Sewer Backup Insurance Coverage
A sewer backup loss is excluded under most homeowners' policies, but most insurer's, will provide an option of purchasing back this coverage for an additional premium. Because there is an ever increasing trend among insurance companies to deny a particular type of water loss under the sewer backup and drain overflow exclusion, the policyholder may want to consider buying this extra coverage.
Sewer backup losses cause millions of dollars of damage each year. Typically, this type of loss is more likely to occur in areas of the country with a typography of hills and valleys. Over the years, I have settled hundreds of sewer backup losses in the greater Chicago area. After a heavy rain, the storm sewers would overload and then sewage would fill up the basements of many of the houses located in low-lying areas. Here in southern and southwest Florida, the lay of the land is noticeably different. Most homes do not have basements; our land is mostly flat, and our sanitary sewers are usually not tied-in with road way drainage. Consequently, there are fewer sewer and drain backup claims reported in a city like Sarasota than in a city like Chicago. If these facts are true, why would I be writing about sewer backup?
Sometimes, the insurance company just does not get it right. They may deny a toilet overflow claim under the sewer backup exclusion. If this is the case, your insurance company may have applied this exclusion incorrectly, and you should contact a public adjuster for review of your policy immediately. While sewer back up may be excluded from your policy, the following types of losses may not be excluded:
• water overflow from your toilet
• backup of waste from a toilet or drain due to a blockage in a pipe which is located on the residence premises.
• Backup of sewage from a septic tank or septic system.
Even if the water that overflows from your toilet contains waste, your claim may be covered. If your toilet overflowed after it was flushed, your claim is usually covered. If the plumber found a clog in your waste-line before it tied-in with the main sewer line, your claim is usually covered. If your septic tank fills up with water and your toilet overflows, your claim is usually covered. I say usually because similar policies contain different wording, and coverage may be restricted under your particular policy.
Historically, insurance companies defined sewer backups when forces exerted pressure on the sewage contained in the main sewer line and those forces cause sewage in that line to be pushed in the basements and homes of the insured. Very often a force that exerts pressure in the main sewage line is pressure caused from the heavy rain. In another scenario, when the mainline becomes blocked and sewage is dumped into the line at a higher elevations, it will sometimes run into basements and homes located in the low-lying areas. Please note, the examples outlined in the previous paragraph did not exert force or pressure on the sewage contained in the main sewer line causing sewage to be pushed into a basement. Flushing a toilet is actually pushing water toward the main sewer line. In other words, the insured simply attempted to flush water away from the house, and the blockage halted that attempt. I believe this type of loss is not excluded from the policy.
An accurate interpretation of the sewer backup exclusion lies in the proper understanding of the words sewer, backup, and off the residence premises. However, many policies have differing exclusionary language and you should consult with a public adjuster or attorney concerning coverage under your specific policy.
Sewer Backup losses have many different variables and are complex.
It is not as common to have a Sewer Backup loss here in Florida, as it is in some other states. Please give me a call. You may have coverage for ths loss dispite what you are told by your insurance compnay.
Please see a sample of Duties After Loss. The wording found in this sample policy may be different from the wording found in your policy. Failure to comply with the wording in your policy could result in your entire claim being denied. While the majority of the homeowners' insurance policies address the Coverages, Conditions, and Responsibilities of the insurance company, this section addresses the responsibilities and duties of the insured after a loss. Failure of the insured to perform these duties can potentially reduce or even negate insurance coverage that would otherwise be available.