How to make your home warranty work for you when A/C breaks

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If your home air conditioning system breaks down in the middle of summer, a home warranty is supposed to help. But what if there is a delay in the repair and the house is boiling?

Home warranty companies generally act quickly to make A/C repairs, but if parts are backordered, you may be looking at several days in a very hot house. Before you decide to check into a hotel to keep cool - check your contract.

Bill Jackson says his A/C compressor broke down this past August and his home warranty company, American Home Shield, told him the replacement part was on backorder.

"They told me it would take seven to eight business days before the compressor would come in," Jackson said.

Jackson's father-in-law, Fred, lives with him and has severe health problems. Jackson says it was 100 degrees inside the house.

"He's on a drip line, requires extra fluids, I mean there's no way -- he has kidney problems -- there's no way he could stand the heat," Jackson said.

Jackson decided to get two hotel rooms instead -- one for him and his wife and one for Fred. Jackson only expected to be there a week or so and figured he would eat the expense since American Home Shield doesn't cover hotel stays. But the part did not arrive as expected and Jackson says he ended up staying at the hotel for 23 days. He says it took 23 days for the part to arrive and the A/C system to be repaired.

His hotel bill was $2,800. Because it took so long, Jackson thought American Home Shield should make an exception to their contract and reimburse some of his extra, unexpected cost, but he says they only offered him $125 as a courtesy.

"They say seven to eight business days, I expect seven to eight business days, certainly not 23," Jackson said.

A better option may be to let the home warranty company's contractor get the part locally and do the repair right away. You'll have to pay upfront and fight for reimbursement from the warranty company because the warranty company can generally get the part from their suppliers much cheaper than you can get it locally. It's not guaranteed that the warranty company will reimburse you for paying out-of-pocket for the part but that may be easier than getting reimbursed for a hotel.

After we brought this matter to American Home Shield, they reconsidered Jackson's claim and, as a one-time courtesy due to the extensive delay, agreed to pay Jackson $1,950 for 16 of the 23 days he and his family stayed at the hotel. We thank American Home Shield for being fair and making an exception to their policy in this case and for resolving this dispute so quickly.

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