For many homeowners, a home warranty can take the headache out of handling routine repairs and maintenance to home systems and major appliances. With a home warranty, you won’t have to shoulder the burden of repairing or replacing covered breakdowns of major appliances and home system components all by yourself, nor will you have to put in the legwork to hunt down a service provider.
But, as with any other tool, home warranty coverage is most beneficial when you know how to use it. Familiarize yourself with your policy’s coverage, and with the procedure for getting repairs covered by your home warranty company. Know how to best phrase your request for assistance, how to clarify your options in terms of service providers or cash payments and what to do if your claim is denied. If you follow this guide through you will surely make your home warranty work for you.
Know What’s Covered — and What Isn’t
If you have a basic home warranty, such as one that you got with the purchase of a home, you probably have coverage for major home appliances, like your refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave, washer and dryer and garbage disposal, as well as for at least some components of home systems like HVAC. The level of coverage you’ll receive, and the conditions under which you’ll qualify for it, can vary greatly depending on the home warranty company you’ve contracted with.
For example, some home warranty policies will cover all of your major appliances, including duplicates — so you can have equal coverage for your kitchen refrigerator and your garage refrigerator. Others, however, will cover only one of your refrigerators. By the same token, your home warranty company may or may not cover damage caused by the faulty workmanship of a previous contractor or damage not caused by normal wear and tear or damage caused by failing to maintain an appliance or by mistreating it.
If you’re shopping for a home warranty policy, these are important questions to ask. If you already have one, read your contract carefully and call your customer service representative with any questions.
When Something Breaks, Your First Call Should Be to Your Warranty Company
An easy way to get your claim denied is to call a service provider first and then contact your warranty company for reimbursement. When something breaks in your home, your first call should be to your home warranty provider. They’ll send a local contractor with whom they already have a business relationship, and you’ll pay a service call fee, usually in the neighborhood of $50 to $75, to have that person fix your issue.
Use the Right Language When You File Your Claim
Before you call up your home warranty company to file a claim and ask for service, do two things: Get out a copy of your service contract, and think about phrasing your problem in a way that makes it clear that your issue is covered by the warranty.
For example, if your washing machine breaks, spewing dirty, soapy water all over your hardwood floor, don’t call up your warranty company and just say that your home has flooded due to a plumbing leak. Why not? Plumbing problems might not be covered under your warranty, and anyway, that’s not the issue — the problem is that your washing machine, which is covered by your warranty, has malfunctioned. So, you’ll want to explain that your warranty-covered washing machine has malfunctioned and that it requires service, and that your damaged hardwood floor may also need repair. Have your contract handy. so you can refer to the language therein that backs up your claim, if necessary.
Ask About Your Options
When you use a home warranty, you may not be able to have full control over who comes out to your house to take a look at your problem. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask for another contractor if the one the warranty company offers is terrible. Have your tablet or laptop handy when you call for service, so you can do a quick search for the contractor’s Yelp, Google or Better Business Bureau reviews. If they’re terrible, ask if you can have a different contractor.
Similarly, if your warranty company wants to replace, rather than repair, an appliance or home system component, you may want to ask if you can just have the cash. Often, home warranty companies are willing to cut you a check for whatever amount they’d be willing to pay towards the replacement of your appliance or home system component — and you might be better off with cash in hand. That’s because the amount the home warranty company will pay to replace your refrigerator may not be enough to buy an equivalent model. Rather than getting stuck with a fridge you didn’t choose for the next 15 years, you can take your cash payout and put it towards the new model of your dreams.
Claim Denied? Be Persistent
If your claim is denied, be persistent. Escalate up the chain of command; ask to speak to your customer service rep’s manager and his supervisor and so on. When a service provider comes to your home, be there to meet him or her, and if he or she says your repairs aren’t covered, be prepared to ask why and to explain why they should be. If you’re certain that your repair should be covered, but your service provider is balking or you feel they aren’t investigating the matter adequately, you can ask to speak to the contractor’s supervisor before ponying up the service fee.
A home warranty might not cover every expense related to keeping your home’s appliances and systems in good working order, but it can defray a significant portion of those costs. With the cost of home appliance and systems repairs, a home warranty can pay for itself with just one service call — as long as you know how to make home warranty work for you.