News 2 I-Team: Home warranties

Many home buyers opt for a home warranty to cover broken appliances, but the I-Team received several emails from homeowners that their warranties weren’t worth the cost after their air conditioning units failed this summer.

Betty Lewis told the I-Team the home warranty with American Home Shield is one reason she bought her home some 11 months ago.  She’s retired and living on a fixed income, and she didn’t want any surprises with her appliances.

“I looked at the thermostat, and it was already in the 80’s in here,” Lewis said.  She believes her unit broke over night earlier this summer.

She called her home warranty company to file a claim.

“I was on hold about an hour until I finally talked to someone,” she explained.

She says there was a delay in getting a repair man to her home, and she was worried about her health and the heat. She asked if she could hire her own repair man. The company reimbursed her a portion of the costs to replace her unit.

Another viewer, Kelly Kowalchick, wrote the I-Team on July 12.  She was worried about her elderly parents who live with her. In an attempt to keep her home cool, she bought two portable AC units, but she said she was having problems getting her main unit repaired.

According to the Better Business Bureau, there were more than 6,000 complaints against American Home Shield in last three years nationwide, and many of them were reportedly resolved.  Policy holders claimed they had difficulty reaching customer service, their calls were not returned as promised, contracts were not cancelled as requested, and incorrect charges were made to bank and credit card accounts. American Home Shield still holds a B rating with the bureau.

Home warranty companies are among the lowest rated businesses at Angie’s List.

“When looking at the reviews the most common complaints we hear are in regard to people not understanding exactly what is covered in the warranty and then also the quality of the work when they do use their warranty,” a spokesperson for the company told the I-Team.

So before you buy, experts say you should ask these questions:

  • Exactly what’s covered and what’s not
  • Who makes the decisions about repair or replacing
  • Can you call your own repair man
  • Are there limits to your home warranty
  • Which company is the warranty company is sending to perform repairs

The I-Team reached out to American Home Shield, and a spokesman responded with the following statement:

“American Home Shield responds to more than 7,000 service requests each and every day. In the past five years our company has spent over $1.6 billion resolving our customers’ repair needs, an industry record.”

In response to problems with Kowalchick’s unit, the spokesman wrote, “We take great pride in providing quality service and valuable protection to our customers – and if we fail to meet these expectations, we work to do the right thing and ensure situations is properly resolved. This was a very unusual case, but we offered to reimburse the customer for temporary window units and are working diligently to resolve each of her claims.”

For customers considering buying a warranty, the spokesman wrote, “As with any contract, it is always important for consumers to understand what’s covered, what’s not, and the overall claims process.”

According to Consumer Reports, even good service contracts are not typically worth the cost.  They recommend putting your money in the bank instead.

MORE: Complaints made to the Better Business Bureau 

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