Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Water And Sewer Service Line Protection Program: Worth It Or Not To Brownstone Brooklyn Owners?

Row of Brooklyn townhouses
A few days ago, I received an offer from American Water Resources (AWR),  an exclusive provider of a water and sewer service line protection program for NYC Department Of Environmental Protection (DEP).
The offer from AWR came with a letter from DEP stating that: "Many New York City homeowners are not aware that repairs to the lines that run from their home's exterior to the mains in the street are their responsibility.  Recognizing that many residents are unprepared for the potentially high cost of repairs and that most homeowner's insurance policies do not cover these costs, DEP is pleased to introduce new programs to protect homeowners like you from such unexpected expenses."
"Aging pipes, invasive tree roots, and even seasonal changes can cause a break to your water line or a blockage to your server line.  Typical water line repairs cost New York homeowners between $3,000 and $5,000 while an average sewer line replacement costs between $10,000 and $15,000."

The insurance offered by AWR is $ 11.98 a month for both water and sewer line protection.  Individual water service line and sewer service line protection plans are also available.  The monthly fee is added to the DEP water bill.

This certainly sounds like an interesting offer for Brooklyn brownstone owners, but it would be interesting to get some feedback from those who have already signed up.
 Is it a good deal?  Are the repair estimates mentioned by DEP correct? Do you have any experience with AWR?  Have you ever put in a claim?


Anonymous said...

I have not signed up, but I think it is worth it.

Here is my reasoning.

I have owned my house for about 25 years and in that time I have not had problems with the water or sewer lines. The prior owner owned the house for 15 years and I recall asking about the water and sewer lines when I bought the house and he said that he had not replaced either.

That means the water/sewer lines are at least 40 years old.

Assuming they have about a 50 to 75 year life, I will replace them probably in the next 10 to 20 years.

If the premium is about $12 per month that is $144 per annum, so lets call it $150 per annum.

Therefore, I will pay abourt $1500 over the next 15 years for a repair that I am pretty sure is coming at some point in the future.

(Of course, the premium will increase over the next 15 years, but so will the cost of the repair.)

The clincher for me is that I live on Union Street, which is busier than the rest of the side streets, so there is more vibration and thus more stress on the pipes.

Net, net, I think this is a reasonable cost and will buy the insurance.

The one thing I have not done is to read the policy information carefully. There could be exclusions to the policy such that when you need to replace the line, they nickel and dime you and don't cover the full cost. This risk is somewhat reduced by the fact that the NY Water Board is sponsoring this insurnace and would not be happy if the insurer does not pay legitimate claims.

Also, need to check to see how financially strong the insurer is. If the insurer goes out of business, then you are paying for nothing.

Hope this helps.

Katia said...

Most definitely helps.
It's the nickel and dining that I am afraid off.
We had our water main line replaced a few years back,so I was thinking about just the sewer line, which, off course, is the expensive part.

Anyone else thinking about signing up?

Anonymous said...

Lawyer friends I've spoken w/ about this deal think that the exclusions make it not worth doing.

Terry said...

I can speak from experience that those cost estimates are pretty accurate. My sewer line cost me about $11,000 and that was 10 years ago. A few years before that, I did the water main, which I think was about $4,000.00.

don said...

about 5 years ago our line cracked while I was on vacation in Italy. Human excrement was flooding into our rental basement apartment during the torrential rain. I probably could have gotten something cheaper but my tenants were panicked. I paid $15,000 to get it fixed. Permits for side walk and another for the road delayed an immediate fix. nightmare.

Anonymous said...

NOT WORTH IT. It is rare that you will have to replace the lines. If you have to, it's a one time thing. Most owners of brownstones can afford the bill, as painful as it may be. Also, some homeowners insurance plans may cover the expense. The city is offering just one more monthly bill that adds to the bottom line.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for asking this question. I have been wondering if getting this insurance was worth it myself. Unfortunately, I'm still not sure what to do.

Anonymous said...

There has been a lot of discussion about this on the brownstoner forum. I am on the fence as well.

