Home warranty woes: Family with sick child waits weeks for answer on broken fridge

GLEN BURNIE, Md. - The Agels bought their home a few years back and it came with a home warranty. It sounded like a good idea so they continued to renew it but when it came time to finally use their service plan, they didn't get the response they'd hoped.

“I was like, ‘Oh wow, this is fabulous.’ You know, something goes up or your air conditioning goes up, it's great. You don't have to worry about any of it, someone will come fix it for you,” said Jennifer Agel.

That something happened on Christmas Eve. The Agel's refrigerator of all things broke down. So, they pulled out their pamphlet, called the number and a repair man was there the next day. He ordered a part then came back a little over a week later.

“The refrigerator was unrepairable,” Agel said.

The claim was sent back to their home warranty company, HomeSure Services, Inc. or HMS Home Warranty.

When the Agels didn't hear anything for several days they called and were told their claim was in the research department and they'd get an update soon.

“Someone will call you back within the 24-48 hours and it continued to go back and forth several times and my husband made several phone calls,” Agel said.

While they waited for a response, the family of five learned to improvise. The keggerator became a “kidderator.”

“We're just keeping the essentials for the kids. The kids' school lunches, our butter, their juice, the milk,” Agel said.

The non-essentials were stored in coolers on the deck where the fluctuating weather created its own challenges.

“Some of the food we can't keep anymore because it's been frozen, thawed, frozen, thawed,” said Agel.

She was visiting the grocery store on an almost daily basis. It’s an inconvenience for anyone, but her situation is also unique. Agel's seven-year-old son, Conner, has cerebral palsy and is fed a special formula through a feeding tube.

“So we have to make sure that doesn't go bad. I mean it could make him ill, getting a formula's that gone bad from not being able to be stored properly, and that's been conveyed too to HMS,” said Agel. 

She says she was never offered any accommodation or temporary solution. 

The Agels feel the warranty that was supposed to be a safeguard was too much of a headache.

“This is our safety net and we expected to have our refrigerator replaced,” Agel said.

Angie Barnett, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Greater Maryland said it's the nature of the beast. Warranty companies are usually national and dealing with thousands of claims.

She said consumers should shop around and look at customer service reviews before buying a warranty or bypass it altogether.

“Make sure you educate yourself because you could also be putting that money in a savings account, a special account just to build up for these kind of repairs,” Barnett said.

The Agels were paying $650 a year for their plan. Instead of paying two year’s worth of contracts they could've bought a refrigerator.

ABC2's Mallory Sofastaii contacted HMS on Monday. On Tuesday, the Agels finally received their reimbursement check.

A representative with the company said their claim was delayed due to the volume of service requests and extreme weather around the country. They also said they weren't made aware of Conner’s medical condition. Their statement is below.

The company representative also told ABC2 that they will be sending the Agels a voucher to replace their spoiled groceries.

Mallory: Per your request to research, a supervisor reviewed all of the notes in our system and listened to all calls with Mr. Agel pertaining to this particular claim. We did not find or hear any notification of a medical issue with Mr. Agel’s son. We have processes and procedures in place to expedite claims and provide alternatives for medical emergencies. If we knew of Mr. Agel’s son’s condition, we would have certainly followed those processes. In addition, we did not find any notes in the system of a cancelation of this claim (by either party). 

However, Mr. Agel is a highly valued customer and we are saddened by his experience. The timeline for this resolution, albeit impacted by parts availability and weather conditions, is not our standard of service. In addition to the check for replacement of his refrigerator (which should have been received by Mr. Agel today, Jan. 23) we are sending Mr. Agel a voucher to replace his groceries. We appreciate having this situation brought to our attention, and will continue to focus on consistently providing our customers with a superior service experience.

Stacey Kovalsky
On behalf of HMS

If you have a Matter for Mallory, she wants to hear from you. You can email her at Mallory@wmar.com.

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