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What Happens With Sewer Back-Up: Your Insurance Coverage

March 26, 2012

Water damage is one of those areas of home insurance where there are plenty of exclusions and grey areas, and homeowners can often be unclear on what is covered and what is not. Some types of water damage are covered under a standard homeowner’s insurance policy, while others require that you add an optional coverage in order to receive benefits. Sewer back-up falls into the latter category. You can receive coverage for sewer back-up in your home but you may have to add an endorsement to your policy and pay an extra premium for the coverage.

What is Sewer Back-Up?

Sewer back-up occurs when the city or municipal drainage system overflows and sends water back through the pipes and into your home. This may happen for a variety of reasons, but the most common is a great deal of water from rainfall or snow melt overwhelming the system. It can also be a result of a failure on the part of a sump pump or other system designed to deal with excess water. The water and sewage can come from various sources including a septic tank, sewer or storm drain.

Sewer back-up can result in a great deal of damage to homes, including the development of mold problems and of course bacteria from sewage that has entered the home. It requires immediate proper clean-up that can be very expensive as well as can result in damage to carpets, walls, furniture and other personal property that will be costly to replace.

Sewer Back-Up Coverage

Sewer back-up coverage is available to Ontario homeowners as an optional coverage that can be added to a standard homeowner’s policy. Some areas are more likely to need this optional coverage as they are located in places more prone to flooding and sewer back-up. These areas are those most likely to have this optional coverage offered to homeowners.

Without this coverage added to your policy, you could discover that you have little to no coverage available in the event of a serious flood or even a local problem that results in a sewer back-up. Without the coverage, the cost of repairs can easily reach into the tens of thousands, and for the average homeowner this is an amount not readily available. The cost of adding the coverage to your policy is minimal in comparison to this and is a wise decision especially if you live in a location where sewer back-up is an issue. This coverage is optional, but in some cases your mortgage company may require that you carry it if you live in a high-risk area.

Shopping around for your home insurance is the best way to make sure that you have all of the coverage you need, including sewer back-up, at the best rate. Rates may differ widely from company to company, and you may discover you can pay the same or less for a policy that includes sewer back-up from one company than you would for a policy without the coverage elsewhere.

Avoiding Sewer Back-Up

Prevention is always better than dealing with damage even if you do have the coverage in place to pay the claim. There are several things you can do to prevent sewer back-up from destroying your home and property:

  • Install sump pumps and check regularly to ensure they are in good working order
  • Have backflow valves installed in your home
  • Ensure that your property has good drainage – a slope that moves away from your home is best
  • Have plugs ready for all drains and toilets
  • Keep all of your eaves troughs and downspouts clean and clear to allow proper drainage

In some cases, especially extreme ones, back-up might not be preventable, but the damage can at the very least be minimized with these precautions.

A surprising number of homeowners are not aware that sewer back-up is not a standard part of a homeowner’s insurance policy. It’s vital that you verify whether or not you have coverage right away, before finding out you do not have it when your home is filled with sewer water. You should also find out whether or not you live in a high-risk area, making this coverage even more vital. If you don’t have this coverage on your policy, shop around for a policy that does include it and compare it to adding the coverage to your current policy. The cost of an optional coverage is low when it comes to your peace of mind.

  • Bea Weekes

    is sewer back-up insurance necessary when living in an apartment?
    What coverage is absolutely necessary when living in an apartment?
    Thanks!
    b

  • Nick – InsuranceHotline.com

    Hello,

    Sewer back-up is not necessary when living in an apartment (or a home) it is an option for you to add on if you like. Depending on what floor you are on, it may not make sense for you to take, for example, if you are on the first floor or in a basement apartment, you may want to consider sewer back-up, but if you are on higher level floors, it doesn’t make sense to have sewer back-up as you are not on the sewer levels. The only necessary coverage you will need when obtaining tenant insurance are liabilty and content insurance.

    Hope this helps.

  • Linda

    Why does an insurance company charge sewer back-up, when I am not on Municipal Sewers?
    I live in the country, and have a septic system. Last year my “Back-up” insurance was $595.00
    Can you explain.

  • Nick – InsuranceHotline.com

    Hello,

    Since each insurance company has their own rules and rates, you are best to discuss your policy with your insurance professional. Let your insurance company know that you may not require this coverage. With some insurance companies, this coverage is optional.

  • Alyssa

    Hi,
    I’m renting a house in QLD, and the neighborhood’s sewer backed up into my laundry and garage, leaving me with no choice but throwing away everything that was there as it was all coated in raw sewage.. the RTA claims that I am not insured as I don’t have my own Home and Contents Insurance but there must be a way for me to get some form of compensation, seeing as the sewer blockage wasn’t even my fault. I lost 2 whole wheelie bin’s worth of items, many which obviously have sentimental value.
    I am not sure what I can do as no one seems to know the answer- someone please help! :(

  • Nick – InsuranceHotline.com

    Hi Alyssa,

    Unfortunately, we do not have any information on insurance in Australia.

  • Lynn

    State Farm here in Canada changed their sewer backup coverage to $5000.00 deductible last year. It used to be your regular content deductible amount. Dam!!

  • jimmie

    Hi there, we just built a new home with a septic tank built and installed by a professional, a premium for sewer backup is 51 per annum and since i have a new system that is lower than the house and installed professionaly i am not taking the coverage which incidentally is 1000 deductable….comments please….

  • naren

    how much the coverage amount should be? Some companies are offering with 300,000 $ while standard says around 25,000 – 50,000.
    Do we really need 300,000?

  • http://www.insurancehotline.com/ InsuranceHotline.com

    Hello Naren,

    I’m not sure what coverage you are referring to… could you please specify?

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