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NYC's Water and Sewer Service Line Protection Program: Is It Right for You?

Sheryl Nance-Nash in Building Operations on April 23, 2013

New York City

April 23, 2013

Roughly 670,000 city properties, including cooperatives and condominium associations, are eligible for the program, which costs $3.99 per month for water-line protection and $7.99 a month for sewer line protection. Although technically a service contract, the program operates like an insurance policy, explains Barbara Boyarsky, vice president and general manager at AWR.

Size Matters

Is your co-op or condo eligible? You need to be metered with wireless meter-reading devices, billed on flat-rate or metered charges, and current on DEP charges or have a payment agreement. And you must be equipped with a meter pipe that is two inches or less in diameter.

Buildings must have

a meter pipe two inches

or less in diameter.

When a customer calls to report a claim, AWR dispatches a licensed master plumber from its local network. "There is a one-year warranty on all repairs, so customers know they are fully protected," says Boyarsky. Based on the average repair costs, a customer could be enrolled for close to 100 years and the program will pay for itself with just one repair, she adds.

On its face, the program is "a nice minimal cost for some of the smaller properties, so if proper items are covered, then it's likely a good thing," says Paul Brensilber, president of management company Jordan Cooper & Associates. 

But some are skeptical over whether condo or co-op boards should sign up. "Anything that the city monitors or partners in, I don't have much confidence in," says Ellen Kornfeld, vice president of The Lovett Group, a real estate management and sales firm. "I want to know if it covers the cost of breaking the sidewalk and repairing it after the pipe is put in. That's a big part of the costs."

According to Boyarsky, public roadways and sidewalks are covered under the program. AWR provides basic site restoration, including reseeding lawns and backfilling walkways and driveways.

Plumbing: The Depths 

The plumbing industry has plenty to say about the new program. "It only covers water services up to two-inch meters," complains Angela Cappiello, executive director of The Master Plumbers Council of the City of New York. "It is also mostly a repair-only program, with an emphasis on patching rather than replacing piping that may have exceeded its useful service life.

Another limit is choice: Participants are required to use only AWR-approved contractors to make the repairs. "The company may only accept a limited number of contractors to do the repair work, causing the companies not selected to downsize or even cease operations," Cappiello says. "Although it covers unlimited repairs, one must question if it is in the best interests of the city to potentially have to open streets up numerous times to repair leaks on one line."

Finally, while the New York City comptroller has determined that participating contractors must pay wages at the prevailing wage rate, the costs for the program and the fees were not at prevailing wage rates, says Cappiello. "This may lead to increased program costs for service."

While she agrees a water main and sewer insurance program could benefit New York City residents, she wonders "why a government agency would be involved. In some cases, such involvement over time may limit competition and actually drive up costs." 


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