Should I Buy Water / Sewer Line Coverage From My Water District?

(Note: this post updated 2/28/17 to include information about sewer line coverage)

One of our Twitter followers recently asked us: “Do I need exterior sewer/septic line coverage per mailer from my water district?” Great question! Portland Water District offers a service plan through HomeServe, a national home contractor. Exterior water line coverage is $6.00 a month. Sewer line coverage is $8.00. If you buy both, it costs $168.00 per year. We think the water district’s interior plumbing coverage is a bad deal (for $120 a year).

“Off the shelf” homeowners policies don’t cover damage to exterior water and sewer lines. A few insurance companies are starting to offer it – at a fraction of the water district’s price. You might want to purchase this extra protection, depending upon your circumstance and risk tolerance.

(This post only relates to personal properties. Contact a Maine insurance agency for advice about business property insurance.)

3 Questions to Ask Yourself

1) What Repairs am I Repsonsible For vs. the Water District?
In the Portland Maine Water District, you are responsible for repairing damage to the water service line and sewer line on your property; the utility is responsible for water supply lines that lead to your property. Finding and repairing an underground pipe leak can be expensive.

2) What Pipe Damage Does My Homeowners Insurance Cover?
Water damage from burst or leaky interior plumbing is covered by most homeowners policies; repairs to the pipes themselves are not. Most homeowners policies do not cover water or sewer backup into a basement unless you buy special coverage. Water backup insurance is widely available in Maine.

Most Maine Homeowners insurance policies do not cover damage to water or sewer pipes beyond your foundation walls. Common causes of such damage are tree roots, wear and tear, and crushing by heavy equipment. For most home owners, this leaves a gap in coverage that the water district plan offers to help fill,  for an additional charge

3) What is the Cost vs. Benefit of Filling this Gap?
The Portland Maine Water District plan costs about $168 per year. Compare that the average Portland Maine homeowners insurance premium of $875. That’s an extra 19% cost.

3 Things to Know About the Utility’s Water Service Line Program

These plans vary from district to district. These comments relate only to the plan provided by Portland Maine Water District.

1) It is not insurance. It is a service plan offered by an independent, private provider. The water district markets it to their customers, and provides billing along with water and sewer bills. Although it uses terms like “deductible”,  “coverage”  and “exclusions”, the plan is not insurance; it promises to arrange for a contractor to repair your pipes, and guarantees their work for 1 year.

2) The plan covers repair or replacement costs up to $3,500 per water line service ($7,000 maximum per year), $5,000 per sewer line.

3) Water district plans exclude more perils than a homeowners policy, such as “acts of God” and “pre-existing conditions”. They also exclude “faulty construction/improper maintenance” and “reduction in performance caused by normal wear and tear”. Homeowners policies don’t cover those, either.

Should I Buy the Water District Plan or Not?

If you have  limited funds for emergencies, or want to avoid unexpected out-of-pocket expenses, the plan may be a good choice for you. For $168 a year, you’re avoiding up to a $3,500 expense (water line) or $5,000 repair (sewer). But realize that coverage is limited –  it contains exclusions, some of which seem to be open to broad interpretation.

The Bottom Line

The plan protects you from expenses not covered by most homeowners policies, but it does not protect you against all of the bad things that can happen to your underground pipes.

If you live in the Portland Water District service area (Portland, Westbrook, Gorham, Cape Elizabeth, Falmouth, Cumberland, Standish, North Windham, Peaks Island and other Casco Bay Islands), and your agent doesn’t provide this kind of information to you, maybe you’d like to work with a new agent.

For answers to your insurance questions, contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance at 207.799.5541.

What’s The Average Price of Maine Car Insurance?

Do You Pay Too Much for Car Insurance?

 Are you getting the auto insurance discounts you deserve? How much does your neighbor pay? It’s not a common topic of friendly conversation, and there are so many factors at play, it’s hard to know.

Maine auto insurance rates are the lowest in the country, averaging $902 (Louisiana is the highest at $2,511). Of course those rates vary depending upon a lot of factors. Even with our comparatively low insurance rates, some Mainers pay many times the average.  

