What is water backup coverage?

Water backup coverage is one of the most useful homeowners insurance endorsements, protecting your home and personal property from sewage or sump pump backups.

Pat Howard 1600Fabio Faschi

Pat Howard & Fabio Faschi - PLCS, CLCS

Published November 8, 2019

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Water backup coverage protects your home and personal property from water damage as a result of sewage or sump pump backups

  • Sewer backups occur for a number of reasons, namely, aging sewers, combined pipelines, tree roots, and sanitary main blockages

  • You can add a water backup coverage endorsement to your policy for as little as $30 a year

A standard homeowners insurance policy covers certain types of water damage as long as it’s sudden, accidental, and originated on the insured property. That means water damage caused by a burst pipe or broken HVAC or protective sprinkler system would all be covered under standard coverage. Wind-driven rain that enters your home through an opening (like a hole in your roof or window) that was caused by an insured peril would also be covered.

However, several common causes of water damage aren’t covered by homeowners insurance. Flooding, surface water, water that seeps up from the ground, and water that backs up through sewers or drains or overflows through a sump pump are all excluded from coverage. To supplement this gap in coverage, many insurance companies offer separate flood insurance to cover flood disasters, but what about more common household issues like sewer and sump pump backups?

Luckily, most insurance companies offer additional coverage for that too—commonly referred to as water backup coverage.

IN THIS ARTICLE

How does water backup coverage work?

Water backup coverage, also called sewer or sump pump backup coverage, is one of the more popular and useful homeowners insurance endorsements that you can add to your policy. Since water backups are such a common and pesky problem, just about every company offers this coverage enhancement, and it's a fairly high-value add-on, costing as little as $30 a year on top of your standard coverage.

Coverage amounts and availability of this endorsement vary from company to company and state to state, but companies generally offer anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000 in water backup protection. When deciding on coverage amounts, factor in what it’d cost to replace everything that’s at risk of being destroyed in a worst-case drain backup or sump pump overflow scenario. Add up the cost of replacing your flooring, the value of your furniture or personal belongings, and anything else that’d be at risk of damage in the event of a sewer or drain backup.

Water backup coverage costs anywhere from $30-70 annually for $5,000 of coverage, and $25-35 for each additional $5,000 in coverage that you add to your policy, according to Fabio Faschi, property and casualty team lead at Policygenius. You generally have to pay a deductible in order to receive a claim payout for a sewer backup claim. Depending on your insurer, sewer backup deductibles may be equal to your standard deductible amount ($1,000, for instance) or they may offer a special water backup deductible as low as $250.

What is covered by water backup insurance

A standard water or sewer backup coverage endorsement reimburses you for water damage to the structure of your home or personal property if it’s discharged or overflows from the following:

  • A sewer or drain
  • A sump, sump pump, or related equipment, even if the overflow or discharge occurred because of mechanical issues
  • Any system designed to remove subsurface water from the foundation area
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What isn’t covered by water backup insurance?

However, there are a number of exclusions to be aware of with this endorsement. For one, it won’t pay to repair or replace a broken sump pump—you’ll need equipment breakdown coverage for that. Additionally, it doesn’t cover water damage that results from flooding, surface water, waves, tsunamis, tidal water, or overflow of any body of water including your pool.

Water backup coverage also won’t cover overflow or backups that can be chalked up to routine maintenance issues or negligence. For example, if the water damage was a result of a broken sump pump or forgetting to turn one on, your insurance company may deny your claim.

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Water backup coverage is one of the most important optional coverages you can choose to have on your homeowners or renters policy.

- Fabio Faschi, property and casualty team lead at Policygenius

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Do I need water backup coverage?

Water backup coverage is among the most essential and widely-utilized homeowners insurance coverage enhancements—and for good reason.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, the number of reported sewer backups is increasing at a rate of around 3% annually. Furthermore, the country’s 500,000-plus miles of sewer lines are around thirty-years-old on average.

"Water backup (coverage) is one of the most important optional coverages you can choose to have on your homeowners or renters policy,” said Faschi.

Faschi also noted that, since you have the choice to opt in to this coverage, it’s up to you to consider whether it makes sense to you as a homeowner. He contends that it probably is, given how frequently water backups happen and how much of a headache they are to take care of on your own. “Apart from being one of the more common claims for the average homeowner, it's also one of the messiest to resolve on your own,” he said.

How to avoid sewer and sump pump backups

Here a few preventative steps you can take to prevent a sewer or sump pump backup from happening in the first place:

  • Properly dispose of grease
  • Properly dispose of paper products
  • Cut tree roots every once in a while
  • If there are any illegal plumbing connections (French drains, sump pumps and other flood control systems connected to your sanitary sewer) consult a plumber to correct the mistake and clear your lines of debris and silt
  • Consider installing a backwater prevention valve (so that sewage water goes out but doesn’t come back in)

About the authors

Insurance Expert

Pat Howard

Insurance Expert

Pat Howard is an Insurance Editor at Policygenius in New York City, specializing in homeowners insurance. He has been featured on Property Casualty 360, MSN, and more. Pat has a B.A. in journalism from Michigan State University.

Operations Lead, Property & Casualty

Fabio Faschi - PLCS, CLCS

Operations Lead, Property & Casualty

Fabio Faschi is the property and casualty team lead at Policygenius in New York City. He is a certified Personal Lines Coverage Specialist (PLCS) and Commercial Lines Coverage Specialist (CLCS). Fabio has worked in the insurance and real estate industry for more than five years as an independent agent and broker representing more than 40 carriers in property and casualty products across the United States. He previously worked in real estate settlements and title insurance negotiating insurance requirements with banks, realtors and new home buyers. Fabio is also a notary of the state of New Jersey and a huge fan of the Juventus Italian soccer club.

Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.

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