WHAT’S THE STORY: Independence residents will soon have be able to enroll in a voluntary warranty program that covers water and sewer line repairs.

WHY IT MATTERS: Municipalities handle broken water or sewer mains, but winter sometimes leads to frozen and cracked pipes, and private lines are up to the property owner – at times a costly fix.

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The recent cold snap might have caused frozen or even cracked pipes in some people's homes. But while cities have to repair water main breaks on a regular basis – resulting in some low water pressure temporarily for nearby residents – rarely do they have responsibility to fix private water or sewer lines that come off the water or sewer mains.

A homeowner or occupant might be able to thaw an exposed frozen pipe without too much hassle, depending on location. But cracks or clogs that cause a big mess can also prove to be a costly expense.

Independence residents will soon have the opportunity Kansas City residents have had for several years – a chance to purchase warranty protection for repairs or replacement of private water or sewer lines.

The City Council recently gave the go-ahead to participate in the National League of Cities Service Line Warranty Program. The voluntary program allows property owners buy what is deemed to be “affordable” protection. City officials say Independence has considered the program for more than a year, and it will join seven other communities in Missouri who offer the program to residents, including Kansas City, Grandview, Odessa and Pleasant Hill.

The National League of Cities' website does not list warranty costs, though it does tout more than 270 cities in the United States and 300 in North America as participants. The NLC says the warranty program has helped more than 100,000 homeowners save more than $64 million in service line repair costs. Breaks or clogs in pipes – whether caused by age, ground shifting or tree roots – and thawing frozen lines are all covered in the program. There are no service fees or deductibles, and local contractors are used.

“It covers anything that comes off the main to the house,” city spokesperson Meg Lewis said. “The National League of Cities will contact individuals to let them know they can purchase this.”

Participating cities bear no cost, though the city receives a credit on annual NLC dues and a monthly royalty of $0.50 per warranty enrolled.

While temperatures have warmed from earlier this week, it's still worth remembering tips to prevent frozen pipes should winter turn especially sour again. The two most common methods are keeping doors open where pipes run through a cabinet or vanity and allowing a small trickle of water to run through pipes.

Home remedies for a frozen pipe include a hair dryer or hot water-soaked towel, starting from near the open faucet working back to the blockage.