Purchasing a home warranty plan gives you financial protection in the event a covered appliance or system breaks down. But whether you’re shopping for warranties now or already have one, it’s not always clear how to file a home warranty claim. Read on to find step-by-step instructions for submitting a home warranty claim and for strategies you may be able to use if that claim is denied.
What are home warranty claims?
To understand home warranty claims, you first need to understand how home warranties work. Home warranties are different from home insurance policies. Home warranties are basically insurance policies for specific items in your home — usually appliances and electrical, plumbing or HVAC systems.
For example, you can take out a home warranty on your kitchen appliances. If one of those appliances breaks down and needs repair, your home warranty may kick in to cover the repair costs. But in order to access the coverage you’re entitled to receive, you will first need to file a home warranty claim.
Home warranty claims are official requests for financial assistance made by homeowners to their warranty providers. Submitting your home warranty claim is the first step toward getting the financial assistance your policy offers.
If you want to learn more about home warranties before proceeding, you can review this guide covering what a home warranty is.
How does the home warranty claim process work?
Every home warranty provider has its own claim process. But, when a successful claim is made, the process generally looks something like this:
- One of your covered appliances or systems malfunctions or stops working entirely.
- You submit a request for service to your home appliance warranty provider.
- They may request follow-up documentation to verify the issue.
- You may be charged a one-time service fee, depending on your policy.
- Your provider sends an appliance technician out to your home to fix the problem you’re experiencing.
Notably, you typically need to go through your home warranty company to have the costs of repair covered. If you try to fix the issue yourself or hire a service technician on your own, you usually won’t be reimbursed for the expenses you incur. In fact, you could even void the remainder of your home warranty by taking matters into your own hands in this way.
This is why ensuring you follow the correct process when filing a home warranty claim is important.
How to file a home warranty claim
Before reading this section, remember that the specific steps you need to follow when filing a home warranty claim can vary based on your provider. You should always default to your provider’s claim filing process to ensure you don’t make any mistakes that may impact your coverage.
1. Review the terms of your home warranty contract
The first thing you should do when you want to file a home warranty claim is review your service contract. Home warranties can have wildly different terms; some of those could impact what you need to do to ensure a successful claims process. With that in mind, here are a few specific details you should be looking for in your contract.
Coverage limits and exclusions
Take a look at any limitations and exclusions that are explicitly mentioned in your contract. Limits define the maximum amount of value that you can get back after making your home warranty claim. Exclusions refer to different criteria that may render your claim null and void. For example, you may have exclusions for unusual wear or failing to conduct proper maintenance. Issues with improper installations and manufacturer defects could also impact your coverage.
Coverage limitations and exclusions vary significantly from policy to policy. You should be clear about the specific coverage limitations and exclusions in any policy you’re considering purchasing so you don't end up with surprise costs.
Your home warranty policy could also have various rules surrounding pre-existing conditions. For the purposes of home warranties, a pre-existing condition is any issue with a covered appliance or system that existed before your policy was activated.
For example, let’s say you have covered systems and appliances in your kitchen that you want to repair from normal wear and tear. If, in the process of fixing those problems, the service technician discovers a pre-existing condition actually caused them, your policy may not cover the repair charges you incur.
However, home warranty coverage often makes a distinction between pre-existing conditions that you should have known about and those that were undetectable through standard visual and mechanical tests. So it is possible that you would have coverage even with a pre-existing condition, depending on your provider.
Service call costs
Finally, you should also look at the cost of service calls when evaluating your contract. Many home warranty providers charge a fee anytime you request service for one of your covered appliances.
Usually, home warranty companies require you to pay a service fee ranging from $60 to $125 before they send a technician. Actual fees will depend on your policy and provider. Service fees are akin to deductibles in that they're a cost you're responsible for paying before your warranty coverage kicks in. But every policy is different, so be sure to review the fine print on yours to see if there’s a way you can lower or avoid paying this expense.
2. Request a service visit
Once you have a good understanding of what your home warranty covers, you can request a service visit from your provider. They may ask you for documentation supporting your request or wait until after the fact to request that kind of information.
You can often request service visits online through your home warranty provider’s account dashboard. But you also often have the option to call if you prefer.
Remember, you need to go through your home warranty provider when requesting a service visit. They will typically only cover the cost of covered repairs if they’re completed by a technician the company has a relationship with.
