CONSUMER FORUM

Do you need water line insurance?

Posted Feb. 23, 2014, at 8:57 a.m.

Not long ago, a Bangor resident wrote to ask us about a letter she had received that asked if she was interested in buying water line insurance.

It’s not a question we get every day, so we tried to educate ourselves before responding. It turns out that at least three companies offer coverage of the lines that run from the water main under city streets to the connection in your home. Repair of those pipes is not generally covered by water utilities or by most homeowners’ policies.

As with all types of insurance, not all coverage is created equal. That is likely one reason that many water utilities have not been quick to endorse one company over another. In the case of the Bangor Water District, there’s no endorsement at all.

District General Manager Kathy Moriarty told me that she was aware of letters sent by American Water Resources offering water line insurance. Those letters went to homeowners, not to the district. She said the bottom line decision by most homeowners rests, at least in part, on the age of their homes.

Moriarty said the water lines in most newer homes are made of copper. The lines usually are deep enough so as not to be moved by frost. And, barring breakage by construction equipment or an earthquake, copper lines should provide good service for many years.

If the pipes are galvanized steel, that may be another matter. Galvanized metals tend to have shorter lifespans than copper, and homeowners with such pipes connecting to the mains might want to think about insurance or replacement. As the letters soliciting coverage state, repairs can run into the thousands of dollars. And few of us would welcome a disruption in water service for whatever period repairs would require.

Customers of the Bangor Water District can usually find out what kind of pipe was used to make the connection to their homes by inquiring at the district’s office (the phone number is 947-4516). Moriarty says her office maintains good records on those connections.

“We can give the homeowners those details,” she said.

The Portland Water District says on its website it’s also aware of the recent mailings but “(w)e have no information on their products.” The Portland Water District says it teamed up about eight years ago with HomeServe, an independent company that offers similar insurance. HomeServe’s website says the company has partnerships with other utilities across the country.

Michelle Clements, a spokesperson for the Portland Water District, says district officials like the fact that they can offer insurance as an option to homeowners who want it. She said her district reviews HomeServe’s written materials before they go to consumers; she said the company has been receptive to suggestions the district has made about clarifying terms and explaining coverage.

“We are just offering it,” Clements said of the insurance. “We don’t encourage our customers one way or another.”

A number of customers, though, have opted to buy the coverage, she said.

Homeowners with concerns should talk with people at their local water utility to determine the age and composition of their connecting lines. If you decide to buy water line insurance, find out first EXACTLY what is covered (lines, connections, meters) and what isn’t. Also, find out if you have any say in selecting a contractor should a problem arise.

Consumer Forum is a collaboration of the Bangor Daily News and Northeast CONTACT, Maine’s all-volunteer, nonprofit consumer organization. For assistance with consumer-related issues, including consumer fraud and identity theft, or for information, write Consumer Forum, P.O. Box 486, Brewer 04412, visit http://necontact.wordpress.com or email contacexdir@live.com.

 

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