The following post is submitted in the hope that if you are in a similar situation to my own, you'll read this and deal with it before it costs you a buttload of money. Please share with your friends and family as you see fit.
Most folks who read this site are aware that the last few years haven't been the easiest for myself and my family. We've had our fair share of hardships and heartache. This has spanned the personal (unexpected deaths of loved ones) and domestic (Sandy-related destruction of the ground floor of our house). We've also had a lot of joy, particularly with the birth of our hard-fought child. It's been a bit of a roller coaster, that seemed to be settling down.
The Current Issue
Two weeks ago, we were fortunate to discover that our oil tank had corroded and leaked 150 gallons of heating fuel into our yard. The prior owner of the house had an enclosure built around the tank, so that no one could ever see the bottom, or how rusty it was getting. The location of the spill, combined with the flow of groundwater in this area moved the ~150 gallon plume from the point of the leak squarely into the basement of our neighbors (a lovely family who we like quite a bit). Certainly, this was an unfortunate event, but we figured that a call to our homeowner's insurance company (QBE Insurance) would cover the extensive cost associated with cleaning up the mess. Oh, how naive we were.
Homeowner's Insurance Doesn't Cover Oil Tank Spills
I made the above a heading because I think it's really important for folks to know. I didn't know it until two weeks ago, and I'd like to think I'm a pretty sharpish kind of guy. Not only does our homeowner's policy not cover oil tank spills, MOST homeowner's policies don't cover oil tank spills. This is not something that you are told when you purchase a homeowner's policy, or at least we weren't. In my own policy, it's an addendum that is written in a way reminiscent of congressional legislation ("Schedule A invalidates points 2, 3, and 4 of section E, except when it's raining on a Saturday" etc.). Similarly, oil company service plans don't cover tanks. The end result of all of this is that if you have oil heat, your homeowners policy, the thing that you pay a few thousand dollars for every year to insure that when crap happens to your home you don't have to pay out of pocket, will not cover the cost of the particular shitstorm that will occur when your oil tank leaks. And friends, this crap ain't cheap.
Do yourself a favor, and look at your policy immediately. If you lack the native machine language to be able to interpret it, ask your broker. I am told that the policy that I have with QBE Insurance is particularly crap-tastic in terms of their unwillingness to pay for oil tank-related damage (coincidentally, if anyone who ever reads this is involved in marketing QBE Insurance, you might consider the slogan "particularly crap-tastic"), but I am also told that there is a general trend among all insurance companies to cover less and less, while charging more and more.
Like I said, please take a moment and check on this if you have to. At the very least, our experience should serve as a learning opportunity for everyone else. And if you use QBE insurance for anything, you might consider not doing it anymore. They seem to be a lot more interested in determining baroque ways to not cover damage than they are in helping out folks in need (another possible slogan for any QBE marketers).