Most water damage is covered in a typical homeowner’s policy. However, this coverage may only extend to the structure, and not the personal property, depending on the policy language. This is because many homeowner’s policies cover all forms of direct physical loss – subject to certain exclusions. Conversely, personal property may be covered by only certain perils named explicitly in the policy. This results in much narrower coverage for personal property. With this in mind, would water damage resulting from a burst water bed or aquarium be covered? I believe the answer is yes depending on the applicable policy language. A policy will typically provide personal property coverage for accidental water or steam discharge from within your plumbing, heating, air conditioning or automatic fire protective sprinkler system or from within a household appliance.
If the term “household appliance” is not defined in the policy, then the common meaning of the term will be used and any ambiguities will be strictly construed against the insurer as the drafter of the document. Mirriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines appliance as “an instrument or device designed for a particular use or function.” Applying this definition to our present question, an aquarium or water bed would certainly fit the definition of a household appliance. For example, an aquarium is designed for the particular use of keeping fish and aquatic creatures alive for the personal enjoyment of spectators. Therefore, an aquarium fits within the definition of an appliance. Similarly, a waterbed has been held to be an appliance for the purpose of providing insurance coverage under the same policy language. See Azze v. Hanover Ins. Co., 336 N.J. Super. 630, 765 A.2d 1093, 2001 N.J. Super. LEXIS 33 (App.Div. 2001).