Having water damage is no fun

Water damage: what to do? What insurance pays?

Water damage can go unnoticed for a long time or it can be so dramatic that entire living areas are under water. Read here how to react in the event of water damage, which insurance pays and how you can avoid it in the future.

Water damage: what to do? What insurance pays?
Water damage: what to do? What insurance pays?

What can cause water damage?

Water damage is reported particularly frequently to insurance companies in Germany. The reasons for the unpleasant, wet surprise are quite diverse. These causes are possible for water damage:

  • Defective pipes for fresh water and waste water
  • Damage to washing machine and dishwasher hoses
  • Defective cables in the house or apartment
  • Damage to air conditioning and solar systems or heat pump heating systems
  • Malfunction or damage to sprinkler systems
  • Defect in the heating system
  • Flood / flood
  • Heavy rain
  • Backwater from the sewer system

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What to do in the event of water damage?

Regardless of whether the water gushes out of the wall in an uncontrolled manner, drips from the ceiling or shows itself through damp walls - you should act immediately in the event of water damage.

It is even your duty as a tenant or owner to do everything possible to keep the damage as low as possible and to prevent it from spreading further. Therefore, as soon as you notice water damage, be sure to follow these steps:

  1. Turn off the water
    The most important and therefore first step in the event of water damage is always to stop the water flowing in quickly. Therefore turn off the corresponding stopcock immediately. If this is defective or if it is not clear where the water is coming from, turn off the main water tap.
  2. Turn off the electricity
    In connection with electricity, water can quickly become a life-threatening hazard. Therefore, never enter a flooded room! Before doing this, make sure to cut off the power supply by unscrewing the relevant fuse or flipping the switch. Only then can you enter the room.
  3. Remove water
    In order to contain further damage, it is then important to remove the leaked water as best as possible. Pick it up - depending on the amount - with a cloth or a wet vacuum cleaner. If the damage is so immense that you are standing ankle-high in the water, for example, the fire brigade is the right contact. The specialists have the equipment to pump out larger amounts of water and at least contain further damage.
  4. Secure household items
    Then you should bring household items that are easy to move to safety or protect them from further damage by carrying them out of the soaked area.
    Larger objects for which there is no room elsewhere should be temporarily elevated so that contact with the wet floor is broken. Objects made of plastic can serve as a temporary base here.
  5. Have emergency repairs carried out
    In certain cases it is necessary to have the cause of the water damage eliminated immediately with an emergency repair. This is the case, for example, if you had to turn off the main tap and would no longer have any water without repairs.
    Commission a specialist company with this task, which first fixes the worst and rules out further damage.
    You should wait until you have contacted your insurer before doing any further repairs.
  6. Document the damage
    So that the damage caused by the water damage can be traced to the insurance company, you should document all damage thoroughly. Make a list of all affected household items and take photos of the damaged objects. The more conscientious you are with the documentation, the better you can prove the losses later. Also take photos of damage to the masonry, floor, wall or other parts of the building.
    If possible, do not throw anything away yet, but wait for the reaction of the insurer. Only when they have assessed all damage should you start disposing of them.
  7. Report damage
    If worse damage has been averted, the cause has been eliminated (even if only provisionally) and the damage has been documented, you must inform the landlord or property management and of course your insurance company about the water damage. Depending on the cause of the damage and what was affected by the water damage, a different insurance company is responsible.

Which insurance is responsible for water damage?

Since various causes can be considered in the case of water damage, and different things can have been damaged, sometimes it is not just one insurance company that is responsible for the regulation. Rather, household contents insurance, residential building insurance, natural hazard insurance or liability insurance for the party causing the damage come into consideration.

This table provides an initial overview of which insurer is responsible in which cases. Read more about this in the direct connection.

Cause of damage

Which insurance is responsible?

Tap water from your own home

Household contents insurance, building insurance

Tap water from someone else's apartment

Liability insurance of the polluter

sewage

Household contents insurance, building insurance

Flood / flood

Natural damage insurance

Water from backwater in the sewer system

Natural damage insurance

Heavy rain

Natural Damage Insurance

What water damage does the household insurance cover?

If furnishings in the apartment or house are affected, or other movable items that are not firmly attached to the building fabric, household insurance is the right contact for claims settlement. However, this only applies in principle, if tap water has leaked “improperly”. For example, this is the case in these situations:

  • Burst pipe
  • Leaking washing machine or dishwasher
  • Water damage from air conditioning and solar systems or heat pump heating
  • Defective sprinkler system or radiator

However, the household contents insurance is not responsible if the water damage was caused by one of these reasons:

  • Backwater in the sewer system
  • Rising groundwater
  • Leaking splash and cleaning water

In principle, household insurance does not pay for water damage caused by water beds or a leaking aquarium. However, with many insurers it is possible to include these additional risks in the insurance contract.

What costs does the household insurance cover in the event of water damage?

In the event of water damage, household insurance pays the replacement value for the damaged property, i.e. the amount that is currently necessary to obtain a replacement that is as good as new.

What water damage does the building insurance cover?

