Councilwoman warns residents not to buy water main insurance

Sunday Times Newspapers

SOUTHGATE — Residents here are advised to watch out for solicitors peddling insurance policies against water main breaks.

    Councilwoman Patricia Ganzberger told the audience at Wednesday’s City Council meeting that she recently was approached by two well-dressed men in front of her house as she headed back into her house after checking on some items in her car.

    “They were trying to interest me in a policy in the event of a water main break that would absolve me of any kind of responsibility, and said we would be protected because the policy would cover any damages that I might incur,” she said.

    The men didn’t know who they were talking to, Ganzberger said, and she informed them that not only is she a council member, she is the body’s liaison to city’s Department of Public Services and a member of the city’s Water Board.

    “I told them that from my vantage point, people in the city don’t have to have a policy,” she said.

    It’s within the purview of the DPS to repair any damage done to property during water main repairs, Ganzberger said, and department workers typically return any lawns they may disturb during repairs to their original condition.

    Three or four days later, she said, she received a flier “along the lines of an invoice” spelling out a charge of $4.99 a month and “$59 plus change” for a year to insure her house for a full year.

    As soon she opened up the envelope, she called DPS Water Supervisor Keith Van Sparrentak, who troubleshoots water department problems.

    “He confirmed exactly what I had told them and informed me that I was not the first person to be approached,” Ganzberger said, adding that another resident had called the department recently about the same thing.

    The problem referred to in the offer involves a water main closer to the house, she said, but added that such cases typically don’t occur.

    DPS Director David Weidenbach told her at the time and said again Wednesday that he’s never seen a case like that.

    Buying such a policy would be like buying “volcano insurance,” Ganzberger said. She said she drew the analogy from that a policy she has for some property she and her husband own in Florida that — for reasons that are unclear — actually insures against volcanic activity.

    “I’m not really sure why it’s in there,” she said.

    Ganzberger wanted to draw attention to the water main insurance solicitors because they’re not the first legitimate-looking types trying to sell people something they don’t really need.

    About a month ago, she said, people were soliciting for a “federal stimulus package loan”  at a rate of 0 percent to 5 percent interest for any home improvement.

    One senior resident signed up for it, Ganzberger said, and instead of a $3,000 vinyl siding job, the woman ended up owing $11,000 at an interest rate of 29.1 percent.

    “This lady is on the hook for this,” Ganzberger said, “because everything was done legally. “It was just the fact that she didn’t read what she signed.

    “I would be happy if people knew that these things were scams.”