Madison sewer insurance letter investigated

Posted Tuesday, December 3, 2013 --- 5:14 p.m.

A city mailing has many people in Madison asking questions about their sewer lines. It might sound strange, but it is true. NBC 15 investigated the letter and breaks down what it means for you and your wallet.

Darcy Haber lives in an old neighborhood off Spate St. she says when she got the city mailing offering insurance for her sewer line, she didn't know what to think.

"So on one hand I thought it was unfair and maybe some kind of scam that I didn't trust, and on the other hand I thought 'I think that stuff is new anyway.' So I decided not to purchase the insurance. Maybe that was a bad move."

Assistant City Engineer Michael Dailey says the insurance offer is all because of Wisconsin Act 32. He says a part of that act keeps city's across the state from taking care of private sewer line problems, even if they happen under a public street.

"Most homeowners don't realize that they own that portion of the sewer and they're responsible for it."

Some homeowners insurance policies will cover your property up until the public sidewalk, but according to the City of Madison you're responsible for your sewer lateral all the way into the middle of the street where it meets the sewer main. Which could leave a big chunk of private sewer line where you're not covered. Darcy says it doesn't seem fair.

"It's either private or it's public. It should be covered by our personal insurance or by the city."

The sewer insurance company that the city selected is now offering a $6.25 a month fee to Madison homeowners. The insurance will cover up to $10,000 in damages per incident. Dailey says on average the city has 6-12 sewer line breaks a year, that they know of. He says they can be pretty pricey.

"It's important because if you had to do a repair in the street, the repair itself is $3-4,000 and then to put the street back it's ranging $5-7,000."

Dailey says the city isn't cashing in on this insurance offer, and is only doing it to help out. As for Darcy, she might take another look at that city mailing.

"Now after what you told me today I should rethink that, I'll have to research the insurance company and see that it's a legitimate thing. But it's unfortunate that more and more costs are being put back on the private citizen."

Are you wondering if you should buy the insurance or not? Dailey says anyone unsure can call the Madison Public Works Department.
They can also tell you if your pipes are made of clay or PVC, and how old the line is and when it was last inspected.

As we mentioned, Wisconsin Act 32 effects the entire state. Madison is just one city that is offering this insurance.

Monday night the Fitchburg City Council talked about the insurance option. City Engineer, Paul Woodard says they're going to wait to see how the program goes over in Madison first.

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