Most buyers of any product ask the seller, “what is the warranty?” The more expensive the purchase, the more important the warranty is to most consumers. The purchase of a home is probably the most expensive purchase any of us will ever make. A lot is at stake in home warranties. So ask a lot of questions.Some companies sell home warranties like extended warranties on cars. This article is limited to the traditional warranties that come from the home seller or builder. When home buyers take occupancy of a home, they get a folder of warranties from the seller. These are called “express warranties.” Read this paperwork carefully. That is the most important tip in this article — read the warranties carefully. A warranty is a promise or guaranty.
The warranty may be for a product in the home — i.e., a dishwasher, a material used like flooring, roofing or paint, or the home itself. The warranty is al ways for a term of years, which, in some instances, may use the word “lifetime.”
People seem to equate the length of the warranty — and the scope of warranty coverage — with the qual ity of the product or service or house. That may not necessarily be true. Think about a “lifetime” warranty on anything. How long is a lifetime? Whose lifetime? Your lifetime? The lifetime of the product?
For most products, and certainly for a house, neither the buyer nor the seller will probably be around in 25 years. Following are some initial questions to ask:
1. What parts of the house are covered by a warranty?
2. How long is the warranty?
3. What are the exceptions or limitations of the warranty?
4. What acts or omissions by the homeowner “void” the warranty?
5. What entity is guaranteeing the warranty?
6. Is the warranty just a promise or is it backed by a bond or insurance?
7. Will there be anyone around throughout the warranty term to honor the warranty?
Be aware that many companies use warranties as sales and marketing tools and have exceptions and limitations in the warranty that will allow them to void most claims. Many warranties require specific periodic maintenance, often using specific companies. Failure to comply may void the warranty.
Many warranties for materials only cover the delivery of the material, leaving to homeowner with the expense of installation, which is often 90 percent of the cost of repair.
- Wayne Parsons is an attorney with Wayne Parsons Law Offices in Honolulu, Hawaii.
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