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Your septic tank is considered a part of your home, which means it is covered by your homeowners policy in cases of sudden damage. However, any damage that's caused by neglect or a lack of maintenance will not be covered. Here, we explain the factors that determine whether your septic tank is or isn't covered by your homeowners insurance.
When does homeowners insurance cover your septic tank?
Most home insurance policies include protection for "other structures" like septic tanks, pools and fences are covered in the same way as everything else inside your home--there are limitations though. The types of damage that are actually covered are sudden and acute, meaning the homeowners could have done nothing to prevent them. There are 16 perils that are considered the most common types of sudden damage:
- Lightning or fire
- Hail or windstorm
- Damage caused by aircraft
- Riots or civil disturbances
- Smoke damage
- Damage caused by vehicles
- Falling objects
- Volcanic eruption
- Damage from the weight of snow, ice, or sleet
- Water damage from plumbing, heating, or air conditioning overflow
- Water heater cracking, tearing, and burning
- Damage from electrical current
- Pipe freezing
If any of the following events end up causing damage to your septic tank, you would be covered in those situations. Unfortunately, the more typical causes of septic tank damage do not fall into the categories mentioned above.
How Much is Your Septic Tank Covered for By Insurance?
Even if the damage is covered by your insurance, many standard home insurance policies limit coverage to 10% of what your full home is insured for. For example, if your home is insured for $500,000, 'other structures' like your shed, fence and septic tank may only be covered up to $50,000. We again recommend looking at your individual policy though. Your exact coverage may vary based on your individual policy. Even if it is only 10%, that should be enough to cover the costs of repairing or replacing a septic tank. We found people generally pay between $5,000 and maybe as high as $30,000 to replace or repair their tank. If you have at least a $300,000 policy, you will likely be adequately insured.
What damage to your septic tank is not covered?
According to this article written by a wastewater specialist, many of the most common causes of damage to septic tanks can be traced to human error and lack of proper maintenance — neither of which are covered by homeowners insurance. A few examples include:
- Flushing chemicals, solids and oils
- Driving over the tank
- Not having proper drainage
- Not taking care of tree roots
Most home insurance policies specifically declare that they will not cover any costs that could have been prevented by proper construction techniques and maintenance.
If a flood or earthquake damages your septic tank, the repair costs will have to be covered by flood insurance or earthquake insurance, which must be bought in addition to your standard policy.
We strongly recommend you check your own individual policy however. The vast majority of policies will follow everything we list above, but certain individual policies may differ based on where you live and your insurer. If the language in the policy is difficult to follow, you should call up your homeowners insurance company where an agent can go over it with you.
How to take care of your septic tank
Since the most likely cause of septic tank damage is wear and tear, followed by human error, you need to take precautions to make sure your tank stays healthy year after year. The following are some key steps to preventing cesspool damage:
- No flushing of non-biodegradable objects
- No flushing of cooking oil
- No flushing of strong chemicals
Watching what you flush can go a long way in preserving the life of your tank. Objects that won't break down in the tank cause it to fill up faster, requiring it to be pumped more frequently. If you let your tank overfill too often, your risk of clogging the pipes goes up, which can cause back-up.
Cooking oils cause sludge to build up, which also dangerously clogs your system's pipes. Lastly, by flushing strong chemicals into the system, you can end up killing the bacteria that breaks down solid objects. If those objects are not broken down, that can also lead to build up and blockage.
Routine inspections and upkeep will also prolong the life of your tank and avoid costly breakdowns. Here are some things to do in the next year for your cesspool:
- Inspect it once a year
- Pump it once a year
- Avoid parking vehicles or placing heavy objects directly over buried parts of the system