What’s the Philadelphia Sewer Line Insurance?

Broken Sewer Pipe

By Jon Miller, Realtor®

A few weeks ago postcards and letters were mailed to Philadelphia residents offering a protection plan for sewer and water lines. The letters included the official Seal of Philadelphia on the envelopes to keep them from looking like a scam, but a lot of people are asking if the program is legitimate. Here’s an overview of the background, what the plan is, and some insight to help you make a decision on whether or not to purchase the protection plan.

The Philadelphia Sewer and Water Line Protection Plan is a public-private partnership between Philadelphia and American Water Resources. The plan is a warranty to help homeowners with the costs of replacing broken sewer and water lines the run from homes to the main sewer line under streets.

What Are Water and Sewer Lines?

Water and Sewer Lines are the underground pipes that run between  your house and the water and sewer main lines that run the length of the street in front of your house. These lines bring water into your house and carry wastewater out of your house. The city is responsible for maintenance and repair of the main lines, often just called the “Main.” The lines that run between the main and the house, called “laterals,” are the responsibility of the homeowner.

What Can Go Wrong with Water and Sewer Lines?

The majority of sewer lines in the city are made of cast iron. Cast iron pipes corrode over time leading to cracking and collapse. Tree roots can also break through the lines and cause cracks in the lines. Many of the cast iron lines were installed about 80-100 years ago. The typical lifespan of a cast iron pipe is about 80-100 years so we’re seeing a lot of damaged pipes throughout the city. Replacing damaged water and sewer lines requires digging up the street, sidewalk, and front yard to replace the lines. Replacement typically costs several thousand dollars at minimum.

Doesn’t My Homeowner’s Insurance Cover the Water and Sewer Lines?

Most homeowners insurance policies do not cover the water and sewer lines between the house and the street.

What Does the Sewer and Water Line Protection Plan Cover?

According to the American Water Resources website, the plan covers . . .

  • Clogs
  • Blockages
  • Burst pipe due to normal wear and tear
  • Pipe collaps
  • Pipe damage from tree root
  • Leaking pipe
  • Pipe corrosion
  • Excavating
  • Equipment
  • Backfilling holes
  • Reseeding yard
  • Inspections

It’s a Warranty, Not Insurance

The Philadelphia Sewer and Water Line Protection Plan is a warranty, not insurance. As a warranty it’s not regulated by the State’s insurance commission. As always, read the find print to understand what the plan does and doesn’t cover before signing up.

How Much Does the Plan Cost?

The Water and Sewer Line Protection Plan costs about $100/year.

Should You Get the Coverage?

I think that the coverage is worth considering for every homeowner in Philadelphia on the public water and sewer system. The cost is minimal, especially compared the massive expense of paying for replacement out of pocket. But, because this is a warranty and not insurance I am a bit skeptical about the implementation and I’m waiting to hear how well issues are handled and covered.

It’s going to take some time to see how that plays out. Since the coverage plan is in partnership with the City of Philadelphia, I’m hopeful that it will be well-executed and homeowners will find it beneficial. It’s important to read the fine print and understand the plan before making a decision. In our case, we did decide to purchase the coverage because the expense is so small compared to the thousands that we know it will cost us if we end up having to replace our lines without the coverage.

How to Sign Up for The Sewer and Water Line Protection Plan

For more information and to sign up for the protection plan, visit the American Water Resources website.

Jon Miller, RealtorJon Miller is a Philadelphia Realtor with Compass Real Estate. Jon has been working with home buyers and sellers in Philadelphia and Montgomery County since 2010.