Water damage: when will insurance step in
The bathroom is flooded, the water is already finding its way into the apartment. Now quickly turn off the main faucet and report it to the insurance company! But which?
Water damage is one of the most common types of damage that insurance companies have to deal with. “On average, there is a leak every 30 seconds,” says Anja Käfer-Rohrbach, deputy managing director of the General Association of the German Insurance Industry (GDV) in Berlin. Broken pipes and leaky heating boilers are the most frequent causes.
Good for those affected: Insurance companies often step in for such damages. “Home and building insurers in Germany count about 1.1 million water damage cases each year.”
But what insurance applies if the carpet is soaked and the furniture is under water? Or if a big stain has formed on the wall? Is he himself responsible for a flooded basement? “It depends on what was damaged and what caused it,” says Anja Käfer-Rohrbach.
Insurance coverage can be extended
In principle, household items insurance pays for damage to household items, such as furniture or carpets, if they were caused by tap water, storms, or hail. Residential building insurance covers damage to the building, for example to the facades, walls or roof. It also covers damage caused by tap water, storms and hail.
Both types of insurance can be expanded to include natural hazard protection, also known as elemental damage insurance. “Anyone who wants to protect themselves against flooding due to climatic precipitation or river flooding needs additional elemental damage insurance,” emphasizes Bianca Boss of the Association of Insured Persons (BdV) in Hamburg.
It applies to damage caused by heavy rain or precipitation, landslides, subsidence, snow pressure, backwater, damage caused by avalanches, earthquakes, or volcanic eruptions. According to the GDV, most homeowners get this additional insurance protection without much trouble, since more than 90 percent of buildings in this country are in lower-risk areas.
Inform the insurance company as soon as possible
In order for the insurance company to pay in case of water damage, customers must fulfill their obligations: in the worst case, the insurer must be informed immediately, i.e. as quickly as possible, that the damage has occurred says White Boss. They are also required to limit damage as much as possible.
Those affected must leave the damage pattern unchanged until the insurer allows it to be changed. Otherwise, there is a risk of performance cuts. Photos documenting the damage are helpful.
Whenever the water isn’t flowing, the following applies: “If it’s not clear where the water is coming from, you should first talk to your insurance company before hiring a plumber,” says Bianca Boss. “Either the insurance employee can get an idea of the damage and possible causes from the photos, or an expert is commissioned.”
small stain can be reference
Serious damage can be hidden behind a supposedly harmless water stain. “If, for example, water comes out of the ceiling or a wall is soaked, this indicates that there are already large amounts of water in the building,” says Andreas Braun of the Central Association for Sanitary, Heating and Air Conditioning in Sankt Augustin.
A specialist can use technical equipment such as a thermal imaging camera or an ultrasound device to find the cause and also assess how complex the repair will be and what damage the water has caused in the house.
Negligence can become a problem
Important to note: If the residents themselves contributed to the water damage, for example, because they did not heat enough and as a result a pipe burst, this is considered gross negligence. “Insurers can then reduce your benefits, depending on the severity of the negligence, which is always determined on a case-by-case basis,” says Anja Käfer-Rohrbach.
By default, some insurance policies only cover damage caused by simple negligence. Although gross negligence may be included in the contract, this is not always the case.
Check insurance policies
In addition to these two types of insurance, personal liability insurance can also be important in the event of water damage to pipes. For example, if a resident causes water damage to a neighbor because the bathtub overflowed. “Then the personal liability of the polluter comes into play,” says Anja Käfer-Rohrbach. “They also pay for gross negligence.”
It’s worth taking a quiet hour to review your insurance policies and see how water damage is covered. The vast majority of home and building insurance policies include protection against fire and water damage.
“But that’s not a matter of course,” says Bianca Boss. “There are also residential policies that only cover fire protection. In such cases, water damage protection needs to be supplemented urgently.” (Katja Fischer, dpa/tmn)