Water Losses Flood Calif. Homeowners’ Market, Study Says

July 17, 2003

The cost of household water damage in California continues to grow at an alarming rate, while the volume of insurance claims being filed for water damage is climbing modestly, a new study has found.

Remediation and construction costs are largely faulted for the $66 million increase in water damage insurance losses from 2001 to 2002, according to the insurance industry survey. The results continue a five-year trend of increased homeowners insurance claims costs for water damage.

By comparison, all other homeowners insurance losses accounted for two-thirds of homeowners’ costs, but increased by $58 million last year, roughly $8 million less than increased water losses.

In its second year of surveying water-related insurance losses, the non-profit Insurance Information Network of California found that insurers have paid more than $2.3 billion in household water claims since 1997.

“The cost of water losses continued to grow unabated in 2002,” said IINC executive director Candysse Miller. “Water is absorbing a larger and larger share of California homeowners insurance losses.”

Insurers attributed the increased expenses largely to the price of repair and remediation, costs that have skyrocketed as insurers try to prevent small water claims from turning into large mold losses. Other insurers polled cited the high cost of construction in a market where contractors are in great demand.

Insurers representing 70 percent of the California homeowners insurance market provided data for the survey.

Though the number of water-related claims — or insurance losses for damage caused by burst hoses and pipes or leaks from washing machines, icemaker connections, lavatories and other household water fittings — has varied from year-to-year, the cost of water damage has climbed in each of the past five years. Between 2000 and 2002, the annual cost of water claims climbed by more than $120 million.

On average, individual water claims cost surveyed insurers $4,925 in 2002, nearly double the $2,537 average water claim at the beginning of the survey period.

The survey found that water-related claims comprised one-third of all California homeowners insurance claims filed in 2002. Other common homeowners insurance claims include fire, theft, liability, wind, and lightning.

Based on trends of the insurers surveyed, overall industry water losses between 1997 and 2002 could be as high as $3.3 billion — exceeding the cost of many natural disasters.

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