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What is sewer backup insurance?
Bankrate’s insurance editorial team, which includes licensed property and casualty agents, explores how sewage backup insurance works, what it covers and how you can take steps to protect your home against water damage.
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The cost of owning a home comes with the worry about having to pay to make for expensive repairs after something happens. Fortunately, there are several types of homeowners insurance that can help protect your finances. Sewer backup insurance is one type of home insurance that provides coverage in the event your home or belongings are damaged after a sewage or water backup. Damage from standing sewage in your bathtub, toilet, sink or anywhere else in your home can be expensive to fix, but sewer backup insurance can help pay for the costs of repairing your sewer line, clearing the sewage from your home and making expensive repairs to your home.
What is sewer backup insurance?
Simply put, sewer backup insurance covers damages arising from standing sewage in your bathtub, toilet, basement or anywhere else in your house. Depending on the cause of the backup, sewer backup coverage helps pay for the cost of repairing your sewer line (up to the city’s sewer line) and ridding your house of sewage and water. Some other names this coverage may be known by include water backup insurance, sewer backup and drain line backup coverage.
Does homeowners insurance include sewer backup coverage?
No, a homeowners insurance policy does not automatically include sewer backup coverage. However, many home insurance companies offer it as an optional coverage, or endorsement, which is an add-on to the standard homeowners insurance policy. The endorsement offers a certain amount of coverage that will pay for sewer or water backup claims.
For instance, here are two cases of sewer backup that would likely be covered by your homeowners policy if you were to select the sewer backup coverage endorsement:
- During a heavy downpour, your sump pump fails, causing water to back up into your finished basement, damaging your children’s playroom, all their toys, and other personal items, plus causing structural damage to the home.
- Tree roots grow into the septic line outside your home, causing the sewage to back up into your home, flooding it with sewer water. All your personal property in the basement needs to be replaced and your yard has to be dug up to fix the broken septic pipe and remove the tree roots.
Causes of sewer backup
Sewage backing into your house can be the result of several factors. Whether it is only a small leak or ankle-deep flooding, sewer backups can result in expensive damages to your property. Some common reasons include:
- Clogged pipes: Drain pipes can become clogged for various reasons — lack of general maintenance, flushing non-degradable items down the toilet and pouring large quantities of food particles down the garbage being a few common contributors. Letting the clog persist can result in a bigger problem of sewer backups in other parts of the house.
- Tree roots: When underground pipes become entangled in strong tree roots, they can break and collapse, leading to sewer backups. Have slow drains and unusual noises checked as soon as you discover them in time to potentially prevent tree roots from damaging your sewer system.
- Broken line: Damage to the line that runs between your house and the main can often cause sewage to flow into your property. Contact your local municipality if you suspect this is the reason behind sewage backup in your house.
There are some signs of a sewer backup that can alert you to a problem before it causes damage to your home and belongings. If you notice that one or more drains are draining slower than usual, gurgling noises are coming from a drain, water is backing up into the tub or shower or any unusual odors are coming from drains, sinks or showers, you could have a clog or other problem that could lead to a sewage or water backup. Once you notice any of these signs, contact a plumber to assess the problem and provide a solution to potentially avoid any water or sewer damage.
What to do if you have a sewer backup
If you experience a sewer backup, here some steps you might want to take, especially if you have the appropriate insurance and are planning to file a claim:
- Call your utility department’s 24-hour emergency line to report the backup.
- Have the cleanup done immediately to minimize potential damage and photograph the “before” and “after.”
- Itemize any losses or damage to your belongings or home.
- Save all receipts related to repairs, cleaning or damages.
- Contact your insurance professional to start a claim if you have sewer backup insurance. To file a claim for this type of issue, you will likely need to provide a Notice of Claim form, the date and time of the overflow or backup, a description of the damages and any supporting documentation, such as receipts, photos, time and date of the overflow, etc.
What does sewer backup coverage include?
Sewer backup coverage is different from flood insurance, which is a separate type of insurance not included in a standard homeowners insurance policy. Sewer backup flooding as a cause of loss is directly tied to the septic system and would not be accounted for in your flood insurance. Additionally, flood damage not related to your sewer lines or septic system is not covered by your sewer backup insurance. Although all insurance companies provide unique coverage options, these are common things that sewer backup insurance generally will and will not cover:
What sewer backup insurance typically covers:
- Damage to the sewer line that runs from your house to the city main.
- Removal of standing sewage from your house.
- Damage caused by standing sewage (up to coverage limits).
What sewer backup insurance does not typically cover:
- A faulty or damaged plumbing system in your house.
- Damages caused over time by poor maintenance.
- Standing sewage caused by city or municipality mismanagement.
Since each insurance company is different, the best course of action is to read the fine print before you purchase sewer backup coverage and talk to your insurance agent so that you’re clear on what would be covered.