Traditional Factors Influencing Car Insurance Costs

  • Type, age and value of your vehicles.
  • Where you live and drive.
  • How you use the vehicles (pleasure, commute, business use).
  • Age and driving record of people who drive your vehicles (teenage drivers’ insurance rates are the highest).
  • What deductibles and liability limits you choose.

Those factors probably have about a 75% impact on your insurance rates, but other, newer factors can make the difference between getting a fair deal on your insurance and a great one.

To Get the Best Price on Auto Insurance:

  • Have an excellent insurance score (similar to a credit score – this can lower your premium by as much as 25%).
  • Own a home.
  • Combine your Maine Homeowners and Auto insurance with the same company.
  • Maintain your insurance without lapse. Lapses cost dearly.
  • Insure all your vehicles on the same policy.
  • Do business with a local Maine Independent Agent, who represents more than one company, and can shop to find the best deal for you.

Many other car insurance discounts may be available. Your agent, can ask you the right questions to make sure you get all the credit you deserve. Contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance at 207-799-5541 for a Maine auto insurance quote or get up to 4 comparison online car insurance quotes from our Quick Quote page.

The Case of the Lost Engagement Ring: Insurance Saves the Day!

Did you read or see the TV news story about the couple’s engagement that went awry when the $9,000 diamond ring fell into the ocean on Cape Cod, and could not be found?

Insurance Saves the Day
The good news is that the groom’s mother had contacted her local insurance agent , and insured the ring – without his knowledge -the day he bought it.

The Lesson
Loss of jewelry (or a stone from a ring) is not covered by most Maine homeowners insurance policies, unless you buy specific coverage. Your Maine insurance agency may call this “scheduling your jewelry”. It’s not expensive: this ring would have cost less than $70 a year to insure.

Until it’s given, the ring belongs to the groom, and can be insured on his policy. It’s usually scheduled on the bride-to-be’s policy after she’s received it. If you’re not a homeowner, you can buy a Maine renters insurance policy and schedule the ring there.

If you have questions about insuring your property, Maine car insurance, or other ways to protect your assets, contact Noyes Hall & Allen Insurance at 207-799-5541.

Garage Fire Prevention – 3 Tips to Protect Your Home and Autos

Two Southern Maine families were startled awake in the middle of the night by the smell of smoke, and the nightmare of a fire. Fortunately, no one was hurt in either case, but there was extensive damage to their properties. In each case, the fire started in a garage.

Fire damage is covered by Maine homeowners insurance. Damage to vehicles is not. To have vehicle damage covered, You need to purchase “other than collision” coverage on a Maine auto insurance policy. Hopefully, both of these families did have insurance to help them rebuild their homes and replace their vehicles. Of course, the best fire insurance is of all is prevention and avoidance. Here are a few tips to help prevent garage fires and to reduce damage if one should occur.

Fire Needs 3 Things to Exist
Fire  can not exist without oxygen, heat and fuel. If you can prevent those three from being together at the same time, you’ve greatly reduced your fire risk. Here are a few tips to help improve your chances.

Store Items Safely

  • Allow gasoline-powered tools to cool completely before putting them away. Store them a safe distance from combustibles. Remove remaining grass from mowers, line trimmers, etc. before storing them.
  • Never use grills, outdoor fryers, or any other cooking appliance in your garage.
  • Store combustibles away from any source of heat.
  • Use a metal cabinet with a closed door to store flammables like gasoline, wood finishes, spray paint or thinner.

Get Proper Safety Equipment

Fire Extinguisher
photo credit:

At a minimum, your garage should have a fire extinguisher. It’s also a good idea to have a smoke detector in the garage, especially if it’s attached to your home. Your town or city may have other codes or ordinances. Check with your local Code Enforcement Department.

Use Safe Workshop Practices

  • Sweep wood chips and sawdust immediately after cutting or sanding wood.
  • Seal paint cans and containers of finishes and solvents, and store them away from flammables, preferably in a metal cabinet.
  • Dispose of oily rags in a steel bucket with a closed lid. If you need to re-use them, you can also hang them on a line with good separation between them, far away from any heat source.