IMPORTANT: Fire Sprinkler Water Damage Coverage

Our HOA Insurance no longer covers water damage from fire sprinklers. This is alarming because many homeowners have experienced significant water damage from fire sprinkler pipes freezing in winter and bursting, releasing gallons of water into their home. These events have cost thousands of dollars in damage. Water pipes in walls or attics may not be adequately insulated and therefore are subject to freezing and everyone is susceptible, even if the temperature is high in the home. We have laid out action steps and included the right questions to ask about your policy. Don’t wait – we may get another cold blast before spring settles in!

Ensure your personal homeowner’s policy adequately covers fire sprinkler system water damage. 
Suggested questions to ask your agent:

1. Do I have an H06 policy in place (supplemental personal policy to the HOA Insurance Policy)? What is the Loss Assessment coverage amount?

“Loss Assessment” on the Declaration page is used for any common area community damage where HOA would have to pay and delegate an assessment to the homeowners. This also covers any deductible the HOA Insurance Policy requires when filing any claim such as roof or siding damage. We recommend all homeowners make sure their “Loss Assessment” covers the HOA deductible or assessment.

2. What is included and not included under Water Damage in my policy?

Some policies only state what is excluded under water damage and therefore all other scenarios are covered. However, there can be some caveats with coverage such as a required maintenance plan, improper use, or owner neglect (existing issues that are not addressed).

Home Coverage: Coverage for rebuilding your home structure (ex: floors, cabinets, sheetrock, etc…) from the “walls inward” is generally called “Dwelling Coverage” or “Building Property” on your Declaration page. We recommend a minimum of $75,000 coverage based on homeowners’ water damage experience.

Cool Stuff Coverage: Coverage for all other personal belongings that are damaged (ex: furniture, clothing, electronics, etc…) is generally called “Personal Property” or “Personal Contents” on the Declaration page. Everyone’s value of personal property will be different just make sure you have the coverage you are comfortable with if you ever needed it.
Am I specifically covered for water damage from my fire sprinkler system due to frozen pipes, leaking, or water released from fire/smoke?

3. Is there anything that would negate the water damage coverage? If so, would a sprinkler system inspection / maintenance plan ensure I was covered in that scenario?

4. Would you mind looking at my HOA Insurance Policy and making sure my personal homeowner’s policy covers everything it does not? (We strongly recommend submitting the HOA policy to your personal carrier every time you change carriers or the HOA insurance carrier is changed.)

Keep your home at 70 degrees or higher any time the outside temp drops below freezing, even if you are not home.
Always check for upcoming low temps when traveling to set the heat accordingly. New thermostat technology even allows for adjustments from a smartphone, allowing you to increase the heat in your home if you are away.

Some residents leave the attic door open to encourage heat from the home to circulate for sprinklers in the attic.
These are the only fire sprinkler pipes that are easily accessible. The rest of the piping system is surrounded by sheetrock in the ceilings for all three levels.

Some residents have applied insulation sleeves on the fire sprinkler piping in the attic.
These can be purchased at any home improvement store. You can also purchase insulation sleeves for the exposed water pipes outside to help prevent regular water pipes freezing.

Know where your water shut-off is located.
The meter box contains the main shut-off valve that controls the flow of water into your home. Turn the valve clockwise with a water meter key ($10-$20 from Home Depot) or use an adjustable wrench.

Next steps:

Montclair HOA Board and Committees are looking to support our homeowners in the following ways:

  • Pricing HOA Policies: The Montclair HOA Board is working with Montage to price different HOA policies for our community. Our short-term goal is to significantly reduce insurance cost by replacing our insurance carrier. The new carrier would still exclude the fire sprinkler water damage. Most carriers require us to have a maintenance plan in place based on the number of our past claims to offer this coverage. Be on the lookout for communication on a new HOA insurance policy to send to your personal insurance carrier.
  • Water Shut-Off Education: The Montclair Committees will be meeting with a plumber and identifying where the water system shut-off valves are in each of the different townhome floor plans. We will be distributing flyers with this information and posting videos on our Facebook page and Community Website. Our goal is to educate and familiarize the homeowners with these shut-off valves to minimize damage during an occurrence.
  • Community Fire Sprinkler Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance Plan: Our committees will also be working on getting a group rate for a fire sprinkler system maintenance plan. More information to come on this topic. While a maintenance plan cannot prevent a frozen pipe occurrence, it can ensure the system is working correctly and perhaps prevent other possible issues in the future as our homes age.