Most homeowner and commercial property insurance policies, in general, will cover damage from a frozen pipe that bursts. Coverage usually exists if the policy contains the following or similar language: Coverage is provided when it is determined damage resulted from a “sudden and accidental” discharge from a plumbing source or system (please check your policy for the exact language). There is, however, one caveat—your insurance policy may not respond if it appears you neglected to take the proper steps to safeguard your property. Your policy usually requires that heat be maintained within the property, and some policies require that you maintain a certain temperature, even if the property is vacant, occupied or unoccupied. You may not be eligible for insurance coverage for plumbing, heating, air conditioning, automatic fire protection or household appliances if it can be determined that the insured did not take precautions to maintain the property to prevent freezing.
Now that winter is upon us, here are few tips to safeguard against frozen pipes:
- Insulate your pipes and meters with foam sleeves, pipe tape, batt insulation or expanding foam.
- Fix all leaks. You may need to install new washers, change piping and/or use caulking.
- Store drinking water in case pipes freeze (1 gallon per person/per day for 3 days).
- In unheated and uninsulated areas, allow a faucet to drip during extreme cold weather.
- Keep room temperature around 69 degrees or no lower than 55 degrees in all areas of the property (use extreme caution when warming an area with space, kerosene or other types of heaters to avoid risk of fire or carbon monoxide poisoning).
- Remove garden hoses from outdoor water facets. Cover all exterior faucets. Inquire about insulation from your hardware store.
- If your home has a shut-off valve that allows you to cut off water to outside faucets, you may want to use it as an added precaution.
- If pipes freeze, completely open the cold-water faucet closest to the freezing pipe. If you decide to thaw the pipe, use a hair dryer. NEVER use a blow torch or direct fire.
- If your vacant or unoccupied property has no heat, be sure to shut off the water supply and drain the system(s) and appliance(s) of water to avoid freezing pipes. If possible, have a neighbor check on the property.
Contact the Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking at (202) 727-8000 if you have questions.