Monday, December 3, 2007
Help Me Howard: Warranty
If you own a car, if you have a roof, if you have ever bought anything, you might have had a warranty, but what happens when you try to get something repaired and find out that warranty is basically worthless? Is that legal, to put so many loopholes in the warranty? If you have a warranty you might want to listen to Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- If you are have good memory or studied history in school, this name might ring a bell.
Freddie Pitts: "I said, 'Do you remember the Pitts and Lee case?'"
He can laugh now, but Freddie Pitts is a reminder of a sad part of Florida's history in 1963. Pitts and Wilbert Lee were convicted of murdering two gas station attendants in North Florida. There was no evidence against them. As Freddie put it, they were the wrong color, in the wrong place, at the wrong time, but that was enough to get them sent to death row.
Freddie Pitts: "Nine and a half [years] on death row. I was in a total of 12 years."
After 12 years, after the real killer confessed, Governor Reubin Askew wiped out their sentence.
Patrick Fraser: "You are living history."
Freddie Pitts: "I've had a few people to say something to that affect."
Now Freddie is just a regular person like the rest of us with regular problems.
Freddie Pitts: "I saw water coming down inside, my wife showed it to me."
When Freddie saw his roof leaking he thought, well at least he was covered.
Freddie Pitts: "A 10-year warranty on the tile roof, and a eight-year warranty on the flat roof."
Since Freddie's roof was installed in 2002, he called the roofing company to come check out the leak, instead.
Freddie Pitts: "About a day or so later there was a letter in the mail that you need a high powered magnifying glass to see and read."
By expanding it on a copier we could read it. It says 'the warranty is void if there is wind exceeding 55 miles per hour, fire, foot traffic, falling objects, negligence, abuse, lack of maintenance' and on and on.
Freddie Pitts: "The warranty is a joke. One of the squirrels can run across the roof around here, it's not covered."
And Hurricane Wilma was over 55 miles an hour, but, like Freddie says, the company can't be sure what caused the roof to leak because they have never even seen the leak.
Patrick Fraser: "Have they ever been out here?"
Freddie Pitts: "No."
Needless to say, after paying for a roof and a warranty, Freddie would like to be treated a little better.
Freddie Pitts: "Treat me like a paying customer. I mean, they didn't have any problem taking my money and explaining to me how much they wanted and for what, but how about coming and telling me something about this?"
But is the warranty worthless, and can they just assume because we had a hurricane after the roof was installed that they are off the hook without even coming out to check it out, Howard?
Howard Finkelstein: "It's not worthless, but it's a very bad warranty because it leaves enough wiggle room to let this company get out of their responsibility. Now, they cannot just send a letter and blow Freddie off. Legally, they have to come out, and they have to prove that one of their many exclusions damaged the roof. If they can't prove it, they have to fix it."
When I spoke to the roofing company owner he told me, 'We have done 3,000 roofs, we have a great reputation, and we didn't need to come out. When Wilma blew through it voided the roof.' When we told him, legally, he at least needed to check it out, he sent out an employee. He concluded the roof had not been maintained properly, that the seal on the bathroom pipe needed to be resealed and the nails in the blue tarp would eventually cause a leak and needed to be repaired.
He offered to do it for a small fee and re-instate the warranty. Freddie doesn't like that, and Howard says every person signing a contract needs to be careful.
Howard Finkelstein: "When you are deciding on any deal for a roof, a car, a pool, check out the contract and the warranty. Remember, it was written by their lawyer to benefit them, so take your time and read every word of it because once you sign it it's almost impossible to get out of a contract."
Freddie says there is no doubt that is true, that his warranty did not do what he expected.
Freddie Pitts: "I guess I'm like a lot of people. They see all this very, very tiny writing, and you don't really look at the details of it. You see, on the front it says you got a warranty, blah, blah, blah, and that's basically what you want."
Patrick Fraser: "Well, sometimes stories aren't over even after they are over. The owner of the roofing company watched our story last night and called today and told us he didn't know what Freddie had been through in his life, so he was going to repair his roof for free and re-instate his warranty. He told me he wanted a happy ending. As Freddie put it, that's nice of him. I agree."
Hit the roof when your warranty sprung a leak? Need help patching the problem? Contact us. We don't have warranty problems because we don't make promises, just plug legal loopholes.
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