Columbia, SC (WLTX) - – It seems there’s insurance for almost everything now, including coverage for underground water pipes and sewage lines on your property, but is it worth your money?
Water mains break, we’ve seen it happen, shutting down busy roads and forcing neighbors to boil their water. But if it happens in your own yard, it’ll cost you.
"We are not authorized to work on somebody else's lines. That is the property owner’s responsibility to handle any repairs on that,” said Victoria Kramer, Utilities Communications Manager with the Department of Utilities and Engineering for the City of Columbia. “And we've actually had customers come to us who had these kind of breaks before and we understand that it's a difficult situation for them because they can be expensive.”
The City of Columbia only pays for repairs if the water line breaks from the water meter out into city property. If the water main breaks anywhere from the water meter to your house, the homeowner is responsible.
“If you own the property, you own the water lines that start at the water meter and go to your house and serve your house, sinks, bathtubs, toilets,” said Kramer.
Kramer said repairs can add up to thousands of dollars for property owners. The City of Columbia partnered with a third-party company, HomeServe USA to offer insurance.
“It’s kind of like a warranty program. And it’s completely optional for any customer,” said Kramer.
The rates for exterior water service line coverage for property owners start at $4.99.
“What they want to think about is the age of the pipes that are going to the house. What kind of condition do they think they’re in, how long they’re going to be in that home, have they replaced those pipes recently, or do they simply need to be replaced for some other reason?” said Robert Hartwig, Finance Director and Co-Director with the Center for Risk and Uncertainty Management at USC’s Darla Moore School of Business.
Hartwig, a nationally known insurance expert, said homeowner’s insurance would not cover repairs for broken pipes outside of your home.
“Your homeowner’s insurance policy will cover pipes that are inside your house. So If a pipe bursts inside your home and causes water damage, you're covered,” said Hartwig.
He said pipes are not going to break very often, but sometimes the age of the pipes or damage from planted trees and landscaping can cause issues that can be costly upfront.
“Part of it's going to be based on do you think you can handle that expense out of pocket?” said Hartwig. “Some people are more risk averse than others.”
As for whether he would personally buy into the insurance, he said his house is new so he would not.
Hartwig said just because the City of Columbia partnered with HomeServe USA, that doesn’t mean it’s the only option. He recommended shopping around for better rates and coverage plans.
“What they need to look for is a reasonable price and they want to look for the broadest coverage possible. They want to look for a minimal number of exclusions, and they want to make sure that under most reasonable circumstances, if this pipe in their yard breaks, they’re going to have coverage. So compare a couple of policies that offer few exclusions and relatively inexpensive costs.”
HomeServe USA also offers exterior sewer and septic service line coverage, at $8.99 per month, and interior plumbing and drainage system coverage for $9.99 per month.
Kramer said the City of Columbia receives 7% commission from HomeServe USA, and received a $55,000 startup fee when the program started in February of 2014.
News 19 asked for the amount of money the City has received since then but we were told we would have to wait for the account balance.
HomeServe USA also partnered with other cities in South Carolina, including Charleston and North Myrtle Beach. The company is based out of Connecticut.