October 28, 2019

Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Sewer Line Replacement

Read more about Home Insurance

Sewer line coverage is important, yet most homeowners policies don't include it. Read on to learn how to find out if your sewer line is covered before it's too late.

Home sewer lines are usually made from PVC, concrete, cast iron, or clay. They're built to last 75 years or longer.

How long your home's sewer line actually lasts depends on various factors, including:

  • The age and material of the sewer line pipe

  • Whether the sewer line was installed correctly when the house was built

  • If there are tree roots clogging the underground line

  • What you send down your drains: items like disposable wipes, feminine hygiene products, animal fat, cooking oils, and coffee grounds can damage your sewer line over time.

Are you responsible for sewer line replacement?
You are responsible for your home sewer line, which is called the property service connection. It's the pipe located near the foundation of your home that connects your plumbing to the street.

You are NOT responsible for the connector sewer line that serves your street. This pipe carries wastewater to the treatment plant serving your municipality.

Does Homeowners Policy Cover Sewer Line Replacement?

Most home insurance policies do NOT cover sewer line replacement. But there are some exceptions. A homeowners policy may cover your sewer line IF:

  • The line is damaged by a third party, such as a neighbor or a contractor.

  • A covered peril damages the sewer line. Covered perils are the risks, events, and disasters that are covered under your home insurance (more on these below).

Check your homeowners insurance policy to see if it covers sewer line replacement. You'll want to pay special attention to what types of situations are (and are not) covered.

Covered Perils for Sewer Lines
Typically, your home's sewer line is covered under the Other Structures section of your homeowners insurance policy.

That means, unless otherwise specified, the same perils covered under your Dwelling coverage apply to your sewer line.

Among the perils that would apply to your home's sewer line include:

  • Fire or smoke
  • Lightning
  • Theft or vandalism
  • Explosions
  • Volcanic eruption
  • Hail or windstorm
  • Damage caused by aircraft and falling objects
  • Damage caused by vehicles
  • Damage caused by riots or civil disturbances

Here's an example:
Say the gas company caused an explosion on your property that damaged your sewer line. Because explosions are a covered peril under your policy, the sewer line replacement is covered (minus your deductible).

However, your policy might not cover the entire replacement. How much your insurer will pay depends on your policy's limits. These coverage limits are listed on the cover page of your homeowners insurance policy.

When Is Sewer Line Replacement Not Covered by Your Policy?

Home insurance does not cover sewer line replacement caused by wear and tear or any preventable cause. This includes damage caused by:

  • Faulty construction
  • Lack of proper upkeep and maintenance
  • Tree roots
  • Pests
  • Earthquakes
  • Floods
  • The sewer line being old

If the damage causes sewer line backup into your home, removing the wastewater and cleaning and restoring your home is also not covered. Neither is any personal property damaged or destroyed by the wastewater.

How to File a Sewer Line Replacement Claim

If water and raw sewage is already seeping into your home, acting quickly is essential to minimize damages.

Start by making 2 important phone calls:

  • Phone Call #1
    Immediately contact your home insurance company to start the claims process. The claims representative will ask you questions about the damage and arrange for immediate cleanup.

    With many home insurers, you can file a claim online or with a mobile app. But depending on the severity of the problem, it's best to contact the claims department by phone.

  • Phone Call #2
    Next, call a plumber. You have the option of using sewage cleanup services recommended by your insurer or your own service professionals.

    Either way, they will temporarily stop the sewage backup into your home and investigate the cause of the problem.

You may need to call an electrician to determine whether the water got into electrical units. The cleanup crew or your plumber can help you decide if this step is necessary.

Claim Documentation
Your home insurer will need documentation throughout the cleanup and sewer line replacement process.

Follow this checklist to ensure you have all the information you need for a claim:

  • Take photos of the affected areas.

  • List the damage to your home's interior structure, such as foundation, walls, flooring, etc.

  • Itemize the damages to your personal property, such as furniture, storage boxes, carpet, appliances, etc.

  • Save all invoices, bills, and receipts for cleaning, repairs, damages, etc.

Your insurance company will arrange payment to the companies involved in the cleanup and sewer line replacement. Some insurers pay the companies directly or issue a check to you.

But remember, you must pay the deductible before your insurance company pays out on the claim. Usually, the deductible is due immediately upon filing a claim.

You can:

  • Pay in advance to the insurer either by check or credit/debit card, or

  • Pay the deductible directly to either the cleanup company or your plumber.

Keep an eye on the impacted area after the work is complete. Despite rigorous cleanup efforts, mold can appear months later. If this happens, your home insurer will need to reopen the claim so the mold removal will be covered.

How Much Does Sewer Line Replacement Cost?

The cost to replace a sewer line varies, depending on these factors:

  • Location of your home
  • Complexity of replacing the sewer line
  • Cost of materials and labor
  • Length/depth of the sewer line
  • Method to replace the sewer line

Estimates for a full sewer line replacement range from $2,500–$8,000, with some as high as $30,000. Trenchless sewer line replacement costs about $200 per foot.

If a good portion of the pipe is in good condition, plumbers may be able to do a partial sewer line replacement. This less expensive option ranges from $1,500–$4,500.

Replacing a Backup Sewer Line
If the sewer line has already backed up into your home, you're in for a major cleanup.

A professional water damage restoration company first needs to pump out the water and raw sewage in your home. Once this process is complete, the plumbing company can begin the sewer line replacement process (more on this below).

