Property Damage, Public Improvements & Drain Backups…

August 5, 2015 LKlaw LK-Law

We wanted to take this opportunity to discuss property damage caused by public

improvements and drain backups.

Nothing is more distressing than a sewer or drain backup in your home; that is

until you find out that your Homeowners Insurance Policy does not cover your

loss.  Insurance companies have gradually reduced coverage for this type of

problem.  Originally, no insurance company would cover a backup from the public

main sewer line, however, they used to cover backups from the lateral lines often

caused by tree roots getting into the system.  That came to an end after too many

claims were filed and paid on these types of losses.  Coverage now in most policies

has become so restrictive that even backups out of kitchen sink drains in

condominiums that are shared by more than one unit are not covered.

So what can you do?  Our office has recently gone after governmental entities

that are in charge of the sewer mainlines under various legal theories.  These

entities are now insisting that private citizens have back flow valves in their lateral

sewer lines to prevent these backups.  There are various ways around this

depending on the facts.  One favorable fact is if your property is on a higher

elevation than the sewer main line. A sewer mainline is a public improvement that

falls in a broad category of infrastructure projects, financed and constructed by a

public entity, i.e. the City of Los Angeles, for recreational, employment, and health

and safety uses in the greater community. If a public improvement, such as a sewer

mainline, causes damage to private property, it may have occurred because the

public entity failed to adequately construct, design, inspect, maintain and/or repair

the improvement thus causing the public improvement to fail to function as it was

intended. If this happens, the private property owner may have recourse against the

public entity under the following causes of action: dangerous condition of public

property; nuisance; negligence; trespass; and, most importantly, inverse


In the condominium situations, we always look to the maintenance of the

common area drain lines by the HOA.  HOAs are often the target as they often fail

to realize that you have grease substances going down these lines and that they

require constant maintenance as a result.

A new service we are offering is to read your policy and determine if you have

proper coverage.  We often find that the limits are not high enough, certain

exclusions apply, or the carrier is not one we would recommend.  Occasionally, we

find that the coverage itself is improper, such as a residential policy being used for

a rental property.  That can have serious consequences such as vacancy provisions

in the policy


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Beverly Hills, CA, 90211
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