Since mid-October, homeowners throughout Killeen have received a blue, two-page letter, introducing an optional warranty that covers exterior water line and exterior sewer/septic line repairs.
The letter has a response deadline of Nov. 19.
“In the event of an emergency, these plans can save you a significant amount of money — a service line replacement may cost you thousands of dollars,” the letter said.
The cost of the service starts at $5.25 a month and can go to as high as $134.88 annually.
An average cost to replace a water service line is $2,587 and a septic/sewer line is $3,929.
If enrolled in the service, the homeowner would pay nothing should an emergency arise.
There are three options: either cover the water service or sewer/septic line or a package deal that will cover both lines.
Septic tanks, leaching fields, pumps or grinders are not covered under this service.
The City of Killeen is partnered with Chicago-based Service Line Warranties of America to “help eligible homeowners be prepared … in case of an emergency.”
This insurance is for the portion of the line on private property.
“The portion of the line between the right of way and their property is their (homeowners’) responsibility,” city spokeswoman Hilary Shine wrote in a Friday email. “The marketing materials are for additional coverages. They are completely optional. The city does not recommend the coverages, rather allows the company to solicit customers as part of our agreement for the right of way service.”
According to Shine, the city is responsible for a homeowners’ sewer lateral line that is in the public right of way.
The council decided earlier this year to take responsibility for the lateral line within the public right of way, and create a mandatory warranty program for which customers pay 50 cents per month.
This was after complaints from the public about repair bills. In September 2018, homeowner Lee Huggins came to the council to request the city take a look at how it can aid homeowners with faulty water lines. He had been hit with a high quote on his Killeen property.
The home struggled with a faulty service line, which connected the drains and toilets to the city’s regional sewer system, for several years when his plumber told him a tree root had likely broken through the pipe 13 feet past his property line in the public right of way. The initial quote to replace the line was between $8,000 and $13,000.
After public pressure, the city set aside about $379,000 in September 2018 for the fiscal 2019 budget to aid homeowners with service-line failures.
Then, the city said it would come up a plan to help homeowners in the future.
Who and what?
The current optional coverage would start from the home’s boundary/right of way line and end at the end of the exterior line on the property, according to city staff.
It repairs damage due to wear and tear, not an accident or negligence, the letter stated.
“An owner of both a residential home permanently secured to the ground and the land it is located on may be eligible for coverage. Recreational homes or home on wheels and properties used for commercial purposes are not eligible,” the letter said.
Those who live in a subdivision involved with a homeowner’s association have to contact the association before accepting the coverage. Also, those who live in a multifamily structure and do not own the entire structure, will be responsible for providing Service Line with a signed release from “all other homeowners for any work which may affect their portion,” according to city staff.
If a homeowner has pre-existing conditions and is aware of it, the homeowner cannot enroll in the warranty service.
The plan starts the day the form is processed and there is a 30-day wait period before the initial service call, giving the first year coverage of 11 months. After the annual contract is renewed, there will be no waiting period.
Once covered, a customer can “receive as many service calls as you need up to $8,500 per call on either a covered water service, well repair and septic/sewer calls.”
“Once you have made the service call, SWLA will take care of your covered repair, dispatching a plumber to your home and pay the bill directly,” the letter said.
To sign up for a plan, simply complete and return the form or call 1-844-257-8795. You can also visit www.slwofa.com.
Cost to repair or replace the following:
A leaking, frozen, low-pressure or permanently blocked exterior water service line from the city’s utility box to the external wall of the home
A leaking or blocked sewer line that takes wastewater away from the exit point within the home to the city’s utility responsibility or septic line that takes wastewater away from the exit point with the home up to the point of the septic tank on the property.