If your home is built on property that doesn’t have access to a city sewer system, you most likely have a septic tank system to handle your wastewater from toilets, showers, and sinks.
That system is a vital component of your home. If it fails, your house becomes uninhabitable in a very short time. And if it fails, it isn’t cheap to repair.
Repairing or replacing a septic tank and leach field can run $5,000 to $40,000.
So, is this essential piece of your property covered by your homeowners insurance? The short answer is no.
However, there are a few exceptions that may cause your insurance company to consider covering damage from a septic tank failure.
Why Isn’t Your Septic Tank Covered?
Your septic system is an important element of your home, but an insurance company will take the view that it is not a “part” of your home. It exists outside the walls and is not structurally part of the house. When it comes to losses related to a septic system or damage to septic systems, the chances are that you are not covered by your homeowners insurance.
If you are confused, you are not alone. Many homeowners who have septic systems are uncertain about the precise coverage of their policy when it comes to their septic system. The best advice is to sit down with your agent, or a rep from the company, and spend some quality time having them spell out what you do, and do not, have. There are exceptions, and those exceptions will depend of the company you purchased the policy from.
Generally, sewage backups from septic tank systems will not be covered if they are caused by:
- Tree roots blocking the pipe.
- Deteriorated or rusted tanks or baffles.
- Cracked tanks.
- Leach field clogging or failure.
- If your system fails because of poor maintenance or a preventable condition, coverage is not extended.
Ways to Get Covered
For most plumbing issues, the damage is only covered if it’s caused by “sudden or accidental” failure. If your septic tank was well maintained (and you have receipts to prove it) you may be able to make a case to your insurance company for coverage. However, you may require the help of an independent adjuster or a lawyer to be successful.
Sewer Backup Coverage Add-on
Many companies offer sewage backup insurance as an add-on to the homeowners policy. These policies are called into play when city sewage lines are backed up after flooding, heavy rainstorms, or sewer collapse. They cover the cost of cleanup and property damage and may cover a septic tank that backs up. It’s much simpler to file a claim through a policy like this.
If you explore this option, make certain you have confirmation that your system is included and any terms that affect the coverage.
Preventing Damage Caused By Your Septic Tank System
Unfortunately, you are your best insurance for your septic system. An aggressive maintenance program, educating family members about what can and cannot be placed in the system, and regular inspection can prevent an unexpected failure. Just consider it another maintenance chore just like cutting the grass.
Most importantly, know the signs of a problem and don’t hesitate to call a professional to investigate and fix. The signs of a serious problem include:
- A gurgling sound coming from toilets
- Wet spots in the field, or thick growth of vegetation
- Sewage reaching the surface of the leach field
- Slow drains
- A foul smell in the leach field
If you can address these issues early you can mitigate the cost of a complete failure.
In the meantime, visit with your agent and spend time becoming completely familiar with your coverage.