Your septic tank is considered a part of your home, so will be covered by your homeowners policy in cases of sudden damage. Any damage caused as a result of lack of maintenance or neglect however will not be covered. Continue reading to know when your septic tank may or may not be covered under your homeowners insurance.
When Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Your Septic Tank?
'Other structures' of the home like septic tanks, pools, fences, etc. are covered the 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
- Damage caused by vehicles
- Falling objects
- Water damage from plumbing, heating, or air conditioning overflow
- Pipe freezing
- Hail or windstorm
- Riots or civil disturbances
- Volcanic eruption
- Water heater cracking, tearing, and burning
- Damage caused by aircraft
- Smoke damage
- Damage from the weight of snow, ice, or sleet
- Damage from electrical current
For example if a fire erupted in your yard and fried the pipes of the tank, you would be covered in that situation. Unfortunately, more common reasons for a septic tank to be damaged will not be covered by your policy.
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, many of the most common reasons for a damaged septic tank are due to human error, and lack of proper maintenance--two things not 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
Policies have explicit language saying they will never cover any costs that could have been prevented from the homeowner. You also will not be protected for any faulty construction of the cesspool.
Should a flood or earthquake damage your tank, the repair costs would be covered by flood insurance and/or earthquake insurance. Standard homeowners policies will not cover any sort of damage from earthquakes or floods in any situation.
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, and human error (which are not covered by insurance) 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 into your home. Cooking oils cause sludge 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
- Conserve water
- Avoid parking heavy objects directly above it
By building in these practices to your yearly upkeep of your home, you should never run into issues with your septic tank.