SHERIDAN — When homeowners in Sheridan get the deed to call a house their home, many do not realize they also become the proud owners of the water and sewer pipelines running from their house to the main line — until they’ve had to fork over as much as $8,000 to repair or replace that line when something goes wrong.
For those who have faced such a surprise repair in the past — and those who would like to avoid one in the future — there is some good news.
This week, City Council approved an agreement with the National League of Cities to offer its Service Line Warranties of America program in Sheridan. The program — which will not require any funds or management from the city — will offer up to $8,500 to help offset the cost to repair or replace broken, blocked or leaking water and sewer service lines damaged by normal wear and tear.
“I would say 80 to 90 percent of people who come in to get a permit to replace a service line did not know they owned that line,” City Utilities Services Coordinator Mike Peacock said. Knowledge may be limited, Peacock said, because Sheridan is one of the few cities he’s encountered where the homeowner owns the service line all the way from the house to the main pipeline.
Peacock also said many homeowners mistakenly assume that their homeowner’s insurance covers water and sewer line problems. Some policies do cover line breaks or leaks, but only within the house. Many policies require additional endorsements for coverage of water and sewer pipelines, so Peacock recommends that every homeowner check his or her insurance for its extent of coverage.
Peacock said data on permits to replace utility service lines in Sheridan indicate there are at least 25-30 per year, noting that figure does not include repairs, and likely even some replacements, that did not make a permit request with the city. He said he was surprised to find that some of the repairs were done on newer service lines, indicating that issues can arise anytime, anywhere.
Two years ago, city staff members attended a rural water conference in Casper, and that is where they first heard about service line warranty programs.
“We all said, ‘That’s something Sheridan needs to offer,’” Peacock said.
Staff originally recommended Sheridan allow NLC to offer a service line warranty program in July 2013, but council members asked that staff research other companies. Peacock said out of four national or regional warranty companies, NLC was the only one licensed in Wyoming.
NLC offers service line warranty programs around the state in Rock Springs, Casper, Douglas, Cody, Green River, Lusk and more. Riverton joined this winter after trying to offer a city-sponsored warranty program and ending up in debt because of it, Peacock said.
“I talked to all the cities, and there were no complaints,” Peacock said.
In fact, Wyoming has the highest rate of participation in the SLWA program in the nation.
If the city attorney approves the agreement and terms and conditions provided by Service Line Warranties of America, it will take approximately 60 days from the time the agreement is signed until mailings are sent to homeowners in Sheridan.
Mailings, including bills, from Service Line Warranties of America will include the city logo as a representation of the approval given to the program by City Council, but the city is in no way responsible for management of the program. The city will receive a “license fee” of 50 cents per month for each residential warranty.
Peacock also emphasized that participation is voluntary. Coverage for claims becomes available 30 days after a participant’s enrollment date, and the program can be canceled at any time.
Dues for sewer line coverage are $7.75 per month, or $88 per year, and coverage for water lines is $6.75 per month, or $76 annually. Peacock is working on negotiating lower prices, if possible.
People may choose if they want one or both programs. The sewer line warranty also covers service calls to rod sewer lines plugged by natural use or tree roots. An SLWA-approved contractor must be used.
As with any warranty program, there are restrictions on what is and what is not covered, Peacock said, so it’s important to read the terms and conditions before signing up. The programs only cover residential properties in city limits.