It's a Stinky Business - Sewer Backup
Water damage is one of those areas of home insurance where there are plenty of exclusions and grey areas, and homeowners can often be unclear on what is covered and what is not. Some types of water damage are covered under a standard homeowner’s insurance policy, while others require that you add an optional coverage in order to receive benefits. Sewer back-up falls into the latter category. You can receive coverage for sewer back-up in your home but you may have to add an endorsement to your policy and pay an extra premium for the coverage.
What is Sewer Back-Up?
Sewer back-up occurs when the city or municipal drainage system overflows and sends water back through the pipes and into your home. This may happen for a variety of reasons, but the most common is a great deal of water from rainfall or snow melt overwhelming the system. It can also be a result of a failure on the part of a sump pump or other system designed to deal with excess water. The water and sewage can come from various sources including a septic tank, sewer or storm drain.
Sewer back-up can result in a great deal of damage to homes, including the development of mold problems and of course bacteria from sewage that has entered the home. It requires immediate proper clean-up that can be very expensive as well as can result in damage to carpets, walls, furniture and other personal property that will be costly to replace.
Sewer Back-Up Coverage
Sewer back-up coverage is available to Ontario homeowners as an optional coverage that can be added to a standard homeowner’s policy. Some areas are more likely to need this optional coverage as they are located in places more prone to flooding and sewer back-up. These areas are those most likely to have this optional coverage offered to homeowners.
Without this coverage added to your policy, you could discover that you have little to no coverage available in the event of a serious flood or even a local problem that results in a sewer back-up. Without the coverage, the cost of repairs can easily reach into the tens of thousands, and for the average homeowner this is an amount not readily available. The cost of adding the coverage to your policy is minimal in comparison to this and is a wise decision especially if you live in a location where sewer back-up is an issue. This coverage is optional, but in some cases your mortgage company may require that you carry it if you live in a high-risk area.
Avoiding Sewer Back-Up
Prevention is always better than dealing with damage even if you do have the coverage in place to pay the claim. There are several things you can do to prevent sewer back-up from destroying your home and property:
- Install sump pumps and check regularly to ensure they are in good working order
- Have backflow valves installed in your home
- Ensure that your property has good drainage – a slope that moves away from your home is best
- Have plugs ready for all drains and toilets
- Keep all of your eaves troughs and downspouts clean and clear to allow proper drainage
In some cases, especially extreme ones, back-up might not be preventable, but the damage can at the very least be minimized with these precautions.
A surprising number of homeowners are not aware that sewer backup is not a standard part of a homeowner’s insurance policy. It’s vital that you verify whether or not you have coverage right away, before finding out you do not have it when your home is filled with sewer water. You should also find out whether or not you live in a high-risk area, making this coverage even more vital. If you don’t have this coverage on your policy, shop around for a policy that does include it and compare it to adding the coverage to your current policy. The cost of an optional coverage is low when it comes to your peace of mind.