Who is Responsible for Damage When a Sewer Line Backs Up?

J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo
Founder of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A.

A woman and her adult son from La Vergne, Tennessee are living in a situation that most of us might consider deplorable. The sewer line connected to the woman’s house backed up and caused well over $10,000 in damage to the home. Carpets in the home have had to be ripped up and candles are constantly lit in an effort to cover up the terrible smell. The woman and her son have limited financial means.  They cannot afford to have the damage repaired or to move out. Any homeowner’s insurance they might have (the news story reporting on the incident did not mention whether they had a valid homeowner’s policy) is not paying for repairs.

Sewer Problems: Who is Responsible?

Sewer clogs and back-ups can be very difficult and expensive for homeowners to address when the initial problem that leads to the back-up gets progressively worse before the homeowner discovers the issue.  In fact, the homeowner is not likely to be aware of a sewer problem until he or she notices that the drains are not working as efficiently or until raw sewage begins to back up into the home.  When this occurs, it can be expensive to have the home repaired and the problem with the sewer rectified.

Municipalities and cities are generally not responsible for sewage that backs up into your home unless there is evidence that the municipality or city was negligent in maintaining, repairing, or installing the main sewer line.  Proof of this fact can be difficult and costly.  Most homeowners are not going to be able to present sufficient evidence of the municipality’s or city’s responsibility unless the backup occurs while a main sewer line is being installed right outside the homeowner’s house (or some other clear evidence of negligence or carelessness).

However, your homeowner’s insurance policy will not necessarily foot the repair bill either.  For example, a lateral sewer line (one that runs from the sewer main to the home) is generally the responsibility of the homeowner.  These lines can become clogged in a variety of ways only some of which will be covered by a homeowner’s policy.  For example, roots of a nearby tree break and enter the line.  The roots can cause a leak that spills out into your yard and/or clogs the lateral line, so sewage backs up into your home.  A homeowner’s insurance policy might or might not cover sewer backup damage to your home that is caused by the errant roots breaking the lateral line. 

Potential homeowners looking to buy a house (or existing homeowners) concerned about the state of their sewer pipes can hire a professional to come and examine the lines. The cost of this inspection varies but can potentially pay huge dividends if a problem is discovered and corrected before the home is damaged. 

If your insurance carrier is refusing to comply with its contractual obligation, you are invited to contact our law firm to speak to an experienced Miami insurance claims attorney.  My law firm specializes in representing policyholders in claims disputes in Miami and throughout Florida. Click here to read about some of our case results.  The Law Firm of J.P. Gonzalez-Sirgo, P.A. offers free consultations and case evaluations. No Recovery, No Lawyer Fees. Call 305-461-1095 or Toll Free 1-866-71-CLAIM. 

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