Service Line Warranties of America (SLWA), the optional insurance coverage for exterior water and sewer service lines from meter to home, has increased enrollment to 1,099 signups in Fort Smith since hitting 243 in December of 2017.
The city of Fort Smith services 37,092 metered accounts, so about 3% are using the program. The city has a three-year marketing agreement with SLWA with an option for renewal. It allows the company to use city co-branding during that time to 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 Arkansas cities partnering with SLWA include Eureka Springs, Hermitage, North Little Rock, Sherwood, Texarkana, and Helena-West Helena.
Most of the signups thus far have been for the exterior water service line feature, but SLWA representative Jessica Fish told Talk Business & Politics on Wednesday (April 25) she expected the number to rise for exterior sewer service line coverage with the latest mailouts. Of the signups, 979 of the 1,099 tally are for the water option.
That offering was not available during SLWA’s informational meetings in December. The water line coverage costs $5.99 per month or $67 per year and entails unlimited annual coverage with unlimited calls up to $8,500 per call. The sewer service line coverage has the same benefits for $7.99 per month or $91 per year. The option includes from the city main tap until the line daylights inside the home, including the line under concrete floors.
Interior plumbing coverage also is available, and it will cover residential in-home water supply lines, in-home sewer lines, and all drain lines connected to the main sewer stack. It is the most expensive option at $9.49 per month or $108.99 per year. Fish said U.K.-based HomeServe, the SLWA’s parent company, plans to offer a bundled discount option on all products at 10% off in the fall of 2018.
The first mailing was sent to residents on Oct. 27, 2017, and it took just under two months to hit 243 signups.
“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, in a previous press release. “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. So far, Fort Smith residents have filed 20 claims (13 water, 6 interior plumbing, and 1 sewer).
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.