Utility Service Partners, Inc.

Sharing industry news, best practices and program highlights from experts in the field.

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NLC Service Line Warranty Program Overview

The National League of Cities (NLC) Service Line Warranty Program, administered by Utility Service Partners, Inc. (USP), helps homeowners save thousands of dollars on the high cost of repairs to broken, leaking or clogged water and sewer lines while also addressing the aging infrastructure in communities. USP’s warranty products offer affordable coverage for buried external water and sewer lines from the point of utility connection to the home (including those portions buried under concrete slabs).

The NLC Service Line Warranty Program is a warranty and not an insurance policy. Offered at no cost to cities and municipalities, the NLC Service Line Warranty Program is an important educational tool for informing homeowners of their service line responsibilities while offering an affordable solution for homeowners to proactively manage these potential expenses.

Homeowners often do not have money set aside for an unexpected, expensive service line repair that can cost from hundreds of dollars to upwards of $3,500 per repair. With the NLC Service Line Warranty Program, homeowners can purchase an optional, affordable solution providing generous coverage with no deductibles or service fees and no annual or lifetime limits.

Homeowners will have peace of mind knowing that repairs are not only covered, but handled quickly. One call to USP’s consumer brand, Service Line Warranties of America (SLWA), and a licensed, reputable contractor in the area will be quickly dispatched to make repairs to the homeowner’s satisfaction and in accordance with local code. There are no forms or paperwork to fill out, just one call to a toll-free number for claims processing, which is available 24/7/365 days a year. Repairs are usually completed within 24 hours of submitting a claim.

Plumbers dispatched to the homeowner’s residence are part of the USP Contractor Network and undergo a rigorous background check conducted by a third-party compliance management firm before being accepted into the network. Contractors are local to the community into which the program has been introduced to help keep money in the local economy. USP encourages small, minority and women-owned businesses to participate in the program. Only contractors that share USP’s commitment to excellence in customer service and maintain a good Better Business Bureau rating, as well as proper licensing and insurance, are welcomed into the network.

The NLC Service Line Warranty Program has helped more than 100,000 homeowners save over $64 million in service line repair costs.

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Partnering for Brand Stewardship

handshakeCommitment to unparalleled brand stewardship is demonstrated through Utility Service Partners (USP) outstanding brand reputation. USP manages all aspects of the National League of Cities (NLC) Service Line Warranty Program, including marketing, billing, customer service, the contractor network and completion of all repairs. Samples of campaign materials are provided to the city’s designated representatives for approval before mailing offers to promote the program. Homeowner campaign letters reference a partnership with the city, but are explicit in communicating that participation is optional and voluntary and clearly identify USP and the consumer-facing brand, Service Line Warranties of America (SLWA), as the program administrator.

Using a partnership approach rather than mailing directly to homeowners, USP protects the city’s image by giving homeowners the respect they deserve while providing an excellent resource for the community. Other service line warranty providers mail letters directly to residents, often without the knowledge of city administration. In some cases, their offers allude to having obtained city support by referencing city council, or state-level endorsement, even though the city has no knowledge of the mailing or the organization. Practices such as these may be considered deceptive or misleading and often result in State Attorney General, BBB and regulatory body complaints. Following these poor business practices may also impact City Hall with excessive calls from disgruntled residents questioning the validity of the offer.

Response to the warranty offer is much better when the city supports the program by permitting the use of the city seal and city name on the outer envelope and letter. The city seal assures residents that USP and the warranty offer are legitimate. Based on historical data, USP has found that with the city’s support, response rates typically range from 8% to 12%, with some as high as 19%.

USP takes every possible measure to protect the privacy of customers and partners. USP and affiliates do not share, sell or distribute city partner or customer information with third parties. USP’s commitment to preserve brand equity for the company, the NLC and partners is reinforced by a solid record, including:

  • an A+ Accredited Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating with registered entities
  • USP’s consumer brand, Service Line Warranties of America, was selected as the winner of the Western Pennsylvania Better Business Bureau 2013 Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics
  • a customer satisfaction rating exceeding 95%
  • a clean record with government agencies and regulatory bodies – for more than a decade

Limiting the number of mailings sent to residents, designing marketing communications that are transparent and easy to understand, and closely monitoring service delivery systems are key to ensuring customers are delighted with their service experience. It is USP/SLWA’s dedication to excellence that ensures the city’s brand equity is maintained.

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Why Would Homeowners Need a Service Line Warranty?

Plumbing supplies

Most homeowners don’t think about the condition of the external buried water and sewer lines that run from the public utility connection to the exterior of their homes – out of sight, out of mind. In fact, people don’t think about their service lines until confronted with a backed up sewer or leaking water line when challenged to find a reputable plumber and pay for the repair that can cost thousands of dollars. Protecting home and property, usually the single largest investment an individual will make in their lifetime according to Freddie Mac, is a top priority for many homeowners.

