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Ottawa extends sewer insurance partnership after strong enrolment

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Despite some marketing hiccups, a new City of Ottawa memo suggests that its sewer insurance program has been a success and will be renewed for another five years.

Some 4,000 residents in Ottawa have purchased nearly 8,500 sewer insurance policies, according to the Infrastructure & Water Services Department memo from Director Scott Laberge, who noted that residents do stand to save money under the program.

Ottawa is one of 62 Canadian municipalities that offers Service Line Warranties Canada’s (SLWC’s) program. SLWC is a private company and subsidiary of the U.K. multinational corporation HomeServe.

For Ottawa, as of early April, more than 200 repairs worth some $286,000 have been completed under the sewer insurance program. While home insurance policies typically cover damage caused by water and sewer service failures, they do not include the repair of the actual sewer line, the memo states.

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“Without a program such as the one offered by SLWC, any repairs and their associated costs are the sole responsibility of the homeowner,” reads the memo, which adds that local customer feedback on work covered under warranty has been positive.

According to the City of Ottawa, homeowners are responsible for repairs to the portion of water and sewer service lines, including the stormwater sewer service line, located on their property.

“If a leak, break or clog occurs in the private portion of these lines, the homeowner is responsible for hiring a plumber and paying any of the associated repair costs,” states the city’s description of the insurance program.

The sewer insurance program made headlines in Ottawa during the winter of 2021, when local residents began receiving information packages about a sewer insurance service provided by a private company. The marketing package happened to use the City of Ottawa logo in a configuration that caused some confusion for residents over whether they were obligated to sign up or not.

The memo clarifies that citywide programs now involving a third-party are required to consult council through a technical briefing. Additionally, mailouts to residents will be co-branded to ensure that the private company’s logo is up front and centre ahead of the City’s logo.

The city noted that its partnership for the program “provides a way to increase a homeowner’s awareness of their responsibility for these costs, while offering an optional solution for those who would like to participate.”

*Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that SLWC did not have permission to use the City of Ottawa’s logo, when in fact they did. This has been updated.

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