One often overlooked system in a home is the sewage system. It’s easy to forget a system hidden behind your floors and walls — when it’s working well, at least. That being said, sewer line problems have a way of making themselves known in the worst way!
Considered a part of your home’s plumbing system, a sewer line connects your home’s drains to the main sewer drain that takes the water and sewage from your home to the sewage processing plant in your area.
As a homeowner, it’s your responsibility to maintain the sewage system within the boundaries of your property. But what happens if your sewer line clogs up and backs up? And will your homeowners insurance cover the cost of getting it fixed?
Sewer Lines and How They Work
When you flush your toilet, gravity forces the waste in the bowl down a drain pipe. This waste is then fed through a series of large diameter pipes, ending up in the main stack. The main stack curves, becoming the sewer line that exits the house near your home’s foundation.
From there, the sewage is fed into a main sewer line in the street near your home or into the septic tank behind your home if you live in a more rural area. For homes connected to a city sewage system, the waste makes its way to a waste management facility where it’s processed.
Problems occur when the sewer line becomes clogged. This can cause a backup, which can lead to sewage waste entering back into your house and causing (stinky) water damage and soft spots on your floors, walls, and ceilings). In many cases, this problem can be fixed by a plumber. But sometimes, as in the case of a sunken sewer line, also called a belly, the problem is more severe. Worst of all, your homeowners insurance might not even cover the damage caused by the backup.
Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Bellied (Sunken) Pipes?
When it comes to your home’s sewer lines, replacement or repair of damaged lines isn’t covered by your homeowners policy. The only time you can possibly hope for coverage is if the line was damaged by another party outside of your home, poor workmanship, or an act of God.
If the damage is from normal wear and tear, or negligence on your part, then you can’t count on your insurance company to pay to have it repaired or replaced. Chances are, unless you have a sewer and drain endorsement or sewer line insurance, your insurance won’t pay to repair or replace your lines, but there are exceptions. Here are a few:
Water/Sewer Backup Endorsements and Add-On Coverage
You can add additional insurance coverage in the form of a water/sewer backup endorsement, or rider. With a water/sewer backup endorsement, the damage to your home from a sewer line failure will be covered by your homeowners insurance.
Some other instances where your sewer line insurance might cover a replacement include:
Poor workmanship: If poor workmanship caused the damage to your sewer lines, then it might possibly be covered by your home insurance. An example of this is when the sewer line is installed in such a way as to cause damage to the line and cause it to fail.
In the case of a sunken sewer line, a low spot has occurred, causing water to back up in the pipe. Most often, this is caused by outside factors, such as erosion, earthquakes, and the settling of your home’s foundation. Occasionally, though, the problem comes from human error in the form of poor installation or improper soil compaction when the line was installed. In this instance, your insurance would more than likely pay for repair or replacement.
Pipe location: Pipe location also plays an important part in whether your homeowner’s policy will pay for a sewer line replacement. If the problem causing the sewer line damage is within the boundaries of your home’s foundation, then your insurance will more than likely pay to have it replaced.
Sewer and drain endorsement: You can also purchase a special endorsement for your sewer lines and drain. This endorsement should pay for a repair not due to wear and tear or negligence on your part. Keep in mind that you’ll have to pay your deductible first before your insurance coverage for your home repairs kicks in.