At UKDP we get a number of calls from property owners asking for septic tank insurance. It’s understandable, really, because you have this great big expensive bit of kit under the ground at your property – and what happens when it goes wrong?
If you have a prang in your car, you have car insurance to cover it. If your (darling) 5 year old knocks your treasured new widescreen TV over, you have contents insurance to cover that too. So what about when you have septic tank problems?
The truth is, you are probably already covered. And if you’re not, we can help to make sure you are in future.
You see, there isn’t really a product on the market for insuring septic tanks. And no, it’s not because insurers don’t want to go poking around in such unpleasant matters. Most property owners are actually already covered under their existing buildings insurance policies, even though they may not realise it.
Am I already covered?
Most customers we deal with are often surprised that their existing buildings insurance gives them any cover for septic tank problems. But let’s be honest, unless you have a degree in understanding insurance policy gobbledegook, most people aren’t entirely sure what exactly it is that they ARE covered for.
So, grab your buildings insurance policy (a glass of wine might help too) and I’ll try to explain.
If your property’s drainage system (e.g. septic tank, soakaway, cess pit, sewage treatment plant) is damaged, most buildings insurance policies will cover the cost of a repair or replacement under a section of the policy called 'Accidental damage to underground services’. If it doesn’t specify that exactly, find the Accidental Damage section of the buildings policy (not to be confused with your contents policy which is purely for the stuff in your house) and read the details in your policy wording.
If it doesn’t specifically say 'Accidental damage to underground services’, but it doesn’t state that things like drainage tanks and pipes are excluded, then you’re likely to be covered. It’s confusing, I know – some policies are worded in a way that they’re almost guaranteed to give you a headache.
You can also call your insurer and ask them to check. Although you should tread carefully. We have come across a small number of situations in which a customer has been told by an inexperienced call handler that they’re not covered when, in fact, they are.
Have a look through, if it really doesn’t make sense then give us a call and we’ll try to help.
So, what am I covered for?
Any buildings insurance policy is there to cover you for damage to your property. It’s not there to cover you for things such as problems caused by a lack of maintenance or because your septic tank is so old it’s received its letter from the Queen.
If you’d like to know what type of damage is typically covered, check out our article here about the ten most common septic tank problems. As a general guide, the first six are usually covered by buildings insurance policies.
As your septic tank is under the ground, often you can’t actually see what’s happened to it, let alone be able to explain exactly what has caused any damage that’s happened (ok, unless you are the unfortunate owner of the septic tank below, in which case you might have an inkling);
This is why it’s so important to work with a specialist claims management company like UKDP* if you have a damaged septic tank – as often, what’s caused damage or what needs to be done to put it right can come down to some very technical debate (and yes, I do really mean arguments) with insurers.
Also, trust me when I say that you don’t want to be getting into discussions around 'solids', 'sludge' and 'crust' within a septic tank. Leave that to us.
Accidental damage or no accidental damage?
Now, I say that 'most' policies provide cover, because some insurers now sell policies in which you have to pay extra for 'accidental damage' cover. Or they will offer you a basic level of accidental damage, with an option to pay for 'additional' or 'extended' accidental damage cover.
Insurers we know of that currently offer those types of policies include Direct Line, Prudential, Churchill and AXA.
It’s sometimes sold as a premium type of cover, even though accidental damage used to be a standard section of any policy. This means that if you choose not to take the extra cover, you won’t be covered if your septic tank becomes damaged. Of course, it’s entirely up to you, but sometimes the accidental damage cover only costs a few pounds extra a month – and it can save you thousands of pounds if anything goes wrong.
Aargh! I’m not covered! What do I do?
Don’t panic. With any luck, your septic tank will give you years of trouble free service yet, and you won’t need to worry. But it’s good to make sure that if any problems do pop up, you’ve got the right cover in place.
If you have a policy in place which doesn’t have accidental damage, you should be able to call your insurer to get that added on. If you have a policy which states that it excludes septic tanks, unless you’ve had any claims on that policy, you should be able to cancel that policy and find a new one that does.
I’ve just bought a new property and there seem to be problems with my septic tank – am I covered?
I’m sorry to say that no, you’re probably not. Unless you had a thorough septic tank inspection carried out when you purchased the property, which confirmed that there were no issues with it.
The problem is, your insurer will only cover you for problems that have occurred (or are most likely to have occurred) while you have owned the property. If you notice a problem, say, within a month of moving in and a septic tank inspection confirms that there are tree roots growing through the tank, then your insurer isn’t going to accept responsibility for fixing it. Understandable, really. Which is why we often go on about how important pre-purchase drainage surveys are – please don’t buy a property without one! Give our team a call today if you're about to buy a property with a septic tank.
So, by way of summary, you are probably already covered for septic tank insurance without even realising it (you clever little thing, you). Hopefully you won’t have any problems that need a claim to be made, but if you do, you know where we are. In the meantime, make sure you are getting your tank emptied regularly as this is something insurers will want to check if a claim is made.
Just so you know, UKDP are the only specialist company dealing with insurance claims for damaged septic tanks and other off mains drainage systems. We’re authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority to be able manage a claim on your behalf. So, if you’ve got any questions please feel free to call our friendly team on 01628 788600 and we’ll do our best to help.
*when I say you should use a company 'like' UKDP, I have to say that so that my article reads in a balanced way, and lets you know that there are, of course, other claims management companies out there. The only problem is, none of them will be as good as us at looking after your septic tank claim. There, I said it. And it’s in the small print so no one’s noticed.