CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Two men had problems with the same home warranty company and they're both in the real estate business. It begs the question -- if they had problems, how hard it could be for the average homeowner.
Realtor Brad Smith owns a house near Carowinds and rents it out.
His tenants had a problem with the air conditioning unit, so Smith called his home warranty company, Nevada-based Sensible Home Warranty. Smith said the business told him to hire someone to fix the problem and that it would pay Smith back. He did and waited months for that $373.
"Here I am, in the business, and I get taken advantage of," Smith said.
Another realtor, Jim Courtney, also used Sensible and also had problems. He rents out a home in east Charlotte.
His renters had a problem with electrical outlets. Courtney called Sensible and he says he ended up waiting for $105.
When Action 9 asked him, "If somebody like you can't navigate the system, how does anybody?" he said, "I wonder."
The Better Business Bureau gives the company an F rating, logging more than 1,400 complaints in three years as of Monday. Action 9 also found state officials in Oklahoma, Utah and Washington filed papers to keep Sensible from doing business there. Search the web and you find people warning you to "beware" of the company.
Smith sent Action 9 an email stating "It only took six months plus, several dozen calls, countless emails, numerous letters, contacting WSOC, filing a formal complaint with the North Carolina Department of Justice to finally get a check."
He received the full amount, but Action 9 was still working on getting Courtney's money back.
Advice from Better Business Bureau on home warranties:
The Better Business Bureau suggests that consumers who are interested in purchasing a home warranty take certain cautionary steps before signing on the dotted line.
Verify the warranty company's track record. Find out whether it's a local or national firm and how long it's been in business. Contact the BBB to find trustworthy businesses.
Do some comparison shopping. You may find that some of the lower-priced policies charge extra for coverage of water wells and some appliances, such as washing machines and dryers.
Consider the deductible.
Ask the warranty company who will perform the repairs. Most warranty companies have their own network of service contractors, but some do allow you to hire a contractor of your choice. Be sure you understand the company policy before you buy the service.
Get a detailed, impartial inspection of the house. This should be done regardless of whether you receive a home warranty. The inspection will alert you to any preexisting problems that may not be covered by the warranty.
Call the warranty company before you buy a policy. Ask questions, clarify coverage and, most importantly, see how the customer service representatives treat you. If they don't respond promptly and courteously before you buy a policy, they may not be very helpful after the sale.
Read the contract thoroughly. Make sure you fully understand what is and isn't covered.
If you have a warranty and problems show up during the first year, go directly to the warranty company. Hire an independent inspector to support your claims if you wind up in arbitration. Keep records and copies of all correspondence. Give the warranty company a reasonable opportunity to review your claims and make repairs.