Getting connected seems more important than ever these days. We shudder at the thought of our Internet service going down. But Internet cables are not the only type of connection we depend on every day.
Think of all the services that run into and under your property -- networking, cables, water, gas, power, phone lines, fiber-optics, sewers and drains, and some less common ones like geothermal heat and steam.
If you lost any of these connections, you'd probably be in trouble. And it could cost you a small fortune to restore them.
Perhaps you think putting things right is not your responsibility. Or maybe you believe repairs would be covered by your homeowners insurance. Not so.
Service lines or utility lines, as they're called, on your property, are your responsibility if you own your home. And repairs and replacements are generally not covered in a standard home insurance policy, although you may have protection if you have a home warranty or add-on protection from one or more utility companies.
Certainly, it's easy enough for these utility lines to become damaged -- for example through normal wear and tear or by growing tree roots. And it's usually costly to fix since contractors will need to excavate affected areas.
No need to worry however, if you have service line insurance. For just a few dollars a month, you can have this protection added to your homeowners policy. And, given that service line repairs can cost many thousands of dollars, getting this coverage makes common sense.
However, it's important to know what is and what's not covered by service line insurance.
What Does Service Line Insurance Cover?
In the main, this coverage protects against damage to or loss of services outlined above that run underground on your property.
In some cases, your responsibilities may actually extend beyond your property line to include not only your yards and the building itself but perhaps even the curb and beyond, right up to the point of connection with mains services.
This is often the case with sewer and water lines, where a property owner may be responsible for repairs to what's known as the "lower lateral" -- the piping that runs from your property line to the main.
Denver Water, for example, stipulates that your service line begins at the water main and is the responsibility of the property owner. Again, rules vary by municipality so it's important to understand where your responsibilities begin and end.
As regards sewer lines, the City of Denver states: "The City and County of Denver is only responsible for main public sewers. For information about your private tap/serviceline, we recommend you to hire a licensed plumbing company that provides such services." Click here for FAQ's
This lesser-known responsibility emphasizes the importance and value of having utility line coverage.
The basic coverage reimburses insured property owners for the cost of repairing or replacing damaged service lines up to the limits of the policy and subject to any deductible (see below).
It may also cover the cost of rectifying any damage caused by the breakage, although aspects of this may also be insured through a homeowners policy.
Damage or destruction caused by most perils are covered. These include wear and tear, like tree damage mentioned above, plus issues like rusting, corrosion, breakdown, freezing, collapse and rodent or insect damage.
In addition, some policies provide coverage for living expenses, like hotel costs, if you have to move out of your home while the damage is repaired.
What's Not Included in Service Line Coverage
Most endorsements cover only underground service lines -- not those above like telephone and some Internet cabling. However, again, some items may be covered under your homeowners insurance. Check with your agent.
Your endorsement may also have additional exclusions -- for example, underground fuel tanks, wells and septic systems. However, other policies do cover these systems, so be sure to discuss this fully with your agent.
What Level of Coverage Do I Need for Service Line Insurance?
The average cost of service line repairs replacement is in the region of $2,500, although there are some that cost significantly more. Sewer and water lines repairs, for instance, average around $5,000.
Standard levels of service line coverage are normally around $10,000 to $20,000, though it's possible to opt for more or less, depending on your property and the services that run through it. Your agent can advise you on this.
You may have to pay a deductible if you make a claim. This is the amount of money you have to pay yourself before your policy kicks in. This is normally around $500, although some policies don't have a deductible.
How Much Does Utility Line Coverage Cost?
Rates vary between individual insurers and the level of coverage required. But an endorsement for $10,000 worth of coverage is likely to cost in the region of $30 to $50 for a whole year.
What if I Don't Own My Home?
Utility lines should be the responsibility of your landlord, who should have appropriate coverage or at least be responsible for any repair or replacement costs.
It's a good idea to check your rental agreement. Otherwise, speak to the landlord.
Where Can I Get Service Line Coverage?
In most cases, you can get your coverage as an endorsement to your homeowners policy. A few insurers may not offer this type of protection, which might prompt you to review your existing coverage and maybe switch to another that does offer the endorsement.
If one or more of your utility providers offers a warranty, it'll likely only cover their services, which could leave you exposed to costs for other service repairs. If you have a general home warranty, it'll likely cost you more than a service line endorsement.
Don't worry if all of this seems complicated. If you don't already have these coverages or you're not sure of your protection, you can discuss your needs with the home insurance experts at Equity Insurance Group.
The important point is to act now, before a troublesome and costly failure of one of your service lines.