How to Handle Neighbors Water Main Leaking Into Your House
February 14, 2015

It is common to experience a leaking water main in your house, especially if the house is over fifty years old. A leaking water main may surface in many different ways, puddle in the street, gush out of the sidewalk or through your foundation wall. Most homeowners assume because there is clean water coming through their foundation wall, it must be their water main that is leaking. In many cases this is 100% accurate however, there are other cases that must be thoroughly investigated.

You should always contact the NYC DEP if you are experiencing a leaking water main in any form. The DEP will usually respond within 16 hours to investigate the source of your leak, and issue a three day notice to the owner of the leaking water main.

***A three day notice is a violation issued by the DEP, stating that you have three days to hire a licensed/bonded plumber to repair your leaking water main.

If you have been issued a three day notice it is always suggested to contact a reputable licensed plumber and get a second opinion. In very rare event that the DEP may issue a three day notice in error. The homeowner first becomes aware of the error after paying thousands of dollars to the contractor, while experiencing a large hole in-front of their house.

Read more below on a recent scenario where a homeowner had experienced this exact situation……..

NYC water main leaks into neighbors house

Recently in NYC a single family homeowner became aware that there was a steady stream of water penetrating through their basement wall. She first decided to monitor the water for a few hours, as it continued to intensify each hour. At this point the homeowner was quick to contact her plumber who she had trusted, and had been servicing her home for over twenty five years.

The plumber’s quick suggestion was to hire a licensed water main contractor to repair what seemed to be her water main leaking back into her house. The water main contractor was on site the next morning and started to open the roadway for a new water line install.

Opening roadway to check for leak
Opening roadway

They first closed the tap connection, which is the valve that connects the private water line, to the city water main. At this point, the water leak should have stopped within 15-20 minutes. This was not the case, the water continued to intensify, leaving the owner completely baffled.

Closing the tap connection
Closing the tap connection

Close-up of tap and water line
Close-up of tap and water line

It turns out that it was actually the neighbor’s water main leaking into her house, traveling almost fifteen feet, underground and into her basement. The owner was still responsible to pay the contractor for all of their time, minus 10% for the material that was never used.

What should the homeowner have done prior to hiring the contractor?

It is always suggested to contact DEP (311) prior to hiring a contractor. There are many contractors that are simply looking to make a quick buck, even if they know the water main break is from another house. From a legal standpoint, DEP can enter the neighbor’s houses and test their water lines prior to issuing a three day notice. In this case, there is a good chance that DEP could have determined whose water main was broken, and avoid any unnecessary work being performed.

If the owner had received a three day notice prior to the contractor opening the roadway, she would have been eligible for a reimbursement from the city comptroller’s office for the three day notice error.

Lesson learned

Always get a second opinion prior to spending thousands of dollars. Even if you trust your plumber, he may not be experienced enough when it comes to external water main leaks, and determining the source. You should always search online, and/or check BBB reviews of a company prior to hire