Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Sewer Line Damage?

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The wastewater in your home has to go somewhere. For around 80% of American households, it leaves your home underground through a sewer line to be treated by the city or county’s facility. If it becomes damaged, gross water from your sinks, shower, and toilet can back up into your home and cause water damage. So, the question remains, if the sewer line needs to be repaired, is it covered by homeowners insurance? 
This post covers what sewer line damage is and what you need to know about insurance coverage.

What is sewer line damage?

Older homes were built with either cast iron, lead, transite, or orangeburg pipe carrying sewage to the city line. Modern materials are mostly PVC or ABS plastic pipes. Regardless of what materials were used, it’s possible for it to become damaged and result in water damage. Here are a few ways they can become damaged:
  • Corrosion can cause cast iron or lead pipes to fail, leaking raw sewer water into the soil around your home. 
  • Shifting soil conditions twist, heave, and sag the sewer line, leading to cracks and/or breaks.
  • Sagging or bellied pipes offer debris a low spot to collect and cause nasty blockages.
  • Tree roots infiltration happens when the root systems of nearby trees grow around and into the sewer line.
  • Foreign objects like kitchen grease and oil or hygiene products can plug up a sewer line and cause a pipe to burst, causing water damage. 
All of these conditions require repairs of some kind, which is why it is so important to have sewer line coverage in your home insurance policy. At minimum, a plumber needs to auger out the blockage to restore flow. At worst, it needs to be dug up with heavy equipment, the sewer line replaced, and your lawn repaired. Regardless, any of these situations will end in you making a claim to your insurance, if applicable.

Symptoms of sewer line damage

How can you tell if you have sewer line damage? There are a few symptoms that may be indicative of a problem: 
  • Toilets and sinks don’t readily drain. A blockage is preventing the discarded water from leaving your home. If you don’t catch these fast enough, it could result in extensive water damage.
  • Using one fixture causes another to back up. If you drain the kitchen sink and your bathtub fills up from the drain, it’s a warning sign. 
  • There’s a change in your lawn. Maybe you notice a foul odor, there’s a constantly wet patch of grass, or there’s a surprise dip in your lawn. They’re all signals of potential sewer line damage. 

Coverage depends on the cause

Does homeowners insurance cover damage to your sewer line? The answer is… it depends. For most policies, water lines aren’t included if you experience a failure. That’s because the usual types of damage – plugged lines, tree roots, foreign materials, and corrosion – are either slow buildup that hasn’t been properly maintained or a wear-and-tear issue.
There may be the odd situation that you can claim such as a pipe that breaks due to an act of God or if a third party broke it by driving on it, for example.

Added insurance can be purchased

However, many home insurance providers offer service line coverage as an endorsement on your policy. This coverage is an extra cost but gives you peace of mind that service lines like water piping, sewer lines, and power lines entering and exiting your home are covered. 
There are coverage limitations for this type of rider. For example, there may be $10,000 of coverage per claim in your homeowners policy. It will take care of the sewer line replacement/ damage, living expenses, and repairs to your lawn, trees, driveway, and outdoor property that are damaged as a result of the excavation. 

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