Updated: October 24th, 2012

image  I’m now convinced that insurance companies exist in this world for the sole purpose of making our lives a living hell any time we need to deal with them. The worse each experience, the less likely we are to file another claim. Of course, we’re also less likely to continue coverage with the same company, but at that point they’d already received our money and, if we accept a notion that most insurance companies have the same evil idea in mind, there’s little one can do to get satisfaction. Except for one thing – spread information about such especially heinous institutions.

Does my story have a happy ending? Maybe, or maybe not, it depends on whether you think the journey was worth it – you be the judge.

So what happened in my case and why am I so furious? Having just recently bought a house, I wanted to have peace of mind for at least some foreseeable future and paid for a year of home insurance that covers such things as kitchen appliances, electrical work, washer/dryer, heater, etc. The only damage was promised to be a reasonable $55 charge per occurrence, with some acceptable exclusions. The sun was shining and birds chirping as I mailed First American Home Buyers Protection Corp (further FAHBP) my check for ~$250.

Everything was going well for about 2 months, we started decorating and cleaning up the house, and life was great. That is until one day when the 23 year old built into the wall microwave decided to stop working completely. Fear not, I thought, I have insurance just for such a joyous occasion. Right? Keep reading.

A quick call to 800-992-3400 and an agent was on the phone. So far so good. She took my claim (I made a mistake of starting it with small dishwasher issue, so until now my case is known as THE DISHWASHER CASE, and I had to explain every time I called that it’s actually THE DISHWASHER AND MICROWAVE CASE and that the dishwasher had been doing fine after the first visit. Apparently, changing the title of a case is an insurmountable impossibility to FAHBP) and promised a contractor would call me for an appointment. At this point I was quite satisfied, not realizing that it was the end of my satisfaction.

imageThe experience of the next month is better described in my BBB complaint below (with a few edits).

Company Information:

First American Home Buyers Protection
P.O. Box 10180
Van Nuys, CA 91410-1980
Website: http://homewarranty.firstam.com/
Phone: (800) 553-6699

Complaint Text

I'd like to preface this by saying that I haven't had such bad experience with a company ever since I dealt with Dell Home.
Every agent of FAHBP I've spoken with regarding my claim is extremely irresponsible.
Day 1. Contractor comes out to see my microwave. This is the only part of the process that worked OK, since he isn't associated with FAHBP. He tells me he needs a spare part for the microwave (built-into-the-shelf unit from 1985). Fine.
Day 8. No word from either the contractor or First American. I call them to find out that the contractor asked to initiate a part search that should be completed within a few days.
Day 14, 15, 16. Still no reply, so I call them myself. The part search has not come back yet (how long can I wait? Days, months? Nobody on the phone can answer that).
Day 17. I talk to yet another customer service rep, Brad, who informs me that the part search had never been initiated correctly, and nothing was happening. That's almost 3 weeks after we started the process. He assures me he is going to take ownership of my case and call me by the end of the day. No call that day, or the next 3.
Day 21. I call to talk to Brad but he's not available all day. Another agent tells me no part search is happening because they don't know the model number of the unit. Don’t have the part number of the unit?? How the ***** does that come up only now?The agent on the phone makes me go to my microwave and dictate her the model number. A call is promised by Brad and/or his manager.
Days 22-26. No call. They never-ever call back. I try Brad a few more times and every time he promises to call back, giving various excuses as to why nothing is happening. Additionally, I am introduced to a new amazing method of solving my problem: apparently FAHBP now found some repair place **** knows where. They are going to send the broken 23 year old part to this place and it will get repaired in an unknown amount of time. After that, they are going to send it back to me.

That's where I am today.

Resolution Sought: Do what you're promising to do on the flashy flyers. Enforce your own guidelines. Make the agents do their jobs and be responsible for cases they own. Make sure I get at least one call back out of the 10 promised. At least once, damnit! My case is not only unresolved, it's not even started after a month.

