What to do if there’s water damage in your home

Did you know that water is the leading cause of home insurance claims in Canada? Whether flooding is caused by leaky plumbing or overflow from a nearby body of water, the insurance industry deals with billions of dollars per year in claims due to water damage. Follow these steps when you discover water damage in your home — and note that you may need to complete a few of them at the same time to stay safe and help get your home back in order.

  1. Contact your insurance company immediately. Your insurance company will send a claims adjustor to assess any damage to your home's structure and your personal belongings. Some insurers can connect you with their preferred contractors and service providers so you're not left stranded.
  2. Find a contractor to assist with repairs and cleanup if you aren't using one of your insurer's preferred vendors. Before signing any contracts, get a quote from a certified and insured contractor to make repairs or help with cleanup. Your insurer needs to approve all quotes and contracts before the repairs are started.
  3. Document all structural and property damage. Make detailed notes of structural and property damage inside and outside your house. Before you begin to move items or throw them away, take photos or videos of walls, carpets, cabinets, furniture, electronics, and any other belongings that are damaged or destroyed. Document and throw away food and medicine if it has expired or been in contact with flood water. Your insurer will review your list of items to help cover any repairs or replacement for items damaged in the flood.
  4. Remove flood water from your home. You may need to buy or rent buckets, industrial fans, dehumidifiers, wet-dry vacuums, pumps, garbage receptacles, and other supplies to remove standing water and dry out the items and rooms in your house. Save the receipts for these items.
  5. Clean household items and remove mould. If possible, move wet furniture, carpets, and mattresses to a cool, dry place to dry out. Throw away wet particle board, insulation, mattresses, pillows, and anything that's covered in sewage. Remember to use good hygiene and wear personal protective equipment when dealing with the flood water. Use clean water and soap to wash and rinse dirt and debris from everything that's been contaminated. Because mould can develop within 24 hours, it should be removed as quickly as possible. Mould can be dangerous to your health as well as cause structural damage, so you may need to hire a professional to safely remove it.
  6. Think safety first. If flooding and water damage forces you to evacuate your living space, follow all local and provincial guidelines and return home only when it's deemed safe to do so. Buckling walls, floors, and staircases can make your home structurally unstable. Electricity and water can cause electrocution, and standing water may be contaminated with hazardous pollutants. Make sure your home and drinking water have been inspected and approved before you start to clean or make repairs. Whether you remain at home or not, contact your local gas, electrical, and water company to shut off or restore these services when appropriate.
  7. Save your receipts. Keep all receipts related to repair and cleanup contracts, purchases, and rentals. Your insurer will use these to reimburse costs associated with your claim.

What to know before you experience water damage

Sometimes water damage happens, even when you've taken all the right steps to protect your home from flooding. Take these steps to make sure you have the right home insurance coverage to protect you in the event of water damage in your home.

  1. Understand what's included in your standard home insurance policy. Most home insurance policies cover water damage caused by things inside your home, such as a burst pipe, an overflowing toilet, a dishwasher, or a washing machine. If you have to leave your home during a flooding event, your standard home, condo, or tenant insurance policy can also provide coverage for additional living expenses to pay for out-of-pocket expenses like food, clothing, and accommodation.
  2. Ask your broker about insurance policy add-ons for water damage caused by overland water or sewer backups. Depending on what's included in your standard home insurance policy, you might have to purchase insurance add-ons to cover flood damage caused by overland water (such as heavy rain or overflowing rivers and lakes) and sewer backups, as these coverages typically won't be automatically included.
  3. Inventory your home. Take photos or videos of your valuables and all the rooms in your home. This can help your insureropens a pop-up with definition of insurer evaluate the cost of repairs or replacement if you ever do find yourself needing to make a claimopens a pop-up with definition of claim. Download apps or printable tools that can help you with your home inventory.

To find out what your home insurance policy will cover in the event of a water-related claim, review your policy documents and contact your licensed home insurance broker if you have questions. Your broker can help you understand your policy and make sure you have the coverage you need.

This article was originally posted on economical.com

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