someone accidently knocked it over, hit it with a hammer or any other type of inflicted damage, this would not be covered. However if the unit simply broke due to normal wear and tear, the water damage caused by the leaking unit might be covered.

Keep in mind that while the water damage to the home will be covered- your homeowners insurance will not cover the replacement of the unit itself. Homeowners who have a home warranty should contact their home warranty company about coverage for their large appliances as they may be covered under a home warranty.

Preventing Water Damage

As with any of damage to your home, it's always better to prevent it- then clean it up.

Consider Location- For dishwashers and washing machines the location of the unit is typically set to the laundry room or kitchen. However, when you install a new hot water heater, for example, consider the location of the unit in your home. If your hot water heater is normally located in, or next to, a room with expensive flooring or other hard-to-replace materials/objects- consider asking your plumber to move it. The difficulty of this will vary depending on the location of your home's water lines, however, moving your unit to the basement or outdoor utility closet could save you some major repair in the event that it fails.

Maintain- One of the best ways to prevent the failure of these types of appliances is to perform regular maintenance. Inspect your appliances and check for any rust or slow leaks. Follow the water line from the back of the unit to the wall looking for any water leaks in the pipes and connectors. Have a licensed professional fix any potential issues.

Be Prepared- In the event that a unit does break and water begins leaking from the unit first consider if there is water entering the unit from your home's water line. If so (as in the case of a hot water heater) know where your home's main water valve is located and quickly shut it off. Have a bucket available to catch any spilling water and call a plumber immediately.

For questions regarding your specific policy, call your homeowners insurance agent.

Last Updated: July 15, 2009

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