Anonymous said...

There is a rip off report about this company on the Internet. I looked for reviews and found it.

Anonymous said...

And why is our government (DEP) promoting this single company?

Anonymous said...

Value? hard to tell by the info in the advertisement (mailer). Concerns: 1. You must use their contractor without question, even if their contractor charges way over the "covered" amount. You pay the difference.
2. Does not cover many reasons for failure. Basically must be normal wear & tear. (No Flood, earthquake, sink hole etc.)
3. Does not cover pre-existing conditions. Leaves open to interpretation if failure mode started prior to entering into policy. "hey this pipe started rotting 10 yrs ago".
4. Does not cover any other needed repairs (sidewalk replacement, trees, bushes, anything inside your house etc.

In other words it covers locating the problem, digging a hole, and replacing a few dollars worth of pipe, and then covering it back up, oh and throwing down some grass seed.

Our plan, find someone with a backhoe to expose the pipes, then get a plumber to permit, and replace the pipes. Pay the neighbor kids to re-cover the hole.

Anonymous said...

I was foolish enough to sign up and was rejected after reporting a sewer line blockage. They sent a plumber to my house and quickly determined that the problem was "pre existing", not sure how they were able to determine nor did I get a formal response. After weeks of follow up they sent another plumber to my house who told me "the pipe is back pitched" which American water does not cover. So I have spent almost $100 dollars and received absolutely nothing!! AS I am sure you can imagine, I was quick to terminate my agreement

Katia said...

That doesn't sound good at all. We only signed up for the sewer pipe coverage. seemed cheap enough, but now I am doubting the value of it.

Anonymous said...

We contacted awr seen we had a sewage back up in October. They sent their plumber who said as long as there is not a broken plumbers snake in the pipe , they will fix it. They used their cameras and said there was a break in the pipe but saw a long item they determined was a broken snake therefore contract is null & void. We called another plumber and were charged $1500 to find out it wasn't a snake but a tree root. Call awr - send them videos & they will review. Fast forward to December 23 & have another backup. Pipe is officially collapsed & we are to gave 20 people over for Christmas Eve. Call awr - still no respone, they are still reviewing. We cannot get any supervisors on the phone. Well, we replaced our pipe at a cost of $10,500. We have tried calling awr again, but apparently the unprofessional idiot who is handing our case had an unexpected emergency right after we were told he was in.
This seemed like a legitimate agency but this is a SCAM, SCAM,SCAM. SAVE YOUR MONEY, I wouldn't give them a penny a month for the insurance. Save your money for when the pipe really does break.

Anonymous said...

In 2006 we paid $9,000 to have the sewer line from 100-plus year old brownstone to street replaced. (Note to person thinking back-hoe /neighbor kids can help. Don't try it. Only specially licensed companies can open NYC streets.) The problem was not a blockage or tree roots. The old ceramic pipe had disintegrated - probably over 50 years old. I'm still not certain whether this would have been covered.

Delia said...

When I initially received this letter in the mail last year I also was intrigued but when I read all the exclusions I knew that any homeowner who encountered a sewer line problem would be in a disadvantageous position. With the terms of insurance that AWR states, it would be so easy for them to decline coverage. Indeed, I am backed up by my initial assessment of this not being a good value for homeowners based on the feedback posts here, based on homeowners' actual experience.

Two further points:
1) google this company and you will quickly find bad reviews from frustrated homeowners who basically got jilted.

2) Why is DEP sponsoring this company? I had reached out to Brad Lander's office last year to make them aware of this but not sure if they ever followed up. Perhaps if more people call and complain an investigation will ensue into AWR.

Anonymous said...

Several Attorneys General have disapproved any links between officials or agencies and endorsements of any of these line protection services. One even stated that the program is not worth the cost. Consumer Reports also stated that it would be better to just set money aside. There are far too many reports of "pre existing" conditions or exclusions.

Katia said...

Thanks for the information. It does seem strange that DEP would give the appearance that they have a relationship with this company.