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A warranty for homeowners when water, sewer lines fail?

Greater Sudbury is considering backing a warranty plan for homeowners that would offer protection when water and sewer lines on their property have to be repaired.
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Greater Sudbury is considering backing a warranty plan for homeowners that would offer protection when water and sewer lines on their property have to be repaired. File photo.
Greater Sudbury is considering backing a warranty plan for homeowners that would offer protection when water and sewer lines on their property have to be repaired.

A staff report going to the operations committee Monday says many homeowners aren't aware that maintaining water and sewer lines on their property is their responsibility, not the city's. So when repairs are needed, they're faced with a huge bill they're not prepared for.

“Over time, the private portion of the water and sewer utility service lines fail from normal wear and tear,” the report says. “Often such failures could lead to expensive repairs for homeowners.”

If adopted, the new policy would see the city issue an RFP for a provider of the warranty, and would officially endorse whomever wins the contract.

“Typically, the warranty service provider handles all aspects of the program, including marketing, billing, customer service, contractor management and completion of all repairs to all applicable codes,” the report says. “Homeowners can access service using a streamlined business process to affect the required repairs. Contractors are thoroughly vetted through a third-party compliance management vendor that performs background checks.”

Hamilton was the first municipality in Canada to introduce a similar warranty program. Since then, the Association of Municipalities Ontario (AMO) has endorsed the use of sewer and water service warranty program.

The company providing the warranty would be expected to provide a sewer service warranty protection plan, a water service warranty protection plan and an interior plumbing and drainage warranty protection plan.

Having the city behind the plan will help the service provider find customers, the report said.

“The use of the municipality's logo alerts local residents to the legitimacy of the warranty program, resulting in larger numbers of enrolments,” the report said. “Pre-approving ensures that the city is satisfied with all marketing materials with the municipal logo before it is sent out.

“Furthermore, the warranty plan provider is responsible for covering all costs of producing and mailing marketing materials. The warranty provider also has to administer and perform all aspects of marketing, billing, customer service and performing all repairs to standards specified in agreement.”

Homeowners who enrol would likely either pay a monthly fee or make single payment each year. The actual fee will be determined by RFP, “where the proponents will be evaluated on their abilities to deliver the service and the fees of the program.

“The successful warranty provider will also pay annual commission-based revenue to the city in exchange for the use of the CGS logo and to cover our administration costs from all active enrolled customers in any or all of the warranty plans within the geographical boundaries of the City of Greater Sudbury,” the report said.

If approved, the sewer and water line warranty program should be in place by early 2016.

Darren MacDonald

About the Author: Darren MacDonald

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