Worth it to file homeowners insurance claim?
February 9, 2019 3:45 PM   Subscribe

Is it worth it to involve homeowners insurance in a water damage claim? The cost of fixing could be anywhere between "just clears the deductible" to "remodel your kitchen" depending on whether we'd go for just the bare minimum to address the immediate problem or something more extensive.

We had a sudden, major leak in our water heater that has so far resulted in:
- replacement of the water heater
- water cleanup company running fans and dehumidifiers in the kitchen and crawlspace for days, and removing some insulation from the crawlspace
- confirmation that there is asbestos backing on the linoleum that's under the top surface of the floor (tile)
- fortunately, no remaining moisture in the crawlspace after all the fans etc
- unfortunately, lots of remaining moisture in/under the square yard of tile closest to the water heater
- recommendation to remove and replace the square yard of tile and underlying linoleum because it's not drying
- which would involve asbestos remediation, and we have an estimate for that.

We live in California, which nobody wants to insure anymore. And this is a water damage claim, though it's due to something sudden and identifiable, not just mystery moisture. What is the likelihood of our house and ourselves being blacklisted or having rates hiked a significant amount? If we had our way, we'd live in this house forever-ish, we're not planning to sell any time in the next 5+ years.

I don't really want to be backed into replacing my kitchen floor. I'd be OK with just doing the minimum amount of tearing things out and replacing. But it's going to be hard to match the tile, which was put in before we bought the house. It will also be hard to match the height with the rest of the floor after the linoleum is taken up.

There is no natural break in the flooring, no thresholds in the area. Both the water people and the asbestos people have said that the insurance adjuster would likely approve taking the whole kitchen and laundry area down to the subfloor and resurfacing it with something comparable. According to the remediation person, the asbestos work wouldn't take any longer than it would for just the small area, and we've pretty much already cleared our deductible just with the things we have estimates or work done for so far.

We can afford the cost of the minimum fix without too much strain, but it wouldn't be worth it to us to replace the entire floor right now if we had to pay for the whole thing. And if we wanted to do something to the kitchen in the future, we know we'd be looking at another asbestos remediation project at that time.

Does anyone here work in the industry or have insight for us?
posted by expialidocious to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
it sounds like the insurance company would approve a remodel and asbestos remediation, and you're thinking of taking a pass on that? this sounds like the ideal use of the insurance you have been paying for.
posted by zippy at 5:22 PM on February 9 [5 favorites]

I have done hundreds of water loss claims in he past.

Your problem is you think you know what you know. You think you know where the water problem still exists. You don't know what you don't know.

The big problem with water losses is the mold. There will be mold. And if there is mold, you have a problem. You have a problem.

Notify your homeowners insurance. They will pay for all the things your contractors said. They may also go after your water heater manufacturer for a defect, if there was one, in subrogation.

Water heaters nowadays are shit though. Don't expect anything. They make water heater pans for a reason, sometimes they just fail. Next time get a water heater pan installed too.
posted by sanka at 6:55 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]

I would lose no opportunity to replace asbestos tile, and for the cost to be assisted by insurance is a gift. You know there is asbestos, and in the future - no matter in 5 years or 20 years - if you were to sell the house you would have to disclose it. I would think very, very hard before buying a house with asbestos. I know you say that if the tile is undisturbed there's no danger. Maybe that's true - I don't know much about the risk associated with flooded asbestos tile, but as a potential buyer, I'd want to remodel. Known asbestos would probably kill the deal.

Plus, there's still damp beneath the tile! Mold on the way . . . I think you should think beyond the short-term water remediation and take this opportunity to at the very least replace this toxic tile. When will you ever have another party to subsidize asbestos removal? Please allow yourself to think a little more expansively about how to turn these lemons into lemonade.
posted by citygirl at 6:58 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]

I have twice had to use my insurance for water damage in the past two decades or so, and absolutely did not regret it either time. This is what your premium is for!
posted by thomas j wise at 7:01 PM on February 9

This is why you pay premiums every month; so that when something shitty and expensive happens to your house, they will pay to have it fixed. You are screwing yourself if you don't use it when things like this happen.

You want to be very aggressive in treating water damage, in large part because of the aforementioned mold issue. Water damage will cause mold if not treated. Also, relatedly, the damage generally stretches a lot further and deeper than it looks like on the surface.

And you can get some asbestos abatement done in the bargain? Awesome, that is gonna have to be done someday or other no matter what, and it's gonna be hella expensive. If you can do it on someone else's dime, that's fantastic.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 7:29 PM on February 9 [1 favorite]

I filed a claim once when a pipe burst in my wall in freezing weather. Remediation was fast and effective, and the total cost was around $1000 which was below my deductible, so insurance ended up paying nothing.

But insurance companies remember, and they keep all of this in a shared database. It was the second homeowner's claim I'd made within five years, so when I moved cross country and bought a new house, I was denied insurance on this basis by some carriers. Don't file a claim unless you're pretty sure the math works out.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 8:04 PM on February 9 [2 favorites]

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