This came to my email inbox last week from a client/homeowner in the City of Charlottesville:
About 2 weeks ago, our little cul-de-sac began getting letters from Dominion (Power) regarding the water line running from our houses to the street. The gist goes something like this: “beneath your yard could be a $4,000 problem waiting to happen” but, “we” could take care of that for you for $3.99/month. Essentially they’re declaring that any water line failure from our house to the street is our problem (may be the case) but they (the power company) can fix it all for ~$4.00 a month. Piece of mind – enroll online. “you can’t afford to be without the Water Line Replacement Program”
So I have a couple of questions : are you familiar with this? if so, why is Dominion involved and not the city? Has there been an increase in these incidents recently to prompt such a scare campaign? $4000 seems a bit high considering where I am and the distance from house to road – what of that? What of home values and this water line replacement fad?
Our Sewer Line Repair Program provides financial protection for the underground sewer line that runs from the foundation of your home to the main sewer line or septic tank. If you experience a clog or find a sinkhole over your sewer line caused by tree roots, collapsed pipe, heavy usage or normal wear and tear, Dominion Products and Services, Inc. will take the necessary steps to unclog a covered condition.*
Quick information from me
1) Yes, the line from the house to the street is your responsibility.
2) Yes, it does usually cost a couple thousand dollars to fix – from my experience (I’m not a plumber) $2,000 – $4,000 seems a reasonable estimate.
3) You’ll probably know that you have a leak when your ~$50/month water bill skyrockets to several hundred or a couple thousand dollars.
4) A lot of plumbing in the City of Charlottesville is old – terra cotta, orangeburg, and galvanized pipes – and these do deteriorate and go bad.
4b) Roots are bad. They damage plumbing.
5) I’d be inclined to take that $4/month and stash it away. (however, if this program works as advertised, I might be inclined to not spend the ~$300 for the inspection, and hedge my bets)
Other than, because they have the equipment and know-how and want to make money, I can’t think of a reason why Dominion would be offering this program. I’m less cynical now. 🙂
The Dominion sewer line program seems a bit like cell phone insurance, but you’re probably much more likely to make a claim for a busted iPhone. The Charlottesville (and American) infrastructure is old. And falling apart. If you’re in the City of Charlottesville, the chances of your water line being old are pretty darn good.
Additionally, I have recommended (based on experienced horror stories) that buyers have plumbers scope these lines as part of the inspection process – it’s not a bad idea. Trust me. (Update December 2016 – I’m recommending these consistently for homes in the City of Charlottesville, particularly those built before the mid-1980’s)
So – if you’re thinking about putting your home on the market, be aware that this is an issue that might come up. If you’re a homeowner, pay attention to your water bill and build your emergency fund. If you’re a renter, don’t worry about it.