Does homeowners insurance cover septic tanks?

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If your home has a septic tank, you are likely motivated to avoid experiencing any issues with it. Not only are plumbing problems particularly unwelcome, but septic systems can be costly to repair.

The good news is that if your septic tank runs into a problem you could not have foreseen, your homeowners insurance might cover it. Whether or not repairs or the cost to replace your septic system are covered can depend on the circumstances leading up to its damaging, as well as what limit your policy has for this aspect of coverage.

When part of a home insurance would cover septic tank damage?

Technically, septic tanks fall into the other structures coverage portion of your homeowners insurance policy. This is the part of your policy that protects things on your property that do not attach to your house, like a gazebo, shed, detached garage, fence, in-ground swimming pool and, in many cases, your septic tank.

Usually, home insurance policies extend other structures coverage as 10% of your dwelling insurance. So if you have your home itself (i.e., your dwelling) insured for $400,000 in your home insurance policy, you would typically have around $40,000 in other structures coverage.

Your other structures coverage will kick in to pay for repairs to your septic tank — or a full-on replacement — only if the tank was damaged by a peril listed in your policy. If the top of your tank gets damaged in a fire, for example, your policy will typically cover the replacement.

Reviewing your insurance policy will help you understand which circumstances would apply if your septic system sustains damage or a loss. You will either see specific covered perils listed out (if you have a named perils policy) or specific exclusions listed (if you have an open perils policy). For help understanding exactly where you have coverage, review our guide to insurance perils.

You should also know that calling on your home insurance for other structures coverage means paying your deductible.

What damage to your septic tank is generally covered?

While there are many different types of home insurance, they will generally cover septic tank damage, up to policy limits, resulting from:

  • Fire: If a fire causes damage to your septic system in any way, repairs may be covered by your policy.
  • Vandalism and riots: If anyone intentionally damages your septic system as an act of vandalism or it gets damaged during civil unrest, it may be covered by your policy, depending on the circumstances.
  • Hail, windstorms and lightning: Septic tank damage resulting from any of these storm types is likely to be covered.
  • Explosions: Most homeowners insurance policies cover damage resulting from explosions. If this affects your septic tank or pipes, your insurance would kick in to cover the cost of repairs.

What damage to your septic tank is not generally covered?

As you might have noticed from the above list, homeowners insurance is most likely to cover septic tank damage when it results from a sudden, unexpected event. Your home insurance will not necessarily cover damage resulting from septic system problems caused by wear-and-tear or lack of maintenance. So if you let a nearby tree grow roots into the tank, for example, or regularly flush nonbiodegradable items into your septic tank, you may not qualify for a home insurance payout for repairs to the areas damaged.

Additionally, almost all home insurance policies specifically exclude coverage for earthquakes and floods. One way to be financially protected is to get a separate flood or earthquake insurance policy, if you live in an area where these incidents are common.

What coverage options are available for septic tanks?

To further reduce the chance of unexpected costs related to your septic system, ask your insurer about these additional coverages:

Service line coverage

As a homeowner, you are the one responsible for the service lines that connect to and go out from your house, including the pipe that feeds to your septic tank. Some home insurance companies let you add a service line coverage endorsement to your policy for minimal added cost to your policy. This endorsement protects your septic pipes, along with other water and sewage pipes, plus your power lines, internet cables and natural gas lines.

The main benefit of service line coverage is that it extends to more situations than standard home insurance. It can cover things such as wear-and-tear damage, corrosion and damage from tree roots.

Water backup coverage

A septic backup can be an unwelcome surprise in your home or on your property. Fortunately, home insurance endorsements are one way you can be financially protected from an event such as this. Water backup coverage, or “sump pump coverage” as it is often referred to, is a homeowners insurance endorsement (i.e., optional policy add-on) that covers repair or restoration costs if water backs up into your home.

How to take care of your septic tank

While water backup and service line endorsements can help you avoid some of the costs associated with septic tank repairs, it is your responsibility to keep your tank functioning at its best. That means you should avoid flushing the following items or dump them down the drain:

  • Oils
  • Solids, including cigarette butts, paper towels, coffee grounds and feminine hygiene products
  • Grease/fat
  • Stains/paints
  • Household chemicals

It’s also best practice to make sure that no vehicles drive over the septic system or its drainfield. Keep an eye out for nearby trees that might extend their roots into the septic lines, and monitor whether the tank has proper drainage.

The EPA recommends getting your septic tank inspected every few years and pumped every three to five years. It also indicates that using water efficiently takes strain off your septic tank, helping ensure optimal performance over time.

FAQs

Do I need septic tank insurance?

Your homeowners insurance policy protects your septic tank against the same risks as the rest of your house. From there, proper maintenance can help you avoid the cost to repair or place the system. Depending on the provider, your septic company or a private home warranty company may offer a warranty for service or maintenance, which would be an additional form of financial protection.

How much does a new septic system cost?

A septic system can vary widely in cost, depending on the type; usually, ranging in the thousands. Some estimates put the cost between $3,000-$9,000 for a 3-4 bedroom home, but newer technologies can land closer to $12,000-$18,000. The installation costs can increase that amount even further.

Written by
Kacie Goff
Personal Finance Contributor
Kacie Goff is a personal finance and insurance writer with over seven years of experience covering personal and commercial coverage options. She writes for Bankrate, The Simple Dollar, NextAdvisor, Varo Money, Coverage, Best Credit Cards and more. She's covered a broad range of policy types — including less-talked-about coverages like wrap insurance and E&O — and she specializes in auto, homeowners and life insurance.
Edited by
Insurance Editor