by Dana Fowle
Aired June 10, 2016
You might have noticed in Fulton County something in your mailbox offering sewer and water line warranty coverage. Fulton County wants homeowners to seriously think about signing up for this coverage in case you get a line leak. Not only is Fulton doing it, but other counties, and Atlanta, are thinking about doing this, too.
It never happens at a good time. The sewer backs up. Or the water line bursts. But it happens. And much of the time you the homeowner is responsible, and it's not a cheap fix. The average water leak, according to Fulton County's Water Resources Division, costs about $1,500 to repair. A sewer line leak hits the pocketbook at about $3,500.
Paul Williams, with Fulton County, told the Fox 5 I-Team that 70 percent of all calls to the county about
about sewer and water-related issues, they find is ultimately the homeowner's responsibility.
"That is a lot of phone calls and a lot of frustration," he said.
So to reduce that frustration, Fulton County sought bids and landed on HomeServe, with an A+ Better Business Bureau rating, to endorse as the go-to warranty company.
"It allows the homeowner, to buy very cost-effectively, a warranty protection plan, that in the event the sewer line fails, a water line ruptures, HomeServe will come in at no additional cost," added Mr. Williams.
The county gets a commission. The deal, up and running since last fall, makes the county about $800 a month. Not a windfall, but the long-term goal is to reduce calls to the county.
But do you sign up for this $120 a year warranty service? Well, it depends on what kind of pipes that you have. The metro area has three kinds of water and sewer lines. The newer PVC type. The cast iron pipes installed in the 60s and 70s. Back in the 40s and 50s, they used ceramic tile pipe which is a lot like a flower pot. Fragile.
Ron Anderson, president of the Georgia Plumbers' Trade Association, said the type pipe you have will help you decide whether to spend the money on a warranty. First, a little background.
"Luckily replacement of sewers doesn't happen as much as people think it does. More of your sewer calls is nothing more than unclogging the pipe," he said.
If you live in a newly-built home in a newer subdivision like you'd see in the suburbs, this plumbing expert says he wouldn't pay for a service line warranty. But older areas is where it gets tricky, he added.
He pointed out a lawn with two, large oak trees whose roots seek out the nutrient-rich sewer line. But near the home, he sees a promising sign. This home is fitted with a new PVC pipe. So he'd pass again on a warranty.
But the neighbor's yard is possibly a different story. At a glance you can't tell what pipe is used, but if you had to fix a leak replacing its extensive front lawn feature would be expensive.
Ron Anderson said, "There's always lot of digging."
He said if this home still uses the now possibly rusting cast iron piping then, yes, a service warranty may be in order.
In an email to the Fox 5 I-Team, HomeServe says it has "99% customer satisfaction" and has saved Fulton County homeowners $35,000 in emergency repairs.
But it should be noted that last year the company admitted no guilt but entered into an agreement with the state of Maryland to change some of its business practices for using "overly general language to disclose certain coverage limitations."
Paul Williams said its Fulton County contract with HomeServe is clear.
"When you purchase this there are no pre-existing conditions. The only condition is
that you wait for 30 days to get your first service. So, if even you have a failure at the
point of call that is still going to be repaired. If you wait 30