In my work as an Advisor with the National League of Cities Service Line Warranty Program, one of the most rewarding parts of the job is meeting with senior citizens and hearing their stories about how the program has helped them. While homeowners of any age can participate in the program, senior citizens are particularly vulnerable when a water or sewer service line fails. They also tend to live in older homes with aging service lines and are less able to afford the cost of repair or replacement of failed lines.
When the program was adopted in my city, I was a member of City Council and we spent a lot of time meeting with citizen groups and putting information on our website and at our local senior citizen centers. After the program was in place, I was attending a community event and an older gentleman approached me and thanked me for getting the program for our city. He said that he liked the fact that he could budget the small monthly fee and not worry about an unexpected repair that could cost thousands of dollars.
Another elderly citizen said that she could afford the cost of a service line failure but the reason she signed up for the NLC Service Line Warranty Program was that she lived alone, and her family lived in another state. She said that one of her biggest fears was trying to find a contractor and haggling over the price of a repair. She also did not like the idea of unknown repairman coming into her home without knowing if they were insured and had their background checked. In addition to this resident, I’ve spoken to dozens of people who believe that the best feature of the program is the fact that the repairs are done by a licensed, local contractor who has been vetted and professionally completes the work without the homeowner having to negotiate the price or worry about unexpected “extra work”.
My own mother, who is in her nineties, called me one day to let me know her toilet was stopped up. I hurried over to her house thinking a quick “plunge” would take care of the problem. After working on it for about half an hour, we started to panic. My brother is confined to a wheelchair and it is not possible to stay at someone else’s house for even one night. As we were getting ready to call a plumber, my mother remembered that she signed up for the NLC Service Line Warranty Program and asked me if that would help. I was so preoccupied trying to fix the problem that I completely forgot about the program! We called the 800 number and spoke to the claim representative about our problem and they said they would get someone out to the house in the next hour. In about fifteen minutes, the phone rang, and our claim representative said that there should be someone coming shortly. While I was still on the phone, I saw a white van coming up the alley and pulling into my mother’s driveway. Needless to say, my mother was sold on the program.
Over the past ten years, working with the NLC Service Line Warranty Program, I am proud of the impact the program is having on the lives of our senior citizens. Each year, the program spends millions of dollars in repairing failed water and sewer service lines, but I think the best part of the program is the peace of mind it gives people, like my mother, who need a helping hand when faced with a leaking pipe or stopped up drain.
Jim Hunt is a former Mayor and Councilmember for over 27 years and served as President of the National League of Cities. He was selected as “Municipal Leader of the Year” by American City & County Magazine and is a member of the West Virginia Municipal League’s “Hall of Fame”. He writes extensively on city issues and is the author of “The Amazing City-7 Steps to Creating an Amazing City”. He currently serves as an Advisor to the National League of Cities Service Line Warranty Program.