Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Septic Tanks?

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A septic tank can usually be found at homes in rural areas or houses not connected to the city sewer system. The septic tank handles all wastewater from the house, which includes the washer, toilets, showers and sinks. Using gravity and bacteria, the tank filters the waste and releases the treated water into a drainage or leach field while storing the scum and sludge.

If you have a septic tank, you’d probably agree that it’s better when it’s out of sight and out of mind. You never want to smell what’s going on in there, and you definitely never want to see it. Unfortunately, septic systems aren’t faultless, and sometimes problems can arise. Let’s take a look at what role your homeowners insurance can play if you’ve got a stinky situation on your hands.

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Septic Tanks?

Your homeowners insurance will only cover damage to your septic tank if the damage was sudden and not the result of negligence. A provider isn’t responsible for general wear and tear or a homeowner’s poor maintenance habits.

What Is Covered

A homeowners insurance policy protects many parts of your property beyond just the structure of your house. Under the “other structures” portion of your plan, also known as Coverage B, features of your property like fences, sheds, and detached garages are financially guarded in case of damage by a covered peril. Protection under Coverage B can also include the pipes and body of a septic tank.

A typical homeowners plan includes coverage from over a dozen named perils that can cause sudden and unpreventable damage to your property. The most common of these perils are fires, wind damage from hurricanes or tornadoes and water damage from freezing or burst pipes. If your septic tank is damaged by these, or any of the perils, you could be covered.

What Isn’t Covered

A provider isn’t responsible for general wear and tear or a homeowner’s poor maintenance habits. If you have a septic tank, it’s your responsibility to make the effort to keep it running properly, not the insurer. 

A home insurance plan also likely won’t cover damage if it is the result of a pre-existing issue. For example, if your septic tank was built with insufficient drainage when you bought the house and it happens to cause a problem a few years down the line, your insurer may not cover this since the poor construction wasn’t detected and remedied earlier.

A typical homeowners insurance policy also doesn’t protect against damage from floods and earthquakes. Sinkholes are generally excluded too, although some states, like Florida, require insurers to cover damage from serious sinkholes on a limited basis.

Septic Tank Issues

A typical septic system should last at least 15 years and can work for as long as 30 or 40 years. If you have a septic tank, you probably know that putting certain things down your drains can cause serious problems. 

If your septic tank is compromised by an accumulation of grease, oils, or chemicals that you’ve flushed into the tank, your insurance likely won’t cover it. While solids sit at the bottom of the tank and the water gets filtered out, grease and oil sit at the top of the tank since they don’t dissolve in the water and aren’t heavy enough to sink.

If this top “scum” layer gets too thick, it can clog the filter or prevent proper drainage. Your homeowners insurance likely won’t cover you if damage occurs as a result of this since it’s preventable.

Bacteria in your septic tank breaks waste down and cleans the water before it’s dispelled into the drainage field. Toxic household chemicals like bleach, paint thinner, or drain cleaners can kill these necessary microorganisms. Flushing large doses of these into your septic system can prevent it from working properly. Your insurance probably won’t cover you if this occurs, either.

Another possible dilemma unlikely to be covered by insurance is tree roots disturbing your septic tank. Roots can negatively affect or, worst-case scenario, penetrate the pipes or body of your septic tank and cause a leak. Be wary of plants in your backyard near the drain field and tank areas.

You may be able to purchase separate service line coverage or water backup coverage for extra protection from more scenarios like the ones mentioned above.

Septic Tank Failure and Replacement

The cost of replacing a septic tank can be tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the type of system you get. If your septic damage is covered by your insurance, you’re not guaranteed total reimbursement for services.

If you’re covered under the “other structures” part of your plan, financial protection is usually up to 10% of your dwelling coverage, which is the portion of your policy that safeguards the physical structure of your house. For instance, if you have $300,000 of dwelling coverage, your other structures coverage can be up to $30,000 per claim. 

If this is the case, you’d probably have enough to pay for any septic tank repair or replacement. What if your insurance says they will cover your septic tank damage, you only have $10,000 in other structures coverage and all of the repairs cost $15,000?

Unfortunately, you’d have to pay the difference out of pocket. This is why it’s always important to have a sufficient amount of coverage

Even if it’s covered, septic tank repair or replacement is a huge hassle. Be wary of warning signs that can signal a septic system failure. These include slow draining from the toilet or sink, wet spots or a foul smell in the leach field, and sewage at the surface of the leach field.

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The editorial content on Clovered’s website is meant to be informational material and should not be considered legal advice.

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