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If you’re like most homeowners, you’ve probably never read more than a few words of homeowner’s insurance policy. It took me several attempts to read it before I was able to really get through it and digest what it was saying (and NOT saying). But when it comes to protecting your home, your insurance policy’s entire purpose is to protect you against those unlikely events that occasionally happen that can be expensive to fix. So would it surprise you if you found out that your policy did not cover sewage back-ups? Sadly, that’s the case for many standard policies for some carriers!
Many insurance carriers do not offer protection against sewage back-ups and the related costs for the sewage clean-up process in their standard policies. Should that be the case, homeowners have the option of purchasing a sewage back-up rider for their policy that protects them against some (but not all…more on that below) sewage back-ups. A rider is essentially additional coverage at an additional cost (usually somewhere between $50-$125/year for sewer back-ups).
If I have coverage for a sewer back-up, does that mean the back-up and cleaning costs are automatically covered?
Not necessarily. Like other flood events, insurance companies use the origination point of the incident as a factor when determining whether or not the event is covered. Most commonly, that borderline is the property line itself, such that if tree roots have grown into the line on your property and causes a back-up, it’s covered. But if the source of the back-up is from heavy rains causing an overflow from the city’s main sewer line, the source is considered off-premises and typically not covered (a quick update to this can be found here).
How do I know where the source of the sewer back-up occurred?
It’s best to call a plumber or drain specialist to determine what happened. They have video inspection equipment that can crawl the sewer line and determine where the back-up occurred and why. They can also record the video inspection which is useful in the event you need it to file a claim or feel that the city or municipality’s negligence caused the event.
What is my recourse if the sewage backed-up from heavy rains or some other factor that affected the city sewer line and overflowed up into my home?
Very little, unfortunately. Every city’s laws are different, but generally speaking the burden is on you to a) prove the back-up occurred due to a defect in the city’s line and b) that they city knew about the defect and was negligent in fixing it.
As you can see with insurance coverage for sewage back-ups, there’s a lot that is up in the air. As with any post we create ‘is this or that covered’, the thing we emphasize is to educate yourself. Know your policy, speak with your agent, and make sure you’re protected against unlikely events because despite our best efforts, sometimes they happen.
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