So, by day 26 I felt incredibly frustrated, pissed off, annoyed, furious, desperate, and helpless. Never in my life did I ever feel in such a way communicating with a company (with the exception of Dell and recently Netshops.com with their hundreds of properties, like ModernFurniture.com – an amazingly irresponsible company).

I had no other option but to follow through with my threat to submit a BBB claim. The BBB website claimed FAHBP had a very high rating of “BBB” (ratings explained here). That was news to me, so as last resort, I wrote up the complaint you’ve just witnessed and sent it in. That was Friday.

image Looking back at my experience, I now understand exactly how such big corporations work. The bigger the company, the faster it is going to act on any BBB complaint because it uses a very simple formula: consumers who haven’t done business with it yet are likely to look up BBB (and some other ratings) first. The amount of business the company is going to get is in some way proportional to how good its rating is. Therefore, it is much cheaper to prioritize and take care of the few BBB complaints as soon as possible than lose potential business brought by a lower rating. A corollary of the above is that though smaller companies are probably still likely to act on BBB complaints, they are not going to do it with the same vigor.

On Monday at exactly 10am, I received a phone call from a very upbeat woman. She introduced herself as some sort of a consumer resolution specialist from First American corporate. She had received my BBB complaint and was prepared to:

  1. Refund the $55 service call fee for all my troubles.
  2. Apologize profusely for how incompetently FAHBP has been handling my case.
  3. Offer me a brand new $1600 microwave/oven combination from Sears.com or a cashout of about $1300.

Wow, what a change in attitude. I felt like a cheap whore (apologies to all cheap whores out there), like a kid who couldn’t stand up for himself and had to go complain to daddy. Only after drastic measures did they begin to budge and that made me sick. I took the cashout option because I didn’t like the proposed microwave combination model and closed the case.

Whether or not you will chose to avoid FAHBP because of this article is up to you. Dealing with big corporations is not easy but knowing about BBB can be very powerful in certain cases and you, as a consumer, deserve to have this knowledge. Don’t abuse it but be aware of your options. Additionally, submitting your story to consumerist.com is another great way to go, which is what I’m now going to do retroactively.

Have you had any experience with First American or other insurance companies? Was it good or bad? Feel free to leave a comment.

● ● ●
Artem Russakovskii is a San Francisco programmer and blogger. Follow Artem on Twitter (@ArtemR) or subscribe to the RSS feed.

In the meantime, if you found this article useful, feel free to buy me a cup of coffee below.

  • Lana

    Wow, does that sound familiar. I relunctantly purchased a contract with FAHBP after being solicited by phone. What a stupid mistake on my part. My family has been without a refrigerator for almost 7 months now. We have two young children. Our youngest is a heart transplant recipient and must take several medications for the rest of his life- most of which rquire refrigeration. I bought a mini frige a few days after filing our claim- thinking it would be temporary. Needless to say, the small storage space has been a nightmare. I plan on filing a complaint with BBB. I hope it helps. We have no choice, but to purchase a family size unit very soon. FAHBP has just about caused me to have a nervous breakdown. STAY AWAY FROM THIS COMPANY

  • @Lana
    Let me know how it goes and if BBB helps you out. Good luck!

  • Ellen Childress

    We are in our eighth day now in 100+ Texas heat, July 4, 2009. Our call about a malfunctioning AC went to First American on Monday, June 29, 2009, AS AN EMERGENCY BECAUSE I HAVE MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS,after two days of off-and-on cooling problems.Their contractor here in Dallas first said it was the compressor, but when nine hours of labor did not get the new compressor to work, he then said it must be the ACoil/valve/gibberish and he spent 45 minutes trying to get in touch with First American at 9 PM on Thursday night, July 2, 2009. No answer; therefore, no pickup order for the part. We called many times from Monday through Friday, but got no one to do anything to help. We are out $500 for two 1 ton AC units to try to keep this big house cool, to no avail; the price of spoiled food; the $215 cost of a small evaporative cooler to try to cool John's office; service calls; and physical illness amounting to near blindness on my part because MS affects primarily my vision. We are ill, out a lot of money for nothing, frustrated, angry, feeling powerless and disgusted. I have sent a complaint to the BBB in Van Nuys, CA and am going to file a complaint with the BBB here in Dallas where Walker AC is. I am sorry about them. They are an old and respected company in this town. I do not know how or why they got themselves involved with First American nor where they got the technicians who behaved in such an incompetent manner with us.

