Beware if you’ve been solicited by HomeServe

Maybe you’re among the many homeowners in Summerlin who recently received mail from a company called HomeServe, urging you to buy insurance against a rupture in the waterline that extends from the street to the foundation of your home.

And maybe you have already signed up to pay the annual premium of $59.88 for the coverage. Or maybe you authorized HomeServe to charge your credit, debit or checking account a quarterly or monthly amount for the coverage, as is suggested on the unsolicited contract that was mailed to you.

In either case, bear this in mind: The Las Vegas Valley Water District has issued an online statement to its customers titled, “Beware of insurance plan solicitations.”

The statement goes on to explain, “A company called HomeServe has been soliciting residents to purchase an ‘insurance’ policy that covers repairs/replacement of residential water service lines from the municipal water meter to the foundation of the home. The company is in no way affiliated with the LVVWD, and the district does not endorse this organization or its service.”

The statement adds that the water district “has not seen any evidence that would indicate this is a major issue of concern in Southern Nevada.” It says the district respects the right of homeowners to buy “products or services they think may be of benefit but encourages residents to make informed decisions.”

In essence, the district is saying you should think things out carefully if you’re one of the hundreds and possibly thousands of Summerlin residents to have been solicited by HomeServe.

And if you have already purchased the insurance but didn’t read the small print at the bottom of the contract, here’s a reminder of what it says: “If I have chosen credit/debit card or E-Z pay, this authorization is to remain in effect and my coverage will be automatically renewed at the then-current rate unless I cancel by calling 1-877-444-7750.”

Neither I nor the LVVWD are in any way referring to this insurance policy as a scam or a ripoff. I will say, however, that you might expect a bit more from a company with a seal showing the State of Nevada and containing the statement “protecting homeowners in Nevada” in the upper left corner of the contract that it mails to homeowners indiscriminately.

For example, you would think the address of the company might be more than a post office box number in Las Vegas. And, if you check the business directory of your Dex phone book, you will not find HomeServe listed.

The company is affiliated with a bigger company called HomeServe USA. According to its website, “It is estimated that one million homeowners will suffer a water service line emergency in 2012. More than four million homeowners will have a major sewer/septic line disruption in 2012.”

The website adds that “replacing a section of water service line costs an average of $2,300.”

No data could be found to confirm how many water service line emergencies or septic/sewer line disruptions there were nationally in 2012.

But Bronson Mack, a spokesman for the LVVWD, said that of the 350,000 water meters serviced by the district, “I would estimate that we get somewhere between 100 and 200 calls a year about these kinds of breaks.”

Simple arithmetic will tell you that even if there were 200 such breaks, that would represent a number so far below 1 percent that it could easily be classified as infinitesimal.

“We have seen no evidence of major issues in this area,” said Mack. Moreover, “most of our waterlines are not real deep,” he added. “Should there be a break, I can’t imagine that it would cost anywhere near $2,300 to repair.”

And if you’re not familiar with the water district’s “leak adjustment program,” which I’ll confess that I was not aware of, Mack explained, “it’s a one-time program for any customer. If they show evidence of a repair, we’ll adjust our rate and help write off a portion of the bill.”

So, as Mack stated, “It is buyer beware. We’re not telling anybody not to buy the insurance policy, and we’re not calling it a scam. We’re simply saying it’s something for you to think about very carefully.”

Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. His newest novel, “All For Nothing,” is now available. Contact him at hjaffe@cox.net.

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