Insurance snafu with sewer line break at condo

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investor997
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Insurance snafu with sewer line break at condo

Postby investor997 » Mon Jun 19, 2017 4:10 pm

Not me but a neighbor a few doors down... Would like to see if there's anything I can do to prevent the same happening to me.

Two story attached condominium / townhome. The bottom floor floods when water starts pouring out of the toilet bowl in the downstairs bathroom. Flooring/carpet now needs replacement along with some affected areas of drywall and baseboards. A plumbing inspection with remote camera reveals the flood was caused by a sewer line break underneath the driveway in front of the property. The HOA is responsible for this as the CC&R's specify the driveway/sidewalk and main sewer line feeds as being common property; they're covering these repairs. HOA will not cover damage to the interior of the condo. Homeowner's insurance (condo policy, State Farm) is also refusing to cover the interior damage; they're pointing the finger at the HOA.

Questions:
- Is this a loophole in condo insurance for which there's no solution?
- Is there / was there additional coverage available that would have covered this type of mess?

jpgreno
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Re: Insurance snafu with sewer line break at condo

Postby jpgreno » Mon Jun 19, 2017 5:18 pm

The majority of home policies will have an additional endorsement called sewer and drain coverage which would have covered the interior building damage in that scenario.

I would be amazed if the endorsement wasn't available at State Farm.

adamthesmythe
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Re: Insurance snafu with sewer line break at condo

Postby adamthesmythe » Mon Jun 19, 2017 7:15 pm

> HOA will not cover damage to the interior of the condo.

Have you been in touch directly with the HOA insurance company, or is someone in the management company telling you this?

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baw703916
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Re: Insurance snafu with sewer line break at condo

Postby baw703916 » Mon Jun 19, 2017 7:38 pm

What I'd suggest doing is to talk to your insurance agent, and make sure that he has reviewed the "Master Policy" held by the HOA, to make sure that your policy's coverage fits together with that with no gaps in coverage. The property manager should be able to provide contact information for the agent for the master policy to your agent. Use what happened to your neighbor as an example when talking to your agent--"if this were to happen in my unit, would all my damages be covered, and by which policy?"
Last edited by baw703916 on Thu Jun 22, 2017 4:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Iorek
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Re: Insurance snafu with sewer line break at condo

Postby Iorek » Mon Jun 19, 2017 8:45 pm

When we bought a condo our lawyer advised us to get homeowners insurance with whoever insured the rest of the building because that way the two companies can't argue with each other (although you still might not hav coverage in this particular situation).

boglerdude
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Re: Insurance snafu with sewer line break at condo

Postby boglerdude » Tue Jun 20, 2017 11:45 pm

Read your policy, the CC&Rs, and the HOA policy. Yourself.

Sounds like you might need to sue the HOA

mhalley
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Re: Insurance snafu with sewer line break at condo

Postby mhalley » Wed Jun 21, 2017 1:35 pm

Let loose the Hounds of Lawyers!

adamthesmythe
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Re: Insurance snafu with sewer line break at condo

Postby adamthesmythe » Wed Jun 21, 2017 1:38 pm

> Not me but a neighbor

So we will never know the whole story

boglerdude wrote:Read your policy, the CC&Rs, and the HOA policy. Yourself.

Sounds like you might need to sue the HOA


It is not clear to me that all of the reasonable options had been explored.

earlyout
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Re: Insurance snafu with sewer line break at condo

Postby earlyout » Wed Jun 21, 2017 2:24 pm

Your best source of information is your insurance agent. As suggested, ask which insurance company would cover this type of damage and if there are any other coverage gaps between your homeowner's policy and the association's master insurance policy. Also be aware that insurance coverage for this type of incident is governed by state law and the answers will from state to state. My condo in Georgia was flooded by a bursting water heater on the floor above mine but I would have had to prove the owner's of the upstairs unit negligent in order to collect on their insurance. My insurance covered the damage claim (after the deductible, of course).

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dratkinson
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Re: Insurance snafu with sewer line break at condo

Postby dratkinson » Wed Jun 21, 2017 2:51 pm

Another reason not to own a ground-floor condo?
See: http://www.google.com/search?q=burglar+ground+floor
d.r.a, not dr.a. | I'm a novice investor, you are forewarned.

investor997
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Re: Insurance snafu with sewer line break at condo

Postby investor997 » Wed Jun 21, 2017 4:29 pm

OP here. My neighbor (the flood victim) is pursuing matters through an attorney.

