Should we make a claim?

rivkadrMarch 3, 2007

We recently discovered that our shower is leaking into our kitchen wall. It's going to necessitate ripping out the shower and replacing it entirely, as well as fixing the wall.

Should we make a claim to our home owners insurance? I had heard that you should avoid doing that, because then your insurance will go up. And is this the sort of thing they usually cover?

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Have you gotten estimates? What is your deductible? Will it break the bank to pay for it yourselves?

Once you have some estimates, then you will be able to figure out whether to file a claim or not.

Is your home new? If so, it might be covered under the builder's warranty.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2007 at 2:14PM
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Homeowners policies are generally intended to cover sudden losses (theft, fire, falling tree, etc.). If you read your policy, you will probably find some very clear exclusions for slowly occurring damage, like leaks (pipes bursting, yes; pipes leaking, no). The reason to have homeowners insurance is to guard against major loss, like your house burning down. You shouldn't look at it as protection against the kind of maintenance stuff that happens with all homes. Your leak is unfortunate, but you should just go ahead and fix it.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2007 at 5:22PM
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Have you gotten estimates?

Yes. They range in price from $5000 to $15,000 for just labor. The entire shower and kitchen wall has to be ripped out, and the shower apparatus has to be brought up to code.

What is your deductible?


Will it break the bank to pay for it yourselves?

Well, it's not an expense we were looking to pay right now, that's for certain. We have a home equity line of credit, so we can pay for it that way, but I expect it will take us a very long time to pay it off.

No one's answered my question, though. If we try to make a claim, can we expect that our rates will go up?

    Bookmark   March 3, 2007 at 8:30PM
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I would file a claim but do take a look at your policy first or call your agent. Most policies won't cover the repair to the leaking pipe but will pay for the resulting damages. If the shower has been leaking for an extended period of time coverage may be an issue.

I have worked as a property adjuster for 10 years and everyone asks me if rates will go up after a claim. It's a question I can't answer because it involves underwriting, past claims history etc. A rise in rates usually doesn't occur after one claim but each company is different. Again talk to your agent.

If you have damages with labor cost at $5,000-$15,000 plus materials then this is no small loss plus something else always shows up during repair. You will also probably need some drying equipment once everything is opened up. Add that all up and it's worth filing a claim unless money's not an issue, which for most of us that's not the case.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2007 at 12:23AM
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Talk to your agent and see what his/her take on the situation would be. Companies vary. Locale varies. We've made several claims and did not have our rates rise. We also have numerous policies with this agent for both home and business and all of our vehicles.


    Bookmark   March 4, 2007 at 12:44AM
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Please re-post after you talk to your agent. Talking won't cost you, and you may get some advice on whether this will increase your rates (assuming they are willing to entertain a claim). I don't mean to be discouraging, but I am still sceptical about a company's willingness to pay up on a slow leak.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2007 at 2:25AM
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Once you talk to your agent they will start the process of filing the claim whether or not you actually file it. While it may not cause any problem with your current policy it may cause you a problem if you try to swich as it would be in your comprehensive loss underwriting report. Any other company that you go to for up to five years will see that and could deny you insurance as a result whether or not the claim was paid out.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2007 at 7:49AM
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I think you need to get more estimates. A lot of incorrectly installed tile showers leak because builders stick the tiles right onto the greenboard. This is your typical bathroom timebomb.

OTOH, if it's a leaking pipe in the wall, I'd have the wall down and a plumber in my house immediately!

So, if it;s the former, that's normal maintenance, if the latter, then maybe you can file a claim.

PS, I have a shower with the bad tile install that was leaking into my kitchen. I caulked and caulked as a temporary measure until I have the thing replaced. The kitchen is doing fine, now. For more info in correctly installed showers, visit the John Bridge tiling forum once in a while. I go there just to learn the correct way so I can keep an eye on the tradesmen.

Here is a link that might be useful: John Bridge

    Bookmark   March 4, 2007 at 8:43AM
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I don't mean to be an alarmist, but is there any way mold has occured? I've heard stories that, after a leak where mold has occured , not only will your insurance rates go up, but your house can be "blackballed" to the point that you might find it difficult to obtain insurance in the future.

Also, I agree with the other posters that, the leaky shower itself (which represents a large portion of the damage amount) may not be covered by your insurance, as it comes under the category of home maintenance.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2007 at 10:11AM
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It is not necessarily true that a claim will be started just by asking your agent. The key word is YOUR AGENT, not the 800 number that puts you in the claims dept.

I have called my agent on several occasions to ask if something was covered, or if it was worth filing. I specifically asked first if just inquiring would "do anything" to my coverage, and the answer was no.

