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Private company allowed to use official city logos on material

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Service Line Warranties is allowed to use city logos on their mailers. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) Service Line Warranties is allowed to use city logos on their mailers. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
Service Line Warranties offers protection for water lines. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) Service Line Warranties offers protection for water lines. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
(3 ON YOUR SIDE) -

Michel Johnson knows the importance of home ownership and he takes pride in trying to have one of the best-looking homes on the block. 

One look at his lawn proves he means business. 

“Oh yeah, the front yard is just like the back,” Johnson told 3 On Your Side. “I’m pretty meticulous about the yard.”

But Johnson also knows that home ownership comes with a price tag, particularly when it comes to expensive repairs.   

And that’s why a letter Johnson received recently raised his eyebrows. 

It's from a company called Service Line Warranties of America and it offered to pay for expensive sewer line or water line repairs if homeowners like Johnson subscribed and paid $44 a year for protection.

Service Line Warranties says it's a small price to pay since repairs can run in the thousands of dollars. 

"That letter, when I looked at it, I was like, 'Okay, here's another warranty company that's trying to get your money,'" he said.

According to the letter, homeowners are responsible for the water line that goes from the meter out front and extends to the house. That means if the water line breaks, pretty much anywhere in between those two points, the homeowner has to pay for the repair.

Johnson says he thought Service Line Warranties' sales pitch for roughly $44 a year sounded unusual, especially since he's lived in his neighborhood for 20 years, and claims not one of his neighbors has ever had a problem with a broken water or sewer line.

But Johnson questioned the letter even more because the company prominently uses the City of Avondale's name and logo at the top.  Johnson says he doesn't like the idea of a private company using a municipality's name and logo on its material. 

"Is it really Avondale's logo and is it really Avondale's product,” he asks. "If it's not Avondale product, why is Avondale letting folks come in and give this to their community use their name?"

3 On Your Side got involved and found out that the City of Avondale actually agreed to partner up with Service Line Warranties back in 2011. However, it was for a price, of course.

Avondale tells 3 On Your Side that in exchange for allowing Service Line Warranties to use its name and logo on their material, the city recoups 12 percent of subscriptions.

According to Avondale, that equates to $34,377 over the last five years and is deposited in the city’s general fund.

Avondale also tells 3 On Your Side that other Arizona cities do the same thing, like Phoenix and Mesa.

Avondale and Service Line Warranties both say the $44 subscription rates are strictly voluntary and not required. 

But some Avondale residents are buying into the plan. In fact, the city says 1,047 residents have agreed to pay.

Johnson says he’ll pass on the warranty protection and says he’ll use his $44 somewhere else. 

“What will you spend your $44 on?” 3 On Your Side Gary Harper asks him.   

“I'll take my wife to dinner,” a grinning Johnson replied.

Service Line Warranties is accredited by the Better Business Bureau and has an A+ rating.  They say their mailings help educate homeowners about their program and say it gives homeowners an option in avoiding high repair costs.

To read Service Line Warranties' response to some 3 On Your Side questions, you'll find it below.

Why is it necessary for Service Line Warranties to “partner” with municipalities like Avondale?

Service Line Warranties of America (SLWA) chooses to partner with municipalities like Avondale to help educate residents about their responsibility for the service lines on their property and to inform them that there is a program offered through a reputable company that could potentially save them a lot of money in the event of a service line failure.

Why does Service Line Warranties use a municipality’s logo and do you think doing so is misleading?

This program was brought to the City through the National League of Cities and is administered by Service Line Warranties of America (SLWA). SLWA was selected by the NLC because of their outstanding customer satisfaction ratings. SLWA has been in business for over 10 years and has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau. SLWA was also the recipient of the 2013 Western Pennsylvania Better Business Bureau Torch Award for Marketplace Ethics.  The National League of Cities (NLC) recognized homeowner water/sewer line warranty services as something in which many homeowners have expressed an interest. It came to their attention that several state leagues had already endorsed and were already working with SLWA. For this reason, they carefully reviewed SLWA and determined Service Line Warranties of America to be the best option of those companies providing these types of warranties.

The city of Avondale simply wanted to share the results of NLC's research with its homeowners. Letters were mailed out by SLWA for the sole purpose of providing program information. Homeowners who wish to learn more about this program or want to enroll are encouraged to contact SLWA directly.  The letter is approved by the city to be sent to its residents to inform them of the availability of this optional program. Letters are never mailed to residents without a City’s partnership and approval.

What percentage of your customers have actually utilized your services? 

Since we started partnering with Avondale to offer the Service Line Warranty program to residents, we have provided more than 85 residents with service, totaling more than $60,000 in repairs. In total the SLWA program has helped more than 100,000 homeowners save more than $64 million in service line repair costs.

Copyright 2016 KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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