I normally agree with Lewis Diuguid’s columns, but his April 6 piece, “Offer for water line safety ignored,” is risky advice.
As a result of a measure I sponsored, Kansas City in 2013 began offering coverage for outside water or sewer line repairs to homeowners through the service line warranty program endorsed by the National League of Cities and administered by Utility Service Partners. More than 270 cities in 34 states offer this service through the league.
This program costs the city nothing, and in fact, the city receives a royalty used to support community gardens and urban agriculture through the KC Grow water access program. Many homeowners don’t understand they are responsible for maintaining and repairing the water and sewer lines that run from their homes to the main lines, and such repairs normally are not covered by homeowners’ insurance.
While unclogging a sewer line is relatively inexpensive, repairing a broken or collapsed line can cost thousands of dollars. I acknowledge that purchasing such coverage should not be a priority for homeowners in newer homes in newer subdivisions with relatively new water and sewer lines, but most of us aren’t in that situation.
That’s one reason more than 12,000 Kansas City families have signed up for the city’s program. Many older homes like mine have clay sewer pipes that are prone to tree roots entering through their joints and clogging the lines. That’s exactly what happened to my sewer line when I was washing clothes early one Sunday, and the wash water started coming up through the floor drain.
I pay $120 a year for sewer and water line coverage through the city’s program, and a plumber came out and unclogged the line. Without coverage, my charge for unclogging the line would have exceeded that.
While sewer line clogs are the main threat for most homeowners, many homeowners in older parts of Kansas City, particularly from around 63rd Street to the Missouri River, have galvanized steel water lines, which are not nearly as durable as copper lines. For those homeowners, water line coverage is equally or more important.
Although I could probably get by with just sewer line coverage, which costs $73 annually without too much risk, it’s worth the extra $47 a year to me to get the combined coverage just for my peace of mind. Mr. Diuguid’s assertion that similar programs by private companies such as HomeServe seem like a better deal than the National League of Cities’ program the city offers misses the mark.
I get the same offers in the mail from HomeServe that he does, and its water line coverage costs $65.88 annually compared with $61 for the city’s program. And if you read the fine print, you will see that when you sign up with HomeServe you are charged for 12 months, but only get 11 months coverage because there is a 30-day wait period for coverage to kick in.
The city’s program waives this 30-day wait period so coverage is effective as soon as you enroll. Also, the HomeServe program caps coverage at $6,000 annually, while the city’s program provides $4,000 coverage per incident, with an additional $4,000 for street or sidewalk cutting if needed, with no annual cap.
Plus, HomeServe does not even offer sewer line coverage, which is a greater need for most Kansas City homeowners.
John Sharp is a former Kansas City Council member.