Here’s a question that plumbers hear all the time—usually after a damaged sewer pipe has wrought considerable damage to a homeowner’s property.
Damaged sewer pipes can be particularly harmful to homes because:
- They’re often difficult to detect;
- Wastewater carries contaminants that can accelerate damage to the structure; and
- Wastewater can spread harmful bacteria.
So, when having to deal with this pungent hazard to health and home, many homeowners wonder if their homeowners insurance will cover their damages.
The answer is: it depends.
Factors that Affect Your Homeowners Insurance Coverage
There are many different factors that can influence whether or not a specific damaged sewer pipe event will or will not be covered under your homeowners insurance policy, including:
- Your Insurer. There are many different companies out there that offer homeowners insurance to Californians. While some basic forms of coverage are required, such as coverage for the dwelling, there may be exceptions for specific events depending on your insurer, including:
- Wear and Tear
- Acts of God
- Additional Purchased Coverage. For many insurance policies, it is possible to opt for additional coverage such as flood insurance or sewer and drain backup coverage which specifically addresses flooding events and damage from sewer/drain failures.
- Your Deductible. Pretty much every insurance plan ever has a set amount of money that the damage to your home has to be worth before your insurance policy will start footing the bill. If your damages are below this threshold, then the insurer won’t cover the damage.
- The Cause of the Broken Pipe. The cause of the broken pipe plays a major role in determining whether or not the repairs will be covered. As mentioned earlier, wear and tear isn’t typically covered by homeowners insurance. So, if a pipe breaks because of a lack of maintenance, then your insurance won’t cover it. The same goes for breaks caused by earthquakes/earth movement—unless you have that specific bit of coverage (which is a good idea in California). Events that might be covered would include damage caused by faulty workmanship or damage from an accident or act of vandalism.
If your homeowners insurance covers the replacement/repair of the pipe itself, it may also cover the cost of some of the damages to the structure and personal property. Once again, the specific coverage you have will heavily influence this.
Protecting Yourself Against Sewer Pipe Damage
One of the best things you can do to limit the impact of broken sewer pipes on you and your family is to regularly check your home’s sewer & drain pipes for signs of damage—including slow drains, unusually tall grass, musty odors in rooms with pipes running through them, etc.
Finding and fixing a problem early can help save money and other resources. Also, it can help prevent a break from being listed as just “wear and tear” that can be rejected—if you document your repairs.
Aside from keeping your home’s pipes maintained, it’s vital to find a strong homeowners insurance policy that includes sewer & drain coverage to protect against such damages. This may take a lot of extra effort to compare policies and make sure that your contract includes the right protections, but it’s worth it to avoid excessive losses from pipe damage.