Is a Broken Sewer Line Covered by Insurance?

August 23, 2019

The last thing anyone wants in their home is a sewer backup or flooded basement caused by a sewer line or water main break. Unfortunately, though, these situations can still happen despite our best efforts to prevent them. But can insurance cover these disastrous plumbing emergencies? Read on to find out.

Are damaged water mains and broken sewer lines covered by insurance?

This is dependent on a few variables that are specific to your insurance policy. The first step is to provide a detailed report for your insurance company specifying the exact issue. The report should come from a licensed plumber including all details, the severity of your break, the location, type of material, is it posing any danger, has it caused damage to your property  etc.

In our experience, many insurance policies will cover the cost of broken pipes and any resulting damage inside the home. However, this often comes as a surprise to the homeowner, as many tend to assume they have complete sewer and main water line insurance coverage, regardless of the location.

Once the insurance company has reviewed the details they will respond with a reason for the denial or acceptance of the claim. If you have received a formal denial from your insurance company it is suggested to speak with your licensed plumber once again and make sure you have documented information on why your policy does not cover the claim.

Keep in mind that the claims representative is not a licensed plumber, the denial has been determined based on the language in your policy and the initial report they had received. Your plumber should be able determine if your claim contains any language that may lead to a misunderstanding and provide you with any additional information that will work in favor of getting your broken sewer line covered by insurance.

For example, the insurance company may deny the claim because the plumber’s report says “replace broken pipe from the street, to the house”. The standard response may be “we do not cover the cost for broken pipes outside of the property” or “we only cover broken pipes inside of the house”. In this case, they may not tell you that it is an option to cover a portion of the cost if part of the repairs are taking place inside the building. In your standard water main or sewer line replacement, the plumbing inside of the house may account for 15-25% of the total installation cost. On a multi-thousand dollar job this cost adds up quickly and most homeowners would be happy for the insurance company to cover 25% of the cost.

This misunderstanding may not be a result of the insurance company trying to get out of assuming responsibility and may simply be inexperience specific to the details of your claim. This is why it is important to have your plumber review all of the details and even speak with your claims rep when allowable.

Specialty insurance

There are insurance companies that specialize in water main and sewer claims however, just like all other policies they include “small print”. The company is not necessarily trying to be deceitful with these guidelines however, they must draw the line somewhere. If you think about it from their side, it wouldn’t be fair if the claim was a result of third party damage or if it was created by the homeowner seeking a free pipe upgrade.

The specialty insurance policy may be an addition to your homeowner’s policy or you may have found a completely separate company who specializes in water main and sewer insurance claims. There are many different companies out there and some are much more beneficial to the homeowner than others.

We have come across carriers who market their company as plumbing and electric insurance specialist however, they may not actually cover the cost for your needs. A few key questions to ask:

  1. Does the sewer and main water line insurance coverage you offer cover all of the plumbing in my house as well as the outside of the house?
  2. Is there a cut off at my property line? What happens if I have a broken pipe under the sidewalk or roadway, does your insurance company cover this type of claim?
  3. What happens if my sewer line is damaged by tree roots, do you cover this cost?
  4. What happens if another contractor is working on my gas line and finds that my waterline was leaking below ground for what appears to be a long time.
  5. Do you cover the cost for water damage inside my house if the water main broke and flooded the basement?

Scenario 1

Recently we had a homeowner in Queens who had been paying for specialty sewer and main water line insurance coverage for over 5 years and became aware that the sewer was broken under her front stoop. The insurance company analyzed the situation and determined that the front stoop must be removed before the sewer repair could be completed.

The challenge here is that the cost to remove the stoop was more than double the price of the sewer repair. This homeowner contacted her homeowner’s insurance company who had a clause in their policy which ended up making them responsible for the stoop removal but not the pipe repair.

The homeowner ended up finding a private plumber who was able to make the sewer repair without moving the stoop. The insurance company decided that it was more cost-effective to assume the cost for the sewer repair and not remove the front stoop.

The key is to think outside of the box and seek other options in the event that you may have been denied by your insurance company.

Scenario 2

Recently in Queens a homeowner was issued a city violation for his water main leaking in the street. This homeowner had taken the time to research several insurance companies and found one that he was confident in, any issues with his water main or sewer regardless of the location he was covered.

After receiving the violation he contacted the insurance company who completed the on site evaluation and concluded that the water main was leaking due to an underground electric leak. The insurance company had become aware of this after the exact findings at 12 of the neighboring houses just a few years prior.

They decided to included water main leaks from electrolysis as an exclusion in their policy or they would have been covering the cost for hundreds of homes in this area of time.


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