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Is a Leaky Ceiling Covered by Insurance?

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Nationwide

Home Insurance Rates
Average Annual Rate $1,271
Average Monthly Rate $105
Property Crime Statistics
Burglary Count 1,579,527
Theft Count 5,706,346
Odds of being victim 1 in 37

Since life wasn’t already busy enough, now you have a ceiling leak on your hands. Will home insurance cover it? That depends on exactly why your ceiling is leaking. Homeowners insurance typically covers water damage if the cause is sudden and accidental. So if you had a serious windstorm that caused roof damage and let water in, there’s a good chance that would be covered. If your roof hasn’t been maintained, your homeowners insurance likely won’t cover the claim.

What Is Considered a Leak?

Homeowners insurance policies don’t have a specific definition for what’s considered a leak. Whether it’s a small drip or a steady flow of water, it all falls under the category of water damage. Water damage is the 2nd most frequently filed insurance claim, and the average water damage claim is $10,849, according to the Insurance Information Institute

What Types of Damage are Typically Covered

Home insurance policies vary when it comes to the types of damage they cover. Water damage, in particular, can vary. Whether damage will be covered depends on the language in your policy and the source of the damage. In general, ceiling leaks and water damage will be covered if they’re due to:

  • Roof leaks caused by a covered peril: A peril is what causes damage, like hail or a tree falling. Covered perils typically include wind and hail damage, falling objects, vandalism, the weight of ice, snow or sleet and lightning strikes. 
  • Unexpected plumbing issues: If a pipe freezes or has a defect and bursts, causing your ceiling leak, that would most likely be covered by homeowners insurance. 
  • Appliance overflows. If you have an appliance on an upper floor and it floods, it could cause ceiling leaks in the lower floor. If it’s an unexpected overflow and not related to negligence or a lack of maintenance, it may be covered. 

Leak Damage Exclusions on Home Insurance

Leak damage typically isn’t covered by home insurance in the following situations:

  • Maintenance issues: If a leak is caused by an issue that could or should be resolved by maintenance, home insurance typically won’t cover it. For example, if a water faucet drips or a roof hasn’t been maintained, it’s considered the homeowner’s responsibility. 
  • Floods: Home insurance policies typically don’t cover flooding due to a storm or a surging body of water. If you live in a flood-prone area, it’s best to purchase a separate flood insurance policy. 
  • Negligence: This is when someone is careless or not paying attention. For example, if a ceiling leak occurs because your toddler left a faucet running, that may not be covered by your home insurance policy. 

Home insurance also won’t cover repairing your appliance if it was the source of the leak. Let’s say your ceiling leak was caused by a washing machine malfunction. Your home insurance may cover repairing the ceiling, but it won’t pay to repair or replace the washing machine. 

How to File a Claim for Leaks

Here are the steps you need to take to file a claim for a leak. 

  1. Minimize the potential damage. Before you start the claims process, do what you can to minimize the impact of the leak. If you haven’t already, use a bucket or pan to catch the leaking water and a tarp or towel to handle any overflow. 
  2. Contact your insurance company. You may be able to start a claim online, but it may be best to call your insurance company. This allows you to ask questions about the claims process. If you’re not sure of what your deductible is, ask. Your deductible is the amount you’re responsible for paying before insurance coverage starts. Ask about the claims and repairs process. For example, ask if you will need to get an estimate before you start repairs.
  3. Document the damage. Video and photos are the best way to do this. Take pictures of the leak and any damage it caused. Put together a list of any property that was damaged in the leak along with its value. If you have the receipts for any valuable items that were damaged, gather those as well. It helps to confirm the value of the item. 
  4. Fill out the claim forms. These may be online or on paper. Be sure to fill out everything and include your documentation when you file the claim. You can often upload pictures when you file an online claim. 
  5. Make temporary repairs. If you’re comfortable doing so, make temporary repairs. You’ll need to find the source of the leak. If you make any purchases to complete the repairs, keep your receipts so you can submit them for reimbursement. 
  6. Meet with an adjuster. Some insurance companies aren’t doing as many in-person inspections due to the pandemic. If it’s a large leak with extensive damage, you may still need to meet with an adjuster. Have your documentation handy so you can provide it to the adjuster. The adjuster will also interview you, so be prepared to discuss when the leak started and any other important details.
  7. If required, get estimates. Consider getting 2 or 3 quotes for the repairs. This gives you the best chance of finding someone with reasonable pricing.
  8. Follow your insurance company’s requirements for completing repairs. The insurance company may send the payout. In some cases, your contractor may ask you to sign a “direction to pay” form, which allows your insurance company to pay them directly. You don’t have to sign off on this. Some homeowners prefer to have the funds sent to them so they can control the process. Do what works best for you.

What to Do if Your Claim Was Denied

If your claim is denied, there are still steps you can take. First, review the letter stating why the claim was denied. If you’re unclear as to the reason, contact your insurance company. If there was missing documentation or the adjuster didn’t include the extent of the damage, ask for it to be reviewed again. 

If they don’t agree to a review, hire a public adjuster. This is an independent party who can evaluate the damage. Submit the new report to your insurance company. 

If those steps don’t sway your insurance company, you can file a complaint with your state or file a lawsuit against the insurance company. You’d file the complaint with your state’s department of insurance. If you file a lawsuit, look for an attorney with experience in property insurance claims. 

Best Home Insurance for Leak Coverage

If you’re not sure how a ceiling leak will be handled, review your insurance policy. Consider whether you should switch your coverage. Here are the best home insurance companies for leak coverage. 

1. Amica

Amica has consistently ranked at or near the top of J.D. Power’s Home Insurance Study. That means customers are highly satisfied with their claims experience. It also offers a discount of up to 20% if you insure both your home and your car.

Amica has an A+ rating from AM Best, which means it’s financially stable. Another service it offers is Contractor Connection, which helps connect you to licensed contractors for leak repairs. 

2. Hippo

Hippo makes it easy to buy coverage and file a claim. You can get a quote in a minute, and if you sign up, you may be eligible for a complimentary smart home monitoring system. The system can detect fire and water damage as well as theft.

When you file a claim, you’re connected with a claims concierge. Your concierge is your point of contact, and they can walk you through the process from start to finish. 

3. Nationwide

Nationwide has been in business for 90 years. It provides excellent customer service through its network of agents. You can also contact Nationwide directly.

It has a mobile app that makes it easy to find your policy information and file a claim. You can also bundle home, auto and life coverage to save money. If you have questions, Nationwide also has educational articles on homeowners insurance and other topics. 

Which Home Insurance Is Right for Me?

If you’re shopping for coverage, the best approach is to contact at least 2 or 3 insurance companies. Compare the quotes. Be sure to look at the premium (your monthly payments) as well as your policy limits and deductibles. Choose a provider that’s easy to work with and provides a good value for your money. 

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