Does Homeowners Insurance Cover Water Main And Sewer Breaks?

Opinion & Expertise
July 6, 2012

by David Balkan

Water Main Break

Typical homeowners insurance does not cover repair or replacement of a water main service or sewer line.  However sewer and water line insurance coverage may be available through purchase of a rider to the homeowners’ coverage policy, or through other specialty insurance options that will be discussed below.

With typical homeowners insurance the actual cost of the plumbing  job, whether a sewer or water line, is not worth the effort of reporting the claim or attempting to be reimbursed for the cost. Most carriers and brokers will decline the claim outright. In some cases they will request an itemized bill for specific portions of the job such as excavation, material, actual plumbing, backfill, and permits. They will then decide which items are covered and remove the policy’s deductible. Then after the whole claim process is complete they will usually inform you that no monetary reimbursement will be forthcoming.

Frequently it seems that an insurance broker processing a claim for a water line leak is simply being polite and doing their duty. Typically at the end of the claim process none of the expense is covered.

What about dedicated water line and sewer insurance?

Water Main Break
Leaking Water Service Line

In an increasing portion of the country water line and sewer insurance is being offered through companies that are dedicated to offering such coverage. There are approximately five companies with a national presence that do so. It should be noted that this type of insurance is  offered by geographical region – on a city-by-city or state-by-state basis. If an insurance provider is not offering water line service coverage in your area you will not be able to obtain it individually for yourself.

In many cases this type of insurance is offered through your water utility or government agency itself and then overseen by the provider. In other instances the provider of the insurance deals directly with homeowners in targeted market. The work itself is typically performed by the same plumbing firms in the area that always performed the work – the installers remain the same.

Prices for such insurance vary greatly by the geographical region and type of insurance. Every region has it’s own characteristics and sewer coverage is much more costly than water line insurance (around twice the amount). A fair estimate is the water main insurance will cost between $3.00 and $6.00 per month – policy terms and coverage levels will vary. In most areas of the country where this insurance is offered approximately 25% of property owners choose to ‘opt in’ and obtain the coverage.

The NYC Water Board makes an announcement

NYC appears to be the latest city to announce the availability of water line insurance, which is scheduled to be implemented within the year. At a recent meeting with plumbing industry representatives, NYC DEP officials, and representatives of the NYC Water Board, it was announced that the Water Board was in final negotiations with their winning bidder. They named the winning bidder as American Water. While the final details are yet to be worked out, it was stated that the monthly cost for coverage would be $3.99 for a water service line and $7.99 for a sewer line. Property owners who have water meters 2″ or smaller will qualify for the plan larger meter sizes on the service line will be excluded.

The insurance will be offered through the homeowners usual water bills and will not be obligatory – homeowners will have to ‘opt in’ in order to obtain coverage. Copies of the plan and the coverage are not available as of this writing. Further details when they become available will be published on the Balkan Sewer And Water Main web site.

Read more recent information regarding water service line insurance in NYC.

What about property damage? Will your insurance cover this loss?

Courtesy of Sandy Lewis from Insurance Office of America

The answer to this question depends on the type of insurance you choose to purchase and how the water enters your residence or building.

There are basically two insurance policies that deal with damage due to water; a Flood insurance policy and a Commercial Property or Homeowners insurance policy. Knowing the difference between them and what’s covered by each can help you make the right insurance coverage decision, as well as help you determine what to do and who to call if and when a water-related emergency does occur.

What is the difference between flood and water damage?

A typical Commercial Property or Homeowners policy will NOT cover flood damage.

A standard flood insurance policy, underwritten by the National Flood Insurance Program, provides coverage for damage caused by a flood. Flood is defined as an overflowing of water onto land that is normally dry. Generally speaking, if the water touched the ground before it entered your home or building, it is considered flood damage. Flood damage is NOT covered by your Commercial Property or Homeowners insurance policy. Examples of flood damage include:

—A nearby river overflows its banks and washes into your home or building —A heavy rain seeps into your home or building because the soil can’t absorb the water quickly enough. —A heavy rain or flash flood causes the hill behind you to collapse into a mudslide that oozes into your home or building. —A water or sewer main breaks causing flooding —A swimming pool collapses and the water flows into your home or building —Overflow of inland or tidal waters

A Commercial Property or Homeowners policy typically excludes water damage that results from rising water, from backed up sewers, or water that seeps up through the foundation or the basement. So what type of water damage is covered under a typical policy?

