After the record-breaking rain Ohio has received, we have received a number of calls regarding water in basements. But homeowners insurance policies treat water differently depending on the cause. And not ALL water is covered by the homeowner's policy, either through the basic policy or even as a supplement to the policy.
So, let's dig in and talk about the differences between water backup and flood, because the differences will determine whether or not a claim will be covered.
What is Water Backup?
A standard definition is this: water or sewers that back up through sewers or sewers, or that enter or overflow from a sump pump, sump pump well or any other system designed to remove groundwater drained from the base area.
To bring this definition to life, here are some examples of statements about water backup that we have seen:
- the floor drain in a basement becomes clogged and the water backs up through the drain to the basement floor.
- The same drain can be clogged, but instead of water, raw sewage backs through the drain to the basement.
- The amount of rain is too much for a sump pump to handle and it cannot keep up with draining the water. The excess water backs up on the floor.
The most important thing to note is that Water Backup is EXCLUDED from Ohio homeowners insurance, but can often be "bought back" via a caption that is of course called "Water Backup from Sewers, Drains or Faults on a Swamp Pump." , but typical limits include $ 5,000, $ 1
FYI: Our typical water backup reserve is between $ 5,000 and $ 10,000. Finished basements can tend to be higher.
What does the water supplement actually cover?
Again, here is a quick list of the situations that the water supplement covers….
- Cost of water extraction – this can be for a plumber or a professional company like Service master or Servpro. It can even be expenses you get yourself – like buying Shop-Vacs to soak up the water.
- Cost of drying out personal property or the structure itself. Pro-tip: Keep in mind that apart from fire, water is the worst thing that happens to a house. If not dried properly, mold, mildew and rot can easily develop (and most homeowners have limitations on these for future claims!). If the water damage is severe enough, we recommend that you use a professional fire and water restoration company to recover. They have high-tech equipment that can actually measure the amount of moisture in the walls, so the chances of mold or mildew are significantly reduced.
- Cost of repairing or replacing damaged personal property. Using a professional restoration company often means unpacking your damaged personal property and taking it to their place to "dry out" and hopefully save you. You would be surprised at what can be saved provided it is picked up on time.
- Costs for repairing or repairing damage to structures – floors and plaster are two of the biggest items, especially with finished basements.
You can quickly see that the water supply not only covers cleaning costs but also fixes what was damaged.  What is flood?
According to FEMA and the National Flood Insurance Program, the definition in the textbook is as follows:
- A general and temporary permit for partial or complete flooding of 2 or more acres of normal dry land or with two or more properties (of which at least 1 is the policyholder's property) from:
– Abundance of inland or tidal; or
– Unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface water from any source; or
– Mudflow; or
- Collapse or immersion of land along the shore of a lake or similar body of water as a result of erosion or undermining caused by waves or water currents exceeding expected cyclical levels resulting in a flood as defined above.
Here is a typical example in our area: rain falls quickly and heavily and the ground simply can not absorb the water. It travels along the ground and is drained to lower levels in a house, such as a basement. NOTE: these were most of the calls we received after the recent floods.
Flooding is a standard exclusion for Ohio homeowners, with no repurchase. There may be a handful of companies that offer limited flood reporting, but they are few and far between.
To get flood coverage for your home, you need to buy flood insurance. Period. Although we do not sell flood insurance, you CAN contact the National Flood Insurance Program Help Center at 800-427-4661 for a referral in your area.
For additional resources regarding flood insurance, visit FEMA | National flood insurance program (including frequently asked questions, definitions and how insurance is assessed).
Interestingly, two of our transport companies offer flood protection for the inland river that covers typical flood damage, such as damage to a home, personal property (including property in a basement), loss of use and removal of debris (provided the property is justified ). You must have Water Backup coverage to get approval of the inland river, and the coverage limit and deductible must match. The idea is to provide coverage where Water Backup does not.
Here is a good example of when inland river cover would apply: A stream behind a home overflows and water enters the basement through the windows. The sump pump cannot handle the water, so the basement is filled with water. Again, this was the typical call we received after the recent floods. Why does water backup not apply here? Because the reason why the event occurred at all is that the stream overflows.
Now you should start to see that there ARE drastic differences between backup and flood. The most common seems to be that the reserve from water comes from below and travels upwards, while the flood is along the ground and travels over.
Are you worried that you do not have the coverage you need for a Water or Sewer Backup? Or for an inland river? We can help – Call or click today and we will be happy to compile a policy that solves your problems with water backup and inland river.