Have you received a notice in the mail from a company advising you to purchase coverage for the water and sewer pipes on your property? Many homeowners do not realize that any damage to the water and sewer lines that run from their home to the water and sewer connections in the public right-of-way are their responsibility and not that of the utility company. Homeowners insurance may cover a water line break or leak within the home or sewage back up into the home (depending on coverage), but it typically does not cover repairs to broken water or sewer pipes located outside of the home between the home’s foundation and the water and sewer connections in the public right-of-way.
A break in your exterior water or sewer pipes could result in thousands of dollars in repairs or replacement costs, plus expensive repairs to your landscaping, and the hassle of hiring contractors to do the work. While all of this may seem like a costly inconvenient nightmare, it also does not mean that homeowners should rush out to purchase the coverage offered in the mailers that seem to prey on these fears. The saying “caveat emptor” should come to mind and homeowners should do their homework before purchasing such coverage.
Some of these notices may appear to be coming from your utility company and may even have your utility company’s logo on the notices, but they are actually coming from a private third party company. At first blush, these notices appear to offer “insurance” plans to homeowners. However, they are more like repair service plans or warranty plans. Because they are not insurance plans they are not regulated the way insurance companies are and leave homeowners with fewer options if they are aggrieved by the service plan company.
Before purchasing one of these service plans homeowners should consider the age of the home and investigate the likelihood that their water and sewer lines will experience damage. They should also consider the distance of their home from the public water and sewer connections and investigate whether their neighbors have experienced any problems with their pipes.
Homeowners should also read the plans very carefully to see what is actually covered, what is excluded, when the plans become effective, which contractors are used to do the repair work and their response times. Homeowners should read through on-line reviews and contact their state or local consumer protection department or the state’s attorney general’s office to see if there are complaints about the service plan or the company offering it. The plans on average cost about $5.00 to $10.00 per water and sewer line per month, while the cost to repair or replace a water line or sewer line can average up to $5,000 or more.
Homeowners should check with their homeowners insurance companies to see if coverage for damage to their exterior water and sewer lines is available through their existing policies. Such coverage might include a sewage back-up rider or endorsement and exterior service line rider or endorsement. Lastly, homeowners should take care of their water and sewer lines by not pouring or flushing non-biodegradable objects and oils down the drains, keeping track of tree roots that can crack exterior pipes, and regularly having their plumbing inspected.
Do you have other questions related to property damage and the law as referenced in this article? Contact Judyann Lee or the real estate legal team at McMillan Metro, P.C. to find out how we can help you with your real estate law matters.