—Spontaneous exploding appliances, like a water heater —Broken pipes or hoses (from a washing machine or ice maker) or burst pipes as a result of freezing, unless the pipes froze as a result of your absence or negligence —A heavy rain soaks through the roof, allowing water to drip through your attic or ceiling —Water damage that results from a rain or wind storm, although this can vary by policy. Some policies cover damage from water that enters your home or building as a result of a storm, such as hail breaking windows or damaging the roof. Other policies state that wind perils do not cover loss contained in a building unless direct force of wind or hail makes an opening on the roof.Some additional questions to consider are:

Q: Is flood coverage available only in flood prone or “zoned” areas?
A: No. Flood coverage is available to anyone whether you live inside or outside a floodplain. However, you must live in a participating community which has agreed and adopted minimum ordinances in the 100 year flood plain area. Even those who live outside of a flood prone area are still at risk. Flood coverage is for any flooding event including a water main break, a swimming pool collapse, blocked culverts, drains.

Q: Is there more than one option for purchasing Flood Insurance other than through the National Flood Insurance Program?
A: Since 1983 NFIP has allowed insurance carriers to write and service flood insurance. The companies handle marketing, policy processing and claims. NFIP develops the rates, rules and regulation. All companies must use the same rates and rules.

Q: How is the cost of Flood Insurance determined?
A: Rating of flood involves several factors: Flood Zone, Building Occupancy, Year of Construction and the Building’s Elevation.

Q: Can Flood Insurance be purchased by an Association AND an Owner?
A: There is a special program called the Residential Condominium Building Association Program. To qualify for this program, the Condo Association must be in a participating NFIP Regular Program community. The RCBA form covers the entire building under one policy including all units within the building as well as commonly owned building elements. The Building coverage limit is replacement cost value of the building, or the number of units multiplied by $250,000, whichever is less. Commonly owned Contents – $100,000 or the actual cash value, whichever is less. This program provides greater coverage for less premiums by insuring all units in a condominium building under a single policy requiring only one deductible, creating a cost savings to unit owners.

Q: If so, does the coverage then work together to repair/replace the commonly owned portions of a building and the owners personal possessions?
A: Commonly owned is the key! If a unit owner wants coverage for their individual contents they must purchase a separate policy, and a separate deductible is applied.

Q: What are the deductibles and how are they applied?
A: Standard Deductibles are $2,000 for Pre-Firm (built prior to 1974) rated building: $1,000 for Post-Firm (built after 1974) rated buildings; $1,000 deductible for flood zones B,C,X, A99. Optional deductibles are offered up to $5,000 for Residential and $50,000 for Commercial.

Q: Can an Association purchase flood insurance as optional coverage?
A: It can be optional and should always be seriously considered as it is an important coverage for anyone. Flood is often required by the Mortgagee (if the building is in a special flood hazard area which are flood zones A,AE (A-01-A-30), AH, AO, A99, AR,V,VE(VO-1-V30), VO. The Association’s Declaration may also require Flood coverage, regardless of the flood zone.

Read the specific terms of coverage in your policy, but be aware that many forms of water damage will not be covered. You should ask your agent or insurance company about the specifics of your policy to find out what is covered and what isn’t.

It is important to note that flood insurance and commercial property or homeowners insurance do not duplicate coverage for water damage. Instead, they complement each other.


We would like to thank Sandy Lewis from Insurance Office of America for this article. Insurance Office of America is a privately held, full-service insurance agency founded in 1988 and is one of the fastest-growing independent agencies in the United States. A member of Independent Insurance Agents of America, IOA’s home office is located in Longwood, FL with branch offices reaching from coast to coast.

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David Balkan

David Balkan is the CEO of Balkan Sewer And Water Main, the largest and most trusted service in New York City. David is extremely active in various NYC plumber organizations being the Chairman of the Subsurface Committee in the Master Plumbers Council, and Vice President of the Subsurface Plumbers Association. In addition David’s expertise is respected by officials of New York City agencies such as the NYC DEP, NYC DOB, and the NYC DOT. He frequently provides valuable input on a variety of industry related matters.

Dave Balkan

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