Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Blockages?

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The smell is far from pleasant and the damage can be extensive. A sewer line blockage prevents the flow of the “discharge” out of your home, backing it up into your basement or crawlspace in a putrid puddle. Although the water is somewhat cleaner, a blockage in a sump pump discharge can have a similar effect. On the other side, a blocked water line prevents good, clean water from entering your home with any amount of pressure, an equally troubling issue. 
It appears you have a blocked line. But does homeowners insurance cover blockages? Here’s what you need to know about blockages in your home. 

Are blockages covered by your homeowners insurance policy?

The sinks and bathtub won’t drain and murky, odiferous water is oozing up the basement floor drains. A blocked sewer line prevents water from exiting to the street. Whether it’s covered by your homeowners insurance provider depends on a few things:
Do you have sewer backup insurance on your policy? If you don’t have sewer backup insurance or something similar on your homeowners policy, then there’s little chance you can claim damages or repairs on your homeowners insurance. 
Where is the source of the blockage? A blockage in the sewer line due to a collapsed pipe or a “traffic jam” are often covered. But if the water backup is in your home’s plumbing system like a frozen sump pump discharge or a clogged drain and should have been addressed with routine maintenance, it’s a different story. 
What material is causing the blockage? Some standard homeowners policies may not cover you if materials blocking the drain or incoming water line are considered lack of maintenance. That’s specifically an issue for tree roots that can completely obstruct a sewer line on your property. A drain plugged up by hair, grease, or something a child flushed down the toilet is probably not going to be covered either, since it’s not considered accidental. 

Types of blockages you’re responsible for

If the blockage could have been prevented and is not what an insurer would deem an accident, you could be on the hook for the repair and remediation costs. For example, if a toddler flushes a toy car and it causes a sewer obstruction, odds are pretty good that you’ll be footing the plumber’s invoice along with the damage from the sewer backup. 
If your blockage is contained within your home’s plumbing (a clogged P-trap under a sink, perhaps) you’re likely responsible for the costs and repairs. 
Or, if you haven’t included sewer backup coverage on your standard policy, you may have very low coverage limits or none at all with standard home insurance policies.

How are blocked lines resolved?

If a sewer line is blocked, it’s highly likely you’ll need to call in a plumber to clear it. They’ll access the sewer line, remove the blockage, and restore water flow. If tree roots are plugging the sewer pipe, they may need to cut the roots from the inside using specialized equipment. 
Should tree roots be the cause, it’s quite possible that the sewer line is cracked or broken, allowing the roots to penetrate inside. That may be insurable, even if the sewer backup damage is not.

Tips to Prevent Blockages

  • Use an enzyme cleaner once a month to break down build-up in your plumbing and sewer line. 
  • Plant tree and shrubs far away from your sewer line.
  • Toss hygiene products in the garbage, not the toilet.
  • Have a plumber maintain your sewer line and drains once a year.
  • Discard kitchen grease in the garbage rather than the drain.
These may be slightly inconvenient, but they definitely beat dealing with the effects of raw sewage or arguing with your home insurance company about coverage.

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