What is the Difference Between Flood and Sewer Back Up Insurance?

flooded basement 2

Knowing the difference between flood insurance and sewer back up insurance is critical to any homeowner.  In one you can easily get most insurers to cover, while the other does not exist.

I speak from experience as 400 homeowners in my Toronto neighbourhood were forced to deal with flooded basements last July.  Since I had purchased sewer back up insurance , as an add-on to my home’s insurance, I was fortunate to have all of my $25,000 damage covered.   That said, I would say 25% of my neighbours were not so fortunate.

So What’s The Difference?

The easy is answer is with one you are covered and the other you are not.  You can not get flood insurance in Canada and the principal reason is that most Toronto homeowners do not live on flood plain.  Most homeowners can purchase sewer back up insurance and for those of us living in an urban environment it makes sense to have it.  It the case of flooding it is considered a random act of god, where sewer back up is a failure of the municipal infrastructure.  With the former there is no one to blame where with the later there is a specific mechanical breakdown.

Sewer back up insurance is exactly how it sounds.   If water enters your home through a floor drain or basement shower/toilet then your insurer is obligated to cover your losses up to whatever amount is written in your policy.  Summer storms with significant rainfall tend to be  localized to specific neighbourhoods, so it is not uncommon to see hundreds of homes hit.  This tends to be the most common scenario for those of us living in Toronto.

As I said earlier, flooding is not covered by Canadian insurers so depending how the water got into your basement it can be situation where your insurer will not cover your losses.    With a heavy rain lets say your basement gets damaged from water coming in your  basement windows or back door.   Your insurer will assess this as flood damage as it was not directly connected to the sewer line… therefore act of God.

We all can see our weather patterns much more erratic and violent in their intensity.  Speaking from experience, in July 2012 my neighbourhood had over 400 homes with flooded basements, due mostly to sewer back up.   I had $25,000 in coverage for sewer back-up, which I had purchased 6 years prior from my insurance provider.   After remediation, restoring the space and replacing damaged personal belongings my claim came in just slightly below my maximum coverage.

My suggestion to homeowners is to review your policy and seriously consider adding sewer back up insurance.  You will certainly rest better when we are hit with the next heavy rains knowing your covered.

A previous blog post on steps in dealing with your insurer in restoring your basement following sewer back up.

A second blog post on  what to expect your insurer to cover following sewer back up.

An article I wrote for Zoomer magagine on my flooding experience.