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Septic Tank Or Sewer Failure? What Coverage Will Your Insurance Provide?

by Rick Mcguinness

Dealing with backed-up drains, low water pressure when flushing toilets, or -- worst of all -- raw sewage in your yard can be a thoroughly unpleasant experience. Finding out you'll need to shell out thousands of dollars to get your home's plumbing back into working condition can be even worse news. In some cases, you may not even be able to rely on the coverage of your homeowner's insurance policy to protect yourself from a major unanticipated expense. Read on to learn more about what types of sewer and septic tank issues may be covered by your homeowner's insurance, as well as what you can do to physically (and financially) protect yourself from further sewer or septic repair costs. 

What types of sewer and septic issues does homeowner's insurance not cover?

Although each policy is different, many homeowner's insurance policies will disclaim coverage for issues that arise outside the immediate vicinity of your home. For example, a burst pipe under your sink that damages flooring or cabinets should be fully covered by your homeowner's insurance policy, while the same burst pipe several dozen feet from your home and near the main sewer line may be considered the city's responsibility (or even your own). Some companies will refuse to cover any damages outside your home's "footprint."

In addition to these types of proximity exclusions, your homeowner's insurance policy isn't likely to cover plumbing damage due to negligence or even normal wear and tear. If the sewage pipe running through your yard develops a leak after your toddler flushes a series of large plastic toys down the toilet, or if you haven't had your septic tank pumped in decades despite heavy use, it's possible your insurance may refuse to cover any costs you incur in correcting these issues. 

Fortunately, these exclusions make up a relatively small percentage of all septic and sewer-related claims, and in many cases you'll be able to have at least a portion of your damages covered. However, if you still had to pay some out of pocket costs (or are just concerned about financially protecting yourself against septic or sewer expenses), there are a few steps you may want to take to help significantly lower your chances of being faced with emergency plumbing costs.

What can you do to financially protect yourself against further septic or sewer problems? 

Your first step when determining the level of protection you need should be to examine your current homeowner's insurance policy carefully, contacting your insurance agent for clarification or follow-up so that you know precisely what events and types of damage are covered. By learning exactly what your existing policy covers, you'll be able to determine whether you need additional coverage or if your existing coverage is sufficient to protect your assets from seizure or garnishment. 

Your next step may be to investigate the cost of an umbrella insurance policy or "extended" homeowner's insurance policy that provides additional coverage for certain events or types of damage that aren't always covered by other policies. Such a policy may cover a much wider variety of septic and sewer problems than typical homeowner's insurance policies for only a slightly higher additional cost. 

Finally, you'll want to take preventive efforts to ensure you never (or rarely) need to call on this insurance coverage at all. Adopting a regular septic or sewer maintenance schedule by having your tank regularly pumped or your pipes regularly snaked can ensure that small potential problems don't develop into larger ones. You'll also want to prevent guests from flushing large amounts of toilet paper at once and avoid pouring fat or grease down your drains.  To learn about property insurance, click here for more info on local providers.