Action 9 investigates home warranties

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TITUSVILLE, Fla. —

A Titusville woman says she paid $1,000 for a home warranty, but the company refused to cover a big plumbing repair. She says it ended up costing her hundreds of dollars and triggered serious damage.

Anita Varela found water seeping from the kitchen wall into her garage several times a week. Since she paid for a three-year home warranty, Varela thought she was covered.

"It says right in the contract it covers leaks," she said.

Varela made a claim to Choice Home Warranty in New Jersey, which sells home repairs and says it offers peace of mind. When its subcontractor showed up, he found a plumbing leak near the dishwasher, but Choice Home Warranty denied the claim because it said the leak was buried in the slab, a policy exclusion.

"What's the good of having a warranty if they're not going to cover it?" asked Varela.

Choice Home has an F rating at the Better Business Bureau with 775 complaints, many involving claim denials.

Varela kept disputing.

"They just kept (saying), 'Deny, deny, deny,'" she said.

Finally, Varela hired her own plumber, who found it was not a slab leak but a busted pipe in the wall, which should have been covered.

Repairs cost $260, but by that time, there was a lot of wall and cabinet damage.

Consumer experts said many warranty companies make collecting on a claim very difficult.

"If you don't understand really what it can do for you and what it can't do for you, then when the time comes that you need it, you may be left regretting that decision," said BBB Vice President Holly Salmons.

Varela had disputed the Choice Home Warranty charges on her credit card and after Action 9 contacted the company, a manager said it would no longer pursue collecting its fees.

"All they would have had to do is fix the leak," said Varela.

To save yourself the hassle, check a warranty company's complaint history before you buy. And because a warranty is considered insurance, you can also file complaints with Florida Financial Services.