Understanding Endorsements on Homeowners Policies: Sewer Backup, Sinkhole, and Underground Service Lines Coverage

Written by Al Spina—Executive Vice President Joe Brennan—Vice President & CFO

July 9, 2024 · 4 minute read

Blog Understanding Endorsements on Homeowners Policies: Sewer Backup, Sinkhole, and Underground Service Lines Coverage

Homeowners insurance policies often come with standard coverage for common perils like fire, theft, and liability. However, homeowners may need additional endorsements to protect against specific risks like sewer backup, sinkholes, and damage to underground service lines in Pennsylvania. Here’s a detailed look at these endorsements and how they can benefit homeowners.

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Sewer Backup Insurance Coverage

An endorsement for water backup and sump discharge will cover losses caused by the following:

  • The backup of water or waterborne materials through a sewer or drain.
  • Water or waterborne material that overflows from a sump, even if the backup of water is due to the mechanical breakdown of the sump pump. Coverage includes damage to covered property but excludes the sump pump and any related equipment that has broken down.

The endorsement does not cover losses that involve owner negligence, such as damage resulting from forgetting to turn on your sump pump or damage caused by a flood.

Preventing Backups

Some water and sewer backups are unavoidable, but there are some simple things you can do to prevent backups in your sewer line:

  • Paper products: Do not flush anything other than toilet paper down your drain.
  • Cooking grease: Instead of rinsing grease down your drain, dispose of cooled grease in your garbage.
  • Shrub and tree roots: It’s common for the roots of trees and shrubs to make their way into sewer line cracks. Over time, the cracks allow debris to build up. If you have continuing problems with tree roots in your sewer lateral, consider replacing it with a pipe made of plastic.

Sinkhole Insurance

Sinkhole coverage is essential in regions where the ground composition can lead to sinkhole formation. Certain areas in Pennsylvania, such as limestone-rich regions, are more prone to sinkhole activity. Sinkholes can cause extensive damage to homes and property, which may not be covered under standard homeowners insurance policies.

Coverage Details:

  • What it Covers: Damage caused by the sudden collapse of land due to sinkholes.
  • Typical Exclusions: Gradual land settling or erosion, which may not qualify as sudden collapse.
  • Benefits: Covers structural damage to the home, land stabilization, and repair costs associated with sinkhole incidents.

If You Have a Sinkhole Claim

If a portion of your home has shifted or sunk due to ground cover collapse, or if a sinkhole has appeared on your property, take the following steps immediately:

  • Ensure the safety of your family and evacuate if necessary.
  • Secure or remove valuable possessions.
  • Notify your insurance agent at Spotts Insurance Group.
  • Notify your city or county building inspection department.
  • Mark the sinkhole or property with fencing, rope, or tape to warn others of the danger. If someone is injured in the sinkhole, you could be liable.

When Purchasing a Home

If you are interested in purchasing a home in an area where sinkholes are a common occurrence, take the following steps:

  • Verify that sinkhole coverage is included in your policy as a rider.
  • Hire a home inspector who can help you identify signs of potential sinkhole activity.
  • Consider testing for sinkholes. Insurance companies should not require you to have this testing done prior to granting you coverage.

Underground Service Lines Coverage

Standard homeowners insurance policies typically do not cover damage to underground service lines (e.g., water, sewer and drainage pipes, electric, natural gas, etc.). Issues such as tree roots penetrating water pipes, freezing pipes, animal damage, or even ground settling due to vehicle weight can lead to costly repairs.

Repairing underground service lines can be expensive. Without specific coverage:

  • Homeowners may face significant expenses for excavating driveways, sidewalks, or landscaping to access and repair damaged lines.
  • Repairs to underground service lines are complex and may require extensive work beyond just fixing the line itself.

Opting for underground service lines coverage through an endorsement or separate policy can provide several benefits:

  • Comprehensive Protection: Covers repair or replacement costs for damaged service lines due to covered incidents.
  • Additional Living Expenses: Some policies may cover expenses like temporary accommodations (hotels, meals) if you need to vacate your home during repairs.
  • Coverage Limits: Policies vary in coverage limits and may include options to protect against damage from a range of causes beyond what standard homeowners insurance typically covers.

While standard homeowners insurance excludes coverage for these vital utilities, opting for specific endorsements or policies can provide financial protection against unexpected repair costs.

Take the necessary steps to protect your property and your wallet. Contact your agent at Spotts Insurance Group to discuss these important endorsements for your homeowners insurance.