If you've owned your house for a decade or more, it's likely that you've experienced some problems with its sewer lines. Although residential plumbing is designed to hold up in the face of frequent use, the sewer lines that run away from your home are liable to break or leak from time to time. Depending upon its physical location and severity, such a break could end up costing you thousands of dollars in initial cleanup and followup repair expenses.
Unfortunately, your homeowner's insurance policy may not cover any costs related to a sewer line break in your home. This is especially true if the break appears to be the result of a gradual deterioration in the line's integrity. If you choose to file a claim with your insurance company following a line break that causes significant water damage to the interior of your home, your claims adjuster is likely to ask you some pointed questions about the history of your home's plumbing system.
In many cases, you'll be deemed "negligent" simply for failing to inspect your sewer lines and water pipes for wear and tear on a regular basis. If this is the case, your insurance company will deny your claim and leave you on the hook for the repairs. Likewise, you'll be asked about your activities in the days leading up to the line break. If you erred by turning your home's heat down too low or keeping your windows open before leaving for an extended period of time, you'll be held liable for a break caused by freezing temperatures.
In fact, your policy may only cover the cost of a sewer line break caused by a defective pipe or other manufacturing issue. However, there are some strategies that you can employ to increase the chances that your insurance company will accept your claim.
First, you can purchase a rider or "endorsement" on your current homeowner's insurance policy. Most insurance companies offer riders that specifically cover damages arising from sewer line breaks. While there may still be certain situations in which your claim could be denied, these add-ons make it significantly less likely that you'll have to pay for repair costs out of pocket. These riders typically cost between $20 and $30 per month.
Alternatively, your water utility may offer a special "water damage" plan that can offset repair costs. These plans cost around $10 per month and may cover damages worth up to $5,000.