Some say it stinks, but it's just insurance


First, the letter with the city of Las Vegas logo is not a fraudulent solicitation. Oh, it’s a solicitation, but it’s endorsed by the city.

When you live in Las Vegas, many things, and not just breasts, seem fake, so it’s natural for people to be suspicious.

I have received many calls and emails questioning the legitimacy of the letters sent in May to about 100,000 residential sewer customers asking whether they wanted to buy sewer line repair insurance.

The letters from Service Line Warranties of America asked whether city residents want to pay $6.75 a month sewer insurance, or $76 a year, to cover the lateral sewer line from an individual’s home to the main line.

For that, the company pays up to $4,000 to repair any broken lines the homeowner is responsible to repair. In addition, it covers up to another $4,000 if road cutting is necessary.

The city is letting the warranty company use the city logo on mailings, stationery and advertising. For that, it receives $74,187 in license fees over three years. The city also receives 10 percent of the warranty fees each year. So yes, this is a moneymaker for the city.

The city does not pay for the letters or any advertising. Service Line Warranties does.

About 5 percent of the customers contacted have signed up. “That’s a good number,” said Brian Davis, general manager for the Western Region of Service Lines Warranties. He estimated about 15 to 20 percent are likely to sign up, based on what has happened in the 175 other communities where his company offers sewer line insurance.

One caller was upset that the city was allowing its logo to be used for commercial purposes. “Is it appropriate for a government entity to be endorsing a private property?”

This caller believes the solicitation is a money-making scare tactic to help a private company. But the bigger question he asked is: “How often does this occur?”

It’s hard to tell how frequently homeowners face this problem because some people or homeowners associations just call plumbers directly, have it fixed and never contact the city, said Jorge Cervantes, director of Public Works.

The city gets about 20 to 25 calls a year about broken sewer lines that turn out to be the homeowners’ responsibility, Cervantes said.

That is a relatively small number, but as Las Vegas Councilman Bob Coffin said, the cost “is a large number when you get hit with it, and you don’t know if the plumber is giving you the straight answer.”

Coffin said most people don’t realize the lateral line from the home to the street is the responsibility of homeowners and has always been that way in Las Vegas. “There’s been legislation in the past in Carson City to change that and make the sewer lines the responsibility of the municipality, but there’s a tremendous expense. I think it ought to be the municipalities’ responsibility.”

The warranty company said repair costs ranged from $1,200 to $4,000 or more. Coffin has heard of sewer repair bills as high as $12,000 and estimates as high as $14,000.

The worst culprits for sewer line damage are roots, age and shoddy construction by homebuilders, who often put in the lateral lines.

I’m not the Sewer Goddess Who Sees All And Knows All.

But the company is recommended by the National League of Cities, which is reputable.

There are exceptions to the coverage. Once you pay, there is a 30-day wait before you’re covered, so that there is no way a pre-existing condition would suddenly get coverage. The lines within the home are not covered. Call 1-855-999-8805 or check the website at www.SLWofA.com for the exceptions.

If it’s the homeowner’s responsibility, the homeowner calls Service Line Warranties, which arranges a repair within 24 hours, most of the time.

Nobody has to buy this insurance. It’s not mandatory, like car insurance. You can gamble you will never have the problem. You may have plenty of money to cover the bill if your sewer line breaks.

Clark County is evaluating a similar program, spokesman Erik Pappa said.

Fear not, the solicitation is not nefarious. It’s just sewer line insurance. And it’s your call whether you think you need it.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call her at (702) 383-0275.