I spoke with my insurance company and they said in order for them to cover this situation, I need flood insurance. Their standard condo policy won't cover it. My neighbor uses a different insurance company, however so I'm not certain of their specifics. I live in California, BTW.

I'll certainly pay close attention to their legal outcome. The CC&R's for the association claim responsibility for common areas of the property. The sewer line break was clearly in the common area and the HOA already made the repairs.

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Pajamas
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Re: Insurance snafu with sewer line break at condo

Postby Pajamas » Wed Jun 21, 2017 5:54 pm

investor997 wrote:OP here. My neighbor (the flood victim) is pursuing matters through an attorney.

I spoke with my insurance company and they said in order for them to cover this situation, I need flood insurance. Their standard condo policy won't cover it. My neighbor uses a different insurance company, however so I'm not certain of their specifics. I live in California, BTW.

I'll certainly pay close attention to their legal outcome. The CC&R's for the association claim responsibility for common areas of the property. The sewer line break was clearly in the common area and the HOA already made the repairs.


Coverage for sewer backup is apparently commonly a rider to a homeowner policy and has nothing to do with flood insurance.

https://www.fema.gov/news-release/2010/ ... same-flood

KT785
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Re: Insurance snafu with sewer line break at condo

Postby KT785 » Wed Jun 21, 2017 6:06 pm

Pajamas wrote:Coverage for sewer backup is apparently commonly a rider to a homeowner policy and has nothing to do with flood insurance.


+1

We have our homeowners' policy through State Farm and opted for the sewer backup/sump pump failure/etc. coverage since our house has a finished basement. Such an endorsement would likely be applicable in cases like this . . . though I'd rather deal with a sump pump failure (my main reason for the endorsement) than a sewer backup. :(

Laren
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Re: Insurance snafu with sewer line break at condo

Postby Laren » Wed Jun 21, 2017 6:16 pm

This doesn't sound like a flood claim - this sounds like a pretty textbook sewer backup claim. And you do need a specific rider on your policy to have it covered, so make sure you do going forward.

When you talked to your insurance company or agent, it sounds like they heard the word "flood" and stopped listening to the specifics. I suspect you would have gotten a different answer if you'd described it as an overflow and backup, and never said the word "flood".

I don't know if your neighbor is having the same misunderstanding with his insurance company, or if he didn't have sewer backup coverage. If I had sewer backup coverage, I think I'd be telling my insurance company they're welcome to subrogate against the HOA if they think they can, but I paid them to cover the interior of my condo and they need to step up and do it. (I don't know that that would magically make them actually step up and do it, but I really do think that's how it should work!)

investor997
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Re: Insurance snafu with sewer line break at condo

Postby investor997 » Thu Jun 22, 2017 12:13 am

Good info. I'll have to check with the agent again. I specifically described to him the sewer back-up scenario and that's what I was looking to insure against. I'm not sure he knew what he was talking about.

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baw703916
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Re: Insurance snafu with sewer line break at condo

Postby baw703916 » Thu Jun 22, 2017 12:32 am

investor997 wrote:I'll have to check with the agent again... I'm not sure he knew what he was talking about.


If that's the case, it's probably better to find that out now, when it's not your claim.
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iamlucky13
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Re: Insurance snafu with sewer line break at condo

Postby iamlucky13 » Thu Jun 22, 2017 1:28 am

Laren wrote:This doesn't sound like a flood claim - this sounds like a pretty textbook sewer backup claim. And you do need a specific rider on your policy to have it covered, so make sure you do going forward.


Maybe I'm completely off base here, but a sewer backup rider on your own policy seems like it should be for claims arising from a backup originating in your own home.

Somehow I'm betting it won't pay for a sewer backup caused by a another party any more than flood insurance would cover a sewer backup.

The party that "caused" the damage - meaning the condo association that it sounds like owned the defective mains external to the neighbor's unit - should be the one liable for the damage. And since the neighbor has gotten an attorney, I'm guessing he has received advice to the same effect.

But I digress - the OP wants to cover himself against sewer backups in general, it sounds like. That would include sewer backups originating in his unit, so it sounds like a rider for that particular scenario is what he's looking for.

