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When it comes to your sewer line, there are not many things your homeowners insurance will actually cover. If the part of the line which is on your premises is damaged by something sudden and unexpected, you would be covered. If there is a sewage backup, or the damage is due to a chronic issue, you will likely have to pay out of pocket to replace or repair the line.
When Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Your Sewer Line?
Technically, the part of your sewer line that is on your premises is considered an 'other structure' of your home, meaning it is afforded the same protections as your home proper. Typical causes of damage that would be covered are:
- Lightning or fire
- Hail or windstorm
- Riots or civil disturbances
- Falling objects
- Damage caused by aircraft
- Damage caused by vehicles
- Volcanic eruption
For example, if there were an explosion in your yard and that causes the sewer line or sever, the damage would be covered by your homeowners insurance policy. The source of the damage needs to come from something outside of your control. The part of the pipe that is damaged will also have to be on your premises. If the pipe is damaged outside of your property line, it will be up to whatever entity that owns the damaged part to fix it. Unfortunately, most of the common ways sewer lines are damaged is through preventable, thus uninsurable, means.
How Much is Your Sewer Line Covered for By Insurance?
If you are covered, most standard home insurance policies limit coverage for 'other structures' to 10% of what your full home is insured for. For example, if your home is insured for $600,000, 'other structures' like your shed, fence and septic tank may only be covered up to $60,000. We recommend you scan your individual policy to be sure that is the case, as it may vary. The 10% should be enough to cover the costs. Data from Costhelper.com suggests the typical replacement cost for a sewer line is around $3,000 to $6,000.
When is Your Sewer Line Not Covered by Insurance?
When the sewer line backs up into your home, or when it is physically damaged from preventable means, insurance will not pay for its repair or replacement.
Physical Damage to the Pipe
All cases in which the physical damage to the pipe can be attributed to poor upkeep, faulty construction, or preventable error, your homeowners insurance company will not foot the bill for the repairs. Additionally, there are several calamities your insurer also will not cover under a standard policy. Some examples include damage from earthquakes, floods, pests and tree roots. For earthquakes and floods you will need separate insurance policies.
Sewage Back Up
Every homeowners insurance policy explicitly states that any damage caused by a sewage back up will not be covered. Whatever the water or raw sewage destroys will not be qualified for replacement from the insurance company. Unfortunately, many causes of sewage back up can stem from physical damage to the pipe--potentially leaving a very costly bill to replace the pipe and repair whatever was destroyed in the home.
Sewage BackUp Endorsement
Most homeowners insurance companies offer an endorsement that you can add to your standard policy that will cover damages associated with sewage back up (but not physical damage). The endorsement usually costs an extra $40 to $50 per year according to the Insurance Information Institute, and gets you an extra $10,000 of coverage should your sewer back up. Unfortunately, the $10,000 will likely not be enough to cover a massive sewage back up. As in the case of this Oregon homeowner, a sewage back up destroyed his entire home, costing him over $300,000. The best thing we recommend is to prevent a sewage line back up in the first place.
How to Take Care of Your Sewer Line
Most sewer line issues are a result of human error and poor maintenance. There are numerous habits you should adopt as a homeowners to ensure your sewer does not back up at some point in the future. Some of those habits include:
- No flushing of non-biodegradable objects, and oils
- Replacing metal pipes with plastic
- Keep track of tree roots
- Get your plumbing inspected
The most notorious cause of sewage backup is clogging that results from flushing objects that should not be flushed. Cooking oils are particularly bad because they can clump together in the pipes and clog it. Paper towels are also damaging to flush down because of how easily they can aggregate in a pipe.
As well, replacing your metal pipe with a plastic pipe (if you can afford it) will help reduce the risk of tree roots creeping into the pipe and damaging it. Lastly, just getting the plumbing into your home inspected just once will alert you to any major dysfunctions of the system. Perhaps the pipe has corroded, or the valves are faulty--these are all things that can cause costly damage, but will be a lot cheaper to fix before they become major issues.