Written by Rochelle Burnside | Last Updated March 16th, 2020Rochelle Burnside produces content on business services. Her advice has been featured in Forbes, Huffington Post, Yahoo Finance, and more.
We have almost 16,000 reviews in our Home Warranty category, but nearly a third of those are 1 star.
While this may seem like a staggering amount, it’s not — most of our site’s categories have about a third of their reviews as 1 star. Home Warranty is right with the rest of the pack, or perhaps even a bit lower.
But the home warranty industry has its own unique challenges, and these leave some customers wondering if this coverage is worth the cost and the purported “peace of mind.”
We’ve compiled our data in an infographic below to give you an idea of what these customer complaints entail; click on the icons in our directory if you’d like to see an in-depth commentary on what this complaint means and how you could avoid your own 1-star home warranty experience.
*Because we will be reviewing general complaints, all specific company and reviewer names are removed. To better understand a specific company’s feedback, read their reviews.
56% of reviewers complained of slow repair times
Your AC breaks on Friday evening in the middle of summer, and you breathe a sigh of relief that your home warranty company has 24/7 customer service. You call in for help. But unfortunately, none of the techs that work through your provider are available on the weekends — you can count on at least a two-day wait.
This scenario frustrates over half of 1-star home warranty reviewers. Sometimes miscommunications occur between the warranty provider and the technicians they employ. This could mean the technicians come at a later time than you expected, or not at all.
Home warranty companies using contracted technicians can have the drawback of a slow repair time. While warranty providers create policies addressing contractor professionalism and pricing, these policies can be difficult to enforce from a distance.
Additionally, some technicians that perform quality work don’t operate through warranty providers. Home warranty companies want to keep costs down, and so a few technicians complain that they use contractors offering the cheapest services. However, this isn't always the case, and it depends on which provider you choose.
Here’s what you can do to ensure you’re working with a home warranty company that will give you prompt technicians who provide quality service:
- Research the companies you're interested in. If you're reading articles like this, you're on the right track. "Do your research," Courtney Keene, the Director of Operations of MyRoofingPal, affirms. "You'll want to read plenty of reviews. Check all of the 2- and 3-star reviews where available. People who leave those ratings tend to be a little more level-headed and analytical rather than emotional in their review." As you've probably guessed from our research, Keene is right; 1-star reviews can sometimes be exaggerated.
- Consider a home warranty company that lets you choose your own contractor. If timeliness is your biggest priority, you might be able to find a technician that’s on-call 24/7, or a servicer that specializes in the appliances or systems your warranty covers. However, keep in mind that choosing your own contractor will require more responsibility on your end, and home warranty companies that let you pick your own aren’t always able to negotiate rates like they can with in-network servicers. And be careful: some home warranty providers will void your warranty if you use a technician out of their network. You'll want to know if this is an option before you go with a provider.
- Find a home warranty company with a rigorous pre-screening process for contractors. Get to know what your prospective company looks for in a technician. How many techs are in your area? It’s better to know this before you choose a company; everything about a home warranty is better to know before you need it.
- Find a warranty provider with an expansive reach. A home warranty company with millions of customers nationwide needs thousands of service technicians. This improves your likelihood of available technicians that specialize in your equipment and are available when you need them. As a bonus, a large customer base indicates a trusted company.
55% of reviewers complained of claim denials
The freezer in your garage breaks. While you’re in the process of dumping spoiled food, you call your home warranty company and ask to file a claim. But unfortunately, you didn’t buy coverage for an extra freezer and they can’t approve your request.
This isn’t the only scenario where a claim can be denied. Home warranty companies want to ensure they’re only fixing and replacing appliances that truly need it. If an item was defective prior to coverage, or if your item is past a particular threshold of age, these could be grounds to deny your claim.
And as this review suggests, your coverage is typically detailed in a long contract. In fact, you can void your warranty by not following building codes, failing to document prior purchases, or causing “unusual wear and tear” to an appliance. That’s why it’s important to mind your contract.
You want your to put your home warranty to work when you need it, so here’s what you need to know about filing claims:
- Get professional help filing a claim. You have to be careful with your words when filing a claim. "Without the help of an experienced, trained professional, a claimant is likely to stick their proverbial foot in their mouth by using language that voids the warranty," says R. J. D'Angelo, a project manager for JWE Remodling and Roofing. D'Angelo explains that 70 percent of his company's work addresses home warranty and homeowners insurance claims, and he recommends legal counsel or a licensed public insurance adjuster to comb over your claim.
As an example of accidentally voiding your warranty, he mentions, "Most warranties and insurance policies have exclusions for floods, but most water damage to homes are caused not by floods but by things like burst pipes or storm-damaged roof leaks, which are covered perils. But if the homeowner files a claim and says, 'Water was flooding into my house,' then it’s a clear 'gotcha' for the warranty provider or insurer."
