Septic tank damage is a nightmare. Added to the filthy mess, the damage also incurs pricey repair bills for the homeowner. If your septic tank needs to be replaced you might be wondering if homeowners insurance will cover your septic tank replacement or repair.
Home insurance may cover septic tank damage if it is caused by a sudden and unexpected event, such as a fire, a windstorm, or a vehicle collision. However, home insurance will not cover septic tank damage if it is caused by wear and tear, lack of maintenance, or flooding. Your homeowners policy won’t reimburse your tank repair bills if the damage is borne from maintenance issues or human carelessness.
When will you receive insurance coverage for your septic tank?
As mentioned previously, your insurer will only extend coverage if the tank has got damaged suddenly and without human error. Put simply, if it’s the case that the damage was unavoidable despite proper maintenance measures, then you will most likely get coverage.
Some possible scenarios when septic tank damage will be covered by homeowners insurance are:
- Damage from the weight of snow, ice, or sleet: If heavy snow or ice causes your septic tank to crack or collapse, your home insurance may pay for the repairs.
- Water damage from plumbing, heating, or air conditioning overflow: If a pipe bursts or a water heater leaks and damages your septic tank, your home insurance may cover the cost of fixing it.
- Water heater cracking, tearing, and burning: If your water heater malfunctions and causes damage to your septic tank, your home insurance may reimburse you for the expenses.
- Damage from electrical current: If a power surge or a lightning strike damages your septic tank or its electrical components, your home insurance may cover the replacement or repair costs.
- Pipe freezing: If your pipes freeze and burst and cause water damage to your septic tank, your home insurance may pay for the cleanup and restoration.
- Fire: If a fire spreads to your septic tank and damages it, your home insurance may cover the damage.
- Theft: If someone steals parts of your septic tank or its accessories, your home insurance may compensate you for the loss.
- Vandalism: If someone intentionally damages your septic tank or its components, your home insurance may cover the repair costs.
- Falling objects: If a tree branch, a roof shingle, or another object falls on your septic tank and damages it, your home insurance may pay for the repairs.
If you have a septic tank, you should consider adding a septic system endorsement or rider to your home insurance policy. This can provide extra coverage for septic system issues that are not covered by your standard policy, such as backup of sewage or water into your home. However, you should still follow proper maintenance practices to prevent septic tank damage and avoid costly repairs or replacements.
How much insurance coverage will you get?
Your septic tank is usually covered under Other Structures section B coverage of your homeowners policy. This coverage is usually set at 10% of your dwelling coverage limit. You may not get the full reimbursement if the cost to replace the septic tank exceeds your coverage B limits.
So, if the total home insurance value is $400,000, you will get a maximum of $50,000 for the coverage. Now, again, the coverage amount may vary from one insurer to another. Many insurers offer an option to increase your Other Structures coverage limit. The bottom line is you have to ensure, the coverage that you will be getting would be able to accommodate a fair share of the repair or replacement costs.
The cost of repairing or replacing a septic tank may range from $5,000-$30,000. In that light, if you can manage a standard $300,000 insurance policy for your home, you will have all the repair costs (for septic tank damage) covered conveniently.
When will your insurance policy not cover septic tank damage?
Once again, your home insurance policy won’t be ready to cover septic tank damage caused by human carelessness and poor maintenance habits. So, you can’t expect coverage if:
- Damage is caused by flushing chemicals, oils, and solids
- Drive over the tank
- Unmanaged growth of tree roots inside the tank
- Pipe freezing
- No proper drainage outlet
- Faulty cesspool construction
In simpler words, if the damage was something that could have been prevented or avoided by the homeowner, your insurance policy won’t shoulder the responsibility.
However, you will get coverage if septic tank damage affects other areas of your home. For example, if the damage results in an unwanted flow of scup or waste materials inside your home, you will be covered. Your home insurance policy will extend coverage for bills related to repairing damaged carpets, professional mopping of the floor, or removal of fecal material.
Moreover, a standard home insurance policy won’t offer you coverage for septic tank damage if it’s caused by “Act of God” disasters. The most common examples here would be earthquakes and floods. If you are staying in a flood-prone or earthquake-prone area, it’s better to sign up for individual flood insurance or earthquake insurance for safety.
Look for an adjuster in cases of disagreement
There could be situations where the damage has been caused without human error but the insurance company is not ready to accept it. For example, your insurer may deny paying a claim for tank damage even when you are particular about tank maintenance. In such situations, you will need to consult an adjuster. The adjuster will review your case and negotiate with your insurance company to ensure the right coverage for you. But in case the insurer is still not ready to pay, you have every right to lodge a complaint with the insurance department of your State.
Be careful about the maintenance of the septic tank
There are certain actions that you should follow to prevent septic tank damage and offset repair bills. As we have discussed above, if the damage is caused by your negligence, it’s you who have to bear the entire burden of repair. And, repairing a damaged septic tank is any day a pricey affair. It’s better to be safe than sorry. The piece below outlines the steps to be taken to ensure proper maintenance of the septic tank:
According to experts, you must carry out regular inspections on your septic tank to know when to pump. Pumping on time will go a long way to prevent risks of system failure. You will need to pump your tank if:
- The bottom of scum accumulation is just 3” away from the bottom of the outlet device
- The top of sludge is 12” away from the bottom of the outlet
Signs of system failure
Be careful of warnings of system failure:
- Gurgling noise in the plumbing system
- Surfacing sewage, foul odors, wet spots, and growth of vegetation in the drain field
- Backups in the septic tank
- Sloth draining fixtures
Never put certain items into the septic system
To keep the tank in the best of health, be careful not to throw these items into flush:
- Fuels or motor oils
- Grease or fat
- Nut/egg shells and coffee grounds
- Disposable diapers
- Condom, tampons and sanitary napkin
- Cigarette butts
- Rags or paper towel
- Chemicals or paints
No heavy thing over a tank
Do not ever place anything heavy on the tank as the high pressure may affect the soil & cause serious damage to system pipes. Do not park your car or build a pool on top of the septic system or drain fields of your home.
No tank additives on a regular basis
Tank additives show temporary relief but can be dangerous in the long run if you tend to use them regularly.
How do I maximize my homeowners insurance claim for a damaged septic tank?
You should document everything possible for your claim, including taking photos of the damage, keeping receipts of any repairs or replacements, and contacting your insurer as soon as possible.
What are some signs of septic tank damage?
Some signs of septic tank damage are foul odors, slow drains, sewage backup, wet spots or lush vegetation in the drain field, or gurgling sounds in the plumbing system.
How often should I pump my septic tank?
The frequency of pumping your septic tank depends on the size of the tank, the number of people in your household, and the amount of water usage. Generally, you should pump your septic tank every three to five years.
How can I prevent septic tank damage?
You can prevent septic tank damage by following proper maintenance practices, such as pumping your tank regularly, diverting rainwater from the drain field, regulating water usage, keeping trees away from the system, and avoiding flushing chemicals, solids, and oils down the toilet.
Are there any types of home insurance that cover septic tank damage?
There are no standard types of home insurance that cover septic tank damage, but some insurers may offer optional endorsements or riders that provide some coverage for septic system issues. However, these endorsements may have limitations and exclusions, so you should read the policy carefully before purchasing it.
Home insurance may cover septic tank damage if it is caused by a sudden and unexpected event, but not if it is caused by wear and tear, lack of maintenance, or flooding. You should check your policy limits and exclusions for septic tank coverage, prevent septic tank damage by following proper maintenance practices, and file a claim with your insurer if you have septic tank damage.