Warranty program endorsed by Fort Smith government off to a slow start
By Aric Mitchell
December 14, 2017
The optional insurance coverage for exterior water service lines from meter to home from Service Line Warranties of America (SLWA) has caused some Fort Smith residents to think the coverage comes from the city and to wonder if it is a voluntary program.
SLWA representatives were in town Wednesday night (Dec. 13) to help clear up some of the confusion, but less than 10 people, when accounting for city officials, media, and SLWA reps themselves, showed up at the Creekmore Park Community Center to hear the information.
But that’s okay, according to Joshua Robertson, communications and training manager for the city’s utilities department, who said the city would continue to roll out information through additional mailings, social media, and three more public meetings throughout 2018. The first mailing was sent to residents on Oct. 27, and it has resulted in 243 signups so far, most of which (185) were for the exterior water service line option. The rest were for exterior sewer service line (38) and interior plumbing (20).
The exterior water service line coverage, SLWA notes, goes from the meter and/or curb box until the line “daylights” inside the home, including the service line under concrete floors. It costs $5.99 per month or $67 per year and entails unlimited annual coverage with unlimited calls up to $8,500 per call. In the spring, SLWA will send out the offer for its exterior sewer service line coverage with the same benefits for $7.99 per month or $91 per year. The option will include from the city main tap until the line daylights inside the home, including the line under concrete floors.
The interior plumbing coverage will cover residential in-home water supply lines, in-home sewer lines, and all drain lines connected to the main sewer stack. It will be the most expensive option at $9.49 per month or $108.99 per year. SLWA plans to bundle the three as well with no additional discount currently being offered, representatives said, so on a monthly plan all three would run $23.47 and on a yearly, it would be $266.99 ($1.22 per month cheaper).
The city has a three-year marketing agreement with SLWA with option for renewal. It will allow the company to use city co-branding during that time and serve as an “endorsement,” but it will not receive revenue from signups, and the programs do not use city or other public monies to administer. Other cities in Arkansas currently partnering with SLWA include Eureka Springs, North Little Rock, Sherwood, Texarkana, and Helena-West Helena.
“Homeowners believe that the pipes located on their property will last forever or that the city will repair the line if it breaks. That’s simply not the case,” said Jerry Walters, the city’s utilities director. “Many factors contribute to the life expectancy of a line such as tree root intrusion, ground shifting, weather, and age – all factors which are covered through the Service Line Warranties of America program.”
SLWA representatives said the company handled “tens of thousands” of repairs over the last year and main contributing factors were the type of piping used, age of the pipe, soil conditions, and installation quality. During site evaluations, SLWA found 60% of Fort Smith homes were built over 37 years ago.
SLWA Background and Process
SLWA reports more than 400 partnerships with municipalities, utility, and association partner brands nationwide. It provides emergency repair service plans to over 3.1 million households and has received an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and endorsement from the National League of Cities. It is based in Canonsburg, Pa., and it reports lifetime savings of $64 million across 100,000 customers, or around $640 per customer during its approximately 15 years in business.
For repairs, Circle W Plumbing and Westark Plumbing are the program’s only participating providers thus far, but it is open to all. Businesses must have an A+ rating with the BBB, the ability to provide service 24/7, uniformed technicians in company-branded vehicles, and their technicians must pass drug screening and state background checks. Companies will need valid and active licensing, bonding, and liability as well along with workers’ compensation participation and motor vehicle insurance. They also must sign an agreement for performance standards with SLWA, have references from previous jobs, and employ only individuals legally eligible to work in the United States.
When filing a claim, customers will need to call SLWA first who will in turn contact the local service provider. The service provider will then contact the customer within one hour to set an appointment. After the work is finished, SLWA contacts the customer to gauge satisfaction.