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Investing in a home warranty can save you time, money, and hassle when something in your home breaks. Many homeowners value the peace of mind that comes from knowing their home’s systems and appliances are covered by a comprehensive service contract. But when it comes time to actually use their home warranties, many homeowners have no idea where to start.
In this article, we’ll walk you through the steps required to file a home warranty claim. We’ll also explain what home warranties cover, how to decide if you need one, and which company we think offers the best home warranty.
Steps to Filing a Home Warranty Claim
Though the home warranty claims process may vary slightly from one provider to another, it can generally be boiled down into four simple steps. To get your home back to normal as quickly as possible, here’s what you need to do:
1. Review and Understand Your Coverage
Before filing your claim, review your plan’s coverage. It will be listed in the contract you signed when you purchased your home warranty. As you read through what your policy covers and excludes, ask yourself three questions:
- Does my home warranty cover the broken appliance or system?
- What caused the breakdown, and does my policy cover that?
- Do any exclusions or restrictions apply to my situation?
Most home warranty companies sell two or three plans. Typical offerings include systems-only, appliances-only, and comprehensive systems-and-appliances plans. Once you know what your plan covers, familiarize yourself with any exclusions or requirements noted in your policy.
Companies may differ on which systems or appliances they cover and even which category certain items fall into. Some companies limit or refuse coverage for improperly installed appliances or items with preexisting conditions, and others require homeowners to submit maintenance records for the item in question.
2. Consider Service Fee and Coverage Limits
Once you have verified that your home warranty will cover the breakdown, decide whether filing a claim is worthwhile. Even if the home warranty company approves your claim and covers the repair or replacement, you may still have some out-of-pocket costs. Here’s what to consider:
- Service call fee: When you file a claim, you will be responsible for a service fee, similar to a deductible on an insurance policy. The exact amount will vary depending on your plan and provider but should be listed in your home warranty contract. Most providers charge a flat fee in the range of $65 to $125 per claim or service visit.
- Coverage limits: Among the other terms and exclusions spelled out in your contract, you may find a few coverage limits. For instance, your home warranty provider might cap coverage at $2,000 per claim. Your contract might also impose a different limit for each appliance, system, or service.
It only makes sense to file a claim if the cost of repair will exceed your predetermined service call fee. Be careful in determining this, though. If you call a technician yourself and the service ends up costing more than you expected, your home warranty may not be willing to cover the cost. Companies generally require you to file a claim and receive approval before any repairs are completed, and most home warranty companies have their own network of vetted technicians.
If the cost of a repair or replacement will exceed your coverage limits, it still makes sense to file a claim. Just be aware that you will be responsible for the difference between the total cost and any relevant coverage limits.
3. Request a Service Visit
After you decide to file a claim, the next step is to request a service visit. Most home warranty companies make it easy to file a claim online or over the phone. Regardless of which option you choose, you will need to answer a few simple questions, such as when you first noticed the problem.
Once you file your claim, one of two things will happen: Either the company will find a technician for you, or you will be given the opportunity to hire one yourself. Each home warranty company maintains its own network of prescreened service technicians. In most cases, your service request will be sent to these technicians first. Some companies, however, allow homeowners to find their own technicians from the start.
If the home warranty company is handling the arrangements, all you have to do is wait. The company will find a suitable contractor, schedule a service visit, and notify you of the details. However, the timing can vary depending on the season, your location, and the provider. If you are hiring your own technician, you have a bit more control over the process and may be able to arrange an appointment sooner.
4. Pay Your Service Call Fee
After the contractor arrives, he will diagnose and fix the issue. Most repairs can be completed on the same day, though you may need to wait longer if a special part or full replacement is needed.
Around this time, you must pay the service fee and any uncovered expenses, such as any amount that exceeds your coverage limits. Note that some home warranty providers may allow (or require) you to prepay your service fee online. In most cases, however, you will pay the technician directly at the end of the service visit.
What Does a Home Warranty Cover?
Home warranty coverage varies depending on the plan and provider. However, most home warranty providers offer three types of plans:
- Systems coverage: This covers major home systems, such as your plumbing and electrical systems. It also covers your entire HVAC system, including your water heater and air conditioning.
- Appliance coverage: This covers large home appliances. This generally includes refrigerators, ovens, stoves, dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers, and built-in microwaves.
- Comprehensive coverage: This combines systems and appliance coverage into one plan.
