Many people believe that when their water or sewer service lines leak, break or clog, the repair is either the responsibility of the City or covered by their homeowner’s insurance. Unfortunately, neither is the case.
Myths about the cause of service line failures are common. Many people believe that their service lines will never fail in their lifetime; however, reports indicate that the vast majority of the nation’s water pipes were installed after World War II and are in serious need of replacement or repair. In fact, a report from the National Association of Water Companies and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce stated that nearly half of all pipes in the U.S. were in poor shape.
In addition to the age of the lines, there are other reasons for line failure:
- Invasive tree roots – Roots often “follow” and disrupt service lines, seeking out pipes because they provide essential elements that trees need to grow, such as water, nutrients and oxygen. When tree roots get into pipes, they can cause clogs and blocks that lead to serious problems and the need for repair.
- Poor soil conditions – Conditions such as low soil resistivity and high chloride content can cause corrosion of pipes from the outside and lead to leaks and contamination.
- Sudden climate change – Water lines are more susceptible to breaks at times of extreme temperature swings, both hot and cold. The Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission and the American Society of Civil Engineers advise that just a 10-degree change in temperature can increase stress on water mains and service lines and increase the risk of damage.
- Pipe materials – Older pipes were generally made from clay, steel or tile – materials more prone to deterioration over time. If your home was built before the 1980s, it is most likely that your pipes are made of clay and in need of repair or replacement.
With the support and endorsement of the National League of Cities (NLC), the Service Line Warranty Program, administered by Service Line Warranties of America (SLWA), is currently available in more than 300 cities and municipalities across North America and has helped over 140,000 homeowners save more than $90 million in service line repair costs.
“Service Line Warranties of America has an exemplary record of delivering outstanding service to customers, partners and contractors. The Program is an asset to every city across the nation as older homes feel the pain of aging infrastructure and deteriorating water and sewer lines. Addressing our nation’s aging infrastructure is a top priority at National League of Cities for both public and private infrastructure – and this is a valuable solution every community can offer to homeowners,” advises NLC CEO & Executive Director Clarence Anthony.
The experience derived from having executed a multitude of city and municipal rollouts has enabled SLWA and NLC to refine the program to meet the unique requirements of the community in which the program is implemented. City-specific terms and conditions address the needs of homeowners and leadership within city limits. The program is also committed to small, minority and women-owned businesses by working with contractors in the immediate service area to keep dollars in the local economy. The collective result of this experience has led to a thoroughly vetted, tested and successful program structure that educates residents about their service line responsibilities and provides a very consumer-friendly service line warranty option at a fair-market price.
4 Reasons Why Homeowners Need a Service Line Warranty
Most homeowners don’t think about the condition of the external buried water and sewer lines that run from the public utility connection to the exterior of their homes – out of sight, out of mind. In fact, people don’t think about their service lines until confronted with a backed up sewer or leaking water line when challenged to find a reputable plumber and pay for the repair that can cost thousands of dollars. Protecting home and property – usually the single largest investment an individual will make in their lifetime, according to Freddie Mac – is a top priority for many homeowners.
- The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) recently gave a D (D = Poor) rating to America’s water and wastewater public infrastructure. Homeowners’ water and sewer lines are subjected to the same conditions as the lines that make up the public infrastructure – age, root invasion, ground shifting, fluctuating temperatures and more. While government is addressing the public infrastructure, homeowners are responsible for the cost of repairs to the service lines located on their property. These repairs can cost from hundreds of dollars to upwards of $3,500 per repair, which can be hard on a family’s budget. With a warranty, the homeowner is covered for the repair costs due to normal wear and tear, with no service fees or deductibles.
- Several studies indicate that many people in the U.S. are not prepared for these kind of unexpected expenses, even though most Americans have a budget. A recent study by the Federal Reserve suggested that more than 50% of individuals surveyed could not afford a hypothetical emergency expense of $400 without selling belongings or borrowing money. Homeowners work hard for their money and it’s no secret that the expense of owning a home adds up over time. Bankrate’s study revealed that while more than 80 percent of Americans have a prepared household budget, more than three in five would have to look elsewhere, such as borrowing from family or using a credit card, in order to cover a small emergency expense; they simply don’t have enough savings to cover the cost. With depleted savings and many of those eligible for retirement unprepared, expensive repairs are just not in the budget.
When evaluating monthly expenses, such as a water or sewer line warranty program, homeowners are encouraged to consider what they have in savings and what they can honestly spend each month for protection. For homeowners with limited resources, a few dollars a month to provide peace of mind could outweigh the risk of “if” a failure would ever occur, considering only 38 percent said they had sufficient savings to cover an emergency expense.
- It can be difficult to find a contractor you can trust to do the job right the first time. Lifehacker.com suggests, “You can’t cut corners here – there are plenty of bad handymen out there willing to do shoddy work and charge you a ton of money, and they give the good ones who are eager for your business a bad name.” With a service line warranty, the vetting has been done, so you know that the contractor sent to make the repair has proper licenses and insurance and is located within the area.
The Western-Pennsylvania chapter of the BBB comments on the challenge of locating the right contractor. “Hiring a home improvement contractor to perform work or repairs can certainly be an overwhelming process during an unexpected emergency. It’s also the type of situation that likely has an impact on people’s budgets, which is why it’s important for consumers to be educated on their rights and responsibilities when choosing a contractor.”
The NLC Service Line Warranty Program only uses contractors that have successfully passed a rigorous background check, maintain proper licensing and insurance – and as the program’s representatives, they’re committed to providing exceptional customer service.
- Homeowners with a service line warranty are more likely to report a problem and have it fixed quickly, which helps with water conservation efforts and prevents ground pollution. We know the impacts that water main breaks have on water waste: a campaign launched by the National Association of Water Companies and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reports that there are 650 water main breaks per day in the U.S., resulting in a daily loss of 7 billion gallons of water. The same failing pipes wreaking havoc with municipal water systems are carrying water to your resident’s homes, and are subject to the same breaks and leaks.
Click here for more information about NLC’s Service Line Warranty Program. There is no cost for your city to participate, implementation is easy, and your city receives a share of the revenues collected.
About the author: Rasheeda Senger is the senior associate for Strategy & Partnerships at the National League of Cities. Follow Rasheeda on Twitter @LRasheeda.