• Action 9 investigates utility warranties


    ORLANDO,Fla. - An Orange county woman claims the plumbing warranty sold by her utility turned into a nightmare when she needed it most, so she called Action 9 for help.

    “I do know this is a mess,” Marvan Brown said as she pointed out the large hole in her garage floor. She never expected this ordeal fixing a water leak. She was without hot water for ten days.

    Brown had warranty protection. She paid $4 on her OUC power bill every month for plumbing emergencies. But when she made a claim it didn’t go as well as she thought it would. “I don't have peace of mind at all, I'm devastated,” said Brown.

    The warranty provider is American Water Resources. They sent a plumber who Brown claims told her repairs cost $2100 and her warranty only covered a thousand. Then she had to pay another company to cut concrete to reach the leak.

    “I mean come on now, that's not fair to me,” said Brown. She called another contractor for a second opinion. He said the whole job cost just $600. She hired that plumber instead.

    “OUC says they're trying to help customers but this is a nightmare for me,” said Brown.

    American Water Resources is a BBB member with an A Plus rating. It also has more than 180 complaints.

    Many consumers claim the warranty didn't have the coverage they expected.

    Marianne Daniel of Orlando claims it took a full month to resolve her plumbing leak. “If they treat me like this how do I know they're not treating other customers the same way.”

    Consumer groups like Florida Consumer Action Network, say warranties sold by utilities are overpriced, rarely used, and have many exclusions.

    Todd Ulrich contacted OUC. After reviewing both complaints, the utility decided the plumbing contractor was a problem.

    “We're going to say to AWR (American Water Resources) you need to take a closer look at this, maybe we shouldn't use this vendor anymore,” said OUC spokesman Tim Trudell.

    The company has sent checks to both consumers to pay for repairs partially covered by the warranty.

    OUC said 467 customers had successful claims and saved money with the warranties and more than 10 thousand customers have signed up.

    American Water Resources written response:

    Ms. Brown is enrolled in American Water Resources of Florida’s (AWRF) In-Home Plumbing Protection Program.  Ms. Brown reported a leak to AWRF and AWRF dispatched Hers & His Plumbing (H&H) to the property to investigate.  Upon inspection, H&H advised AWRF that the leak was located under the home’s concrete slab, indicating that it was an issue involving the home’s internal hot water supply line.  H&H also told AWRF that it would need to remove parts of the concrete to access the leak. 

    AWRF informed Ms. Brown that H&H needed access to the leak, which involved removing portions of the concrete slab, and advised Ms. Brown that she was responsible for providing the access under the program.  H&H also advised AWRF that the installation of the original line was not in compliance with local plumbing codes and any repairs to the line would have to bring the line in compliance with the codes.       

    H&H also provided Ms. Brown with a $2,100 estimate for repairs to the line and advised AWRF that the estimate consisted of re-piping the hot water line under the slab where the leak was detected and rerouting the hot water line throughout the home to bring the line in compliance with code.

    We are in the process of investigating H&H’s service efforts in Orlando and have removed them from consideration for servicing OUC customers pending the results of our investigation.  

    AWRF is a Better Business Bureau Accredited Business with an A plus rating.  AWRF’s protection programs provide Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) homeowners with comprehensive protection for leaks and breaks in water lines and internal supply pipes, as well as clogs or blockages in their sewer laterals and internal drain lines. These repairs are not typically covered by homeowners' insurance or their water or sewer service provider.  From inception of AWRF’s partnership with OUC in April 2015 to the end of June of this year we have saved OUC customers almost $250,000. 

    AWRF has agreed to cover any repair amounts submitted by Ms. Brown regarding her claim and has asked Ms. Brown for proof of repairs or costs incurred concerning her claim, including any repairs to the line made by a private contractor.  We regret that Ms. Brown experienced delays in addressing her concerns and for any inconvenience this may have caused Ms. Brown.   




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