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A year after broken water pipe flooded her house, LA homeowner still waiting for DWP to pay for damage

The inside and outside of Suzan Richman’s San Fernando Valley house remains covered in dried mud and is uninhabitable almost a year after a decrepit Los Angeles Department of Water and Power water main burst open, sending a river of muddy water onto her property.

“My life is at a standstill. I feel like I’m in a holding pattern,” Richman told the NBC4 I-Team.

Since that water main burst on Jan. 23, 2023, Richman has been in a battle with DWP to get them to compensate her for her loss — which she says is well over $1 million — so she can rebuild her destroyed home.

“I want my life to be whole again and right now, it’s far from it,” Richman said.

Two months ago, the I-Team reported on how some homeowners get stuck with big bills when DWP water mains break and damage their cars and homes.

When that water main burst next to Richman’s house, she said a team from DWP showed up that very night to look at the damage, and advised her to seek compensation from her homeowner’s insurance, instead of the DWP.

“They said ‘this [the damage] is horrific, and you should go through your insurance because it takes forever with the DWP,’” Richman said.

A week after the flood, her insurance company wrote her that her “policy does not provide coverage [for] damage caused by water or flood” from a water main break off the property.”

So last February, she filed a claim with the DWP for compensation, but when she still hadn’t gotten a determination from the utility by June, she filed a lawsuit against them.

“The time it takes to help victims get back their lives is mindboggling,” Richman told the I-Team. 

She says two weeks ago, DWP showed up at her house for the third time since the flood, to assess the damage.

She says she still hasn’t heard back from the department nearly a year after the flood. This week, she found a homeless man squatting on her vacant property, making her afraid to be there just to check on it.

“Every aspect of my life has suffered from this incident,” Richman said.

To avoid more water pipe breaks in that west valley neighborhood, DWP notified residents that starting next week, it will begin to dig up and replace another 8,000 feet of pipe laid down in the area in 1937.

The utility earlier this year replaced the broken main that flooded Richman’s house.

Besides that leak, DWP told the I-Team in an email,  “there have been multiple leaks, including three which have occurred in the past two years” in the area. 

“A majority of this pipe (over 86% of the mainline), is rated at high to high-moderate priority for replacement,” said DWP’s email.

As for Richman, she’s hoping the DWP will soon make her a “fair” offer, so she can begin rebuilding the beloved home she once shared with her late husband. She says she hopes to avoid a court battle but will go there if need be.

“I want my life to be whole again and right now, it’s far from it,” she said.

DWP spokesperson Ellen Cheng told the I-Team the utility can’t comment on Richman’s case “due to pending litigation.”

Source: NBC Los Angeles

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