Your Sewer Line Broke. Now What?

As any homeowner will attest, owning a home brings a great deal of joy, but also considerable financial responsibility. Repairs, not to mention updates, can be costly, even though they’re necessary and well worth it.

Yet, what if something major happens, such as a sewer line break? Every homeowner hopes they’ll never have to experience this, but sewer lines placed from your home to the main sewer under the street can break and end up costing you thousands of dollars in clean-up and repair expenses.

But not all sewer line breaks occur similarly. Some may be covered by your homeowners policy; others may not.

For example, the line could break under your basement floor and cause a flood, damaging your home. It could also break and not cause damage, but still need to be repaired. Your homeowners policy will cover damage to your property. However, the cost to tear out your floor in order to fix the break would not be covered.

Here’s the general rule: A homeowners policy is designed to repair property that has been damaged due to loss. If your property isn’t damaged, then a broken pipe, even if it’s under the floor and significant excavation work must be done, isn’t covered. It’s considered a maintenance item, similar to any appliance or part of the property that wears out over time. It’s often a costly repair, but unfortunately, it isn’t covered by your homeowners policy unless there’s been initial damage to your home.

It’s important to keep in mind that no endorsement provides coverage for tearing out the floor if your home isn’t damaged by a broken sewer pipe. The water back-up endorsement doesn’t provide coverage either. The responsibility falls to the homeowner.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to predict what may or may not happen because the pipe is under the floor. In fact, it’s impossible to know the condition of the pipe without tearing up the floor or going to some expense to determine the status of the pipe, which is what you’re trying to avoid in the first place.

Your insurance professional can offer suggestions on how to best handle emergency repairs that aren’t covered under your homeowners policy, including setting up an emergency fund. Alternatives like this can help you more readily make needed repairs when coverage simply isn’t an option.