Man tries to repair plumbing problem on his own. His wife is already on the phone to an emergency plumber as water gushes from the broken tap.

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We’ll be destitute if a pipe bursts, or an appliance breaks.

Half (51 percent) of homeowners have had a home emergency in the past year. But 34 percent only have $500 or less set aside for an emergency now, says a study from home repair services company HomeServe USA.

Many Americans assume their homeowners insurance will cover most emergencies. Unfortunately, that’s not true.

That’s our responsibility?

Homeowners are confused about what repairs they’re responsible to pay for.

Forty-two percent aren’t aware they’re responsible for the costs of repairing a water or sewer line running through their home, the study says. And 13 percent are under the impression that the city would cover the costs. Another 11 percent wrongly assume that homeowners insurance will foot the bill, while 18 percent don’t know who’s responsible.

“It’s easy to assume that the homeowners insurance we pay into will be there to help in any emergency repair,” says Tom Rusin, CEO of HomeServe USA. “In fact that’s not the case in all situations.”

Rusin says most policies cover plenty, but sewer line repairs are a common misconception among policy holders. They can always upgrade their policies, or plan to pay if and when the next home emergency takes place, he says.

“Unfortunately, standard homeowners insurance policies do not cover repairs to exterior water or sewer lines that connect to the city system,” Rusin says. “If homeowners don’t take steps to proactively protect themselves, a simple leak can wind up becoming a major financial surprise.”

Finances are just one factor of planning that can risk the outcome of a home emergency. Finding a qualified repairman can create problems for homeowners, too. More than a third (37 percent) of homeowners say it was difficult to find a repairman in a reasonable amount of time.

“During a home emergency, homeowners want to know that help is on the way,” Russin says. “It can be incredibly frustrating and even scary when homeowners have to wait for a contractor while water backs up into their house.”

One columnist recently shared her experience with a home repair, and how it pays to be prepared.

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Emergency funds are necessary

Trying to save money by hiring a cheap repairman can end up costing you more in the long run. You can cut corners by hiring someone who’s less qualified. But, what happens if they make a mistake repairing the problem?

It helps to build up an emergency savings account to prepare for expensive repair costs. The only problem is, most Americans don’t save enough to handle an emergency situation.

Two-thirds of Americans don’t have enough saved to handle basic household needs if they lost their income for three months, says a survey from Oasis Financial. That’s even if they have some money saved.

“The survey illuminates the need for Americans to evaluate their finances honestly, with an eye toward the unexpected,” says Ralph Shayne, CEO of Oasis Financial. “Designating a portion of savings for emergencies and learning about safe, alternative financial solutions will help many avoid being left out in the cold if an emergency strikes.”

Unfortunately, 39 percent of Americans would turn to credit cards in case of an emergency, the study says. Another 20 percent would turn to their retirement savings, while 15 percent would just stop paying bills.

For tips on how to save for an emergency, check out how this writer saved $1,000 in only two months.

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Meet the Author

Joe Pye

Joe Pye

Associate editor

Pye is the associate editor of


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