  • Ellen, sorry to hear about your trouble, but I'm not surprised at all. Hopefully BBB can pull through for you ASAP, do let us know here if it helps. Good luck!

  • Dave

    I don't know if I completely trust these companies either. Being a Cleveland Electrician, we get called by these companies to do the outsource work at a lower rate than would normally be charged. While this can bring in additional work, it often isn't worth it.

  • Tim

    Here is (was!) my Policy # 5561433303589
    Claim # 05813090
    On September 2, 2007 while I was away on vacation I was called by a neighbor who informed me that there were huge amounts of water pouring out the front, back, and side of my house. I arrived home a few hours later to find the entire first floor of my home COMPLETELY DESTROYED. It has been determined and documented by Global Engineering Services of Tempe Az in a Failure Analysis Report (GES case # D2662 1001) that this flood was a direct result of a faulty installation of an instant hot water dispenser and hot water faucet. This appliance was installed by: General Plumbing and Rooter 2 Belshaw Street Antioch, California.
    This devastating event took two full months, working with State Farm, Contractors, Service Master, Dirty Movers and the short term storage facility where all of our furniture was piled up like it was a thrift store display.
    General plumbing and Rooter is (you guessed it) hired by First American Home Buyers Protection Corporation! The claim was subrogated and I recieved my $5000.00 dedictible back. I sued General Plumbing and Rooter and received another $5,000.00 Now I am sueing First American Home Buyers Protection Corporation (I am having Daniel Langston, President personally served) for the remaining $2090.44 that I believe that I am owed. I am sueing First American on the following grounds: Breach of Warranty. Installation performed by unqualified plumber hired by defendant.
    In closing this nightmare , the total paid on this claim was $154,543.38. I was not compensated for the two months of working 18 hours a day as the project manager. (Which is exactly what I was!) The entire first floor of my home was ruined, three feet of drywall (baseboard up) had to be removed & replaced from all interior walls. The Kitchen was gutted- all granite, cabinets, appliances, and floor were all destroyed. All the carpet had to be replaced.
    First American Home Buyers Protection Corporation never called to offer any sort of apology or any support during this horrible time. They only call and call and call and call and call when your warranty is about to expire or expires and they want you to renew.

  • I feel you, Tom. Your experience is the worst thus far that I've heard of but I must say it's not fully FAHBP's fault, is it?

    It sounds like you should blame General plumbing and rooter for most of the problems – they were the ones doing the work and FAHBP simply contracted them.

    In your defense, they could have also contracted australian monkeys, so there is partial fault there for sure.

  • Solon Electric Contractors

    Insurance is usually a scheme to get your money. After all, they aren't offering you protection out of the kindness of their heart. They want your money!

  • Umm, I completely agree – they need to be profitable and they're not doing it out of kindness but I disagree with the notion that all insurance companies are automatically evil and can only exist if they're evil. At least not THIS evil…

  • Gary

    For what it's worth, dealing with FAHBP remains just as aggravating 2 years later. Oh, my issue? In Houston, where it's been over 100 degrees for almost 20 days, I have had a non-functioning central air condition unit for over a week. Today, I have left my 3rd call to the Customer Resolution Support supervisor, with no return call. This company will deal with minor issues, but give them a major cost item, and they stonewall. Anyone who buys their insurance needs to have his or her head examined.

  • Tony

    I am currently dealing with FAHBP with an incredibly frustrating, recurring problem with my AC. The vendors they send are TERRIBLE and they really don't have a clue. They don't talk to me either and explain what's going on.

    FAHBP is refusing to waive my claim fee for the vendor to come back out because I didn't call within 30 days after the problem reoccurred.

    In all, I have placed 9 calls in the last year and a half for my AC unit. It's 15 years old and it's time for a new one but they are doing everything in their power NOT to replace it.

