slableak Over the past month, our firm has seen quite a few slab leaks.  Typically, when there is a plumbing failure in the concrete slab and water goes everywhere – creating damage in your home or business – the insurance company will pay to either break open the concrete to gain access to the plumbing that has failed or they will pay all or a portion of the charge to reroute the plumbing.  When this occurs suddenly, it is typically a covered loss on most property policies.

One of the most heartbreaking claims we’ve worked on recently is a retired female homeowner in Mesa who called her insurance company several months ago with concerns because she felt a warm spot on the floor in her kitchen.  The insurance company adjuster asked the homeowner if there was any water damage in her home, and the homeowner said no.  She indicated that her concern was that the floor was a little warm.  The adjuster told her that if there was no damage, then there was no claim.  The homeowner hung up and didn’t think too much about it again.  She trusted that if there had been an issue her insurance company would have advised her accordingly.

A few weeks later the homeowner received a letter in the mail denying a “claim.”  The homeowner had no idea that the adjuster had even opened a claim, since it was all handled over the telephone.  She filed it away with her insurance papers and, again, didn’t think it was a problem since her insurance company didn’t give her any instructions or advice during either the phone call or in the letter.

Fast forward two months … the homeowner wakes up to find water everywhere.  She calls a plumber and he determines that she has a slab leak.  She calls her insurance company because now she’s got a very large water claim.  The flooring is buckled, the baseboards are pulling away from the wall, the drywall throughout her home is wet, her kitchen cabinets are soaked and swollen, and her wood furniture is warping.  Her insurance company asks her if she had any plumbing repairs done two months prior when she felt the warm spot.  She had not.  She didn’t realize that it could be a problem since no one from her insurance company advised her to call a plumber to have it checked out.  Ultimately, the insurance company denied the claim stating that this was an ongoing problem based on the warm spot on the floor previously.  Most insurance policies state that they do not cover damage caused by a water loss that is ongoing.  Specifically the policy language typically states they exclude coverage for any leaking or seeping that has occurred over “weeks, months, or years.”  Because the homeowner called with a warm spot on her floor two months prior, the insurance company is using this as a basis to deny her claim.

Did the insurance company have a duty to inform her to call a plumber to investigate the warm spot on her floor?  I don’t believe there is a requirement for them to have advised her to do anything.  But, would it have been the decent thing to do?  Absolutely.  The fact that the adjuster handling the phone call filed and denied a claim based on what the homeowner told her shows that they were intending to mitigate the insurance company’s payout when the slab leak inevitably caused damage.  They were paving the way for their denial – without providing any help whatsoever to their insured by letting her know what would likely happen in the future.

So, if you ever notice a warm or hot spot on your floor (and you know you have plumbing located in the slab), call a leak detection company to come check it out before it turns into a big problem for which you’ll have no coverage.  If you have any questions at all about a slab leak or need help with your claim, feel free to call our office anytime at (480) 993-3564.