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Call Kurtis: Why Won't My Home Warranty Company Cover My Busted Furnace?

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) - A Sacramento mom says her home warranty was supposed to give her peace of mind.

But three months after getting that warranty, Cathelean Jones says her heater went out. She thought she would only have to pay a $125 deductible, instead, this single mom of four ended up paying $2,700.

"I turned the heater on, and it shut off," said Jones.

Her family was left in the cold after their attic furnace died right before winter. But Jones was thankful that she had a home warranty.

Total Protect's Piece of Mind Protection plan says a replacement furnace without its coverage can cost between $1,500 to $4,500. But under its plan the deductible would only be $125.

After Jones paid her deductible, she says the company told her it wouldn't fix the furnace, claiming it was improperly installed.

"I've been here 5 years, it's been working fine. Never had a problem. All of a sudden it's installed improperly," said Jones.

Even if installed improperly the policy says she's protected for unknown pre-existing conditions.

Consumer attorney Stuart Talley looked at the policy which states improper installations aren't covered.

"If it breaks because it wasn't installed properly, it's not covered," said Talley.

But how would you know it wasn't installed right?

He says you can ask the company for a second opinion.

"Insurance companies can come in and just automatically deny claims for bogus reasons and you can fight that," he said.

Jones ended up replacing her unit at her own expense for $2,700, and wants to be reimbursed.

We reached out to Total Protect. A spokesperson stood by their position that the heating system was improperly installed, but added because it was her first claim, "We provided her with a courtesy offer of $478 for labor and replacement of the furnace."

However, Jones refused the offer saying, "That's not even a quarter of what I paid."

With the new furnace, the heat is flowing again. But Jones now has to pay back a loan she took out to replace her furnace. She thought she was protected under her Peace of Mind coverage, but now thinks it was, "just a waste of money," said Jones.

Issues with home warranty companies are not uncommon. The state says it gets about 700 home warranty complaints each year.

If you have an issue with a home warranty company the state says to file a complaint with the California Department of Insurance.

Total Protect Full Statement

To address your inquiry about Ms. Jones' claim, the service company reported that the drain for her heating system was improperly installed (it was incorrectly plumbed and back-pitched), which resulted in the leak. This type of damage tends to happen over a lengthy period of time and is not related to the furnace unit, which is why she had not seen prior issues.

Ms. Jones followed the proper protocol with her claim questions, and because it was her first claim, we provided her with a courtesy offer of $478 for labor and replacement of the furnace (which is what she would have been entitled to if the issue had not been the result of the improperly installed drain). However she refused the offer.

Homes and all of their operations are complex. This claim is akin to purchasing a tire warranty for your car, but insisting the warranty be used to fix your steering column instead. Our number one goal is to make life easier for our homeowners. We are homeowners too, and we know what it takes to keep a home running smoothly. So while we hope there is never a reason to have to use the warranty, our customers can be assured that if a covered appliance or system fails due to normal wear and tear, it will be fixed or replaced.

Our offer of $478 remains valid to Ms. Jones should she change her mind.

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