- Leave a paper trail. If you have coverage questions before signing up for a home warranty company, call and ask. But don’t take a verbal confirmation at face value — ask the customer service rep where you can find that information in your contract. Your agreements should be documented in writing.
- Use a home inspection. Some home warranty companies advertise no home inspection as an incentive to select them. While this means less hassle initially, a home warranty company then has difficulty verifying if your damaged item was damaged before your contract. A home inspection can solve this, and several good home warranty companies will look at your home inspection report to determine which of your systems are eligible for full coverage based on their age and damage when you signed the contract.
"Usually the warranty company will say that something is pre-existing so they don’t have to repair or replace whatever went wrong," says Mary Burak, a real estate professional with over 30 years of experience. "That’s when the home inspection report becomes extremely valuable. At that point, I usually have the homeowner, or myself, take the issue up with one of the heads of the warranty company . . . a decision maker. Problem solved . . . usually!"
- Get extra coverage. Your AC may be new and you don’t think it will break, but if it does and it isn’t covered by your plan, you’ll wish you’d opted for that additional coverage. Know what a home warranty company will and won’t cover under a basic plan. Sometimes providers will be finicky about their services; you may only receive coverage for a part of a system, but not the whole item. If you have the extras, get coverage for the extras; there are home warranty companies that will cover everything from your trash compactor to your doorbell.
Read also: What Can Void Your Home Warranty?
36% of reviewers complained of poor customer service
The complaint of poor customer service is a timeless classic. Check out some of our other review analyses and you’ll see that 1-star reviewers are fed up with customer support across the board. Here’s what poor customer service means for home warranty:
If you request help by phone, like many other insurance and finance companies, you might expect long wait times, a complicated phone tree, or frustrating automated responses. But this doesn’t have to be your experience. You can avoid a headache from customer support with these tips:
- Test a call before choosing a company. See how long it takes you to get through to someone at your prospective company. Ask them questions. Do they seem knowledgeable? Are they helpful? If you’re already confused by a warranty provider’s customer service phone tree, imagine how much more frustrating it will be when your washing machine is flooding your laundry room.
- Choose a company that offers an online claims process. Maybe you don’t want to make a phone call at all. Some home warranty companies give you the option to file online. This might lead to a delay in scheduling a technician, but it can also mean less stress and time wasted on your part.
- Don't give up. "I speak with the warranty companies about customer service," explains Bruce, a realtor in Atlanta. "Like most insurance companies, I think they want to make it so difficult you just give up." He describes a time when his double oven went out before Thanksgiving. While his warranty provider delivered a Thanksgiving dinner and a gas grill to make up for delayed repairs, a new oven wasn't approved until January after a couple attempts to repair his old one. Bruce's persistence was what got a new oven for his home.
26% cited technician issues; 10% cited cancellation issues; 8% complained of added fees
A minority of 1-star reviews complained about issues with a technician, cancellation problems, or hidden fees.
Technician issues included technicians that weren’t knowledgeable, acted unprofessionally, or made the problem worse. This could, in part, be due to the fact that they’re independent contractors, and they can sometimes be newbies who accept the low compensation that some home warranty companies offer. It's important to get to know your local technicians and contractors in conjunction with your prospective home warranty provider before you make a selection.
Warranty providers typically include the duration of coverage in their contract. If you want to cancel before your contract is complete, that will probably land you a cancellation fee. But it’s also important to give an advance warning that you’d like to cancel before a contract’s renewal date. Like an insurance company, a home warranty company won’t be too flexible about cancellation and renewal.
You may also have to issue a physical letter to request termination. This could seem like a hassle, but having a copy of this for your own records and a mailing certificate could protect you from cancellation issues. Then, some home warranties companies may give you a physical letter acknowledging the cancellation of your policy. While all this paper in an increasingly paperless world might seem wasteful, it could keep you from being in the 10 percent of 1-star reviewers who aren’t pleased with their cancellation process.
Eight percent of 1-star reviews complained of added fees. Some claim they were charged a service fee when no technician arrived, others were not aware a service fee would be charged. And others still were surprised by the cancellation fees mentioned above. For most of these hiccups, reading your contract is again the solution.
Online reviews are a helpful tool in gauging customer perspectives, and anyone researching a company should be sure to check out what its clients are saying. Reviews keep companies accountable if they've been irresponsible with consumers' time and money.
"The best answer . . . is to check reviews from unbiased review sites," Benjamin Joseph, the founder of Liberty Home Guard, explains. "Customers want to see genuine feedback from like users."
But also remember that it's up to you to do your research on your potential contract, coverage, and the competition of your prospective company. Some 1-star reviewers didn't do their part, and that's why they're unhappy. Check our home warranty company reviews to find out more information about which service may be right for you.