When cast iron pipes fail, they can cause serious water damage to a home or business. They often cannot be repaired and replacing them can cost thousands of dollars. Cast iron pipes can last 100 years, but in South Florida, many have failed in as little as 25 years. Experts blame the region’s humidity and salt-rich soil for speeding pipes’ corrosion.
Insurance companies have denied damage claims or have limited the amount of money paid for repairs. In some cases, these limited payments fell short of covering the costs of all needed repairs. Homeowners have filed lawsuits against the insurance companies to recoup the amount needed to fully cover all necessary repairs.
Status of Lawsuits
Insurance companies in Florida have faced thousands of lawsuits over water damage claims involving cast iron pipes. The state’s chief financial officer said people filed more than 28,000 lawsuits in 2016 alone.
- Live in Florida
- Have a home built before 1975
- Have water damage from cast iron pipes failing
- Have filed an insurance claim and have been denied
- Have filed a claim and the insurance company offered an amount too low to fully cover repairs
The state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corporation reported that roughly 860 lawsuits over water damage claims had been filed against it per month. It said 45 percent of water damage lawsuits went to court.
Insurance companies have adopted rules to limit who homeowners can hire to make repairs, and the companies have put stiff limits on how much they will pay for repairs.
In December 2017, payouts averaged $27,631 for cases that went to court compared to $9,028 for claims that did not.
Insurance Companies May Not Cover All Costs
The average water damage claim was $19,500 in 2016. But insurance companies have tried to limit payments to homeowners to as little as $3,000.
Most insurance policies include special coverage that requires the company to pay to tear out and replace any part of the home necessary to remove failed cast iron pipes. This usually requires cutting into walls or concrete foundations. And plumbers often recommend replacing showers and bathtubs at the same time their drain pipes fail.
|Average Repair Costs|
|Install New Pipes Throughout Home||$15,000|
|Repair Water Damage & Drain Standing Water||$5,500|
|Replacing Shower or Bathtub||$3,100 to $3,400|
Source: Home Advisor
Citizens Property Insurance Corporation made policy changes in 2018 that limit water damage repair payments to $10,000 unless homeowners agree to use the company’s Managed Repair Contractor Network to perform all repairs. The insurance company effectively chooses the contractor who will replace damaged ceilings, floors and drywall. The $10,000 limit includes only $3,000 for emergency repairs.
In 2016, Citizens also created a rule that allows it to deny all reimbursements for permanent water damage repairs made within 72 hours after a claim is reported unless the insurance company examines the damage first and approves the permanent work. Almost all Florida insurers now include this rule.
13 Cited Research Articles
- Burt, L. (2016, July 1). Troubled Waters; An Analysis of Water Damage Claims and the Impact on Homeowner’s Insurance Premiums in Florida. Security First Insurance. Retrieved from http://johnsonstrategiesllc.com/wp-content/uploads/downloads/2016/07/Troubled-Waters-Water-Damage-Claims-Analysis-7-1-16.pdf
- Citizens Property Insurance Corporation. (2018, June 12). Updated Policy Language and New Coverage Limits for Nonweather Water-Related Losses. Retrieved from https://www.citizensfla.com/-/20180612-updated-policy-language-and-new-coverage-limits-for-nonweather-water-related-losses
- Citizens Property Insurance Corporation. (n.d.). Notification of Contract Changes. Retrieved from https://www.citizensfla.com/documents/20702/1335431/Summary+of+Contract+Changes+that+Impact+Claim+Payments+and+Coverage/98569d8e-f8ec-4e41-abd9-06bdddf3c8db
- Florida Office of Insurance Regulation. (2018, January 8). Report of the 2017 Assignment of Benefits Data Call. Retrieved from https://www.insurancejournal.com/app/uploads/2018/01/AssignmentBenefitsDataCallReport02082017.pdf
- HomeAdvisor. (n.d.). How Much Does it Cost to Replace or Repair a Drain Line? Retrieved from https://www.homeadvisor.com/cost/plumbing/repair-a-drain-line-breakage/#vs
- Hudson, T. (2019, January 17). The Sunshine Economy: Citizens Property Insurance and the Cost to Protect Property. WLRN Public Media. Retrieved from https://www.wlrn.org/post/sunshine-economy-citizens-property-insurance-and-cost-protect-property
- Hurtibise, R. (2016, January 15). Attorneys Object to Citizens’ Water Damage Fraud Allegations. South Florida Sun Sentinel. Retrieved from https://www.sun-sentinel.com/business/jobs/fl-attorneys-with-most-lawsuits-against-insurers-20160108-story.html
- Hurtibise, R. (2018, April 11). Citizens’ Board Approves Coverage Caps for Customers Who Use Outside Contractors. South Florida Sun Sentinel. Retrieved from https://www.sun-sentinel.com/business/fl-bz-citizens-coverage-rollback-approved-20180411-story.html
- Hurtibise, R. (2018, March 23). Citizens Insurance Plans to Reduce Coverage for Repairs It Cannot Control. South Florida Sun Sentinel. Retrieved from https://www.sun-sentinel.com/business/fl-bz-citizens-caps-coverage-for-non-network-users-20180323-story.html
- Klas, M.E. (2017, February 3). Leaky Pipe Problems Pose Risk to Florida Homeowners Insurance. Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved from https://www.tampabay.com/news/politics/stateroundup/leaky-pipe-problems-pose-risk-to-florida-homeowners-insurance/2311955
- Leefeldt, E. (2017, August 16). Why Florida Insurers Could Double Homeowners’ Rates. CBS News. Retrieved from https://www.cbsnews.com/news/why-florida-insurers-could-double-homeowners-rates/
- Nolan, P. (2019, February 18). Cracked Pipes Below Your Home Could Cost the Environment, Homeowners. WFTX-TV/FOX4. Retrieved from https://www.fox4now.com/news/protecting-paradise/cracked-pipes-below-your-home-could-cost-the-environment-homeowners
- Total Care Restoration. (2017, December 5). Cast Iron Pipes. Retrieved from https://totalcarerestoration.com/cast-iron-pipes/