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Does Insurance Pay for Frozen Pipes?

Over this past winter a long line of states experienced below freezing temperatures, with many states that rarely see snow experiencing a harrowing polar vortex. Frozen pipes are a major struggle and headache when the weather is below freezing. The best next step is to figure out what happened and how to handle it. All of this while dealing with the extreme cold. If there’s a way to make bad weather worse, frozen pipes will do just that.

Want to know how insurance views this? Keep reading….

So does insurance pay for pipes freezing?

The answer to this question is both yes and no. As the homeowner, you need to understand both the yes and the no portions of the answer. Here’s why. Typically, insurance will not pay for the actual repair of the pipes that burst. That means the cost of the plumber is paid by you. That’s why the answer to the question “will insurance pay for frozen pipes” is no.

Most insurance will pay for the water damage that occurred. Therefore, damage to ceilings, walls, furniture, flooring, etc. is typically covered by insurance. That’s good because damage to these types of items can often be the big money ticket as opposed to the cost to repair the pipes. 

The key to water damage being covered is a term called negligence. This means that your decisions lead to the pipes freezing. An example of this is that you turned the heat off to save a little money. The insurance company will you view you as negligent and not pay for the claim.

Water Damage Claims Are Complicated

It’s important to know that insurance policies were created by lawyers and therefore they are going to have some special language when it comes water damage and the claims that result from them. This is because water damage is the #1 cause of homeowner’s insurance claims. 

According to the Insurance Journal, water damage is the number one claim, while water damage due to freezing situations is second most filed type of claim when looking at 2012 through 2016. The average claim amount for water damage during this time was $9,633. Importantly, this is a 9% increase over the $8,861 average for the four-year period from 2011 to 2015.

How To File Your Claim

Now that you know that “frozen pipes” are not covered, we can talk about how to file your insurance claim. When filing the claim, do not put the cause of loss as Frozen pipes. Instead, file the claim for “water damage.” Also, be sure that you weren’t negligent. Remember the example mentioned above, if you were away from home and turned the heat off while you were away, that’s negligence. Insurance is unlikely to pay in the case of your negligence.

There’s Water Everywhere. What do I do First?

First, try and stop the leak. This usually means dusting off that water key and shutting the water off. Next, get everything dried out. Make sure to document and take pictures of everything damaged. Most likely you will be doing both of these items before you have an agreed to settlement with the insurance company. Go ahead with getting the leak fixed. Because your insurance probably won’t pay for the plumber, don’t worry about coordinating the plumber with the insurance company. However, getting everything dried out is a service for which the insurance company is likely to pay. Therefore, you need to coordinate with your insurance company on this.

While the action for getting everything dried out seems straightforward, you need to be careful. Typically, when you have frozen pipes, there are many other homeowners that have the same problem. Yes, when pipes freeze, they freeze in your neighbor’s home too. Unfortunately, there are sketchy contractors that will try and take advantage of the situation. Therefore, you could end up with a contractor that over charges, does sub par work, or isn’t approved for work by your insurance company.

Even though you may not be able to meet with a claims adjuster on short notice, be sure to speak with a claims adjuster and find out which contractors they recommend for drying everything out. By the way, drying everything out is referred to as “mitigating water damage” in the insurance world. Once you know which contractors are used to working with your insurance company, contact them about drying everything out. Ask them to put a statement on their quote that the cost will not exceed what the insurance company considers to be reasonable and customary. This protects you from having to pay any extra charges. If they’re used to working with your insurance company, they will know what the reasonable and customary amount is. Most honest contractors should be willing to make such a note on the quote.

My Insurance Company is Being Difficult

Disappointingly, there are some insurance companies that will prove difficult in settling the claim. The reasons that lead to a difficult claims process vary, including the following. The company is experiencing financial pressure and needs to improve earnings. Alternatively, sometimes new management has come on board and has a different approach to claims payment. Whatever the reason, if you’re having difficulty, contact a public adjuster. Before contacting an adjuster, understand the different types of adjusters:

  • In-house adjuster – this type of adjuster is employed by the insurance company. They represent the company.
  • Contract claims adjuster – this is an adjuster that contracts with insurance companies. This adjuster also represents the insurance company.
  • Public adjuster – this is a claims adjuster that contracts with homeowners. This is what you want.

A public adjuster can help you get your claim settled. All other types of adjusters are paid for by the insurance company. Therefore, an adjuster that works for the insurance company wants to help you only if the corporate culture of the company is to help policyholders. Unfortunately, while that is the corporate culture of some insurance companies, it’s not the corporate culture of all companies. It should come as no surprise that when there are billions of dollars at stake, your well-being is may not the first priority.

How to Avoid The Problems Frozen Pipes Bring

There are a number of proactive steps you can take to avoid having frozen pipes. Here are a few:

  • Take the following steps to protect pipes in heated areas:
    • Keep the heat at 65 or above.
    • If you’re gone for multiple days during cold weather, have someone check on the house. Alternatively, you can shut off the water and drain the pipes. Winterizing the home is the safest method for avoiding frozen pipes.
    • Install an alarm that will let you know if power is lost or heating equipment fails.
  • Here’s how you can protect pipes in unheated areas:
    • If a garage, make sure garage doors are closed.
    • Install a temporary space heater.
    • Wrap the pipes with heat tape.
    • Insulate the pipes 

When frozen pipes hit it can often cause chaos. Know your game plan in the event that this happens and take it one day at a time.

Written by: Avery Moore
Read more Blog posts by Avery Moore