Pesky (underground) Pipes: Any coverage?
Recently, here and over at Today’s the Day Harrisburg, we explained coverage for damage due to the growing presence of sinkholes in and around Harrisburg. Sinkholes can create a myriad of other problems for a homeowner. Sometimes, sinkholes are actually caused by the degradation of underground water and sewer pipes. The resulting damage to the pipes can disrupt essential service lines that connect the homeowner’s property to the provider’s main water and waste lines.
Who Covers What?
When a pipe breaks inside of a home and causes damage, a traditional homeowners policy will provide coverage (make sure to review your own policy for specific coverage details). When an underground pipe, like a water or sewer line breaks and causes damage to the roadway, the municipality or quasi-governmental agency will step in to complete repairs.
Capital Region Water serves as our municipal authority that owns and mangoes the greater Harrisburg area’s water system and infrastructure. Not only does Capital Region Water provide clean and reliable drinking water, but it must also preserve and repair its infrastructure. When a pipe breaks or a storm drain needs to be propped up, Capital Region Water is there to take care of it. But what happens if the pipe that breaks is not one that is under Capital Region Water’s control?
Many property owners may wonder who is responsible for and replacing those crucial pipes in the area between the city-managed service lines and the homeowner’s property. The answer is the homeowner. Furthermore, a homeowner’s policy does not cover a claim that does not directly cause damage to your home or other structures on your property. Therefore, under most policies and circumstances, there is no coverage under a homeowner’s policy since underground pipes will not be considered part of the home or an “other structure.” Just as a homeowner is responsible for, but does not own, the sidewalks they are responsible for the maintenance of service lines underneath.
Where You Can Find Coverage:
The repairs associated with underground pipes can easily reach the thousands of dollars. So, if you have enough in savings, you might be okay if a pipe breaks between your home and the main line, otherwise you should investigate alternative options.
Insurance is not the answer to this issue. Most insurance carrier have not opted to provide coverage forms that would indemnify for losses associated with underground pipes. Instead, a special warranty can help to protect you in the event of an unexpected loss. A few years ago, Harrisburg engaged Service Line Warranties of America (SWLA) to offer its products to Harrisburg City Residents.
Warranty companies provide a promise to either pay or reimburse a homeowner in the event that underground utility lines are damaged. Each warranty is different and it is important that you investigate as many options as possible. But remember, this is not insurance and there are not the protections of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Insurance that a consumer would have with the purchase of an insurance product.
In this case, we strongly recommend that all homeowners review their options, otherwise, you might be stuck paying out of pocket for water or waste line repairs.