MILWAUKEE -- A pair of homeowners purchased home warranties for protection, but said they ended up fighting for coverage. The company in question has thousands of complaints.
Dorothy Hopkins lived without hot water for a month. Hopkins said the hold up was that she couldn't get Choice Home Warranty to confirm it would cover a new water heater.
"You'd wait sometimes a half an hour, and when you did get 'em, you were always referred to somebody," Hopkins said.
When Hopkins missed a payment, she said she found herself without a warranty.
"I lost my credit card and I canceled it, and when I canceled it, they used it as an excuse. 'Well, she didn't pay,'" Hopkins said. "I had to buy a water heater."
In Hopkins' contract, it does state a warranty can be canceled for non-payment.
The other homeowner, Eleanore Mullins, said she ran into financial trouble when Choice Home Warranty told her she could delay payment.
She said the money was withdrawn from her bank account anyway.
"I think it was unfair. They promised me they'd wait and they didn't wait," Mullins said.
She said when she disputed the charge with her bank, her warranty was canceled. Mullins was on the hook for a new dishwasher.
"Said they were gonna give me $250 for it. They never gave it to me," she said.
Nathan DeLadurantey, a consumer attorney, said a home warranty is not a guarantee.
"It's really a service contract versus insurance. You're buying the right to have someone do work," DeLadurantey explained.
A home warranty covers the cost of maintaining certain household systems and appliances over a set period of time. Work must be done by a pre-approved repairman.
"Read everything before you sign it. Know what you're purchasing," DeLadurantey advised. "Your realtor says, 'I've never heard of this company ever' -- that's a decent initial red flag."
Contact 6 has received three complaints about Choice Home Warranty. Upon hearing about this story, the company resolved all three.
Both Hopkins and Mullins were released from their contracts and told to expect refunds for past payments.
In a statement, Choice Home Warranty writes:
"Thank you for bringing these matters to our attention. We are pleased the customers in question are now satisfied. We appreciate the opportunity to discuss any concerns regarding our service. Choice Home Warranty has serviced millions of claims, that resulted in tens of millions of dollars in claim payments. All claims are handled with the expectation of delivering world class customer service."
Consumers can protect themselves when buying a home warranty by doing the following:
- Read the warranty before you buy
- Print a copy of the contract for your own records
- Research the reputation of the company
- Confirm the company is licensed to operate in Wisconsin
The Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) can confirm if a company has a license. You can look it up HERE. If you have an issue with a warranty company, you can file a complaint with the OCI.
Wisconsin consumers may file a complaint with OCI through the following channels:
- Complaints may be filed online at oci.wi.gov.
- Call OCI at 1-800-236-8517.
- Email OCI at firstname.lastname@example.org.