11/16/2012 7:52:00 AM Ask the contractor: Frequently asked questions about Unisource gas line warranty
Sandy Griffis Yavapai County Contractor’s Association
The Yavapai County Contractors Association has received several calls from our quad-city community over the past few weeks regarding a mail offer to purchase a warranty on their Unisource gas line that runs from the utility service connection to the house. In an effort to bring you information on this mailer and the program, we contacted Unisource and asked several questions that are outlined below.
Utility companies are not responsible for piping issues that bring the utility into your home. If a line breaks or has issues and causes damage, your insurance carrier should cover damage to your property. However, in most cases they will not pay to repair the line. It is not uncommon throughout the nation for utility companies to partner with warranty service providers. These plans provide repair to the line, often without any expense to the homeowner. The most often asked question was whether or not the consumer should purchase this protection. We suggest you talk with your insurance carrier for their recommendations and your coverage parameters for gas line issues. As an alternative to this warranty program, you can retain any appropriately licensed contractor to perform necessary repairs that might occur.
Is this a legitimate program? Yes. HomeServe provides home emergency repair plans directly to homeowners in conjunction with utility partners like Unisource Energy Services (UES). Homeserve's plans are similar to home warranty coverage, but provide protection for specific systems in a home such as interior gas lines. UES customers are not required to join this program. Participation is completely voluntary.
Does Unisource Energy Services support this? Yes. Over the years, customers of UES have called the customer care center and have asked questions about maintenance and repairs on "their side of the meter." Previously, all UES could say in reply was to suggest that they look for a qualified contractor that could perform such maintenance work. Now, HomeServe is a viable solution to suggest when UES receives those types of calls.
Are Unisource Energy Services and HomeServe connected? UES and HomeServe are completely separate companies. UES has simply agreed to allow HomeServe to offer home system repair plans to UES customers. While UES does not provide HomeServe with any customer information, UES does allow HomeServe to mention the UES name in association with their marketing efforts. UES approves the marketing messages, and UES does make sure that the relationship with HomeServe is accurately portrayed. HomeServe has promoted its home repair and protection coverage through press releases, website content and direct mailings. It is important to note that HomeServe's mailing lists were obtained through third-party vendors or public mailing lists, not from UES.
Does Unisource Energy Services benefit financially from this agreement? Yes. UES receives a monthly commission on each HomeServe plan purchased by a UES customer.
Does HomeServe use local contractors for the area and are they vetted? Contractors in the HomeServe network must be licensed with the Arizona Registrar of Contractors (ROC). The local contractors that work with HomeServe in Yavapai County are Arizona Green Plumber, TDK Comfort Systems, both of which are YCCA members. In addition to being licensed and registered with the ROC, prospective contractors for the HomeServe network must provide evidence of insurance and professional references. Further, as a condition of being considered for inclusion into the HomeServe network, contractors must submit to an initial drug screen for all personnel that will be providing services to HomeServe customers as well as state and federal background checks.
How are repairs handled? The covered party calls HomeServe's 24-hour repair hotline. HomeServe dispatches the participating contractor for the area.
What is the likelihood of ever having to use this warranty service? UES does not maintain statistics on what are informally referred to as "yard line" issues, which involve situations where gas lines located in a customer's home or business, or underground on the customer's side of the meter, are in need of repair. UES field employees when called to reports of leaking gas or to turn service on, might detect yard line problems through pressure testing. In these situations, UES may shut off gas service, place a "red tag" on the meter and suggest that customers find a qualified contractor to make the necessary repairs. UES will not restore service until after customer-owned gas facilities have been inspected and approved by the appropriate inspection officials.
What is covered with the HomeServe warranty? Coverage is for the repair of an emergency breakdown of the interior gas line servicing a single-family residential home, from the point of entrance to the shut-off valve at each natural gas appliance, caused by normal wear and tear, not due to accident or negligence.
This column is not an endorsement by YCCA of this coverage; it is merely providing information to our community.
Yavapai County Contractors Association (YCCA) is a professional association representing licensed, bonded and insured contractors, suppliers, distributors and business entities. Call YCCA for information on hiring a contractor at 778-0040. Submit questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or through www.ycca.org.