Service Line Issues
Alice Yao | Updated July 19th, 2020
It is a beautiful summer afternoon, you are out working on the flower bed and your dog is in the front yard, playing in a pool of water.
Wait a minute, what pool of water?!
Although it is not very common to occur, the water line underneath your property can crack and burst due to a number of factors such as corrosion and tree roots.
Water line that provides water to your property is also known as a service line or utility line. As a homeowner, you are responsible for all the service lines within your property perimeter including underground water pipes, septic/sewer lines, gas, and power lines. These service lines were installed as part of your home's original construction, and they are considered privately-owned by the homeowner.
In this article, we will go over these topics:
- Most common service line issue: water line
- Resulting damage may be covered by insurance
- Another common service line issue: sewer line
Most common service line issue: water line
The most common issue with service lines occurs in water lines.
Above is a drawing illustrating how water is distributed from the city's water main to your house. As a homeowner, you are responsible for the stop valves as well as the water service lines underneath your property.
When underground water pipes crack and burst, they can cause significant damage to your premise and, in severe cases, to the foundation of your home.
The most common causes for water service lines interruption underneath your property to crack and leak are:
- Wear and tear
- Tree roots
- Freezing of the pipes
- Accidental physical damage from digging
Wear and tear, in any form, is a commonly listed exclusion in your standard homeowners policy across the board. For water service lines, wear and tear includes corrosion of the pipes over time or damage to the pipes from natural shift of the earth.
Tree roots damage, similar to wear and tear, is also excluded from your standard homeowners policy. Homeowners can take preventive measures by working with licensed plumbers who can inspect underground pipes using plumbing snake with camera and provide guidance to maintain these pipes.
If you encounter a problem in your water line that is due to corrosion or tree roots, you will have to use your own funds to make the repair or improvement, including destruction and rebuilding of your concrete driveway to reach the water lines.
Resulting damage may be covered by insurance
Your homeowners policy may be able to cover the resulting water damage inside your home if the water discharge is sudden and accidental.
Sudden and accidental physical damage to water lines does not occur frequently. Most of the time when it happens, you can identify the cause almost immediately.
During the colder months, pipes are at risk of freezing when temperature falls below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. If you discover your water line was damaged due to the freezing of the pipe, contact your insurance agent immediately. Even if the damaged section of the pipe is physically located away from your house, it may still cause water damage that extends to the inside of your home.
Freezing of underground pipes is one of the covered situations in your homeowners insurance policy, and the other is accidental physical damage.
Accidental physical damage to your service lines may occur during landscaping projects involving digging into the yard. We recommend calling 811 ahead of time to avoid digging into service lines and damaging them. But if accidental damage does occur, it may be covered under your homeowners insurance.
Keep in mind that even in circumstances where your insurance covers the resulting damage, it may still be your responsibility to repair the damaged service lines if the cause of the damage is a listed exclusion in your homeowners policy.
Another common service line issue: sewer line
Another common example is damage to sewer lines. If you have larger trees on your premise, their roots may grow and expand, creating blockage to the sewer line and causing sewage backup.
It is imperative to contact a professional plumber as soon as damage is discovered. The key to determining if coverage applies from your homeowners policy is to identify the damaged section of the pipe and figure out the cause of damage.
Many situations are unique and every insurance company has its own guidelines. We always recommend reaching out to your insurance agent for a comprehensive review of your coverages to ensure you are properly and adequately covered.
By Alice Yao |