When a slow leak ruined the air conditioner in his Los Angeles condominium, Solender's initial claim for a new system was denied. Undaunted, Solender, 76, outlined why his claim should be honored in a detailed letter and sent it certified to the warranty company's senior vice president, who honored the claim.
"Let them know that your next step will be to take legal action," Solender said.
Buyers can also ask the real estate agent involved in the sale for help. Carolyn Theriault, with First Team Real Estate Inc. in Seal Beach, receives two or three warranty-related calls for help from frustrated clients each year and contacts the warranty company's sales representative or a manager.
Most cases, she said, have good results.
"Once the sellers are gone, who does the buyer have to turn to?" she said. "The agent is going to have the clout because we have an ongoing relationship with companies that have provided service to our clients in the past."
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Warranty details, at your fingertips
Here are some resources for information on home warranty coverage, prices and service fees:
* For a consumer home warranty checklist and a list of frequently asked questions, visit the Home Warranty Assn. of California, (805) 653-1648, www.warrantyassn.com/hwac. Select "Consumer Tips."
* National Home Service Contract Assn., (800) 223-8261, www.homeservicecontract.org.
Among the state's home warranty providers:
* American Home Shield Corp., (800) 735-4663 for purchasing or selling, (800) 247-4749 for existing homeowners, www.ahswarranty.com.
* Buyers Home Warranty Co., (800) 223-8261 claims, (800) 443-5599, www.bhwc.com.
* Fidelity National Home Warranty Co., (800) 308-1422, or (800) 862-6837 for sales, www.homewarranty.com.
* First American Home Buyers Protection Corp., (800) 444-9030 sales, (800) 992-3400 claims, www.firstam.com.
* HISCO Home Warranty Co., (800) 831-8200, www.hiscohome.com.
* Old Republic Home Protection Co., (800) 445-6999 sales, (800) 972-5985 claims, www.orhp.com.
* 2-10 HBW Warranty of California, (800) 795-9595, www.2-10.com.
To check out a company or file a complaint:
* Better Business Bureau of the Southland serves Los Angeles, Irvine and Pasadena areas, (909) 825-7280, www.labbb.org; BBB of San Diego, www.sandiego.bbb.org, (858) 496-2131.
* California Department of Consumer Affairs, (800) 952-5210, www.dca.ca.gov.
* California Department of Insurance, www.insurance.ca.gov, consumer hotline (800) 927-4357.
* Los Angeles County Department of Consumer Affairs, (800) 593-8222 or (213) 974-1452, www.dca.ca.gov.
* California Contractors State License Board, (800) 321-2752; www.cslb.ca.gov. At this site, view citations against a contractor, check license status or file a complaint:
* California Courts Self-Help Center, www.courtinfo.ca.gov. Select Self-Help for small claims assistance and low-cost legal help.
Michelle Hofmann is a Los Angeles freelance writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.