Water Damage and Basement Flooding: What Does My Insurance Cover in Ontario?
What does it cost to repair a flooded basement? What if your sewer backs up due to overland flooding from heavy rainfall, or your sump pump fails due to a power outage?
These problems are becoming all too familiar here in Southern Ontario. Sadly, the risk of urban floods will likely continue to increase as we experience earlier snowmelt, more intense rainfall and other effects of climate change in Canada.
You’d hope that your homeowner’s insurance policy would provide adequate coverage for any flooding or water damage. But there are many types of home flooding that are not covered by a typical home insurance policy – and according to new data from the Insurance Bureau of Canada, families who fall victim to flooding can expect to pay an average of $43,000 in repairs.
Don’t wait until you are in a crisis to understand what your insurance company will and won’t cover regarding plumbing! Here’s what you should know about flood and water damage coverage in Ontario.
Does Basic Homeowner’s Insurance Cover Basement Flooding in Ontario?
Most basic homeowner’s insurance plans do cover basement flooding in some circumstances, but it often depends on the source of the water damage.
Typically, homeowner’s insurance covers damage resulting from any water overflow from malfunctioning household appliances such as your dishwasher, washing machine or hot water heater. When your pipes burst from freezing in the winter (or possibly from your A/C unit), your insurer will likely cover the damage and any replacement costs.
But what if the cause of your flooded basement is the result of a hot tub or swimming pool overflow? Your insurance company will generally replace and repair any damage caused by these types of flooding because they are considered “sudden and accidental.” The same applies if your toilet overflows and ruins your newly laid bathroom flooring.
Of course, when most people think about basement flooding, they aren’t thinking about plumbing issues. They’re worried about overland flooding caused by severe weather.
Unfortunately, this is exactly where your homeowner’s insurance could fall short.
When Do I Need Additional Insurance Coverage for Flooding?
Overland flooding occurs when water flows over the ground and seeps into buildings through the windows, doors and cracks in the foundation. Most flooding occurs when rivers or streams overflow during the wet spring months, but floods can occur anywhere at any time of year.
Although this type of flooding is one of the most frequent and costly natural disasters in Canada, most basic homeowner’s insurance policies do not provide coverage. Instead, many insurance companies offer overland flood insurance coverage for a small, additional fee.
The cost of this extra coverage is minimal in comparison to the cost of the potential damage caused by flooding or sewage backup. But when you take out a flood policy, you will need to purchase both dwelling and contents coverage to get the maximum coverage for your basement.
You should also consider sump pump coverage, as many policies do not cover water damage if your sump pump fails due to a malfunction.
Does Homeowner’s Insurance Cover Sewage Backup?
Sewage backup from an overwhelmed municipal sewer system can be one of the most extensive and costly disasters that can befall a home.
Unfortunately, like overland flooding, this type of water damage is not part of most basic homeowner’s insurance policies. But most companies do offer an endorsement for sewage backup that is relatively inexpensive and a highly advisable add–on to your homeowner’s policy.
Installing a mainline backwater valve can prevent sewers from backing up. A backwater valve will close automatically if sewage backs up from the main sewer.
How to Protect Yourself
As a homeowner, it’s in your best interest to take any preventative measures you can. We encourage you to have a having a backwater valve installed to prevent sewage backup, as well as getting the extended home insurance mentioned above.
Some municipalities offer rebates or subsidies to install flood prevention devices such as sump pumps and backwater valves.