Are slow leaking sewage pipes usually covered by homeowner’s insurance?

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Are slow leaking sewage pipes usually covered by homeowner’s insurance?

It is considered a health and safety risk when a sewage pipe is leaking? I live in my home with my spouse and our 19 month old toddler. A sewage pipe is leaking in our basement. The concrete floor is very damp, smelly and has white mold on it. Our insurance company is telling me that it may not be covered, as it’s probably a “slow leak”. And that they only cover abruptly bursting pipes, leaks, etc. I don’t understand this. I cannot comprehend why they would not cover this. We can’t afford to have it repaired without the insurance.

Asked on May 31, 2011 under Insurance Law, New York

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

The issue is what does the policy say they cover. An insurance policy, including homeowner's insurance, is a contract; it must cover everything which its terms says it will--and conversely, it *only* must cover those things. So you need to look at the policy to see what its coverage and its exclusions are. Ask the insurer to point out to you the language or provisions which deny coverage in this case; then after reading them, if you're not convinced, bring the policy to an attorney to review it with/for you.

As a general matter, insurance is NOT meant to cover wear and tear or the normal slow degredation of facilities or premises over time; insurance is not a warranty or guaranty, for example. It's meant to protect against sudden and unexpected calamnities--the  "bolt from the blue"--not the need to replace pipes, etc. over time, which is predictable and natural.

Don't confuse homeowner's insurance with health "insurance"--health insurance is not really insurance in the classic sense. It's essentially a prepaid health plan, where you pay predictable premiums ever month, need health care or not, and in return are covered for all relevant health issues. Homeowner's insurance is like collision or theft coverage on your car--it protects against the car being wrecked or stolen, but not against the fact that over time, it's value declines and it will need repair.


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