The photos from Hurricane Michael show catastrophic loss from not only the storm surge, up to fourteen feet in some areas, but from winds and rain as well. For those that live far enough inland where surge and flood was not an issue, but still sustained water damage from rain, you may think your homeowners policy will cover you. There is however an exclusion in most policies, commonly called the “wind driven rain exclusion” that insurers will use to disclaim coverage.

The “wind driven rain” exclusion will exclude or limit water damage to the interior of a building unless the wind caused an opening in the envelope of the building, leading to an entry point for the water. Common policy language provides:

We will not pay for any loss that is a consequence of loss or damage as described and limited in this section…The interior of any building or structure, or to personal property in the building or structure, caused by or resulting from rain, snow, sleet, ice, sand or dust, whether driving by wind or not, unless the building or structure first sustains damage from a covered cause of loss to its roof or walls through which the rain, snow, sleet, ice, sand or dust enters.

Obviously, you’re not leaving your windows open during a large storm, so you may think it’s obvious that the water entered via damage from a covered cause of loss. The most common denial letter I see for water intrusion, once the above wind driven rain exclusion is cited, is one for lack of maintenance, or faulty workmanship. The insurance companies are agreeing to insure the loss if the building first sustains damage from a covered loss, then states there’s no way the major windstorm caused this damage, this was obviously from an: old roof, roof that had reached its life span, faulting seals/installation/old windows doors, poor workmanship upon original installation of windows/roof/doors, and my favorite—lack of maintenance. These reasons are generally not covered causes of loss under the policy, so the insurer adds these to the denial letter in order to deny coverage via wind driven rain exclusion.

As always, read your policy to know what types of damages you are insured against. If you’re making renovations or repairs to your home, keep records of what was done when, perhaps memorialize with photographs the finished product so if you are ever faced with a denial letter for ‘lack of maintenance’ you can show definitively the property was well maintained. And don’t be afraid to ask your agent what the coverages and exclusions mean in your policy.

  • Jim Johnson

    I know for a homeowner’s all risk policy, Farmer’s writes one with an exclusion in that there has to be an opening created in order for coverage to be valid. However, are there many other carriers that exclude coverage on a wind driven rain. However, I do know that many rental dwelling polices have this exclusion?

    Also, one would think than an older roof would be more likely to sustain wind damage, thus creating coverage than one of the newer roofs, installed with wind resistant shingles and wind resistant nailing procedures/

  • Bruce Holmes

    Well, just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean there was no wind driven rain created opening. I’ve seen water driven under low slope 3 tab shingle roofs that did not fail, but penetrated even under the overlapped tar paper. Many new high velocity hurricane rated windows/sliders installed in condos in Miami had wind driven rain penetrate due to the long time of the rain. Water molecules are very small and can get through lots of materials. No see is not no leak.

    “1 mole of a pure substance contains as many atoms/molecules as Avogadro’s number. Hence: x x 10 23 = 0.0167 x 10 23 = 1.67 ∗ 10 21 molecules of water in one drop.”
    https://www.quora.com/How-many-molecules-are-present-in-a-single-drop-of-water

  • shirley heflin

    Dear Ms. Van Voorhis:

    “Wind driven rain” exclusion, huh? What an excuse(s) for a claim denial. The carrier will honor coverage for water damage, but only if the water entered the insured premises “normally”. In other words, if water entered the insured dwelling due to lack of maintenance, old roofs, etc., the claim would most likely be denied.

    Insurance companies are going to have a hard time trying to slither out of claim coverage with Hurricane Michael. One can look at the leveled towns of Mexico City, FL, Panama City, FL, etc., and realize that the wind driven rain exclusion argument holds no water.

    Respectfully,

    • slither they will. when the home is gone, you will hear “it must have been storm surge”, immediately followed by, “too bad you didn’t have flood insurance”.

  • Jim Johnson

    I think that the sentence I poorly wrote” However, are there many other carriers that exclude coverage on a wind driven rain” may have been confusing. Actually, I meant to ask a question, “are there many insurance carriers such as Farmer’s that require an opening in a roof or wall first before extending coverage for water damage to the interior of a building”? This is referenced more towards homeowner’s policies , as many of the commercial policies I have read, can and do exclude coverage.

    My understanding of a roof opening, includes a shingle lifted and
    broken its bond to the roof, hail or debris that has caused an impact or
    penetration in the roof and so on. In the case of Mexico Beach and similar areas, this should clearly not be an issue as many structures still standing
    will most likely, will still have severe damage to their roofs. However, in
    areas where the winds were less and the roof did not sustain broken shingles or
    lifted metal roofs etc., the exclusion could apply.

    Wind driven horizontal rains can and cause water be driven under shingles, inside flashings, or around windows flanges. Also, many roof leaks are just the result of improper installation and any of these might become coverage issues as well.