Finding the right contractor

Handyman on the scene

Spring has arrived, which means homeowners have begun gardening and other home improvement projects. In many cases, these might require the assistance of an outside professional such as a plumber, landscaper, or handyman. While there are qualified contractors available in every city, how do you find one you trust to get the job done right?

As a homeowner, it’s important to know your rights as a customer so that you can better protect yourself and your family. When in search of a contractor, you may find the suggestions below helpful:

  • Research the company thoroughly with websites like the Better Business Bureau.
  • Get multiple bids with details based on the same requirements. The lowest priced bid may not be your best option.
  • Ask the contractor for references and contact them to ensure they are truly satisfied customers.
  • Make sure that the contractor has the appropriate state/municipality licenses and is current with insurance.
  • Ensure the contractor obtains any required local permits or inspections to perform the work. While there are state regulations, sometimes towns have their own requirements and codes.
  • Be sure to get a receipt or a lien waiver when the job is complete.
  • Get everything in writing in the form of a contract that includes start and end dates and read it carefully. Don’t take any verbal promises.
  • Don’t pay the total invoice until the work is completed and completed per the contract. While it is acceptable for a contractor to request a partial payment to cover the cost of materials, payment should not be made in full until all of the work has been completed.

Finding the right contractor is critical to getting the job done right the first time. Hopefully you will find this helpful when hiring your next contractor.

Spring Plumbing Tips

iStock_000001999339SmallSpring is a great time to perform a plumbing check around the house – especially if you live in an area that experienced a harsh winter with heavy snow and extreme temperatures. Here’s a few tips on how to check for problems.


  • Clean all drain strainers in the sink and showers to prevent hair, soap and debris from clogging drain lines.
  • Check toilets for leaks by adding a few drops of food coloring to the toilet tank. If the color appears in the bowl within 30 minutes, you have a leak.
  • Clear mineral deposits from shower heads by soaking them in a plastic bag with vinegar overnight and then gently scrubbing with a toothbrush.
  • Check appliances with water hoses such as the washing machine, ice maker and dishwasher for bulges, leaks and hose weakness.
  • Clean the washing machine tub and lint trap to maximize performance.
  • Pour a gallon of water into infrequently used drains, including floor drains, to fill the trap and prevent odors. Slow floor drains should be snaked so they perform as expected in the event of a flood.
  • Inspect your home for leaks by taking a water meter reading before bed and then again the next morning where no water was used overnight. If the reading has changed, you have a leak.


  • Make sure yard drains, gutters and downspouts are clear and free of leaks and debris from the winter months.
  • Check outdoor faucets and hoses for cracks or leaks.
  • Check for unusually damp spots or soft ground in the yard, which may indicate a plumbing problem.

Helping Communities Solve Problems

National League of Cities Service Line Warranty Program Advisor Jim Hunt, of Amazing Cities, was the Master of Ceremonies at the NLC University Awards Luncheon. The NLC University is dedicated to local leaders improving their skills.

National League of Cities Service Line Warranty Program Advisor Jim Hunt, of Amazing Cities, was the Master of Ceremonies at the NLC University Awards Luncheon. The NLC University is dedicated to local leaders improving their skills.

Our team had a great time in Washington, D.C., at the National League of Cities (NLC) Congressional City Conference last week. We were very excited to meet with new potential city partners and hear President Barack Obama speak about exciting new initiatives.

During his speech, President Obama made one thing clear to the room full of thousands of city leaders from around the nation – “You all have something in common: every day you wake up ready to solve problems.”

Through the NLC Service Line Warranty Program, we are proud to provide a great resource for communities in North America that help address an aging infrastructure problem. Through city-specific terms and conditions, homeowners are protected against the unexpected and expensive repairs when the water and sewer lines on their property fail.

For homeowners, affordable coverage for broken or leaking water and sewer lines and now in-home plumbing helps ensure that a service line emergency won’t be catastrophic. We are committed to helping city leaders provide affordable solutions that save residents money and time and safeguard the environment. Together, we wake up every day ready to solve problems for the thousands of homeowners that we serve.

Don’t let the Spring Thaw Drain Your Emergency Fund


It may be hard to believe, but spring is just around the corner. As the weather begins to warm and snow finally melts away, homeowners need to prepare for the spring thaw – to watch and address potential problems – especially around water and sewer lines.

Drastic temperature changes can greatly affect the life expectancy of your water and sewer lines. As water freezes and thaws, it can cause pipes to expand, resulting in line cracks or even breaks. With the spring thaw, heavy flooding can cause the ground to shift, which could result in infrastructure problems.

Protect your property and peace of mind by knowing what signs to look for before a small problem becomes catastrophic:

  • Water pools in the yard
  • Foul-smelling odor
  • Low or no water pressure
  • Ground shifting / soft ground around pipes

If you suspect a problem, please contact your warranty provider to file a claim.

Why does Service Line Warranties of America partner with cities? One word: TRUST!

Hunt JimOne of the questions that seems to come up in discussions with cities concerning Service Line Warranties of America is “Why does the city have to enter a partnership and use the city logos?” I always answer this question with the word TRUST. Residents are constantly getting barraged with offers of services and products that seem to be associated with the city or some other trusted provider in the community.

Sadly, many people get deceived into thinking they are buying some ‘required’ service or product. When this happens, it hurts the resident, and when they reach out to the city for help, they are hit with the reality that they were scammed. In my community, unscrupulous operators would approach senior citizens, telling them that the city was requiring that all driveways needed to be paved and that they could do it to avoid the resident getting fined. After having some doubts with the excessive prices they were charged, they learned that the contractors were not recognized or licensed and were nowhere to be found.

The reason that Service Line Warranties of America partners with the city and uses the city logo on mailings is to give consumers peace of mind in knowing that they are dealing with a reputable company. The city has reviewed the offer to ensure that what is being offered to the consumer is legitimate. Since water and sewer service lines connect directly to the city’s lines, it is in the best interest of the city to ensure that repairs are done to all code requirements and that the system operates as it was designed. It is also important that contractors working on these lines operate with the highest levels of trust and integrity. A fly-by-night contractor can do damage to the system and be gone without a trace, leaving the customer with an expensive repair.

Before the Internet, most services were done locally and you would have trust in a business by seeing the city business license hanging on the wall. You knew when you saw the city logo on that license that the city had inspected the premises and knew the owners could provide some help in the event you were taken advantage of. Businesses feared losing their business license because it meant that they could no longer do business in the city. Sadly, this is no longer true. Disreputable businesses can contact citizens directly and the city has no knowledge of or contact with these businesses and is powerless to help citizens in need.

That is why Service Line Warranties of America  is proud to associate with its partner cities. It is also why the National League of Cities sought out a company like Utility Service Partners with a stellar Better Business Bureau rating and a record of ethical business practices. When a customer has a problem with a water or sewer service line, they should know that the repair will be done professionally and that the city will have inspected and approved the repairs through its code enforcement division. They will also know that the contractor will be fully licensed and insured and will be there if there is a problem.

Service Line Warranties of America is built on trust and we are proud to be associated with the cities who have chosen to partner with this valuable program.

Jim Hunt is an Advisor with the National League of Cities Service Line Warranty Program. He is also the founder of Amazing Cities, an organization dedicated to excellence and leadership in government. Mr. Hunt writes, speaks and consults on issues that affect local government. He served for 27 years in public office and was President of the National League of Cities in 2006.