    I think BBB is the way to go. Thanks for writing this up.


    • Good luck, Tony.

    • Reva Katz

      I am headed down the same path – so good to know what I'm in for. Seriously awful!

  • Sue McDonald

    I am getting ready to file complaint w/ BBB against FAHBP over our a/c. But when I type the business name into the search box, it says they are not listed with the BBB. Any suggestions?

  • Sue McDonald

    Nevermind, found them, complaint filed. Wish me luck. Oh, yeah, today my freezer quit freezing, ice is melting. Also under warranty with FAHBP. Guess I will wait until I hear from them on the a/c issue before I even file a claim for the fridge…?


    My experience with First American is a complete "ditto" of the other accounts here. After crunching the numbers I determined that one is better off just banking the dues, fees, and associatted charges incurred when trying to deal with these corporate goons. You will never get satisfaction on any large clain. After three years I am more convinced than ever that I am correct. Find a reliable local "reputable" service man and you will be money ahead.

  • Boyd Walters

    Thank you for all the candid comments. I have recently been encouraged to inlist the services of this company for my rental property. I appreciate all the info showing what they really are like. I think I will continue to contract with local services for what I need on a case by case basis…..Thank you again!!

  • Reva Katz

    I was so relieved to know it wasn't just me. I have never experienced such frustration in my life. FAHBP has been exactly the same for me tho I am without airconditioning, living in a high rise, in the south, with floor to ceiling exterior glass walls/windows that you can't open. Super fun. FAHBP is a total clown show and they have zero accountability or undersatnding of customer service. I will not be renewing with them. Best of luck to everyone out there.

  • Iris Riebsam

    Wow, that is what is happening to me right now too. Same thing, my microwave combo broke and that the start of a nightmare story!
    They kept offering a microwave for $150 from Sears when I payed $1000 for my microwave/grill combo 1,5 yrs ago. The cash out they offered was $250, really?! This went on for a 2 weeks, I finally settled for a microwave from Sears for $300 and now 1 month later still waiting for my unit which will be delivered tomorrow, they give me 2 hrs delivery window tomorrow the night before between 6-9 pm, which means I have to move all my clients to different days and will be off all day with no income. The install will be the day after again another 2 hrs window durning that day some time, which I will know the exact time the night before, yet another day without pay. This thing has cost me money, hours on the phone, nerves and tears. Ashley from FAHBP
    will never return my call and supervisors don't care either.
    I can't wait to receive my unit, cancel FAHBP and move on to another, better company!

  • Vi

    Thanks to all. I received a phone call late today from the FAHBPC and was tempted, but said I would read the web site first and then had to wait a month to commit. Now I know not to commit. I'll go without a home warranty and find someone else, or a company, when needed.

  • Juanita Cruz

    They pissed us off too. Our electrical went out in some parts of the house, and they wouldn't take care of it because a screw was missing in the electrical box therefore they couldn't cover it. We had to pay out of our own pocket, plus the $55 service fee! We were only at our new house for about 3 months and never touched that box.

  • Veronica Meyers

    I filed two service requests. The first was for a washer drain that was backing up and overflowing. FAHW sent out a plumber to check. The plumber claimed to have run a snake down the drain and found nothing. The plumber reported that the 1” washer discharge hose was discharging too much water for the 2” drain hose. I hired a local plumber to repair. He found that the problem was caused by the drain vent that was clogged. I called FAHW and was told that the plumbing vent is not covered under the plumbing coverage. I had to pay the local plumber out of pocket plus the $60 service charge for the FAHW service call.

    The second service request was for a pool heater that would not turn on. FAHW sent out contractor to investigate. The contractor reported that the heat pump was bad. FAHW stated that the heat pump was not covered under my contract. I hired a local pool heater company to repair. They replaced the RUN capacitor and connected a broken control wire. The pool heater works fine now. Still waiting to see if FAHW will cover the cost of the repair. I was told the only part of the pool heater that is not covered is the heat pump.

