Is your septic tank covered by your insurance policy, even if your insurer says no?

Regulatory, Get the most from your septic tank | By Sam Warren

Septic tank problems can be pretty unpleasant, both on your nose and on your pocket. Most people don't realise that the majority of buildings insurance policies provide cover for your septic tank (or other off mains drainage system such as a cess pit or sewage treatment plant). So, if you've got the right insurance cover in place, you can breathe a sigh of relief, right?

Not always unfortunately. Some insurers can be very tricky when it comes to dealing with damaged septic tanks, soakaways, sewage treatment plants and cesspits. The problem is, of course, that these systems are tucked neatly away underground. So when they get damaged, you'll only know about it some time after it's happened - this is because it can take a while for the problems to show up. It might be that you see nasty stuff pooling in your garden, or that your toilets are gurgling and not flushing properly. Some insurers will push for 'evidence' to be provided as to what's caused the damage, but of course that's often impossible to provide.

As the UK's only specialists in managing insurance claims for damaged drainage systems, we see it all - from insurers that accept a claim the same day that its registered, to insurers that refuse to accept a claim leading to a lengthy complaints process. We can present two identical claims to two different insurers and get totally different decisions. But insurers don't always get it right. Most property owners tend to accept their insurer's decision, particularly if it's accompanied by a detailed report produced by their 'experts' explaining why the claim shouldn't be covered.

Scratch beneath the surface though, and often these decisions are flawed. You see, if an insurer wants to turn your claim down they must do two things. Firstly, they must tell you which part of your policy allows them to turn it down - this is usually called a 'policy exclusion'. This will typically be something such as you not being covered for wear and tear. So, your insurer might argue that the damage has been caused by wear and tear rather than something unforeseen and unexpected which would be covered by the policy. But if they want to turn the claim down based on that, they need to provide evidence. And this is where many insurers come unstuck.

Here's an example.

We were contacted by a property owner, let's call him Mr A, who was having septic tank problems. We went out for a thorough investigation and found that the dip pipes within the septic tank had been knocked off. A dip pipe is part of a septic tank which keeps the more solid waste in the tank and allows only waste water to leave into a soakaway system. They can often get damaged during routine empties, since emptying hoses are heavy things with a powerful kick that can knock theses dip pipes off. Once they are off, the system can fail entirely quite quickly, leaving all sorts of problems above ground.

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