By Councillor Scott Moffatt
From the Manotick Messenger
In recent weeks, many residents have received letters from a company known as Service Line Warranties of Canada. To be upfront and clear about this letter, it is absolutely a legitimate program that the City of Ottawa supports. Many have expressed concerns that it could be a false letter, but I can assure you that is not the case. Allow me to provide some background and explanation as to what this is all about.
On February 24, 2016, Council approved an update report on the Residential Protective Plumbing Program. That report included a recommendation to delegate authority to the General Manager of Environmental Services to implement the Service Warranty Program. This recommendation was based on a program review that examined best practices in other large scale Ontario municipalities, which identified this as a voluntary opt-in service for residents that could help address ongoing issues related to the private portion of water and sewer services, including unpredictable failure, lack of homeowner awareness, and high cost of repair. It was also indicated in the report that this program would be offered to residents at no cost to the City, with a five per cent royalty being provided to offset internal administrative costs. As part of this program, it was also stated that SLWC would be permitted to use the City’s logo on its information materials, as approved by the City.
Following Council’s approval of the 2016 report, staff began working in consultation with Legal Services and Supply Services staff, using lessons learned from other Ontario municipalities, to negotiate and execute an agreement with SLWC, consistent with the delegated authority provided by Council. On December 11, 2020, Council was issued a memo reminding us that the City would be launching a partnership with Service Line Warranties of Canada (SLWC) in early 2021 to offer Ottawa homeowners protection plans to help cover repair costs associated with their water and sewer/septic service lines.
While a subsidiary of an American company, SLWC is headquartered in Canada. They have similar agreements with over 60 municipalities across Ontario. They are also endorsed by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. It is for these reasons that the City looked to SLWC to provide this opportunity for residents.
One of the key considerations of the Residential Protective Plumbing Program was the fallout from the Glen Cairn flooding of 2009 in which many property owners were left to cover costs from damages sustained from sewer backups. This program has also offered financial assistance for the installation of protective plumbing devices for residents who qualify. This is infrastructure that is the responsibility of the homeowner, but it is connected to a municipal service. The Program, and the SLWC partnership, merely seeks to provide some assistance in the event that a failure occurs.
It is important to note that the SLWC Program is a voluntary program. There is absolutely no requirement for residents to enroll in the repair plans offered by SLWC. While SLWC does offer plans for residents on private septic systems, that does not form the basis for the City’s agreement. We would encourage all residents to determine what is best for their situation.
Additionally, it is possible that private water or sewer connection line issues are covered under existing private insurance policy. While some insurance policies offer this as an add-on coverage, it is recommended that residents contact their insurance provider to seek confirmation and to discuss their options (including the possibility of enrolling in a repair plan offered by SLWC).
Lastly, the City did not sell or otherwise provide resident names or addresses to SLWC as part of this program. SLWC purchased its records through a third-party, which are accessible through public information.
If you have additional questions on this program, do not hesitate to contact me using the email listed at the end of this column. While I regret the confusion and concern this program launch has created, I do believe it is an important option for residents who may require such coverage and may also be unaware that such backflow events are not already covered.
If you have any comments, questions or concerns, please feel free to email me at Scott.Moffatt@ottawa.ca or contact me by phone at 613-580-2491. For information on Ward 21 issues, please visit TeamTwentyOne.ca.