When Renters Insurance Does and Doesn’t Cover Water Damage

Renters insurance can save you from many hassles, but does renters insurance cover water damage? Does renters insurance cover water backup? The answers can be a little tricky and varied between policies since each policy is unique — most of them will cover some types of water damage while excluding others. One of the crucial things to look for in a policy is renters insurance water damage.

Depending on your policy, your renters insurance might cover water damage from broken pipes but not from a sewer backup. Most companies, however, offer additional coverage options.

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    [ Next: Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Water Damage? ]

    In this article

      What are the types of water damage?

      When it comes to water damages, there can be several potential sources. Roofs can become damaged and develop leaks, allowing rainwater to work its way into the dwelling. Pipes can freeze and burst, creating unexpected deluges. Sewers can back up, leading to water and worse within a home. Likewise, floodwaters can wreak havoc when they occur.

      These are just some of the types of water damage that might occur. When considering a renters insurance policy, make sure to learn which of these is covered and which ones will be excluded. Knowing which risks are more common in your area and making sure your policy covers these events is a smart way to prepare.

      What types of water damage are covered by renters insurance?

      Water leaks

      Basic plumbing leaks are often covered by renters insurance. This might be as simple as a drip occurring underneath your kitchen sink. It might be something more serious like a leaking pipe soaking through the wall and into your closet. In either situation, basic renters insurance should cover any possessions damaged by the water.

      Frozen water

      Renters insurance will generally cover the damages to your possessions if ice buildup atop the roof leads to water damages within the building. This particular coverage also extends to frozen pipes within the home. So, if a pipe freezes and bursts during the winter, and it damages some of your possessions, you can file a claim on them.

      Burst pipes

      Burst pipes can happen for several reasons, but the damage to your possessions from a burst water pipe is usually covered by renters insurance. Depending on why the pipe burst, these situations can also fall under ‘frozen water’ coverage.

      Rain

      Leaks within the roof are less likely to be covered than storm damage. So, rain damage to your possessions that could get into the home as a result of storm damage is usually covered. However, general leaks are tricker and less likely to be covered.

      Damage to other properties

      If water originates in your home and spreads into a unit next to you, your renters insurance may cover some of the costs of replacing their belongings. The same rules will apply as to whether or not the water damage is covered. Specifically, only damages caused by covered perils will be reimbursed.

      [ Read: How Much is Renters Insurance? ]

      Types of water damage not covered by renters insurance

      Although there are numerous excluded perils listed within every renters insurance policy, many of these perils can be added to your policy as additional coverage. The below are those perils which are generally excluded from basic renters insurance plans.

      Flooding

      Flooding is not covered by basic renters insurance, but you can buy a flood endorsement to shore up that gap. This exclusion only deals with real floods and not water originating from pipes, even if a burst pipe were to flood the basement.

      Damage that occurs over time

      Damage that builds up over time and could have been prevented through routine maintenance will often be excluded from your policy. In these situations, the insurer is likely to see the cause of damage as negligence instead of standard water damage.

      Sewage water

      Renters insurance rarely covers possessions that are damaged by backed up and overflowing sewage. Depending on your insurance company, you may be able to add coverage for this peril. A well-maintained sewer line should prevent backups, but it can be wise to add this coverage if you experience frequent blockage in your sewer pipes.

      Sump pump failure

      In its basic format, renters insurance usually won’t cover a situation where the sump pump fails, and water works its way into the home, damaging your belongings. In these situations, the water works its way up through the floorboards over the flooded crawl space. Depending on the company, you may be able to purchase coverage for this as an add-on.

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      Does renters insurance cover water damages caused by me?

      Renters insurance covers perils and possessions. If how you cause the water damage is a covered peril, then your insurance should cover it. This changes if you caused the water damage on purpose or knowingly. In that situation, filing a claim might constitute insurance fraud. To avoid this risk, always be as transparent as possible when filing a claim.

      [ Read: Renters Insurance Terms You Need to Know ]

      Technicalities are important in the world of insurance. If a clogged pipe causes an accidental overflow from your sink or toilet, leading to some damaged possessions, your renters insurance will likely help out. However, if the clog developed slowly over time, and you were aware of it for some time, your claim is less likely to be accepted. The second situation might be seen as being caused by negligence or lack of maintenance.

      Does renters insurance cover water damages I cause to others?

      Renters insurance can protect you from liability if someone else’s possessions become damaged while at your home. There are some restrictions, though. If the damage is caused by a covered peril, then an insurance claim should be accepted. However, if an excluded peril causes the damage, then the claim will be denied.

      This liability protection isn’t always limited to the space within your walls. If you live in a unit with shared walls or floors, then your rental insurance might protect you from water damages caused to your neighbors’ possessions. Again, this is only in situations where the water damage originates from your home and is caused by one of your policy’s covered perils.

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        Should water damages be covered by my landlord or my renters insurance?

        The line between landlord and tenant, when it comes to insurance, is the difference between possessions and property. The landlord and their insurance are liable for damages to the building itself. The tenant, and their renters insurance, are only liable for possessions or belongings, and medical expenses in some cases. The line for personal property liability can get a little less clear, depending on who is at fault for the damages.

        When the landlord is at fault for the water damage — due to negligence, for example — then they are liable for the damages caused to the personal possessions within the building. However, if the tenant is at fault — due to leaving a faucet running, for example — then the tenant, or their insurance, is responsible for the damaged possessions. In either situation it is the landlord’s property insurance that covers the damages to the building. The landlord may sue the tenant for compensation later if the tenant is found to be at fault for the damages to the property.

        [ Read: Is Renters Insurance Worth It? ]

        We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at inquiries@thesimpledollar.com with comments or questions.

        Joshua Cox-Steib

        Contributing Writer

        Joshua Cox-Steib is a personal finance contributor. He lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, with his wife and their three pets. He spends his spare time reading, writing, and gardening. Find out more on Joshua Cox-Steib at www.jcswriting.com.

        Reviewed by

        • Nashalie Addarich
          Nashalie Addarich
          Editor

          Nashalie Addarich is an editor for The Simple Dollar. She recently made a career switch from the legal field, where she was an attorney in Washington, DC. In her free time, she enjoys learning new languages. You can also find her editorial work on Reviews.com.