Does homeowners insurance cover septic tanks?

No matter where a home is located, there’s always a chance that it has a septic tank instead of being connected to the public sewer system. Unlike the traditional system, which funnels waste and water to a local treatment plant, a septic tank is a small, contained waste system that is placed underground in your yard to hold and treat sewage and wastewater. If your home has a septic tank, it’s likely that you would prefer to avoid having issues with it, which aren’t just inconvenient, but can also be costly to repair.

However, if there are unforeseen issues that arise with your septic tank, you may not always be on the hook for the bill to repair it. In some cases, your homeowners insurance might cover the repairs or replacement of your septic system. Whether or not your homeowners insurance policy will cover the repairs or the cost to replace your septic system will typically depend on the circumstances in which it was damaged, as well as what policy limits are in place with your coverage.

When a homeowners insurance policy would typically cover septic tank damage

Technically, septic tanks fall into the other structures coverage portion of your homeowners insurance policy. This is the part of your policy that protects things on your property that do not attach to your house, like a gazebo, shed, detached garage, fence, in-ground swimming pool and, in many cases, your septic tank.

Usually, home insurance policies extend other structures coverage as 10% of your dwelling insurance. So if you have your home itself (i.e., your dwelling) insured for $400,000 in your home insurance policy, you would typically have around $40,000 in other structures coverage.

Your other structures coverage will kick in to pay for repairs to your septic tank — or a full-on replacement — only if the tank was damaged by a peril listed in your policy. If the top of your tank gets damaged in a fire, for example, your policy will typically cover the replacement.

Reviewing your insurance policy will help you understand which circumstances would apply if your septic system sustains damage or a loss. You will either see specific covered perils listed out (if you have a named perils policy) or specific exclusions listed (if you have an open perils policy).

You should also know that calling on your home insurance for other structures coverage means paying your deductible.

What septic tank damage is typically covered by home insurance?

While there are many different types of home insurance, they will generally cover septic tank damage, up to policy limits, resulting from:

  • Fire: If a fire causes damage to your septic system in any way, repairs may be covered by your policy.
  • Vandalism and riots: If anyone intentionally damages your septic system as an act of vandalism or it gets damaged during civil unrest, it may be covered by your policy, depending on the circumstances.
  • Hail, windstorms and lightning: Septic tank damage resulting from any of these storm types is likely to be covered.
  • Explosions: Most homeowners insurance policies cover damage resulting from explosions. If this affects your septic tank or pipes, your insurance would kick in to cover the cost of repairs.

What damage to your septic tank is not generally covered by home insurance?

As you might have noticed from the above list, homeowners insurance is most likely to cover septic tank damage when it results from a sudden, unexpected event. Your home insurance will not necessarily cover damage resulting from septic system problems caused by wear-and-tear or lack of maintenance. So if you let a nearby tree grow roots into the tank, for example, or regularly flush nonbiodegradable items into your septic tank, you may not qualify for a home insurance payout for repairs to the areas damaged.

Additionally, almost all home insurance policies specifically exclude coverage for earthquakes and floods. One way to be financially protected is to get a separate flood or earthquake insurance policy, if you live in an area where these incidents are common.

What homeowners insurance coverage options are available for septic tanks?

To further reduce the chance of unexpected costs related to your septic system, ask your insurer about these additional coverages:

Service line coverage

As a homeowner, you are the one responsible for the service lines that connect to and go out from your house, including the pipe that feeds to your septic tank.

The main benefit of service line coverage is that it extends to more situations than standard home insurance. It can cover things such as wear-and-tear damage, corrosion and damage from tree roots.

Water backup coverage

A septic backup can be an unwelcome surprise in your home or on your property. Fortunately, home insurance endorsements are one way you can be financially protected from an event such as this. Water backup coverage, or “sump pump coverage” as it is often referred to, is a homeowners insurance endorsement (i.e., optional policy add-on) that covers repair or restoration costs if water backs up into your home.

How to take care of your septic tank

While water backup and service line endorsements can help you avoid some of the costs associated with septic tank repairs, it is your responsibility to keep your tank functioning at its best. That means you should avoid flushing the following items or dump them down the drain:

  • Oils
  • Solids, including cigarette butts, paper towels, coffee grounds and feminine hygiene products
  • Grease/fat
  • Stains/paints
  • Household chemicals

It’s also best practice to make sure that no vehicles drive over the septic system or its drainfield. Keep an eye out for nearby trees that might extend their roots into the septic lines, and monitor whether the tank has proper drainage.

The EPA recommends getting your septic tank inspected every few years and pumped every three to five years. It also indicates that using water efficiently takes strain off your septic tank, helping ensure optimal performance over time.

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