By Rich Ligotino | Mar 12, 2017
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Many home products carry a “lifetime warranty”, but quite often that warranty isn’t all that it’s cut out to be.
Brenda Sorrentino signed a contract that was very clear. There was a lifetime warranty on the new vinyl replacement windows she purchased. A lifetime warranty on the frame and sash. Lifetime warranty on the glass. The balances, locks and all the moving parts ; all with a lifetime warranty.
Her problems began just a few years after she purchased her windows. Many of her windows were drafty and not operating properly. The exterior brown finish on all of her windows was badly faded. The finish went from an original “dark chocolate” to a “light caramel” color.
“I figured I had a warranty, so I really have nothing to worry about”, thought Brenda.
It turned out, Brenda was wrong.
She immediately called the contractor who sold and installed her windows, only to find out they were out of business. Then Brenda dug up her contract along with a manufacturer brochure that was given to her at the time of her purchase. She found the name of the window manufacturer, a company located in Pittsburgh, PA, and promptly contacted them. Brenda thought she was making progress, but things were only getting progressively worse !
The warranty department informed Brenda that the window manufacturer had been bought out by a new company and that they were no longer honoring warranties for windows purchased prior to 2007 (Brenda purchased her windows in 2006). They further informed her that their windows had been completely redesigned and that they no longer had an inventory of any of the older parts.
Brenda’s complaint was eventually forwarded to a manager. That conversation didn’t go so well either. The only option she was left with was to take legal action. Brenda could’ve hired an attorney to sue the company, but she couldn’t afford one.
Sadly, Brenda eventually gave up on her efforts. She settled for bad, drafty windows that were rapidly deteriorating.
So what does lifetime warranty really mean ?
Most consumers see lifetime warranty to mean one of three things. 1) The owner’s lifetime or the time he/she owns the product. 2) The lifetime of the product itself. 3) The lifetime of the manufacturer.
It turns out, there is no precise meaning to the word lifetime. In fact, a lifetime can mean whatever the company wants it to mean — as long as they tell you.
In Brenda’s case, it turned out to be the lifetime of the window manufacturer. The manufacturer filed for bankruptcy several years earlier then sold the company shortly after. This left Brenda with a warranty that was unenforceable, and basically useless.
Unfortunately, we hear stories similar to Brenda’s quite too often. In order to avoid this very common pitfall, you should have a fundamental understanding of how warranties work.
Here are a few examples of the more common warranties in the home-improvement industry.
Product Only Warranty — This type of warranty does not cover any labor, this is where your contractor’s warranty comes into play. If your contractor goes out of business, there goes your warranty !
Non-Transferrable Warranty — This means that the warranty covers the original homeowner/purchaser only. A second homeowner would not be covered.
Pro-Rated Warranty — This type of warranty is very common. I will use an unnamed manufacturer of roof shingles as an example. In this case, “lifetime” is defined as fifty (50) years. The manufacturer covers product, labor and dumpster costs for a period of ten (10) years. After ten (10) years, the warranty is reduced to product only (no labor or dumpster). In addition, the warranty begins to pro-rate (or diminish) by 10%, year after year, for the remaining forty (40) years.
So what is the bottom line here ?
Thoroughly read any lifetime warranty, no matter what you’re told. Don’t take anything for granted and ask questions. Request a copy of the warranty certificate from your contractor or supplier.
The Better Business Bureau advises us to make sure that every detail is clear and unambiguous. There should be no confusion at all. And ask who will service the warranty should the contractor go out of business before the warranty expires.