MEADOWSPLACE, Texas – Matt Walker was anxious about the age of the air conditioning units before purchasing his home last summer.
The sellers offered to throw in a home warranty protection plan that was supposed to cover the air conditioning system and other major repairs.
In April, when one of the units stopped functioning, Walker soon realized that he should have done his own homework instead of allowing his realtor to select a warranty plan.
New Jersey-based Choice Home Warranty sent out a preferred vendor who told Walker the repairs would cost around $5,000.
The company denied the claim though, stating the issue was due to a lack of maintainence and pointing to a very vague clause in the plan's paperwork.
"I was pretty angry with them, because everything I had been told it was not due to lack of maintenance," said Walker, who filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau shortly after having his claim denied.
The Better Business Bureau has collected more than 1,800 complaints on Choice Home Warranty over the past three years. No other warranty company has received more complaints from the Greater Houston area, according to data obtained from the Better Business Bureau for Greater Houston and South Texas.
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"It's really imperative to research the history of the company," said Leah Napoliello, the senior investigator for Houston’s Better Business Bureau.
Napoliello said before selecting a warranty company, consumers should look to see if the Better Business Bureau has received a high volume of complaints from the company and then read through the compaints to see the nature of the issues.
Consumer complaints got the attention of the New Jersey attorney general last summer.
In June 2015, Choice Home Warranty was ordered to pay the state of New Jersey $780,000, including customer restitution for deceptive business practices.
The "lack of maintainence" explanation for claims denials was specifically mentioned in the attorney general’s lawsuit against the company.
The settlement agreement also forced the company to have a compliance monitor to make sure the company is fulfilling the terms of the judgement and following all applicable New Jersey consumer protection laws.
A representative for Choice Home Warranty did not respond to questions about the compliance monitor.
The representative initially said the company would revisit Walker’s claim and try to work out a reimbursement but later did not respond to calls or emails about the status of that reimbursement.
Consumers thinking of using a home warranty company should make sure to read the exclusion clauses in the plan to look for vague language. Also, plans may have a section that caps the total amount the company will cover in repairs at a certain dollar amount.