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Does renters insurance cover water damage?

Fact-checked with HomeInsurance.com

    Article Highlights

    Water damage can rapidly cause costly damage to your possessions. Specific totals vary, but the average cost of a water damage claim falls in the thousands. Even as a renter, you need to understand which situations are covered under your policy and which could leave you on the hook for replacing your belongings out-of-pocket. For instance, water damage and flood damage are two separate events — and both are not covered by standard renters insurance. 

    When does renters insurance cover water damage?

    Renters insurance covers you in a few different ways when it comes to a water damage claim. Like homeowners insurance, you’ll be reimbursed for the cost of any items damaged by a covered event. However, one key difference is that you’re not responsible for the structure of the property — that’s covered under your landlord’s own policy. But renters insurance does provide additional living expenses associated with a water damage claim. This helps you pay for any costs you incur for staying elsewhere while water damage is being repaired, if your residence is temporarily unlivable. 

    Getting coverage for a water damage claim depends on the perils listed in your renters policy. In most cases, you’ll have named perils — or perils actually written out — that are covered. Any damage caused by a peril not named in your policy is not eligible for a claim. Here are the standard named perils covered in a typical renters insurance policy that apply to water damage:

    Accidental water overflow or steam discharge

    This peril does protect you under your policy for things like a clogged toilet. In order to be covered, it must be a one-time event, and damage associated with something that occurred slowly over time.

    Burst pipes

    You’re also covered if your pipes freeze and burst, causing water damage to your belongings. Alternatively, old plumbing that breaks and leaks would likely also be covered. 

    Rain and hail

    Any damage to your personal property from rain or hail that gets in due to structural issues, like a roof leak, is typically covered under renters insurance. 

    When doesn’t renters insurance cover water damage?

    There are some instances in which water damage is not covered, simply because of the nature of the peril or because there was negligence involved. Loss due to flooding, for instance, is not covered under renters insurance. It’s considered an excluded peril. Here are the most common scenarios in which renters insurance does not cover water damage.

    Damage caused by negligence

    Your renters insurance doesn’t apply to any situation in which your personal negligence caused an issue. For example, belongings damaged because you left a window open during a storm would not be covered. You could easily have prevented that from happening. The same holds true for leaving the water running in a plugged sink or skipping any kind of routine maintenance that caused the water damage.

    Floods

    Does renters insurance cover floods? Unfortunately, no — you have to purchase separate flood insurance to be covered from this event. It’s smart to consider where you live and whether the risk of flooding is worth the additional cost of flood insurance.

    Sewer overflow or sump pump failure

    Renters insurance for water damage does not typically include any overflow because of backed up sewer lines or sump pump failure. However, you may be able to purchase add-ons to your existing policy to cover you under these circumstances.

    What water damage is my landlord responsible for?

    Typically, renters insurance covers your personal belongings, while the landlord has separate insurance to cover the structure of the building. But if the water damage is caused by the landlord’s negligence, then they may be held liable and need to use their insurance policy to cover your damages.  

    Does renters insurance cover water damage I cause to others?

    Renters insurance does include liability coverage. Consequently, as long as the water damage is caused by a covered peril in your policy, the liability should kick in for any damage affecting others. However, if the damage is caused by an excluded peril, you likely wouldn’t  be able to use your renters insurance to pay for the damage of someone else’s property. 

    Preventing water damage

    To avoid dealing with water damage and navigating named versus excluded perils, do your best to prevent issues from occurring in the first place. Use these three tips as a helpful starting point. 

    Locate your water shutoff valve

    If the water damage is coming from plumbing, you can mitigate your losses by turning off the water as quickly as possible. Find out where the main shutoff is for your water in your house or apartment. Also know where localized shutoff points are for areas like sinks and toilets. Quickly turning off the water can save a lot of headache and extensive damage further down the road. 

    Promptly report leaks to your landlord

    A small drip under the sink might not seem like a big deal at first, but it can be a sign of a major issue. And if you don’t notify your landlord, the responsibility for the damage could switch to you, since you neglected to pass critical information. If you see any signs of leaks anywhere, such as drips in the ceiling or dampness around windows, contact your landlord immediately. Also note when you filed the service request in case your insurance company has questions later.

    Use water detection devices

    Another easy way to prevent water damage in your rental is to install water detection devices that alert you when moisture levels go above average. This helps identify both maintenance issues as well as human error issues, like leaving a window open or forgetting to turn off the running water in the tub. The key to avoiding water damage is finding the problem as soon as possible before the problem gets too big. 

    The takeaway

    • Renters insurance covers some water damage, depending on the cause of loss.
    • Flood damage is not included in a standard plan. 
    • Prevention is a great way to avoid costly or complicated insurance claims.

    There are some grey areas when it comes to renters insurance claims for water damage. Look at your policy to learn your named perils. It’s best to stay on top of water issues in your rental, and notify your landlord as soon as you notice any issues. The longer you wait, the more likely you are to face worse damage and potentially forfeit insurance coverage due to negligence.

    Lauren Ward

    Lauren Ward is a writer for Coverage.com. She specializes in all things personal finance, including insurance, loans, and real estate.

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