If issues are caused simply by asking your agent questions, you need new insurance or certainly a new agent.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2007 at 10:16AM
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The consensus by all of the people who have come to look at the shower so far (and so far I have had a leak specialist, and 5 contractors come by) is that there's no way to know what exactly is causing the leak until the shower is actually ripped out. Could be a cracked shower pan. Could be the pipes. Could be the stuff under the shower pan. Could be something with the tile itself. Everyone's got a different opinion.

I don't mean to be an alarmist, but is there any way mold has occured? I've heard stories that, after a leak where mold has occured , not only will your insurance rates go up, but your house can be "blackballed" to the point that you might find it difficult to obtain insurance in the future.

Yes, there almost assuredly is some mold involved. You've got me worried now. Maybe I shouldn't bring it up with my homeowners for that reason?

    Bookmark   March 4, 2007 at 1:02PM
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"Yes, there almost assuredly is some mold involved. You've got me worried now. Maybe I shouldn't bring it up with my homeowners for that reason?"

I had a situation a lot like this. Long term leak, started small before I owned the house, and was pretty well concealed. I think the previous owners stopped using this shower more than a year before selling the house, because it took about that long to show itself, and yet, judging by what we found INSIDE the walls, it clearly was longstanding. We had black mnold everywhere inside the walls, under the fixtures, in the subfloor, etc. You really don't want to get your house identified as a toxic mold site! Open it all up, take out all the possible leak sources, replace any rotted wood. Clean, clean, clean (bleach is your friend). Don't waste any money on mold testing kits - it really doesn't matter what KIND of mold it is. On wood, the black mold usually is stachybotris which feeds on cellulose. It does give off toxics, so when you strip out the area, anyone at risk (elderly, children, those allergic to mold, or suffering respitory illness) should be kept away. We "bagged" the bathroom doorway, I wore a dust mask (I'm remarkably unaffected by most "stuff" that makes others around me sick) and we put an exhaust fan in the window to pull any of it OUT not into the rest of the house.,Once you get it all dried and bleached, replace all the rotted wood and drywall (should be replaced with green board only in any area that isn't replaced with hardibacker for tiling). We gutted our bathroom out to the subfloor, studs and rafters, and left it open for several months. This was partly because the rest of the project couldn't get underway til we figured out what we wanted to put in there. We'd not planned on redoing the entire bathroom, til we found out how bad the leaking was and damage and mold was! Multiple sources, in our case. All new plumbing, all new fixtures, walls, flooring, ceiling, etc. Now that I think of it, a lot of my husband's various illnesses (migraines, respitory, etc.) seem markedly better, lately. hmm.... and he's allergic to mold, too.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2007 at 4:07PM
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I agree with the other posters that there are many reasons to NOT make a claim.

If you have any equity in the house, the easiest way for you to finance the "unexpected" bathroom remodel, maybe a HELOC.

BTW, there will be other unforseen repairs and maintenances that you will have to pay for when you own a house. Try to budget for that in the future. Most people say that you should budget about 1% of the value of the house per year for maintenance. You may not use it every year but in the long run, that is what it will typically cost. The older the house, the more money it will cost to upkeep. This does not include remodeling/updating the house.

Unfortunately, in my personal experience, there is alot more cost to owning a house than mortgage and insurance.
One time, we had to pay for exterior painting/new roof/leaky bathroom in the same year on a 40 plus year old house. Somethings can be put off for a while, ie painting the house, but other things like a new roof/leaky bathroom cannot be put off for too long.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2007 at 5:02PM
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As none of have seen the loss I wouldn't get too caught up in the responses so far. While they may be correct it's hard to guess without seeing it. If you can upload a few pic's for us to see and then we can comment a bit more. I have a few suggestions as a current insurance adjuster.

1. Call out a leak detection company to investigate. This is not a plumber but a company that specializes in finding leaks without destructive techniques. They do not do any repairs so they have no conflict. It usually costs $300 but it's worth it. I use them all the time to help homeowners find leaks while not damaging anything. Once they pinpoint the cause coverage is easier to determine. You can then decide to file a claim or not.

2. Call out a local insurance restoration contractor to inspect. Most have worked with insurance carriers for many years and can give you an estimate but also some advice on potential coverage. Call around as quite a few of the restoration contractors have ex-insurance adjusters writing estimates. I bet your agent has a list available. It's a small industry and adjusters that get tired of the insurance company jump to the insurance restoration side and continue to write estimates. In my area every single contractor has one old adjuster on staff. It's a good resource, I know because I have worked on both sides myself.

