Why drain backup insurance is so essential to have

When a drain or sewer backs up, many people think insurance will cover the damage. But unless you have this extra coverage, it will deny your claim.
Posted at 6:55 AM, Mar 22, 2023

Spring can bring heavy downpours.

If you find water on your lower level after one of those storms, you might assume your homeowners' insurance or flood insurance would cover that. But not in the case of a sewer or drain backup, as one family found out the hard way.

Keith Vearil wants to share his story, as he now gets nervous every time it rains hard outside the rental townhome he shares with his son. That's because last fall, water started bubbling up the drain by his washing machine, and he was unable to stop it.

"It came up the floor drain and went out in all directions," he said.

Storm damage in Norman, Oklahoma.

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The water came up over a foot, damaging his washer and dryer, couch and dozens of personal belongings.

"There were family photos on shelves. Furniture was ruined, electronics," he said. "It was just an unbelievable mess."

But Vearil was stunned when his insurance refused to pay because they told him he didn't have either flood or drain backup insurance.

The local water works department also denied his claim for help, saying it was an act of God.

Why your claim may be denied

Cate Deventer, an insurance analyst with, said a drain backup requires a special insurance add-on in most cases.

"A lot of people do use the phrase 'my basement flooded,' she said when it really didn't, it backed up," she said.

She says backups usually occur in lower levels or crawl spaces "when it's raining really hard or when you've had a lot of rainy weather and your sump pump, if you have one, just can't keep up with the level of water."

She says drain backup insurance, or sewer backup coverage, is an optional add-on to many homeowners' insurance policies for a few dollars a month.

The good news is that this coverage is simpler and much cheaper than federal flood insurance. So if you have a lower level, Deventer says it's worth talking to your agent.

"If a floor drain backs up, anything like that is going to be covered under what is called a water backup endorsement," she said.

How much coverage you need depends on the following:

- Whether you have a lower level

- What you store down there

- Whether you have a finished basement with carpeting, a couch, TV or bookcases

Vearil is still putting his life back together after a very difficult year.

"One of the wardrobes had my wife's wedding dress in it. And my wife passed away last July," he said.

But none of the damage was covered.