The building insurance is then responsible for regulating the water damage if the apartment or house itself has been damaged. In this case, it will pay for the repair and maintenance costs. Be sure to seek advice from a specialist company here, because if the affected areas are not dried correctly and moisture remains in the masonry, there is a risk of mold.

It is important to know that the residential building insurance also regulates damage to things that are firmly connected to the building, such as a fitted kitchen or the parquet floor.

However, the building insurance does not pay for vacant properties. This applies to both houses that are still under construction and those that have been completely cleared out or are currently not habitable. If insurance coverage is to exist here, this must be agreed separately with the insurer.

What costs does the building insurance cover in the event of water damage?

In the event of water damage, the building insurance covers the costs for:

  • Elimination of the cause of the damage
  • Repairs
  • Drying to avoid mold
  • Correction of consequential damage
  • Clean up
  • Demolition work
  • Property security

What water damage does the natural hazard insurance cover?

If the water damage is caused by extreme weather or another natural event, this is particularly sensitive, as many property owners are not insured against damage caused in this way. If, for example, the basement is full due to massive rainfall or if a river overflows its banks and causes a flood, you will not pay for household contents or building insurance.

In this case, only the property owners who have taken out natural hazard insurance are covered. Because this policy covers the costs of repairing the damage, among other things through:

  • flooding
  • Backwater
  • Heavy rain

An insurance against natural hazards cannot be taken out on its own. It is always a so-called additional component of a household or building insurance.

What costs does the natural hazard insurance cover in the event of water damage?

In the event of water damage, natural hazards insurances pay these costs:

  • Damage assessment
  • Repair or restore
  • reconstruction
  • New building / new acquisition

What damage does the liability insurance cover?

If water leaks into your apartment in another apartment, you are responsible for it. However, this is where private liability insurance comes in. If, for example, water drips from the wall and ceiling of the neighbor downstairs because the hose of the washing machine has burst, you can report this to your liability insurance, which will then pay for the damage in the neighboring apartment.

Your household or building insurance will still cover the costs for the damage to your home. It is therefore possible that the consequences of water damage are regulated by several insurance companies.

What costs does the liability insurance cover in the event of water damage?

Liability insurance covers the following costs:

  • Current value of the damaged or destroyed objects (new value minus a reasonable amount for age and wear and tear)
  • Repairs and renovation work (drying to prevent mold, renovation and so on)

When does the insurance not pay for water damage?

The insurers, for example household or building insurance, are not obliged to settle the damage if one of the following situations applies:

  • The damage was caused deliberately.
  • The injured party did not take care of the technical inspection or repair of the systems (such as the pipes), or not sufficiently.
  • The injured party submits an incomplete or incorrect claim report or misses deadlines.
  • The injured party is underinsured.

Since water damage can quickly result in high costs, it is essential to be careful with technical controls and when reporting the damage. It should also be checked regularly whether the insurance policies taken out correspond to the current circumstances in order to rule out underinsurance.

How to prevent water damage: the best tips

Avoiding water damage is not always possible - especially not when it is caused by the forces of nature. However, there are some precautionary measures that can protect you from water damage and a lot of trouble:

  1. Tip: stop the water in the washing machine and dishwasher
    Only leave appliances such as the washing machine or dishwasher running when you are at home. In this way, you notice damage immediately and can react immediately.
    It is also essential to use a water stop on the inlet hoses. In new devices this is usually already integrated, in old devices you should retrofit it. This device, which you screw between the tap and the inlet hose, prevents the water from leaking out indefinitely if the hose is defective.
    Even when using a water stop, you should regularly inspect the hoses on these devices for porous, damp, or otherwise damaged areas to prevent them from bursting or tearing.
  2. Tip: check pipes and have them repaired
    Have the pipelines checked regularly by a specialist company in older buildings and repaired if necessary. The experts can also give further tips or take measures to protect against a burst pipe. This includes, among other things, insulating heating pipes so that they are protected from frost.
    You should also be careful when drilling: Do not drill into walls that might conceal a water pipe. Use suitable test equipment or use the construction documents that may be available to make sure where the cables have been laid.
    In the case of permafrost, the heating should be turned up in all rooms so that not only the radiator itself, but also its supply lines are protected from freezing over.
    Also check the water meter every now and then. If the meter moves minimally even though you are not currently using any water, this indicates a leak in the pipes. You should then absolutely check the walls for damp spots and call in a specialist.
  3. Tip: Install the backflow flap
    Backflow flaps are suitable to prevent water from the sewer system from being forced back into the house or apartment. These close automatically as soon as a backflow is detected, thus preventing water damage within the property. Find out whether backflow flaps have already been installed and have them retrofitted if necessary.
  4. Tip: use smart home hazard detectors
    In the basement in particular, water damage often goes unnoticed for longer. It is worth installing smart water alarms here. This home automation solution reports immediately if there is a water level at the monitored location, so that a quick response can be made. Depending on the technology used, this message can also be sent to the user's cell phone, so that water damage is noticed even while on vacation or in another absence.

In this post you can read:

  • Water, fire, gas: intelligent alarm systems protect the home
  • More security through smart home