3. If mold is present don't open anything up just yet. If you have a lot of mold once it is exposed it can become airborne. The wall should be contained prior to cutting it open. Also some kind of negative air system can be set up so all of the air in the bathroom is being vented outside and not into the rest of the house.

4. A previous posted mentioned wall tiles. This is a huge area of potential problem if you have a tiled shower. I see quite a few losses from improper install and improper maintenance. They require a lot of maintenance with all of the grout etc. and if you don't have cement or greenboard behind them water damage is almost guaranteed.

If you can upload a few pictures.

Good luck

    Bookmark   March 4, 2007 at 9:15PM
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You can disregard my suggestion for a leak detection company as you have already done this. I'm suprised they were not able to find anything. That leads me to believe it's not a pipe leak but another issue.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2007 at 9:32PM
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One side of the wall is tiled shower. The other side of the wall is kitchen cabinets. The water has leaked over to the side a bit into a bit of wall that juts out in the kitchen beyond the cabinet. The tiny bit of wall that is jutting out is damp, and appears mildewed/moldy at the base -- that's how we know about the leak. The leak inspector could not do anything that would be non-invasive to investigate the source of the leak -- either the shower gets ripped out, or the kitchen cabinet gets ripped out. Realistically, for repair, both will have to be.

Since we have stopped using the shower in the past 3-4 days, the mildewy smell has substantially reduced, which gives credence to it being something in the shower pan or something related. In addition, when the leak detection guy was here, he could find no drop in our water pressure, which made him think it was unlikely that it was anything to do with the pipes. Again, no guarantee, but that was his feeling on it, without having the ability to see anything closer.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2007 at 12:45AM
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Rivkadr, if you don't mind me asking what state do you live in? Depending on where you are I can get references for good reputable restoration contractors that can point you in the right direction.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2007 at 12:50PM
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Not an answer to your question, however, as for the leak:
In my house, the leak was at the base of the gooseneck (the short pipe that comes out of the wall for the shower head) Thus, it only leaked when the shower was running. Did the leak detection crew remove the shower head, cap off the pipe and turn on the pressure? Even building inspectors can overlook this one on new construction.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2007 at 8:44PM
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I'm not sure that most Texas Homeowners policies still cover much in the way of water damage, specifically because of mold issues. But they certainly did a until a few years ago. I wouldn't want to pay out that much money without being sure I either can't or would prefer not to get insurance coverage. If it would raise your premium, how much would it increase? $300 a year would be worth it, imo.

I've heard that a purchaser can't get new coverage on a house that has a recent water/mold claim. Again, I'm not sure about this, and all of this is going to vary a lot by state.

    Bookmark   March 14, 2007 at 10:57PM
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I know a friend recently had a claim paid for a floor board that was rising in her living room, I forget why exactly. She was paid 5k, she took the money and ran. The irony was she called her agent for some mold in the garage which turned out to be non toxix. He happened to see the loose board and told her that would make a good claim

It never occured to me to put in an insurance claim on a water leak, generally seepage is not covered. I was told the rule of thumb was that if you can name the day it happened, it is covered, sudden event. If it is something you gradually noticed it is not

    Bookmark   March 15, 2007 at 9:52PM
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I had a claim paid many years ago for damage to sheetrock from a slow water leak. Since we had been in the house since initial construction, and on the same policy for that time, that could have made a difference - i.e. the insurer would know that whenever the damage occurred, their policy was in force.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2007 at 2:18AM
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I have a condo that I'm renting out. I bought it brand new in 2004. About 3 week ago, I got an email from the condo Management that there was a leak complain from the unit
below my condo They investigated where the leak was coming from and it was from my condo's guest bathroom.
The plumber came said that they need to cut out the fiberglass to get to the part of the drain that is causing the problems, fix the drain, and then have a fiberglass company come out to put in new fiberglass. . We would need a fiberglass company to patch that after the fix is completed. it will cost more than 7,000.00 depending on how much work is required.
I filled a claim and the insurance adjustor said that they will not pay for an improperly installed pipe and that it is maintenance issue. I said that , I bought the condo brand new and how can I maintain the pipe when it's covered with fiberglass.
Could you please let me know what will be my next move.
I think I got a bad adjustor that is trying to save money for the Ins. Co. Is there something else I can do regarding having the insurance co pay for this damage.?
Since it was improperly installed is it the Condo Management responsiblity? I need your expert advice.

This post was edited by connie0624 on Mon, Jul 8, 13 at 10:45

    Bookmark   July 8, 2013 at 4:11AM
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