Does Insurance Cover Damage from Water Main Breaks

August 24, 2020

Does Insurance Cover Damage from Water Main Breaks

Water damage can take many forms, from flooded yards and garages to basement seepage that destroys drywall or furniture. The source of the water that causes the damage, and the type and location of the damage itself, are significant aspects in most homeowner’s insurance policies. Read the fine print to answer the question, “Does insurance cover damage from water main breaks?”

Water Main vs. Water Supply or Service Line

A flooded yard on a bone-dry summer day means that an underground pipe has cracked or broken. The city water supply runs through a water main under the street in front of homes and apartment buildings. Those homes and buildings, in turn, connect to the city main with a tap, while a water service or supply pipe runs from the city main into the building to supply water to faucets and appliances within.

In New York City, property owners are responsible for the maintenance and repair of their water supply or service pipe from the street to the house, including the tap on the city water main. This is true even if the supply pipe runs beyond their property line, which it almost always does.

Homeowners and plumbers sometimes use the phrase “water main” to refer to the city supply and the water service pipe. If either of these pipes leaks or breaks, water can flood yards and streets, seep into basements, and flood garages.

Insurance Coverage for Water Main Breaks

Very few homeowner’s insurance policies cover damage from a water main break. While the city will respond to emergencies when a broken city main floods a street, it won’t reimburse property owners for damage the break causes. Homeowner’s insurance may cover damage from a sudden burst pipe inside a building or roof and water damage from a storm, but it is very unlikely the insurance will cover damage from an exterior water main or water supply break. The insurance also won’t cover water damage that occurs over time, instead of from a sudden or catastrophic occurrence.

Even if a homeowner has purchased extra flood or water main damage insurance, the fine print may limit coverage, perhaps by limiting the diameter or distance of the pipeline covered. It is often the case in New York City that during excavation for underground repair, old lead or clay pipes turn up that must be removed, which requires a new water main installation for sprinkler systems or water service.

If you experience a water main or sewer problem and have questions specific to the broken pipe and insurance, contact your Licensed Master plumber to schedule a free on-site visit. During this visit, they can determine the source of the problem and offer guidance regarding next steps, including further protection against similar problems in the future.

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