  1. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) recently gave a D (D = Poor) rating to America’s water and wastewater public infrastructure. Additionally, about 30% of Canadian municipal infrastructure is assessed between fair and poor. Homeowners’ water and sewer lines are subjected to the same conditions as the lines that make up the public infrastructure – age, root invasion, ground shifting, fluctuating temperatures and more. While government is addressing the public infrastructure, homeowners are responsible for the cost of repairs to the service lines located on their property. These repairs can cost from hundreds of dollars to upwards of $3,500 per repair, which can be hard on a family’s budget. With a warranty, the homeowner is covered for the repair costs due to normal wear and tear, with no service fees or deductibles.
  1. Several studies indicate that many people are not prepared for these kind of unexpected expenses, even though most have a budget. A recent study by the Federal Reserve suggested that more than 50% of individuals surveyed could not afford a hypothetical emergency expense of $400 without selling belongings or borrowing money. Homeowners work hard for their money and it’s no secret that the expense of owning a home adds up over time. Bankrate’s study revealed that while more than 80% of American’s have a prepared household budget, more than 3 in 5 would have to look elsewhere, such as borrowing from family or using a credit card, in order to cover a small emergency expense, not having enough savings to cover the cost. With depleted savings and many of those eligible for retirement unprepared, expensive repairs are just not in the budget.When evaluating monthly expenses, such as a water or sewer line warranty program, homeowners are encouraged to consider what they have in savings and what they can honestly spend each month for protection. For homeowners with limited resources, a few dollars a month to provide peace of mind could outweigh the risk of “if” a failure would ever occur, considering only 38% said they had sufficient savings to cover an emergency expense.
  1. It can be difficult to find a contractor you can trust to do the job right the first time.
    com suggests, “You can’t cut corners here – there are plenty of badhandymen out there willing to do shoddy work and charge you a ton of money, and they give the good ones who are eager for your business a bad name.” With a service line warranty, the vettinghas been done, so you know that the contractor sent to make the repair has proper licenses and insurance andis located within the area.The Western Pennsylvania chapter of the BBB comments on the challenge of locating the right contractor. “Hiring a home improvement contractor toperform work or repairs can certainly be an overwhelming process during anunexpected emergency. It’s also the type of situation that likely has an impact on people’s budgets, which is why it’s important for consumersto be educated on their rights and responsibilities when choosing a contractor.”Our program only uses contractors that have successfully passed a rigorous background check, maintain proper licensing and insurance, and as the program’s representative, are committed to providing exceptional customer service.
  1. Homeowners with a service line warranty are more likely to report a problem and have it fixed quickly, which helps with water conservation efforts and prevents ground pollution. We know the impacts that water main breaks have on water waste: a campaign launched by the National Association of Water Companies and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reports that there are 650 water main breaks per day in the U.S., resulting in a daily loss of 7 billion gallons of water. The same failing pipes wreaking havoc with municipal water systems are carrying water to your resident’s homes, and are subject to the same breaks and leaks.


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Flood Safety Tips

Many areas of the world are seeing record-breaking amounts of rainfall this summer. With these high concentrations of water come dangers of flooding. Be prepared for flooding with these tips from the The National Weather Service and Get Prepared.

Before a Flood

  • Know flood-prone areas and avoid them when high concentrations of rain are possible.
  • Know the best websites, radio stations and television stations to get local information if a flood is likely. Sign up for alerts on your smart phone to receive notifications of severe weather.
  • Understand the difference between a flood watch (flooding is possible) and warning (flooding is occurring or will occur soon).
  • Know what you will need in the event of an emergency and pack a bag of clothing, essentials and medication in case you need to evacuate.
  • Have an emergency supply of food and water in your home in the event of an extended power outage, unsafe drinking water or impassable roadways that could strand you in your home for a day or two.

During a Flood

  • Listen to news reports on whether the community’s water is safe to drink. During heavy flooding, water sources can become contaminated. Always have an emergency supply of water on hand.
  • If you are encouraged to evacuate to higher ground, do so immediately. Do not “wait it out.”
  • Turn off utilities at the main switch and disconnect appliances in areas of your home that could flood, like basements or the first floor.
  • Do not attempt to walk or drive through moving water if at all possible. It only takes a few inches of water to make you fall or to move a car. If floodwaters surround your car, exit the car immediately and move to higher ground.
  • If you must walk through moving water, use a stick to check the ground in front of you and keep your balance. Even roads and walkways where the water has receded could be weak and collapse under the weight of a car, person or even a pet.
  • Do not touch electrical equipment if you are standing in water. Water may also be electrically charged due to fallen power lines, so pay close attention to your surrounding areas.

After a Flood

  • Survey your property for water damage, weak areas of land and downed power lines or trees.
  • Be sure to clean anything that came in contact with floodwaters thoroughly. Floodwaters can contain high levels of bacteria and potentially raw sewage.