In general, home warranties limit their coverage to breakdowns and malfunctions caused by normal wear and tear. If a covered item, for instance, is damaged by a pest infestation or natural disaster, your home warranty likely will not cover it. Many issue claim denials for improper installation, unusual wear, lack of maintenance, modifications, or misuse. Home warranties may also exclude coverage for cosmetic components and duplicate appliances.
Do I Need a Home Warranty?
Home warranties are not required for homeownership. Your mortgage lender will likely require you to purchase homeowners insurance, but home warranty coverage is optional.
Still, home warranties can be a worthwhile investment for many homeowners—especially those who are buying or selling an older home. Many home warranties are purchased as part of a real estate transaction as extra protection and incentive for home buyers.
If any of the covered appliances in your home are outside the manufacturer’s warranty period, a home warranty can help. Not only will the warranty company help cover repair costs, but it will also match you with a trustworthy service provider to complete the repair.
Learn more: Are Home Warranties Worth It?
Our Top Home Warranty Provider
Homeowners today have many excellent home warranty companies to choose from. American Home Shield is one of our top recommended providers.
American Home Shield
American Home Shield (AHS) has several features that make it a practical choice for most homeowners, including offering more generous coverage terms than many of its competitors. The company does not limit coverage based on an item’s age, condition, or maintenance history. It does not impose a dollar limit for any built-in home systems, and appliances are covered up to $3,000 or $6,000, depending on the plan. We’ve listed the three available plans below.
- ShieldSilver: This plan covers major home systems, including HVAC, plumbing, and electrical. Its coverage also extends to ceiling fans, doorbells, chimes, built-in exhaust fans, attic fans, garage-door openers, toilets, faucets, and valves.
- ShieldGold: In addition to the systems covered by ShieldSilver, this plan covers major kitchen appliances, clothes washers and dryers, garbage disposals, and instant hot/cold water dispensers.
- ShieldPlatinum: This plan covers all the systems and appliances listed in the ShieldGold plan, plus roof-leak repair. It also applies the $6,000 coverage limit for covered appliances, which is higher than the $3,000 coverage cap on the other two plans.
AHS also offers coverage add-ons for electronics, pools and spas, guest units, septic pumps, and well pumps. The company has 52 years of experience, and it offers 24/7 customer service via phone.
Learn more: American Home Shield Review
Get a quote: Get your quote from American Home Shield.
Although the home warranty claims process may seem intimidating at first, all you have to do is follow the steps outlined above. Start by reviewing your coverage and considering the cost, then simply request a service visit and pay the fee.
If you are still shopping for a home warranty, American Home Shield is a good place to start. However, we always recommend gathering quotes from at least three different companies before making a decision. That way, you can compare quotes and find the plan that best fits your needs.
Filing a Home Warranty Claim FAQ
What happens if a home warranty is not honored?
If a home warranty is not honored, you may need to hire your own service contractor and pay for the repair or replacement up-front. After that, you can request reimbursement by filing an appeal with your warranty company. If the company denies your appeal, you may be able to sue in small claims court or engage an arbitrator to resolve the dispute. You can also contact your state’s attorney general to file a complaint.
How long does it take to process a warranty claim?
Home warranty companies generally try to process your claim and schedule a service appointment within 24 hours. However, the process may take longer depending on the number of technicians in your area and their availability.Note that home warranties typically have waiting periods before you can file a claim. In most cases, you will not be able to request service until 30 days after signing up.
Is there a deductible with a home warranty?
No, but there is a service call fee, which is similar to a deductible. The service fee is the amount you pay out of pocket each time you request a service visit.
What is the best home warranty company?
We recommend American Home Shield as the best home warranty company. However, homeowners have several great options to choose from. Other top providers include Liberty Home Guard and First American Home Warranty.
How We Chose the Top Home Warranty Providers
Our team reviewed and researched dozens of home warranty providers, thoroughly analyzed sample agreements, and identified customer pain points based on analysis of customer reviews and interviews with industry experts. Our in-depth methodology guides our review process to provide transparent information about the companies we review.
During this process, we determined that the most critical aspects of a home warranty company include available service plans and add-ons, depth of coverage, plan cost, industry reputation, customer support infrastructure, and additional features. We also focused on the ability to choose your own contractor, upgrade your coverage package, transfer your plan to another owner, and cover roof leaks, high-end appliance brands, ceiling and exhaust fans, and faucets and fixtures.
Our research supported that plan coverage should carry the most weight, with customer support as the second-most important factor. Industry reputation, plan availability, and additional features were rated equally. We determined that price range, while worth considering, should not be the primary basis for choosing a home warranty provider for your home’s needs.