Some companies, like America's Preferred Home Warranty, let you choose any licensed contractor to complete your repairs. This can make getting your repairs completed quickly easier, but you may have to pay a higher premium as a tradeoff.
3. Pay the service fee and any uncovered expenses
The next step is to pay the service fee that your provider charges. Once you do that, they will send a technician to your home to repair the problem that you’ve been experiencing. The process may or may not stop there.
While repairing your appliance, the service technician may discover other problems that need attention. Or, after reviewing the technician’s report, your provider may realize that only a portion of the services rendered are actually covered by your plan.
When these scenarios happen, you may have extra expenses that go beyond the service fee you already paid. However, if your warranty company denies a portion of your claim, you may be able to appeal that decision and end up having those uncovered expenses covered.
What to do if your home warranty claim is denied
There are a number of reasons your home warranty claim may be denied, even if you follow the company’s claims process to a tee. For example, your company may say you didn’t maintain your appliances properly or determine the issues are symptomatic of unusual wear and tear. These claim denials can be frustrating, but you have options. Here are a few steps you can take if your home warranty claim is denied.
Obtain an inspection report from your home warranty company's service technician
A good first step is to ask for the report from the technician servicing your appliance. This is often the document that a home warranty company will use to make decisions on claims.
For example, the inspection report may incorrectly state that your appliance broke down as a result of a non-covered issue. Or it could say you haven’t been taking care of the appliance, which may not be true.
Seeing the technician’s inspection report will help you determine the basis for the denial. Once you understand why your claim was denied, it will be easier to figure out how you might successfully appeal the denial.
Get a second opinion from a third-party inspector
Next, consider hiring a third-party inspector to assess the damaged appliance. This should be an experienced professional who regularly services the types of appliances in question.
The third-party inspector will come out to your home and look at the damage with a new set of eyes. They may discover that the original technician missed something or improperly classified the issues you’ve been experiencing as part of a non-covered problem.
There are situations in which experienced service technicians can have differing opinions about the source of an appliance breakdown. The first technician may not have told your warranty provider the whole story. Hiring a third-party inspector will hopefully give you the information you need to decide whether to proceed with your appeal or not.
Start the appeals process
If you discover a discrepancy that suggests your claim was denied incorrectly, then the next step is to begin the appeals process. You can typically do that by visiting your warranty provider’s website and filling out the correct warranty claim forms or by calling a customer service representative and describing your problem.
This will start a process that can last for several weeks or longer. The company should reevaluate its reasoning for why your home warranty claim was denied and take any documentation or information you’ve provided into account. Each of the top home warranty companies has its own appeals process, which can last from one to 30 days, so be sure to review your company’s policy online before proceeding.
At the end of the reevaluation period, the home warranty company will tell you whether your appeal has been approved or denied and provide the reasoning behind its new decision.
If the company doesn't respond, file a complaint
All reputable home warranty providers should have standardized appeals processes for consumers to follow. However, you might not hear back about the status of an appeal for a very long time. Or the company could process your appeal and still make a decision that you believe is incorrect.
If this happens to you, then it may make sense to file a complaint with the attorney general in your state. They can evaluate the company’s actions and take legal action on your behalf if they discover any wrongdoing or inaccurate decision-making.
You may wish to complain about the company online as well. Posting a complaint on the provider’s Better Business Bureau profile could prompt the company to take action since home warranty reviews play a big role in many consumers’ decision-making processes.
Finally, if all else fails, you may need to consider filing a lawsuit against your home warranty provider for a breach of contract. If your lawsuit is successful, the provider will likely be forced to cover the costs you paid to the court and your attorney. However, some contracts will include provisions that force you into arbitration, so be sure to check your fine print.
Summary of Money's how to file a home warranty claim
Filing a home warranty claim is the first step toward getting the financial assistance your policy entitles you to receive. The process may be as simple as reviewing your contract for important terms, requesting a service visit and paying a one-time service fee. But your claim could also be denied, which may force you into a lengthy appeals process.
If you’re still shopping for home warranty coverage, be sure to consider each company’s policies for claim disputes and exclusions. Doing so could reduce your chances of having to appeal an incorrect decision, and these are details you will want to keep in mind as you evaluate whether home warranties are worth purchasing.