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  • Matt

    I too am having a similar issue with First American. My issue involves a double wall oven that I have been trying to get fixed for over 4 months. The fourth contractor they sent out decided it needed replacing. Although my exact oven is still made (a GE) sold by Sears who they use they say I have to get a kennmore after they spent 4 days looking at specs to get an equivalent model. I could care less about the brand as long as it fits. They told me it was my responsibility to measure and tell them if this oven would fit. I told them it was 3 inches shorter than the one I have. Told them I didn't want it because it would cost me a lot of money to have my cabinets modified to fit. Also the plug for my oven is on the top and the one on the one they sent to my house is on the bottom also costing more money to get fixed. Sears called and says we are almost to your house. Upon arrival they have the exact oven I told them would not fit. I call them back and they say that even though sears makes your oven still we do not promise you that oven. So again I tell them I don't care what brand but it should at least fit without the customer having to do 500 dollars in modifications if you are not going to provide them with their same oven just because sears gives you are very large discount on a similar model. They said I can either have 1300 cash and pay the restocking fee for the oven they sent that I told them would not fit or I could keep that oven. The supervisor said that they provided me with an electric oven and that is all that is required in their contract. My next step is to file a complaint with BBB as you suggested and call the office of commerce and insurance.

  • Shanon

    I'm having the same issue of First American not calling me back and, meanwhile, water is leaking on two floors of my home due to improper installation of an air conditioner put in by their sub-contractor a month ago.

  • Joe

    My First American Home Buyers Protection Corporation (“First
    American” hereafter)’s protection plan was a gift from my realtor when I
    purchased my house. One day, I tried to put some ice into the waste disposer just to make sure it still functions and noted it was not working. I seldom cook so I’ve not used the kitchen’s waste
    disposer since I moved in. Even though I didn’t use it, I am sure the prior owner does. And the waste disposer was functioning properly at the time I moved it (I know that because I had a house inspector to check everything function before the purchase).

    I read the contract and called First American. They sent a couple contractors the other days. They came in and played around the sink area for 10 minutes. They didn’t come in with tools like other mechanic so I was wondering what they were going to do to fix the disposer. One of the guys noted there were some dried foods stuck in there (note: very small amount like a piece or two dried stuffs as he showed me). Then, he told me the insurance policy will not cover this because there’s outside objects in there to cause the issue. I looked at them the whole 10 minutes and I know these guys don’t know anything. And they are surely lying in front of me. Common, it’s a waste disposer, of course, there’s outside objects (i.e. foods) in there.

    Anyway, I said to them, fine and showed them the door. I think that would be all. Then, I called another mechanic to replace the waste disposer for $150 in total (including a new disposer and installation fee). What piss me off is that, First American sent me a bill of $60 for the services of two incompetent mechanics. They didn’t do anything and cover anything. Why I need to pay them? They’re threatening to send it to outside collector if I don’t pay up, which means some muscle guys may show up my door if I don’t pay up. What kind of crooked company it is? I don’t have time to deal with this kind of fraudster so I just paid (I know I should fight but I just don’t have the time). So, I want to tell my story. What I want to tell everybody is that be careful. Don’t buy from them! You will not get any coverage but troubles! Ask your realtor, don’t buy the
    coverage from First American. Good luck!

  • jesse

    I have read the reviews and in no way will I deal with this company. I suggest to all. Save 50 dollars a month. place it in a house expense account. You can save all the anger and frustration 1 year you have $600.00 that will be enough to replace any items within your house. except your AC. An AC unit is good for at least 6 year that's 3,600. get bids and get the work done. I had to have my AC coil replaced and recharged. Cost $750.00 that was after owning my house 9 years.

