How Much Sewer Backup Coverage Is Appropriate?

Adding sewer backup coverage to your homeowners insurance can pay for damages.

Adding sewer backup coverage to your homeowners insurance can pay for damages.

Into every life, a little rain must fall. But what happens when the rainstorm doesn’t stop and the downpour overwhelms your home’s sewer system or your sump pump’s ability to handle the water runoff? Faster than you can say “call a plumber,” raw sewage is backing up into your house -- overflowing toilets, spilling out of sinks, gushing from the bathtub and flooding your basement. Before that happens, it’s time to think about sewer backup insurance. Understanding how it works and purchasing the right amount can be the difference between singing in the rain and watching your house go down the drain.

Sewer Backup Insurance Adds Protection

According to the Insurance Information Institute, sewer backups are not covered under a homeowners policy. They’re not covered for those who have flood insurance, either. Insurance coverage for sewer-related problems has to be purchased either as a separate policy or as a special addition to your homeowner’s policy. The amount of coverage varies by state. In some states, such as North Carolina, you choose an available coverage limit -- $5,000, $10,000, $15,000 or $25,000 -- and pay accordingly. An annual premium of $25 buys roughly $5,000 to $10,000 worth of coverage. In other states, when you purchase sewer backup insurance for $40 to $60 a year, the amount of coverage is equal to the amount of coverage you already have on your homeowners policy. So if your home is insured for $200,000 and you add on sewer backup insurance, you’re amount of coverage for a sewer backup would also be $200,000. Either way, it’s a small price to pay as opposed to the thousands in damages you could be stuck with should a backup occur.

Homeowners Insurance Helps, Too

While it won’t pay to fix damage due to a sewer backup, a typical homeowners policy does cover you for loss of use. So if your home were rendered unusable due to a sewer backup, insurance would reimburse you for food, lodging and living expenses if you have to vacate your home while cleaning is done and repairs are made.

What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You

As a homeowner, you’re responsible for your roof, your appliances and anything else to do with your home. You are also responsible for the maintenance and repair of the sewer line that connects your home to your city’s sewer system. More than half of all sewer lines in the United States are more than 30 years old, often made from clay, cement or metal rather than the newer plastic and PVC pipes. These aging sewer lines deteriorate, develop cracks and become blocked, and they’re not designed for heavy use. Trees also pose a major problem. Roots -- sometimes from trees that aren’t even in your yard -- cause extensive damage and block. Since it’s all happening underground, you have no way of knowing the damage is occurring until it’s too late. A single major rainstorm may be all it takes to start the ball rolling -- and the sewage flowing.

Peace of Mind

Different insurance companies have different policies and different costs. And not all homes qualify for a sewer backup rider. If your home has had sewer backup problems in the past or has general groundwater issues, it may be impossible to find an insurance company to cover your home. Adding a few bucks to your home insurance each month can offer a world of protection against any sewer-related damage. For more information on sewer backup insurance specific to your home and your state, contact your insurance agent.

About the Author

Based in the Pacific Northwest, Todd Duvall has been a writer since 1983. He has written for various local, regional and national clients, winning numerous awards. Duvall received a Bachelor of Arts in communication from Washington State University's Edward R. Murrow College of Communication.

Photo Credits

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