July is the time of year air conditions work their hardest, and if they are getting old, they can fail.
People who have a home warranty assume they don't have to worry, because they are covered for AC repairs.
But one Cincinnati-area woman learned otherwise, and she has a warning for all of us.
Thought it was a Safety Net
When the air conditioning went out in Nicole Gaskins home, she wasn't too worried. She'd been paying almost $500 a year for a home warranty.
"We wanted that safety net, where if something big went wrong, we had a warranty," she explained.
But when her 10 year old AC started blowing hot, with the house getting up to 90 degrees, she got even hotter over how long it took to get to get a repairman from American Home Shield to come out.
"We called, it took them two weeks to come out, and then they told us the compressor was broken," she said,
But after the repairman fixed it, she says, the unit failed again in just a few days. Exasperated, she called a local AC company.
"We called another company that was open on the weekends," she said, and they quickly got it running....but at big cost.
"It was almost $900 in total out of pocket," she said. "Even though we had a home warranty it still cost $900."
American Home Shield has 6,000 complaints in the past 3 years at the Better Business Bureau, which gives the Memphis-based company a "B" rating. Other major warranty companies also have many complaints in their files.
In fact, home warranty companies among the lowest rated businesses at Angie's List. CLICK HERE for Angie's List analysis of home warranties, and if they are worth buying.
Others Report Similar Problems
Earlier this year, Steve Jongewaard told us he spent a week with no heat at his home, waiting for his warranty company to come out.
"We've called multiple times," he said. "My wife and I have been on the phone a minimum of 10 hours."
John Peckskamp is with a local heating and cooling company -- Apollo Home -- and hears many complaints of long waits.
"We hear a lot of times that it takes a lot of time to get somebody out there. A lot of times its a second party vendor and if they are busy, they have to find someone else," he explained.
So his company recently joined a new trend: offering their own home warranties, using exclusively their own employees to do the repairs.
"We do everything in house," Peckskamp said. "We answer the calls here in house, and we dispatch our own Apollo technicians on all our calls."
Angie's List gives three questions to ask before you purchase a home warranty:
- What is excluded? For instance, pre-existing conditions (a leak or problem that has been developing for several years) are often not covered.
- Are older appliances still covered, such as a 20 year old AC unit or water heater?
- Can you call your own repairman, if theirs are backlogged, or do you have exclusively use theirs?
Nicole Gaskins wonders if its worth renewing her warranty next year.
Company Offers to Help
We contacted American Home Shield, where a spokesman told me they will look into Gaskin's out of pocket costs and see if they can make an adjustment for her.
He explained that AC contractors sometimes get backed up during heat waves.
But he said in those cases, you can use your own repairman, if you get pre-approval from AHS first.
Bottom line: Know what you are signing up for so you don't waste your money.
Don't Waste Your Money is a registered trademark of the EW Scripps Co.
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