"They won't cover that..." (or will they?)
Updated: Aug 1
The following is based on a true story:
When you're standing in 3 inches of water in your basement, gushing from your water heater, you may be a little less discerning than you typically would be. You just want the problem fixed...NOW!
You know you don't really have time to shop around, you just hope that the guy you called isn't going to rake you over the coals, given that he can see you are worried about your basement rapidly becoming an indoor pool.
Enter the unscrupulous plumber - you know their name, you've seen their ads about
emergency service 24/7, and being on time. He looks at your 5 year old water heater, surveys the damage and tells you how bad it is. He even texts some photos to his plumber friends, it's that bad. Now you are worried a little about the price. They might tack on an "emergency service" fee or some other price gouging measure, which is maddening, but you are wiling to eat it just to fix the problem.
$2000. For a 40 gallon Bradford White gas water heater that retails for about $700. Ugh. But... the tank is only five years old and has a 6 year warranty. Good news, right?
"No chance. They won't honor that because of the hard water," the plumber tells you.
If you had time to think, you might have realized that this should have been a big red flag (as if $1300 in labor charges wasn't). You are on public water - you literally have the same water everyone else does! And Bradford White is headquartered about 10 miles from your house. Would they really build a water heater that can't even handle local, domestic water quality?
When my client related this story to me, it didn't sound right. He sent me some photos and I called Bradford White. I had a great and honest conversation with a warranty claims representative about the whole episode. Without guaranteeing me anything, she said it comes down to a judgement call by the claims rep, but she didn't think anyone there would deny a claim if it was on public water, with no water softener or other aggressive equipment or additives, and no extenuating circumstances (stray voltage, etc).
So, YES, they probably WOULD have honored the warranty. But they usually need the physical data plate and possibly the tank (which the plumber removed). Fortunately the homeowner had the presence of mind to take photos of the tank and data plate, and the claims rep gave him a method to pursue a claim - even now -with no tank.
Turns out Bradford White is doing what they can to help him and stand by their product. And the plumber disappeared with the $2000 and the tank (and may try to file his own claim to get a replacement tank for his inventory).
The lessons to be learned here are:
Some people really suck
Get a photo of the make, model, and serial number of your appliances and systems (heater, AC, etc). Store it on the cloud for easy reference if/when needed.
Don't take a contractor's word for it - make a call to the company to ask about warranty coverage. What do you have to lose?
Register your stuff at purchase, or after purchase of your home to transfer it into your name. We all blow it off, but it could be worth hundreds (or even thousands).
Don't trust a contractor just because you know their name or have seen their ads. It pays to shop around and read reviews. Most often a local independent contractor (NOT a franchise) who has been around for a while is your best bet.
This doesn't apply only to manufacturer's warranties. Contractors and installers have warranties, too. Or your Realtor may have negotiated a home warranty for you. Or your Favorite Home Inspector may have provided you with a package of FREE warranties with your home inspection. If something goes wrong, it is ALWAYS worth a call to the warranty company/manufacturer/installer to see if it is covered.
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