Who Is Responsible When Your Sewer Line Or Water Line Breaks?

Opinion & Expertise
January 31, 2013

by David Balkan

water line leak

House sewer and water line breaks have always been the property owners responsibility to repair in New York City. If a house sewer line gets clogged it likewise always had to be cleared at the property owners expense. This responsibility includes both water and sewer service lines from the inside of the building up to and including the connection to the public main. The only recent exception was when Jamaica Water Supply supplied drinking water to an area of approximately 1/3 of Queens. Jamaica Water Supply would maintain the water service lines from the property line to their main line typically located in the roadway.

water line leak
Emergency water main break

That ended around 1992 when NYC bought and took over control of the Jamaica Water Supply system and starting servicing their some 90,000 residential Queens customers. After the takeover of the Jamaica Water Supply (JWS) territory all residents reverted to NYC requirements of being responsible for their full water service line. As the Jamaica Water Supply system was poorly maintained the takeover resulted in an inordinate number of property owners in Southeast Queens having to replace their water service lines. Needless to say this also resulted in many very unhappy property owners.

Politically this became the seed from which the desire for service line protection in NYC grew. What was forgotten was that Jamaica Water Supply at the time charged the highest water rates in the Country. Another negative factor for property owners was that JWS attempted to repair defective water service lines whenever possible. This policy resulted in many water lines with patchwork repairs, only to leak at a later date.

There are some rare instances where the DEP will be responsible for repairs. One such instance is if a City riser connection is broken or clogged. It is typically the owners responsibility to expose a blocked or defective riser connection before the DEP will issue a repair notice. A riser connection is owned and maintained by the NYC DEP

What if the water line breaks at the tap connection?

A tap connection for a water service line is installed by DEP field forces in NYC. Once installed a tap connection is under guarantee for a year period from the DEP. On the rare  occasion when a new tap leaks, it is typically the property owners responsibility to expose the defective tap. In all other cases when a tap connection leaks it is included in the responsibilities of the property owner. Even in the extreme case when a tap physically blows out from the main supply line the property owner must pay to replace it.

water line leak
Leak a tap connection

What if the connection to the City sewer breaks?

With the exception of riser connections, even if the connection breaks on the city sewer the owner is still responsible. In most cases the spur connection is installed by the DEP when the City sewer was originally built.  However once it is used for a house sewer line it becomes part of the house sewer installation and thus the owners responsibility.

sewer connection
New riser connection being built

The cost of a water or sewer line replacement

Most industry experts estimate the typical cost range to be $3,000.00 to $5,000.00 for water line breaks, and $10,000.00 to $15,000.00 for a sewer line replacement. For the most part that seems very accurate with the exception that work in the outer Boroughs of Queens and Brooklyn is typically less costly, while work in Manhattan and the Bronx can easily exceed that amount.

Most important is to note that each and every sewer and water line job varies and presents different challenges. Prices do tend to vary depending on specific job site circumstances and job location. If you would like a free and no-obligation budget price contact us with your address, contact information, and type of service you are interested in. Your response will be via email. You will not be called unless you wish.

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David Balkan

David Balkan is the CEO of Balkan Sewer And Water Main, the largest and most trusted service in New York City. David is extremely active in various NYC plumber organizations being the Chairman of the Subsurface Committee in the Master Plumbers Council, and Vice President of the Subsurface Plumbers Association. In addition David’s expertise is respected by officials of New York City agencies such as the NYC DEP, NYC DOB, and the NYC DOT. He frequently provides valuable input on a variety of industry related matters.

Dave Balkan

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