Can I Buy Sewer Line Coverage Separately?

There are several options available for buying sewer line replacement insurance separately.

Add-On Endorsement to Your Homeowners Policy
These endorsements usually cover both the replacement of the sewer line and damage from sewage backup. However, coverage is only provided for covered perils specified in the endorsement.

When purchasing an endorsement, be sure you know the extent of the coverage it provides and in what circumstances. You should also ask about any exclusions in the endorsement.

This option is available if your policy doesn't cover sewer line replacement or you want more coverage than it offers. On average, expect to pay $50–$125 a year depending on the coverage limit.

These endorsements are also sold under the names:
  • Sewer and drain backup endorsement
  • Sewer and sump pump backup coverage
  • Service line protection endorsement

Coverage from Your Utility Company
Some utility companies offer service line protection plans that include a home's sewer pipe. The coverage also extends to other service lines, such as:

  • Water lines
  • Natural gas lines
  • Propane pipes
  • Cable lines

Utility company protection plans average about $5.99/month. However, that cost varies depending on where you live.

Third-Party Coverage
Companies that provide plumbing, electrical, and heating and cooling services often offer protection plans as an extension of their main service.

Additionally, home emergency repair companies typically sell exterior sewer line replacement insurance plans.

These plans pay for:

  • Locating the problem
  • Excavating to expose the pipe
  • Repairing or replacing the sewer line
  • Backfilling areas exposed during excavation

Third-party coverage costs vary based on your zip code. Generally, the cost is around $9/month for an unlimited benefit amount.

If your homeowners policy doesn't include sewer line replacement coverage, shop around to see which option offers the best coverage value for the price.

Where to Buy Sewer Line Replacement Insurance

You have several avenues when shopping for sewer line replacement protection. Start by checking with your existing insurer to see if they offer an add-on endorsement.

If not, you can find another home insurance company that does. But you will need to cancel your existing policy. Here are the best places to find new home insurance coverage:

  • An Online Insurance Marketplace
    This is the fastest and easiest way to find which home insurance companies offer sewer line replacement. Simply use the marketplace's search tool to find information about offerings from various insurers.

  • An Independent Insurance Agency/Agent
    Independent insurance agents offer products from a multitude of insurers. They can easily pinpoint those carriers that either include sewer line replacement in their homeowners policy or offer it as an endorsement.

Before choosing a new home insurer, be sure to:

  • Compare coverages and costs.

  • Research the new company, including its insurance rating and customer reviews for service and paying claims.

  • Make sure your home insurance application is accepted before canceling your existing coverage.

If you don't want to change home insurance companies, check to see if your electric or gas company offers sewer line replacement protection plans. If not, they might provide recommendations of companies that do.

You can also search online for companies in your area that offer sewer line replacement as part of their home service protection plans.

Signs Your Sewer Line Is Failing

The sewer line in your home sends pretty clear signs when something is not right. These include:

  • Slow-draining sinks

  • Toilets clogging up more often than usual

  • The toilet, sink, or shower drain making loud, random gurgling or bubbling noises

  • Drains emitting a rotten or raw sewage smell

  • The toilet's water rises or bubbles when water is running in a sink, shower, or other plumbing fixture

  • Water and raw sewage coming up through one or more drains

Contact a plumber immediately if any of these signs are present in your home. You want to avoid wastewater backing up into your home.

The plumber will use a special camera to check your home's plumbing pipes and sewer line for problems, cracks, obstructions, or corrosion.

If your sewer line is failing, it doesn't necessarily mean sewer line replacement is necessary. The drain lines might simply need cleaning out.

What Is Involved in Replacing a Sewer Line?

A sewer line usually needs replacing if a plumber is unable to unclog the pipe or if the camera inspection shows an unfixable problem within the line.

Plumbing companies offer 2 options for sewer line replacement: traditional and trenchless. Here's a look at the process for each type.

Traditional Sewer Line Replacement
Accessing the sewer line pipe requires digging a trench along the entire length of the sewer line. This spans from your home to the area where it connects with the sewer line in the street.

This could mean digging up your lawn, driveway, walkways, patio, or other structures built over the sewer line. Depending on the placement of your home's sewer line, it could take several days to dig the trench. Heavy machinery may also be needed.

After the old sewer line is removed, a new one is put into place and connected to the connector sewer line in the street. The plumber then checks to make sure the plumbing inside the home is working properly. The plumber completes the job by filling in the trench.

With a traditional sewer line replacement, the homeowner is responsible for restoring the lawn, driveway, or anything else dug up to access the sewer line.

Trenchless Sewer Line Replacement
Rather than digging up the entire length of the line, trenchless sewer line replacement involves making small vertical holes in the ground. This minimizes the digging required.

The plumber will then decide to line the original pipe with epoxy or insert a new pipe within the old one.

Bottom Line

Replacing your home's sewer line can be a major expense. Digging, big equipment, and other outdoor areas of your home may be involved.

Though the sewer line pipe is part of your home, don't assume your home insurance has you covered. Most homeowners insurance policies do not cover sewer line replacement, so you may need to consider other options.

Some insurers offer a sewer line replacement endorsement for an additional cost. There are also non-insurance companies that offer sewer line protection plans.

The cost for coverage is a small investment each year that, if needed, delivers valuable savings.

Write to Maryellen Cicione at feedback@creditdonkey.com. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for our latest posts.

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