Water damage in the home is on the rise. Over the past few years, water damage has displaced fire as the number one cause and cost of insurance claims. But protection from water damage doesn't always come with your insurance policy, so it's essential to know what is and isn't covered by your insurer before disaster strikes.
Understanding Water Damage
Several factors have come together to increase both the frequency and the cost of water damage claims in recent years. First, there's the fact that climate change is responsible for more bouts of extreme weather; severe rainstorms or heavy snowfall can back up drain sewers or cause foundations to leak. At the same time, modern houses have become larger and more expensive. While basements used to be a repository for off-season clothing and old holiday decorations, homeowners opt to finish their basements and fill them with expensive electronics to create family rooms or home theatres. There's also the fact that city infrastructure is struggling to keep up with urban sprawl; as new subdivisions grow, aging sewer systems can’t always keep pace with the demand. This leads to costly sewer backups.
The good news is you can get insurance to cover this kind of water damage, although it doesn't come standard with many policies. No insurer in Canada offers protection against flood damage, which is where a body of water overflows and causes damage to your home or property, but many do offer optional protection against damage caused by sewer backup or intense precipitation.
Protecting Yourself and Your Home
If you're concerned about potential water damage, the first thing you should do is check with your insurance broker to see if your policy includes water damage, and if so, under what conditions. Even if you're covered, it never hurts to minimize your losses. If you live in an area prone to sewer backups or flooding, the Insurance Bureau of Canada recommends taking some precautions, such as not storing valuable items in the basement and using risers to keep large appliances off the basement floor. If your basement is prone to flooding, it may even be worth installing a sump pump and/or using backwater or backflow valves to keep sewer water from backing up into your home. You should also make sure your property slopes properly so that runoff rainwater drains away from your foundation, not toward it.
If your basement is flooding or may be about to flood, you'll want to minimize the risk of damage to the rest of the house. Be sure to immediately turn off electricity to any affected areas. If you store fuel tanks in an area that could flood, anchoring them to the floor can prevent them from tipping over as the water rises.
As with many disasters, water damage can come on suddenly and without warning, so it’s important to be prepared. And remember that protection doesn’t always come standard, so you’ll want to speak to your broker to make sure you’re covered in case the water starts to rise.