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As a water waste management system, your septic tank is probably near the top of your list of things in your home that you don’t want to break down. Septic tank damage can be an unpleasant, expensive and messy fix, and you may be wondering if your home insurance will cover your septic system. Bankrate’s insurance editorial team breaks down what you need to know about septic tanks and insurance.
Does homeowners insurance cover septic systems?
Usually, 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 are not attached to your house, like a gazebo, shed, detached garage and in many cases, your septic tank.
In general, home insurance policies extend other structures coverage as 10 percent of your dwelling limit. So if you have $250,000 in dwelling coverage, you would potentially have $25,000 in other structures coverage.
Your other structures coverage may kick in to pay for repairs to your septic tank — or a full-on replacement — if the tank was damaged by a peril not excluded by 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 may help you understand which circumstances would apply if your septic system sustains damage or a loss. Standard HO-3 insurance policies cover other structures on an open perils basis, so you would have coverage for any peril not specifically excluded by your policy. You should also know that calling on your home insurance for other structures coverage likely means paying your deductible.
What septic tank damage is typically covered by home insurance?
While there are many different types of home insurance, most standard policies cover septic tank damage from covered perils up to policy limits. Some common perils not excluded from standard home insurance policies include:
- 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 severe weather 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 will usually kick in to cover the cost of repairs.
When are septic tanks not covered by home insurance?
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 likely not 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 damage caused by earthquakes and floods. Depending on where you live, you might consider adding separate flood or earthquake coverage.
Septic tank insurance
To further protect yourself financially from costs related to your septic system, you may want to consider adding some additional coverage types to your home insurance policy. Many standard homeowners insurance policies exclude the perils listed below, so it might be worthwhile to add them as endorsements to your policy for extra peace of mind.
Service line coverage
As a homeowner, you are the one financially 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 might 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.
Water backup coverage
A septic backup can be an unwelcome surprise in your home or on your property. Fortunately, home insurance endorsements may provide financial protection from these events. Water backup coverage, sump pump coverage, is a homeowners insurance endorsement that covers repair or restoration costs if water backs up into your home from sewer or drain lines.
Flood damage is excluded from standard home insurance policies, but you may be able to purchase coverage through a private insurer or the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Purchasing flood insurance may be a smart way to give yourself an extra layer of financial protection in case your septic tank is damaged in a flood.
How to take care of your septic tank
While water backup and service line endorsements may 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:
- Solids, including cigarette butts, paper towels, coffee grounds and feminine hygiene products
- 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 Environmental Protection Agency 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.
Frequently asked questions
It depends. In general, your homeowners insurance policy will financially protect your septic tank and septic system against the same types of risks that the rest of your house is protected against. And, if you stay on top of regular maintenance and repairs, you may be able to avoid paying for costly septic tank repairs or replacement. However, some septic tank companies and private home warranty companies may offer warranties for service or maintenance of your septic system, which may provide another form of financial protection in case major repairs are necessary. However, these warranties might cost you more upfront to purchase.
The cost of a septic system can vary, sometimes significantly, depending on the type of system and other factors. However, you’ll typically pay at least several thousand dollars for a new septic system. Some estimates put the cost of a new septic system at between $3,000-$9,000 for a 3-4 bedroom home, and newer technologies can land closer to $12,000-$18,000. Installation costs tend to increase that amount even further.
Flood insurance may cover damage done to your septic system, not necessarily flooding caused by your septic system. For example, if your home and yard are flooded, and your septic tank is damaged as a result of the flood, your flood insurance policy might help cover some of the septic repair costs. Flooding caused by your septic system, on the other hand, generally falls under sewer backup coverage, which is typically another separate endorsement, and does not include coverage to repair the septic system itself unless a covered peril was the cause of the backup.