I've wanted this topic for a long time...just what happens when a Brookside homeowner makes a claim on their sewer line insurance policy? A bit of background: earlier this year, the city of Kansas City MO mailed out information to residents regarding purchasing sewer line insurance for their properties through Service Line Warranties of America. Because these homes have the (decades old) original clay pipes carrying water and other household waste to the main sewer line, there are a number of things that can cause the pipes to back up, collapse, break, etc. It is very expensive to replace the line (estimates I’ve seen run $4000 and up). A one-year insurance policy (approximately $140) can save the homeowner thousands if the line needs repair or replacement.
Earlier this year, a neighbor on my block bought the policy. I listed their house for sale in September and the new buyers, as part of their inspection, had a contractor run a camera through the pipe to check for any blockages, breaks, or tree root obstructions. There was a break in the line, under the ground in the front yard. Although my sellers had not experienced any back ups, the inspection revealed problems. So, Mr Seller called to make a claim. Here’s what happened next:
The insurance company contacted one of their ‘approved’ plumbers to re-camera line again (at no cost to my seller) to make sure there was an issue. This took a few days. Plumbing Co X confirmed there was a break in the line and said it would be repaired. Over two weeks passed before someone finally came out to fix the break. Mr Seller called several times, as Plumbing Co X kept saying ‘someone would be out this week’ but no one showed up. Finally, on a Saturday, someone arrived to make the repair. Was it Plumbing Co X? No, they had subcontracted the work out to a third party.
I was home that Saturday when I saw the heavy dirt diggin’ machinery pull up in front of Mr. Seller’s house (they were not home). I went outside to introduce myself to the 3rd party contractor and was happy to discover that I know him from doing other sewer line repair work in the area. Mr Sewer Line Repair Man has a good reputation and does the job right. He was very careful not to disturb the landscaping and I took a photo of the repair. He replaced a 4- foot section of clay pipe. I asked how much he was charging for the repair--he billed Plumbing Co X $1400.
The next step was to have Plumbing Co X come out and run a camera through the line once more to be sure there were no more breaks or obstructions farther down the pipe. Again, it took several phone calls to the company, asking them to do the second camera scope. At one point I called Plumbing Co X myself, bugging them to provide paperwork stating the line was clear. At this point, I asked him what he charged the insurance company for the work that was completed, as there is a cap on the payout. He replied, “$2400”.
Looking back on the experience, my sellers and I feel the insurance company was responsive, but Plumbing Co X could have been more responsive and service-oriented. I understand many companies sub-contract out work. But that’s a pretty hefty mark up for Plumbing Co X, who did not repair the break. Does SLWOA know this job was sub-contracted? I also found it interesting that the plumbing company was not based in Kansas City, but about an hour away. On the business card they left with Mr Seller, there was no address or contact name--just a phone number and company name. How does the insurance company decide on their ‘approved contractors’?
We recently purchased sewer line insurance, so part two of this blog is going to be about my conversation with the insurance company as a policyholder. I have many questions, especially about the approved contractors on their list.
I do think it’s worth the money to buy the insurance as if there is a problem, it will save you thousands of dollars. The majority of the sewer line inspections I see do reveal issues-even if the homeowner isn’t experiencing a back-up, there is usually a break in the line or tree roots growing in the pipes. But the water and waste just keep flowing through until eventually, an problem occurs.