Action News Troubleshooters: Be wary of home warranty plans

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Home warranties are supposed to provide some protection if your refrigerator breaks, or your air conditioning does not cool your home or your heater goes. But several homeowners said when those kinds of things happened, their warranty companies did not live up to their expectations.

Action News spoke with three consumers who had home warranties that they thought would help them cover some issues.

"The icemaker (is) leaking water and the ice (is) freezing up," said Maureen Owens of Ocean City, New Jersey.

"My air conditioner broke on August 9," said Stephanie Nuyannes of Brookhaven, Pennsylvania.

"You can't use this unit," said Rick Coulton of Perkasie, Pennsylvania.

But Owens said when she called Choice Home Warranty about the leaky ice maker, the technician broke her entire refrigerator.

"He broke the evaporator coil, which releases freon so now nothing works, no ice, no refrigerator, no freezer," she said.

Coulton got a new heater through American Home Shield but was missing a natural gas to propane conversion kit. The company blamed the delay on a nationwide shortage, but Coulton said a third-party was able to get it and quickly.

"I would not have had any heat even up till now if it hadn't been for the local installation company to get the parts needed themselves," he said.

Nuyannes said she could not get her 40-year-old air conditioner repaired through American Home Shield.

"Out of my own pocket, I had to have someone replace my unit," she said.

And she learned she was eligible only for minimal reimbursement.

The Troubleshooters have received 41 complaints against Choice Home Warranty and 74 complaints against American Home Shield in five years. Since the pandemic began in March, Troubleshooters have received 15 complaints about Choice and 13 about American Home Shield.

Kevin Brassler of Checkbook Magazine said he is not surprised and consumers need to read the fine print on what is covered and what is not.

"The big problem with the warranties is that they don't cover usually really big expensive things that most homeowners worry about," Brassler said.

Brassler also said the cost of the warranty far outweighs the potential cost of most covered repairs.

"They're offering coverage that costs $500 to $1,000 or more per year," Brassler said. "The average cost of an appliance breakdown to get repaired is about $150 to $175."

And be aware with most warranties, you do not get to choose who does the work.

"They send someone to you," Brassler said. "You don't get to screen them. You don't get to decide, 'Oh, I want this company over that one because its ratings are better.'"

Even worse if there is a problem as Owens learned.

"They said, 'Well, we don't cover the work done by our technicians,'" Owens recalled. "They said, 'Well if a technician came out and dropped the hammer on your ceramic floor, we wouldn't cover that either.'"

The good news is after the Troubleshooters contacted Choice, it did reach Owens and a satisfactory resolution.

Choice said, "We pride ourselves on providing the best claims service... We sincerely apologize for the frustration" and are addressing "any process breakdowns."

American Home Shield also said, "We sincerely apologize" and "we are taking action to address these service gaps."

Both companies said they service millions of customers annually.

Read American Home Shield's full statement:

"We are disappointed to hear about any experience that falls short of a positive service experience for our members. We value our relationships with Ms. Nuyannes and Mr. Coulton and sincerely apologize for the frustration they experienced.

Ms. Nuyannes: We deeply regret the unnecessary delay and frustration in resolving her HVAC service matter. We had multiple opportunities to communicate more effectively with Ms. Nuyanne's and we are taking action to address these service gaps. After reviewing her case in detail, we agreed to reimburse her $2,000 towards the cost of her replacement unit, which she accepted.

Mr. Coulton: The delay in installing Mr. Coulton's replacement furnace was caused by an industry-wide shortage in conversion kits. The HVAC industry has experienced significant supply chain disruptions as a result of the pandemic, which have been exacerbated by increased demand for parts and equipment from homeowners spending more time in their homes. Contractors across the country have been affected by delays sourcing HVAC parts and equipment from manufacturers and distributors.

While our sourcing team worked to locate a conversion kit, our contractor also attempted to source Mr. Coulton's conversion kit starting in mid-October, but the part was on backorder until the second week of November. Once our contractor was able to locate the part, and they quickly installed Mr. Coulton's replacement unit."


Read Choice Home Warranty's full statement:

"At Choice Home Warranty we pride ourselves on providing the best claims service to our customers. If we fail to meet our customer's expectations, we work to do the right thing and ensure the situation is properly resolved. We sincerely apologize for the frustration that Mr. Owen's experienced and are actively working to resolve the situation. In addition, we are researching the service history to identify and address any process breakdowns that may have occurred along the way.

As a follow-up, we were able to reach Mr. Owens and a satisfactory resolution was accepted".
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