Sewer Back Up – Insurance is Evolving
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..
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
- Keep sewer caps on all basement sewer outlets (including your floor drain, washer stack, sump hole, etc.) during rainstorms.
- Discharge drainage onto your lawn or driveway.
- Ensure the flow of surface water is directed away from the foundation of your home and the foundations of your neighbours’ homes.
- Avoid using water during heavy downpours.
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 back-up 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.
Sewer back up results when the volume of water and sewage flowing into a sewer system exceeds its capacity. Other causes of sewer back up include blocked sewer connections caused by tree roots, collapsed sewer pipes or improper use of the sewer system.
Below are some things you can do to help prevent a sewer back up in your home:
What to do if a sewer back up occurs
- During a rainstorm, check your basement frequently. If it begins to flood, move your belongings upstairs or to a dry area to keep them safe.
- Contact your broker as soon as possible and they will arrange for an adjuster to contact you.
- Don’t throw anything out. Store damaged items in a reasonably safe place so the adjuster can see them when they arrive.
- Prepare an itemized account of all damaged items and their value. Include receipts or proof of purchase for larger items.
Cleaning up after a sewer back up
- Clean up as soon as possible. Seek professional advice on how to clean up and take whatever steps you can to minimize the extent of your loss.
- Don’t touch electrical systems or panels until you know it is safe to do so, especially in wet or damp conditions.
- Move damaged belongings to a dry area with good ventilation.
- Dispose of anything that has been contaminated by sewer back up that might be a health hazard. Make a detailed list of everything and take several photographs, or make a videotape, to assist in the settlement of your claim.
- Have any appliances (including furnaces) that have come in contact with water checked by a qualified electrician, dealer or serviceman before you use them.
- Disinfect all articles that have come in contact with flood or sewer water.
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