Water backup is a common endorsement, particularly on Maryland renters insurance policies. Many people see it on their policies and wonder why it’s there. They’re also curious if it’s costing them anything, and if they actually need it. Let’s take a look at what it is, and why you need it.
What Is Water Backup Coverage On Renters Insurance?
Have you ever seen water backup coverage on your declarations page, or an offer for the coverage if you have a Maryland renters insurance policy? Find out what water backup coverage is and why you need it…
What Does The Water Backup Endorsement Say?
We insure, up to the limit of liability shown in the Declarations for this coverage, for direct physical loss, not caused by the negligence of an “insured”, to property covered under Section I caused by water, or water-borne material, which:
1. Backs up through sewers or drains; or
2. Overflows or is discharged from a: sump, sump pump; or related equipment;
This applies even if such overflow or discharge results from mechanical breakdown. This coverage does not apply to direct physical loss of the sump pump, or related equipment, which is caused by mechanical breakdown.
What Does The Water Backup Endorsement Mean?
You can see what it says above, but that’s not necessarily what we’d call plain English, so let’s break it down a bit.
“We insure, up to the limit of liability… for direct physical loss”
If there is a loss which causes physical damage to something insured under Section I (personal property), because of water backing up or overflowing from a sewer, drain, or sump, the loss is covered even if it would otherwise be excluded. This coverage replaces certain parts of the original policy, and should be treated as such.
“Not caused by the negligence of an insured”
This provision simply means that you need to use reasonable care to prevent the loss. If the neighbor’s two year old flushes her Barbie, and that causes a backup in your toilet that damages your property, coverage is available for that. The neighbor and their child are not an insured under your policy. On the other hand, if you didn’t bother to flush for a month and then tried to flush everything at once, that would be clear negligence on your part and coverage could be denied.
The provisions relating to sump pumps don’t generally apply to apartment dwellers.
What About Liability From Water Backup?
As far as damage to property of others is concerned, that’s where your liability coverage comes in. In this case, it must have resulted through your negligence in order to be covered by liability, in stark contrast to personal property damage as seen above.
Liability covers you if you cause property damage to someone else. That would generally include costs incurred to repair or replace property which is damaged as a result of your negligence through water backup. Note that “expected or intended” results of the actions of an insured are not covered by liability. So, someone who is mad at their landlord and plugs the toilet would not qualify for this coverage.
What About Children Causing Toilet Backup With Toys?
As we saw in a piece about whether children are covered for liability under renters insurance, “expected or intended” results of acts of children who are insured under the definition of named insured, there’s an interesting caveat here.
Children under the age of 13 are generally not considered to have the full capacity to understand the broader consequences of their actions. This means liability could respond if a child plugged a toilet and caused damage to others, even if that outcome was expected or intended by the child. Obviously there is some gray area here, since a 12 year old would be anticipated to have a better idea what might result from this than a 5 year old.
Renters Insurance Endorsements Can Be Complicated!
While the water backup endorsement (HO-208) is less than a full page, even in reasonably sized print, it has a significant impact on the policy. The best way to understand an insurance policy and its endorsements is to mentally cut and paste the endorsements into the sections they replace. This isn’t practical for many people, because it’s a non-linear thought process that most people don’t use on a daily basis.
Working with renters insurance experts solves this problem. Effective Coverage is focused on the insurance needs of renters. We know the HO-4 and its endorsements inside and out, and are able to explain what it does and does not mean to you and your particular policy. Working with the insurance experts for renters definitely beats trying to cut and paste a policy document.
Call Effective Coverage today at (800)892-4308 for more information on water backup endorsements and renters insurance in general.