By the way, it is common for homes with low elevation toilets or drains to have back-flow preventers intended to stop this from happening in the first place. It might be possible to have one added to your line.

investor997
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Re: Insurance snafu with sewer line break at condo

Postby investor997 » Thu Jun 22, 2017 1:55 pm

iamlucky13 wrote:But I digress - the OP wants to cover himself against sewer backups in general, it sounds like. That would include sewer backups originating in his unit, so it sounds like a rider for that particular scenario is what he's looking for.

By the way, it is common for homes with low elevation toilets or drains to have back-flow preventers intended to stop this from happening in the first place. It might be possible to have one added to your line.


OP here again. I'm simply trying to understand what it will take for me to be covered in a similar situation, if anything. My neighbor did *not* have sewer back-up insurance and is thus probably screwed in this situation, at least with respect to interior damage caused by the sewer back-up. The HOA has already paid for repairs to the sewer line, including tearing up and replacing a portion of the concrete driveway the line ran under.

The condo units aren't built in a low-lying area and according to FEMA's maps, they're located in an area "outside the 0.2% annual chance floodplain".

iamlucky13
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Re: Insurance snafu with sewer line break at condo

Postby iamlucky13 » Thu Jun 22, 2017 2:41 pm

investor997 - What
investor997 wrote:OP here again. I'm simply trying to understand what it will take for me to be covered in a similar situation, if anything. My neighbor did *not* have sewer back-up insurance and is thus probably screwed in this situation, at least with respect to interior damage caused by the sewer back-up. The HOA has already paid for repairs to the sewer line, including tearing up and replacing a portion of the concrete driveway the line ran under.

The condo units aren't built in a low-lying area and according to FEMA's maps, they're located in an area "outside the 0.2% annual chance floodplain".


On the first response, what I was getting at is I'm not sure if you have back-up insurance on your unit, but a back-up originates outside your unit (such as another broken main), whether your insurance will cover that. It might, but you should probably read the rider carefully. It seems more logical to me the owner of the defective asset that actually causes the damage should be the responsible one.

For the second response, I'm not talking about natural floods. I'm talking about low lying relative to other sewer drains that share your main. The reason the neighbor experienced the mess he did is that after the pipe became blocked, others in the complex continued to use water like normal. It filled the sewer line and flowed out the lowest elevation opening it could find, which was his downstairs toilet. It didn't stop until everybody who shared the failed line was told they need to stop letting any water down the drains. A backflow preventer would instead have stopped anything from moving the wrong direction in his sewer lines. Hence, you might consider asking a plumber if its possible to install one on your sewer line.

boglerdude
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Re: Insurance snafu with sewer line break at condo

Postby boglerdude » Thu Jun 22, 2017 7:25 pm

OP, you want a sewer backup endorsement. State Farm offers one, I'd expect most insurers do. If prices are similar go with Amica or Chubb who have a good reputation for supporting their customers.

Read all the paperwork yourself, agents make mistakes often

Glancing at some Google results, it looks like when a city line backs up, the city often does not pay for your cleanup

investor997
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Re: Insurance snafu with sewer line break at condo

Postby investor997 » Fri Jun 23, 2017 7:00 pm

OP here. I just had another conversation with my insurance company. They *do not* offer a sewer back-up rider I can add to my existing condo policy. As it stands, if the same thing happened to me, I'd be screwed. Nothing I can do about it, at least not if I stay with my current insurance company (AAA of SoCal; I also insure vehicles with them).

I plan to shop around. I visited State Farm's website and, interestingly, they offer optional sewer back-up insurance *for condo associations*:
https://www.statefarm.com/small-busines ... ter-policy

This seems to imply HOA's could very well be responsible for damage caused in this type of scenario. My neighbor is lawyering up as we speak.

iamlucky13
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Re: Insurance snafu with sewer line break at condo

Postby iamlucky13 » Fri Jun 23, 2017 7:34 pm

I still think I would talk to a plumber about whether it's possible to install a backflow preventer on the sewer line coming out of your unit.

investor997
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Re: Insurance snafu with sewer line break at condo

Postby investor997 » Fri Jun 23, 2017 8:00 pm

iamlucky13 wrote:I still think I would talk to a plumber about whether it's possible to install a backflow preventer on the sewer line coming out of your unit.


