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Hillsboro issues 'consumer alert' on insurance letters

Solicitations not coming from city, officials caution


Although it’s not being categorized as a scam, Hillsboro Water Department officials are warning customers that letters encouraging residents to purchase insurance are not coming from the city of Hillsboro.

The letters in question appear to be designed to make consumers believe they are from the city or other governmental entity. Their purpose is to invite homeowners to sign up for insurance that covers the costs of repairs in the event of a water pipeline break or other “water service line emergencies.”

“Important information regarding your water service line,” reads the headline on the letters, which include a “complete and return by” date that adds urgency to the message.

“Our records indicate your property is not covered by water service line coverage,” reads an excerpt from the letter. “As a homeowner, you are responsible for the maintenance and repair of the water service line from your service connection to the foundation of your home ... exterior water service line problems can be complicated and expensive to fix.”

Tacy Steele, public information officer for the Hillsboro Water Department, said it is true that not all of a customer’s water service line is maintained by the city.

“We only take care of the line up to the meter,” Steele said. “From the meter to the house is the homeowner’s responsibility. If you get a major break in the line, insurance could be good. But we don’t like these letters because people get confused. It looks like the letters are from the city.”

City officials are not happy with the letters.

“This letter is not sanctioned or endorsed by the city of Hillsboro or Hillsboro Water in any way,” reads a statement on the city’s official website. “The city of Hillsboro does not require waterline insurance. It is completely up to the customer’s discretion whether such a policy would be beneficial.”

A sample letter displayed on the city’s website, from HomeServe USA Repair Management Corp., based in Norwalk, Conn., offers up to $6,000 in annual insurance coverage for water line emergencies at a cost of $59.58 per year or $14.97 per quarter.

“A couple of our customers brought the letters in,” explained Steele. “It’s not totally fake, but it is deceptive advertising. It confuses senior citizens especially, and they call because they’re worried about it.”

The letters in question also give consumers the chance to pay even more for optional “Priority Repair Status,” which “provides timely repairs to resolve your emergency.”

At the bottom of the page, an official-looking form offers different payment options, making it appear as if payment is required.

HomeServe USA’s website claims the company has offices around the globe.

“Our mission is simple,” reads an excerpt from the website. “To free our customers from the worry and inconvenience of home emergency repairs.”

“As far as I can tell, there is no crime,” Steele said. “We just want to let people know this isn’t from us and to just be careful. Be a smart consumer.”

Steele encouraged the city’s water customers to contact their current homeowner insurance carrier and request a quote to include a waterline insurance rider on their current policy. Residents could then compare that with what companies soliciting business by mail are offering.

“We tell people to investigate it further,” Steele said. “We’re not advocating for or against getting this type of insurance. There are several companies that do this, and some are better with the Better Business Bureau than others.”