MEMPHIS, Tenn. — When the WREG Problem Solvers met Linda Lambert, she was battling blood pressure problems from stress. Lambert, 81, had gone all winter without heat in her Germantown home.
“I’m worn out and I’m cold. It’s cold in here,” she said.
She blamed First American Home Warranty and described a list of failures that continually delayed her furnace replacement.
First American sent a statement to WREG saying the service she received did not meet their standards. They made some changes and she had heat in a few days.
Shirley Moore saw the story. It struck a chord.
“I said oh that’s the same company I have and that’s the same problem I am having,” Moore said.
The cancer survivor, who’s also in her 80s, pays $58 a month for the same policy as Lambert.
She showed how she first noticed her hot water heater leaking.
She called First American and paid an $85 fee to have a technician come out.
Eventually they said they’d cover a replacement, but that came with a catch.
First American wanted her to pay more than $1,000 for things they call “modifications,” like a new water line and valves.
“$1,090, if I paid that, why did I need the warranty? Because that’s basically what it would cost me to replace the water heater on my own. The warranty didn’t say anything about any modifications.”
Moore’s policy states “all parts” of a water heater are covered. They list some exception items, but none was part of the modifications list provided by First American.
First American Home Warranty has a B rating with the Better Business Bureau with nearly 5,000 complaints.
The WREG Problem Solvers also obtained documents from the Tennessee Attorney General showing eight cases against First American Home Warranty in the last 15 months.
“I’m not surprised. We can’t begin to imagine how many people they’re doing this to. People were not aware of,” Moore said.
Customers all over the state reported similar issues, like someone who complained in September about waiting four months for a new air conditioner or another person who said First American contractors ruined his HVAC. First American then wouldn’t pay for the replacement because they said some of the parts weren’t covered. The complaint sounded similar to Moore’s experience.
“The modifications they’ve come up with simply seem to be something they’re using in order to not do what they’re supposed to do,” Moore said. “I think it’s a rip-off and they are targeting seniors.”
In a statement to WREG, a representative for First American Home Warranty wrote, “We are unable to pay for repairs or replace items not covered.” They said they’d been in contact with Moore and were helping her “review options.”
Moore said First American ended up giving her $541 toward the cost of a new hot water heater, which she bought and installed on her own.
She was able to find many of the “modification” items for hundreds of dollars less than what First American said they would cost.
“Copper tubing they listed for $250, I paid $21 for it,” she said.
She’s now reached a similar conclusion to Lambert in Germantown. She is dropping First American Home Warranty.
“I’ve been with them anywhere from 15 to 20 years. If I had placed that money in a separate account, in 15 years, that money would’ve replaced the water tank two or three times,” she said.
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