I don't think that would have prevented this from happening. The sewer line literally sheared apart underground and became clogged.

iamlucky13
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Re: Insurance snafu with sewer line break at condo

Postby iamlucky13 » Fri Jun 23, 2017 9:48 pm

investor997 wrote:
iamlucky13 wrote:I still think I would talk to a plumber about whether it's possible to install a backflow preventer on the sewer line coming out of your unit.


I don't think that would have prevented this from happening. The sewer line literally sheared apart underground and became clogged.


Right, and nobody in the condo building knew it, so they kept taking showers and flushing toilets and all that. The water had to go somewhere, so it flowed backwards out of low-elevation drains, meaning your neighbor's toilet. That's the sort of thing a backflow preventer is supposed to stop. It's basically a one-way valve that lets your waste water out, but closes if things try to flow the wrong way.

You could still flood your home with your own water if you kept flushing after seeing the toilet clog, but not everybody else's water.

CurlyDave
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Re: Insurance snafu with sewer line break at condo

Postby CurlyDave » Sat Jun 24, 2017 9:42 pm

iamlucky13 wrote:I still think I would talk to a plumber about whether it's possible to install a backflow preventer on the sewer line coming out of your unit.


I installed one of those in a house I was selling because the building code said I had to have one.

I am a Chemical Engineer by training (think college degree in plumbing), and I would not trust one of those to prevent sewage from backing up into a dwelling. It would definitely slow down the flow, but it will not be a leak tight seal.

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Re: Insurance snafu with sewer line break at condo

Postby Lafder » Mon Jun 26, 2017 8:19 am

Was it "water" flowing out of the toilet bowl?

Or was it sewage back up?

Water to me sounds very different than a sewage back up.

And if a sewage back up, wouldn't the lower drains such as a bathtub or shower be more effected?

The time I had a sewage block, really disgusting stuff came out the bath tub drain into the tub. I did not test flush the toilet.

Is there evidence that the broken pipe was the trigger? Were other units effected?

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exoilman
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Re: Insurance snafu with sewer line break at condo

Postby exoilman » Mon Jun 26, 2017 8:28 am

reference

investor997
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Re: Insurance snafu with sewer line break at condo

Postby investor997 » Mon Jun 26, 2017 5:57 pm

OP here. Only a single unit was affected. It doesn't share a common sewer line with the adjoining units, or at least the pipes don't join together until *after* the point where the pipe in question broke.

The affected sewer line literally sheared apart underground, directly underneath the concrete driveway in front of the unit's garage door. What was once a pipe several inches in diameter was reduced to a virtual pinhole. I believe the main event occurred when the owner was taking a shower in an upstairs bathroom. With nowhere for the drain water to go, it backed up and came out of the toilet bowl located in the downstairs bathroom. I suppose the water was "less disgusting" than it could have been. The smell was still something fierce.

The HOA already made the sewer line repairs. They had to cut a giant hole in the driveway to gain access to the pipe - roughly a 2'x2' square through several inches of concrete.

I'm not sure if they determined the cause of the break but one thing I'll say is several of us in the neighborhood are experiencing foundation settling and drywall cracks. We believe it's due to long-term drought effects - we're located in Southern California in an area known to have soft clay soil. It's possible that all the recent rain this winter caused the soil to soak up water like a sponge, moving everything about rapidly. Alas, I'm not a geologist...

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FelixTheCat
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Re: Insurance snafu with sewer line break at condo

Postby FelixTheCat » Mon Jun 26, 2017 6:04 pm

jpgreno wrote:The majority of home policies will have an additional endorsement called sewer and drain coverage which would have covered the interior building damage in that scenario.

I would be amazed if the endorsement wasn't available at State Farm.

State Farm has this insurance. I tried to add this to my policy; I was denied because I live in a townhome.
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investor997
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Re: Insurance snafu with sewer line break at condo

Postby investor997 » Mon Jun 26, 2017 8:55 pm

FelixTheCat wrote:State Farm has this insurance. I tried to add this to my policy; I was denied because I live in a townhome.


State Farm offers this insurance to HOAs. Interesting that they refuse to offer it to the owner of a unit. This seems to imply that if anyone's to blame, the HOA is...


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