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Repairing damaged sewer lines can be costly and time-consuming. Most repairs that involve plumbing are too complex for homeowners to DIY, and depending on how the damage occurred, home insurance might not cover sewer line repairs. Insurance coverage for sewer lines and sewer backup varies between policies and providers. Understanding how sewer line damage occurs, how to prevent it and when it might be covered on your homeowner insurance policy may keep you a few steps ahead and save you money down the road. Bankrate’s insurance editorial team has what you need to know about homeowners insurance and sewer lines.
- Homeowners insurance may cover sewer line damage if the proximate cause of the damage is a covered peril.
- Sewer line damage that is the result of wear and tear is excluded from home insurance coverage.
- Preventive measures like properly disposing of grease and oils, using a drain catcher, and avoiding planting trees near sewer lines can help avoid drain clogs and sewer line damage.
Does homeowners insurance cover sewer lines?
Your homeowners insurance policy may cover sewer line damage if the proximate cause of the damage is a covered peril. Proximate cause is the first peril or hazard that caused the damage to occur. However, most of the time, broken sewer lines and the resulting damage are from wear and tear or other causes that home insurance companies specifically exclude from coverage.
When insurance does cover sewer line damage, the claim payout is usually from coverage B, other structures coverage. Many homeowners know that other structures coverage pays for damage to detached property, such as fences or sheds. Since sewer lines run below and away from the home, they are also considered separate from the dwelling.
Dwelling and other structures coverage are both covered in the same way on a home insurance policy — on a named peril or open peril basis. The most common type of home insurance is an HO-3, which provides open peril coverage for both dwelling and other structures.
When does homeowners insurance cover sewer lines?
While open peril coverage means anything that happens to your property that is not excluded is covered, there are 16 perils that encompass the most common types of loss. Of those, the most common perils that cause damage to sewer lines are:
- Falling objects
- Volcanic eruptions
Sewer lines run fairly deep underground, so it can be challenging to envision a way for something like a falling object to cause damage. Here are a few examples claims that are typically covered:
- Your home collapses under the weight of ice and snow, causing sewer lines to rupture.
- A windstorm knocks a tree down in your yard, causing the roots to bust open sewer lines.
- Lighting strikes your home, causing an explosion, which also damages the sewer line.
When does homeowners insurance not cover sewer lines?
Most of the time, the proximate cause of sewer backups and damaged lines falls under the standard cost of homeownership. The average lifespan of well-maintained sewer lines is between 50–100 years, depending on the material. While that is a long time, if you are the second or third owner of the home, the odds are the pipes will need repairing or replacing at some point in time. The most common reasons sewer lines fail and are not covered by your insurance policy are:
- Age and deterioration
- Tree root infiltration
- Ground settling
- Extreme temperature
What can cause damage to your sewer line?
Several situations can cause sewer line damage. Aside from the physical sewer line rupturing, sewer water can back up into your home, damaging the dwelling and personal property. Some events that cause sewer line damage are:
- Flooding: Flooding is one of the most common causes of sewer line damage and sewage water back up. Rising water can cause soil, sediment and debris to shift and break pipes. The pressure and overflow of flood waters can also force untreated sewage water back through the pipes and into your home.
- Freezing temperatures: A sudden drop in temperature could cause the pipes in your home and sewer lines to freeze. Freezing water expands and cold pipes contract, leading to damage ranging from minor leaks to pipe bursts.
- Tree roots: Roots from trees on or near your property could grow into your sewer line, causing the sewer pipe to break. This is especially true for older homes that still have ceramic sewer lines.
- Clogged drains: Drain clogs not only cause drainage issues, but if not remedied, they could weaken the pipe. When the pressure from the clogs gets too high, the pipe can burst.
Optional coverage for sewer lines
Thankfully, many of the best home insurance companies offer a solution to this problem by way of endorsement. When sewer lines fail, there may be damage from sewer water backing into the home and damage to the physical sewer pipe. Some insurance companies may provide limited coverage for water back up, but the cost to repair the sewer line itself is usually excluded. Seek your agent’s advice to determine how your insurance company handles these kinds of losses. If needed, you may want to consider one or more of the following:
Add a service line endorsement
Service line endorsement can also be called sewer line replacement or something similar. Adding this coverage to your home insurance policy can provide coverage for repairing and replacing sewer lines from damage that is otherwise excluded. While coverage can vary, you can expect a deductible of around $500 and a coverage limit between $10,000 and $12,000.
This endorsement typically includes damage that occurs from:
- Corrosion, decay, rust, or deterioration
- Mechanical or electrical breakdown
- Regular wear and tear
- Tree or root damage
- Pest damage from rodents, vermin, insects, etc.
- Damage caused by freezing temperatures
- Damage caused by pressure from heavy equipment, vehicles, etc.
Add a sewer backup endorsement
Some homeowners insurance companies may also offer sewer backup insurance as an additional endorsement. While this endorsement does not usually cover replacing or repairing the sewer line, it can provide coverage to replace flooring, drywall and other furnishings if sewage backs up the pipe into your home.
Consider a home warranty
A home warranty may offer sewer line coverage and is different from homeowners insurance. It is a separate plan that can help cover certain appliance repairs and electrical systems costs. Some home warranties cover sewer line repairs and replacements, while others will not.
How to prevent damage to your sewer line
Damage that happens over time, such as wear and tear, or resulting from natural hazards like flooding and earthquakes, are generally out of your control. As a homeowner, the best you can do is properly maintain your home to get the best life expectancy from your sewer line. There are many simple and affordable preventive measures you can take to help avoid drain clogs and sewer line damage, such as:
- Properly dispose of grease and oils
- Use drain catcher to prevent clogs
- Properly dispose of paper and hygiene products
- Avoid planting trees near sewer lines
Frequently asked questions
No, sewer line coverage is not required by law. However, if you have a mortgage on your home, your lender may require your home insurance policy to have specific endorsements or coverage levels. Sewer line issues can be common with neighboring houses, not just yours. Check with your neighbors or prior owner to see if they have ever had sewer line problems. Following up with your insurance agent can help you decide if you should invest in the extra coverage.
Service line endorsements generally cover the damage to your sewer lines, but not the damage to your home’s interior due to sewer backups. You may want to consider purchasing a sewer backup endorsement. With both endorsements on your policy, you should have coverage for the sewer line and the resulting damage a broken sewer line can cause.
The laws determining sewer line responsibility vary between states and even between different counties. Generally, the city should maintain the main sewer lines and the homeowner is responsible for the sewer lines on their property. For help determining where your property ends, you may want to check with your local municipality and consult your land survey — typically included in the homeownership paperwork.