WANTAGH, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — A common clause in power company regulations allows a Long Island utility company to deny claims for property damaged by equipment failure.
And some homeowners are angry that they’re left footing the bill when things go wrong.
Beth Dehler’s Wantagh home was set on fire three months ago after a squirrel chewed through wiring on a new transformer. When PSEG crews turned on the device, flames shot through the roof, melting part of the home’s siding and frying the electrical board inside.
Dehler has sought compensation from PSEG for the damage, but is still waiting for a response.
“It was their wire going to our house,” Dehler said. “It blew out our entire electrical system and a wire to our burner.”
Suzanne Marciano, of Wantagh, shelled out $12,000 to replace a fence, lights and an underground sprinkler system after a corroded clamp on a utility pole broke, setting her backyard on fire, CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported.
“It’s their equipment on my property and I’m paying them,” Marciano said.
PSEG denied Marciano’s claim, citing “unpredictable equipment failure.” PSEG policy states that the utility company does not cover claims caused by equipment failure, damage or unforeseen accidents.
Marciano believes the fire could have been prevented.
“It’s not unforeseen if you don’t maintain something,” Marciano said.
Under this policy, PSEG said they will likely honor Dehler’s claim because PSEG crews were on-site at the time of the incident.
PSEG told CBS2 the policy is not unique. Utility companies across the state limit their liability for “damages resulting from the presence of the company’s equipment on customer’s premises.”
Long Island has more than 600,000 wooden utility poles, with more than half belonging to PSEG, Gusoff reported. While inspection programs exist to maintain adequate electric service, inspecting every individual could be cost prohibitive, according to PSEG.
“Limits on liability exist to keep rates within reason,” the company said in a statement.
Marciano said she intends on suing the company.
“Can you argue as a homeowner that the utility was aware that poles in this condition or of this age should have been replaced earlier,” attorney Robert Valli said.
PSEG said it plans to inspect half of its wooden utility poles over the next three years.
Long Island homeowners who have complaints about service can file an insurance claim or call the Public Service Commission complaint line at 1- 800-342-3377.