UPDATE: Royal Oak Approves Utility Repairs Coverage

Royal Oak City Commissioners endorse a program that provides access to utility line warranties to residents.

Coverage for water and sewer line repairs will be made available through the National League of Cities in partnership with Utility Service Partners, the commission decided after some discussion Monday at City Hall.

The Royal Oak City Commission has endorsed the city's participation in the National League of Cities (NLC) Sewer and Water Lead Warranty program.

"Many Royal Oak residents have issues with their sewers that serve their older homes and this is a program that allows those residents to obtain an insurance policy that will allow them to get cleaning and other repairs done on their sewer lead when they have issues," said City Engineer Matt Callahan. "It's a modestly priced program. There are very few, if any, companies out there that offer this type of insurance or a program that assists homeowners on a part of their home that your normal homeowner's insurance doesn't cover.' 

The NLC Service Line Warranty Program covers expensive repairs to external water and sewer lines on homeowners’ property. The program offers 24-hour, seven-day-a-week utility service line protection.

The program would cover up to $8,000 toward repairs and cost homeowners less than $10 a month, which can be a good value to residents who are suddenly stuck with the burden of a $7,000-$9,000 repair because tree roots have broken their pipes. Most insurance companies exclude such coverage from their policies leaving residents to pick up the tab.

Commissioner Jeremy Mahrle asked if any sort of evaluation of a property’s sewer line was done before a homeowner is allowed into the program.

"We don't (do an evaluation)," said Mike Chambers, of Utility Service Partners. "We do know that in some cases there's going to be a pre-existing claim and that just happens, but we mail to too many people to be able to do any kind of inspections."

In February 2012, the commission elected not to participate in the NLC program over concerns about the insurer’s ability to perform.

"This program has become incredibly successful, and is now available in 47 states and over 150 U.S. cities," said City Manager Don Johnson in a memo to to commissioners. "Huntington Woods, Berkley, Ferndale, St. Clair Shores and Pleasant Ridge and other surrounding Cities now participate in this program. Huntington Woods initially had a 35 percent response rate Pleasant Ridge 15 percent, and Berkley had over 1,000 residents sign-up for program."

Greg Rassel, director of Royal Oak's Department of Public Service, said he personally talked to other directors of public works in neighboring communities that participate the program.

"They have all been very satisfied," Rassel said. "It's been headache-free for them as far as the administration and they have had no complaints about claims not being paid or filing claims."

Coverage is paid month to month. Residents who elect to pay yearly receive a 10 percent discount on the rates. Participation in the program is voluntary and residents who elect the coverage can cancel at anytime.
Debbie Campbell January 27, 2014 at 12:49 PM
Sounds like a great program for we homeowners in a city of trees and old clay sewer lines—Also-- I read on the website that the program will “generate extra revenue for the city through the royalty that is paid by USP to the city.” --Editor Davids I have a question---Does the company do a diagnostic evaluation of a property’s sewer line to rule out pre-existing issues before the homeowner is allowed inclusion in the program and could a homeowner with an existing sewer line problem or a sewer line that was found to be on the brink of failure be denied inclusion in the program??? Thanks-
Jim Nasium January 27, 2014 at 03:48 PM
I would take advantage of this in a heartbeat if you can afford the $10 a month. 2 years ago I had to have the entire clay crock replaced with PVC from my curb all the way across the street to the sewer main. Yep, had to dig up the entire street from curb to curb. Ended up costing $6000. Highly recommend Smith plumbing 586-254-5151- they did a great job. Deal with owner directly Jim
Judy Davids (Editor) January 28, 2014 at 07:44 AM
Debbie, Commissioner Jeremy Mahrle read your question on Patch and was kind enough to ask it for you last night. The answer is in the update. :)
The Duke of Royal Oak January 28, 2014 at 09:36 AM
The Duke is in! Seems like a very smart program. It is the cost of one lunch a month. Thanks to whom ever initiated this program for the city of Royal Oak. They should we rewarded and acknowledged.
Alan Stewart January 28, 2014 at 11:27 AM
I am definitely interested in signing up for this. I did not see in the article how to do this ?
Judy Davids (Editor) January 28, 2014 at 11:42 AM
Hi Alan, a letter to all residents must be approved by the city first. Look for something in the mail in April. The letter will have the city's logo on it to help you identify it.
Joe R April 16, 2014 at 08:50 PM
Any recent update on this? My neighbor has a giant tree in their front yard so my sewer/water lines are ticking time bombs at this point...


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