  • Teri McKinney Gray

    I just found out that my policy with First American was put on a no renewal when my automatic payments was due so for 2 months I have had no coverage. Thank goodness nothing has gone wrong. I do not understand how a company can just cancel a service contract without any notification to the customer. I noticed when I was balancing my checkbook that they had not taken the automatic payment so called to find out was given run around as "we are not renewing any policies at this time" and given another number to call the corporate office. So is the company going out of business? Not renewing policies????? Called corporate number and was sent back to the same group that gave me the number to call but this time was informed that it had a do not renew note on my policy. Rep went to find out why the note was on there and I was cut off. Not even going to bother calling back but I think I had a right to be notified that they were cancelling my policy

  • lance

    Dishwasher claim opened 5/2015. Still not resolved 10/2015. Two failed attempts to repair unit later, FA recently approved me for a replacement unit (nearly half the value of current unit). However, like everything else since I've first dealt with FA over this, the unit won't be here for weeks. They stated they would approve a different unit that may get here quicker or that I could take the payout at the discount price for the unit they had already approved (half the cost of the current unit). Impossible to get anyone on the phone with the authority to help out. In the last 5 months of trying to use my warranty so that I could once again have a working dishwasher, I've spent an estimated 20 hours on the phone with FA, and I've had to rearrange my schedule 8 times to meet service technicians. Still don't have a working dishwasher!!!! I should have just bought one myself, as I've spent far more than $800 worth of time dealing with FA now. I suspect that I will get a dishwasher sometime before thanksgiving, and that it will be a much cheaper unit than I have now. All the reps I've spoken with have been nice, but none have been able to step up and help get this claim closed. FA, if you're out there, please step up and do what's needed, my WO # is 607027564

  • gloria

    My experience with this company has been horrific. I called to file a claim on an air conditioning and heating unit. When I called I explained that one of their approved vendors was in the home at that time and the young lady told me to let them go ahead and perform the work and then call them back after the work was completed. I did exactly what I was told and when I contacted them upon completion of the work they told me they would not pay the claim because I did not follow procedure and file a claim. Again I reminded them that I did exactly what their representative told me to do. They continued to say you did not file a claim — I continued to say I attempted to file one but was told by YOUR representative to call back after the work was completed and they would reimburse me. I am now out $5500 because of incompetency of one of their representatives for this company. They are certainly quick to take the money but don't want to pay out when a claim is in their hands. I faxed all the invoices 6 different times and each time I followed up I was told they had no record of the faxes. After daily follow-up and talking with at least 7 different people they finally located the faxed attached to another claim filed after the date of the heating and air conditioning unit. My question to them was how can you deny my payment when you obviously cannot manage your business well enough to be able to properly document information. Also each time I tried to follow up I had to stay on hold for at 30-45 minutes. They also offer the option of returning calls within 24 hours through the automated system. I left my no. twice for them to return my call but to-date and this has been 2 weeks no on has returned my call. Their agents are rude and insensitive. I was told everything from someone will call you within
    2 hours up to 24 hours. Those calls never came. Finally exhausted with all my efforts I filed a complaint with the BBB on 1/8/2016. Interesting enough I received a call from a representative the next day saying he was calling to assist me with my claim –believe it or not it was not the claim I had been discussing all this time. It was a claim that had already been completed and closed. I WILL NEVER RECOMMEND THIS COMPANY to anyone.

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  • kh

    If you care about your home, STAY AWAY FROM FIRST AMERICAN

    Facts based on my last dealing with them:

    • First American Home Warranty hires unlicensed and incompetent contractors.

    • They will take weeks to respond and months resolve cases.

    • Their premium is much higher than other home warranty companies. The service and
    their payout are the worst in the industry.

    • They will offer to replace with the lowest priced brand/model available or THEIR
    discounted contracted prices as cashout. They've offered me 1/2 of the actual
    replacement value of the lowest priced comparable unit.

    One of THE worst companies I've ever dealt with.

  • Valerie Pendrak Meyer

    No air conditioning for over a month. They agreed to replace condenser and evaporator coil and our our of pocket to be 1541.00. After 2 weeks, I call and am told a fax was sent for parts but the company never received and they were going to use a closer company. Then, another week or so gpes,by and they tell me they don't think they can cover both parts and some committee will decide. Now the website says they are waiting on my decision? What decision would that be? I've not been contacted with any options. The agent talks so fast I can't understand and he won't respond to email. And he even told me that he understood as his AC has bern out for one day. Day 31,with no air.