The recent snow and ice storms left many Texas homeowners with significant property damage. One of the most common forms of property damage caused by winter weather is ruptured pipes. Simply put, cold weather can cause the water in your pipes to freeze and expand, causing the pipe itself to break. This can potentially lead to several hundred gallons of water spilling out within just a few hours.
Naturally, if this has happened to you, you’re going to have some questions about whether your homeowners insurance will cover it.
KNOW YOUR POLICY
Here, a standard disclaimer applies: Every homeowners policy is different, and you’ll benefit greatly from carefully reviewing the terms outlined in your own insurance coverage.
With that said, a majority of homeowners insurance policies in Texas cover “sudden and accidental” discharges of water from your pipes. Damage that’s caused by frozen/ruptured pipes surely fits this description.
As such, your homeowners insurance policy is likely to cover burst pipes, with a couple of caveats. If you have been neglectful of your home plumbing, or have exhibited generally poor home maintenance, your insurer may try to argue that they are not responsible for the damages. Additionally, you will need to prove that you’ve made reasonable efforts to keep your home properly heated. In light of the recent bad weather and widespread power outages, many homeowners can rightly claim that their home heating options were severely limited.
WHAT EXACTLY WILL INSURANCE COVER?
As for what, specifically, your insurance will cover, most homeowners policies in Texas will cover the following:
- The cost of accessing a ruptured pipe (for instance, if the pipe is behind a wall and the wall must be demolished in order for the plumber to reach the pipe).
- The cost of any repairs to damaged property, including the costs associated with drying waterlogged carpeting.
- The cost of repairing your wall once the pipe itself has been patched up.
- Any additional living expenses you incur if you are unable to live in your house while the repairs are being made.
- The cost of repairing a pipe in certain circumstances.
PREPARING TO FILE A HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE CLAIM
If you have suffered property damage due to a frozen pipe, there are a few steps you can take to maximize the odds that your claim is accepted, and that your insurance provider covers what they’re supposed to. These steps include:
- Take reasonable efforts to minimize the damage. As soon as you are aware of a ruptured pipe, make sure you turn off the water source. Call a water remediation company to come handle the damage ASAP.
- Take plenty of pictures. As with any homeowners insurance claim, you’ll want to be as thorough as can be with your documentation, taking pictures of the pipe itself and any other damaged areas (including walls, flooring, carpeting, etc.).
- Contact your insurance company. Once you have taken these first two steps, contact your insurance company and let them know you need to file a claim.
- Use the right terminology. It’s crucially important to refer to “water damage,” but never to use the term “flooding.” Remember that flooding is not covered under most homeowners policies. You don’t ever want to give your insurance company a way to suggest that what happened counts as a flood, even if that’s what it felt like to you.
SEEK HELP FROM A TEXAS ATTORNEY
If you have any questions about filing a homeowners insurance claim, or if you feel like your insurance company is handling the claim unfairly, we welcome you to give us a call. McLaurin Law Firm has ample experience working with Houston homeowners to get their insurance claims properly processed, and we are here to help in the wake of this year’s winter storms. Contact McLaurin Law at any time.
Jason McLaurin is a founding member of McLaurin Law. He has over a decade of experience representing clients at trial, arbitration, and mediation in matters concerning insurance policyholder recovery disputes, complex commercial litigation, and catastrophic personal injury claims. He also represents businesses as outside general counsel for clients in a variety of industries including construction, oil and gas, maritime, technology, and professional services. He is licensed and handles matters in both Texas and Louisiana.