What to do when American Home Shield won’t protect us

Dawn Pace’s hot water heater is broken and thanks to a dispute between American Home Shield and her plumber, she’s been without hot water for the last week. Can this dispute be settled before a holiday weekend?

Question: I have been without hot water in our home since our hot water heater stopped working last Saturday. I’m caught between American Home Shield (AHS), which is saying it provided authorization to perform work, and the plumber.

Elliott Advocacy is underwritten by AirportParkingReservations.com. With nearly 20 years in the industry, over 128 airport covered in the U.S. and Canada, and over 1,000 Hotel and Parking Partners-we provide travelers the best options on how to get to the airport when flying. Whether you want to; drive yourself and park near an Airport (Airport Parking), stay the night before your flight at an airport hotel and leave your car (Hotel and Parking Package), or take a shared Shuttle/Private Car/Limo to the Airport- we got you covered. The best deals can be found online, and booking a reservation has never been easier. You can explore all of our options by visiting us at AirportParkingReservations.com, ParkSleepFly.com, AirportParking.com, and ShuttleFinder.com.

They have been pointing fingers at each other, with us in the middle.

We have a young son who we’ve sent to stay with my parents and have missed hours of work and had to take vacation time to cover. I’ve tried calling, emailing and using social media.

As of yesterday evening, the plumber had not yet ordered the water heater and was unsure if he could get one next Friday, which is a holiday. We have single-handle faucets in the showers, so they’re not working at all. We can’t even take cold showers or wash dishes.

We stayed in hotels for four nights. Some of our expenses may be covered by homeowners insurance because we also had water damage, but likely not all of it, since the water restoration company took the fans away yesterday and their adjuster has started the process for that part of the issue.

I filed a BBB claim, but I could use help quickly. We are possibly looking at no hot water for a second weekend.

Throughout all this I have tried to be firm with AHS and the contractor but be factual. They’ve now blocked me from Twitter. I’m attaching the tweets so you can see that I was not rude.

Given that the plumber has not ordered a replacement hot water heater yet, I have called in my own plumber to come tomorrow so we can try to have water for the weekend. My fear is that if I have them do the job I will end up paying twice. — Dawn Pace, Sayreville, NJ

Answer: I’m so sorry your hot water heater failed. Coincidentally, ours did too on the exact same weekend yours did. Cost us almost $5,000 to buy and install a new one. Ouch! There goes the kids’ college fund.

Companies like AHS should know how desperate people get when they don’t have access to running water in their home, so getting into a dispute with a plumber, and allowing it to cause a delay, is problematic.

You patiently explained your circumstances to the company by phone and then via social media, and its reaction was to block you?

You still had options. You could have negotiated with the plumber AHS had contracted with, or taken this up with someone at AHS’ parent company, ServiceMaster. Contacting someone there is fairly easy — corporate email addresses follow the format [email protected]

For what it’s worth, I think this disagreement would have been resolved eventually. But probably not in time for your holiday weekend. I decided to jump in and ask AHS to review your case. I know BBB was working on this concurrently, and I can’t be sure if AHS responded to me or to my colleagues at the BBB.

Either way, within an hour of contacting ServiceMaster on your behalf, AHS got in touch with you and agreed to pay for the new hot water heater.

This story first appeared June 3, 2015.

11 thoughts on “What to do when American Home Shield won’t protect us

  1. I read this whole thing and ended up at, wait, Chris paid $5,000 to replace his water heater? I seriously hope you have some super-fancy tankless unit. If not, you might consider filing a complaint with yourself against your plumber!

    1. I have a really nice tankless system and it didn’t cost $5K.

      BBB is useless by the way. They got a lot of bad press awhile back for their questionable business practices.

      1. BBB is as much a scam as any of these places. Many offices don’t answer the phone, don’t investigate, and even companies with horrible reputations manage to get BBB’s top rating since the rating is based on things like response time, not response satisfaction.

  2. First of all, it’s not a “hot” water heater – just a water heater. If the water is already hot, you stop heating it!

    But, more importantly, I had a problem with AHS years ago. The route I took was to contact a real estate agent who had helped us before. Most of the houses sold had home warranties when they went on the market, so our real estate agent put me in touch with the woman who sells the plans to the real estate companies. To get a complaint through the agent who bought several dozen plans a year got AHS’ attention. In fact, they ended up covering more than we had requested – almost double the amount.

  3. $5000 seems very high for a water heater. The BBB is relatively useless. They have no enforcement power. If you look up a company on their website, all you see is number of complaints and number of complaints resolved. If a complaint is filed with BBB, the company may not even respond. The best relief against an insurance company refusing to pay is a complaint to your state department of insurance or a lawsuit.

  4. What isn’t clear is what the dispute was about between AHS and the plumber. It’s great that it has been resolved, but it would be nice to know for learning purposes.

  5. American Shield – stay away from them. Did you read their service contract? There are better companies out there, but all of them do try to cheat all the time. For starters they hire bottom feeders and fly by night, often unlicensed properly contractors whose only income is to go from one claim to another and collect fees and never show up again.
    The proper course of action is either pay by credit card or tell them to have the service company bill you directly for the service call fee. Do not pay by check and do not pay by cash.
    The service company promised you in writing speedy repair, often they say within 24 hours. The reality is that they mean they will assign the case to a contractor within 24 hours. But do not despair. Words do matter – not their interpretation by service company. They could have written it clearly – but their goal was to snow you.
    So if they do not fix it in reasonable time – just a add a day to their promised on service contract or advertisement time and fix it any which way you can. After that send them the bill and demand payment. If they ignore or refuse — take them to small claims court without much delay. In most courts words do matter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: