I have a damaged septic tank – am I covered by my buildings insurance?

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Written by Sam Warren

Many people assume that buildings insurance is only there to cover the costs to repair damage to your house. What many don’t realise is that the majority of buildings insurance policies also provide cover for damage that happens below ground to drainage systems such as septic tanks and other off mains drainage systems. There are only certain types of damage that are typically covered by buildings insurance policies, and whilst each policy can vary, we’ll outline here the types of septic tank damage which are usually covered – and those which aren’t!

A buildings insurance policy is generally there to cover you for the costs of repairing damage which was unforeseen and unexpected. Above ground, examples of this would be flood or fire damage. Below ground, and in the case of drainage systems such as septic tanks, it is a little less clear – not least of which because drainage systems are tucked away out of sight, and it can often be difficult to know what has caused them to stop working. It’s important to check your policy wording before taking it out if you have a septic tank, to make sure that you have the right cover in place – for example, some policies may exclude drainage systems if they are off the boundary of your property. Generally, you’ll find cover for septic tank damage under the section of your policy entitled `Accidental damage to underground services’. On some policies, cover for accidental damage is an optional extra, so it’s important to take this if you want to be covered for a damaged drainage system. You can read more on this in our blog post on accidental damage here or read our guide to septic tank insurance.

So, what’s covered and what’s not?

If you’re having septic tank problems, it’s important to first understand what’s caused the system to fail. A septic tank inspection is the first place to start, as this will help to understand what's going wrong and why. It's important to understand that there are some things which your building insurance policy wouldn’t cover as standard, the main ones being:

  • A system which has failed due to age – if there is no sign of obvious damage, and the system is in poor condition generally, it is likely that it has failed due to age. Septic tanks can provide decades of trouble-free service, but there are several variables which can influence a system’s lifespan.
  • A system which has failed due to lack of maintenance – sewage treatment plants have pumps to assist in the treatment of the waste, which have moving parts and an electricity supply which requires annual maintenance. If you haven’t had this carried out, and the pump fails as a result of the lack of maintenance causing other problems within the system, your insurer is unlikely to provide cover for this.

The types of damage which would usually be covered include the following, which are generally considered unforeseen and unexpected:

  • Tree root damage – tree roots can cause structural damage to tanks and the pipework which runs to and from them
  • Damage to a septic tank’s baffle or dip pipe – these are parts of the structure of a septic tank which enable it to function properly (if you'd like to find out more about what a baffle is and how it works, you can read our article here). Occasionally, baffles can become damaged, often during a routine emptying of the tank when the tank emptying hose comes into contact with the baffle
  • Cracks or splits in the walls of the tank, caused by an external force – sometimes, extreme pressure from outside of a tank can cause its walls to fracture. Examples of this would be pressure from a build up of ground water, or some movement of the ground surrounding the system
  • Damage caused from above ground – an example of this would be vehicle movement above which can cause structural damage both to septic tanks and pipes. This can be a more common problem if a drainage system is situated on farmland.

It’s important to remember that each buildings insurance policy is different, and the specific wording of the policy will determine exactly what you are or are not covered for. But it’s also important to remember that often policy wording is open to interpretation, and different insurers may provide the same policy wording but have a different view on the same claim.

Here at the UK Drainage Professionals, we specialise in assisting property owners with resolving septic tank problems, by identifying whether the damage may be covered by buildings insurance and managing everything from start to finish. We combine technical drainage expertise with a thorough understanding of insurance policy wording, with many of our team having joined us from the insurance industry.

You can find out more about our specialist claims management service here. To find out whether you might be covered for septic tank damage, get in touch with our friendly team here or call us on 0800 028 9903.

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Sam Warren's Photo
Written by Sam Warren

Sam's career prior to UKDP was spent in the marketing and service industries, so she is focused on making sure we look after our customers – and getting the UKDP message out there! Sam has overall responsibility for business operations and for delivering the best customer service we can.

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