How To Preserve Product Warranties
DEAR TIM: I'm in a pickle and not liking it. I moved into an existing home only to discover a few months ago the shingles on my roof are defective. Fortunately, the previous homeowner saved all his product brochures and I know the brand and type of shingle. But I've run into resistance with the manufacturer in honoring the warranty. It seems the warranty was transferrable to me, but I don't know if that happened. How can you preserve warranties and what's the best advice you can offer to homeowners in this situation? Mary Ellen G., Trinity, FL
DEAR MARY ELLEN: Oh my! I wonder if you have the same shingles as I have on my home. Believe it or not, I just discovered my long-life IKO shingles are failing. After doing some research online, I discovered a class-action lawsuit is possibly brewing. You may be in the same situation as I am.
Just last night at our dinner table, we were discussing product warranties. My son talked about the lifetime warranty on his computer and all its parts. I brought to his attention that warranty was probably more of a marketing tool than a valuable asset to him. Why?
My wife and I pointed out it's possible a vast majority of computer owners would upgrade to a new, faster computer long before their existing one wears out. If the manufacturer has data to support this, he's offering something of great perceived value to the consumer that costs him very little.
But in our cases, it's very different. Shingles are meant to last a long time. Homeowners don't normally switch to a new shingle just because a new color or style hits the marketplace. We expect shingles to last as long as the warranty assuming the shingles were installed per manufacturer's instructions.
There are any number of things you need to do to preserve product warranties. For starters, it's very important to save all receipts that show you, or your contractor, purchased the product. This can be very challenging, especially if a sub-contractor buys that fancy faucet in your home.
In my case, IKO is requiring me to submit the actual receipt showing the shingles were IKO, the exact type, quantity and date they were purchased. Imagine how difficult it is to get a receipt like this from the roofing subcontractor who built my home! I feel this is a way for the manufacturer to dodge honoring the warranty because they know a tiny percentage of homeowners could produce such a receipt.
When you purchase products, save the written warranty. Take the time to read it to see if it's transferrable to a new owner. Understand what you have to do to make the transfer happen. This little bit of work could really help you when a realtor lists your home and you can prove you have the ability to transfer any and all product warranties.
Save the full-color product brochures that describe the products in your home. Years ago, I was able to force a utility-body manufacturer to give me a new truck body for one that was rusting prematurely. The wording on the product brochure made it clear I was in the right and the manufacturer was wrong.
It's vital the products are installed exactly as the manufacturer recommends. Unfortunately, that is not always the case and it's very hard for you to make sure this happens. First, you and the installer need to understand how the product must be installed. Second, you need to inspect the work as it's happening to ensure all is well. I understand this is next to impossible and can cause friction between you and the contractor. Egos can get in the way.
Take many photos during the installation process if possible. You can't have too many photos, including close-up ones. You may not know what you're looking at, but an expert down the road will.
Realize not all companies have the same ethics as you may have. You may expect a company to honor a warranty claim, but the company sees your situation as a drain on profits. I don't doubt the Internet is littered with stories of companies that have made it a long and painful gauntlet to extract monies to satisfy a valid warranty claim.
Lastly, I suggest you try to avoid warranty issues by doing great due diligence before you buy. Take the time to investigate companies. Scour the internet for horror stories. Study pricing and closely compare products. Realize price is often, but not always, a great barometer for quality. Products that cost more often are made with great materials and skill and rarely fail before their time.