Responsibility of a Broken Sewer or Water Line NYC – City or Homeowners Responsibility?
February 8, 2014

 When a homeowner is first made aware of a broken water line or sewer line it is natural to assume that the city is responsible for a portion of the pipe on the outside of the house.  In New York City this is not the case, the homeowner is always responsible for a broken water or sewer pipe homeowners_responsibilty_pic2from the inside of the house up to and including the pipes connection on the city main.  NYC Homeowners tend to be confused by this as homeowners in surrounding cities are only responsible up to the curb line; at this point the city assumes full responsibility for any broken pipes in the roadway.

The only way that the homeowner would not be responsible for a broken pipe in NYC is if it was caused by “other” i.e. another utility company that may have caused damage to you pipe.  If you feel your water line or sewer has been damaged by another company working on the outside of your house it is important to provide as much documentation as possible (pictures, video, written documentation).  Regardless of how strong your opinion is and how many facts you have gathered, it is extremely challenging to prove this point as fact.

When would you question who is responsible?

DEP excavates to find leak
DEP excavates to find leak

DEP excavates to find leak When a homeowner receives a DEP 3 day notice for a water line leak they are most likely to question why they would be responsible for a water leak in the roadway or on the sidewalk.  It is also common that the DEP may have to dig and open the roadway to determine the source of the leak, at this point the homeowner expects the DEP to make the necessary repair which is not the case.

If a homeowner has received a Cease and Desist Violation stemming from a sinkhole in the roadway, the DEP will thoroughly inspect the homeowner’s sewer line and issue the violation based on their findings.   The homeowner is usually puzzled stating “there was a hole in the city roadway and I am responsible??” the homeowner is responsible for their broken pipe as well as restoring the damaged roadway.

If you are experiencing low volume or pressure of water in your house one would think this is due to the

Broken tap connection
Broken tap connection

city water supply system feeding the homeowner’s water main.  The tap connection on the city main is what controls the volume and pressure feeding your home, this is the final point before the city main which the homeowner is responsible for.  The same goes if the tap is leaking; the DEP may make the installation of the tap on the city main, the homeowner is still responsible for the charges associated with the installation and material.

If the roots from a city tree have intruded into your sewer line causing backups or a break in the sewer pipe.  The homeowner is still responsible for repairing the pipe before causing any major problems in their home or the surrounding neighbors.