Home warranty headache: Veteran forced to pay out of pocket for new HVAC after lengthy dispute

Home warranty company offered ‘good will gesture’ check covering about 10 percent of Paul Cancino’s expenses

SAN ANTONIO – Last May, Air Force veteran Paul Cancino was stunned to learn that his home warranty company would not cover a filed claim for his condominium’s broken down heating, ventilation and air conditioning system.

The company, after all, had already repeatedly sent vendors to try and repair the HVAC system after it had malfunctioned last February, March and April, work orders viewed by the KSAT 12 Defenders show.

A home warranty is an insurance contract that covers repairs and the possible replacement of a home’s major systems and appliances and is often included in the sale of many properties.

Cancino bought the downtown condo in the fall of 2020 following a nearly yearlong deployment to Afghanistan, and said a two-year contract with Fidelity National Home Warranty was included in the purchase.

Sixteen months later, Cancino has been forced to spend five figures out of pocket to replace the HVAC system and is on the brink of taking legal action against a company he thought would protect him against these exact type of home ownership expenses.

“I’m getting nowhere fast. And every time it’s an excuse about what they can’t do for me,” said Cancino.

Cell phone records and months of Facebook messages sent between Cancino and Fidelity show that representatives of the California-based company were difficult to reach and when tracked down, offered little in the way of a solution.

Cancino repeatedly followed up with concerns about his HVAC system in Facebook messages to Fidelity National Home Warranty. (KSAT)

Cancino said he was forced to temporarily move out of the condo last summer, after going without air conditioning for more than 50 days.

“They gave me a voucher for $100 to buy some fans for a temporary fix. But fans don’t work in San Antonio when it’s 95 to 102 degrees outside. It was unbearable. It was Texas in the summer,” said Cancino.

After the HVAC system had already been worked on four times, Fidelity informed Cancino through a May 17 letter that his claim was not covered because the system exceeded the allowable capacity and was not designed for residential use.

Cancino's home warranty company denied his claim in May, even after approving multiple work orders for the HVAC unit. (KSAT)

Cancino said a follow up conversation with San Antonio’s representative for Fidelity left him astonished.

“You know San Antonio is a military town. Think of all the active duty military veterans and retirees that live out here,” Cancino said. “And her response, which really was a punch in the stomach, was, ‘Fidelity is not running a charity here.’”

Cancino said he refused to cash a $1,940 check included in the denial letter or any of the subsequent checks sent to him by Fidelity since then.

In the denial letter Fidelity representatives referred to the check as a “good will gesture.”

The check amounts to about 10% of what Cancino has paid for the installation of a new system, and other expenses including alternative cooling solutions he attempted to put in place.

“I want what’s owed to me, and it’s the value plus what I’ve had to put in legal fees because they will not return my calls or emails anymore,” said Cancino, who added that the company also refused to let him out of the second year of the contract.

Fidelity would most likely not be required to cover Cancino’s legal fees, however, since it is unlikely the contract includes language entitling him to such fees.

‘They’re playing the game’

Fidelity National Home Warranty boasts an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau despite having a customer review score of 1.07 out of 5.

Jason Meza, senior regional director for the BBB San Antonio, said Fidelity has a “high volume” of complaints against it.

Jason Meza of the Better Business Bureau San Antonio. (KSAT)

“They’re playing the game and trying to make it right. Whether that satisfies or solves the exact issue, I mean, many times it doesn’t happen,” said Meza.

“Hollering as loud as you can, making complaints, reporting it, letting others know what you’ve seen and hopefully at some point get what you need out of this,” said Meza.

Meza added that after a consumer has exhausted all of his or her rights, taking a company to court or requesting that both sides take part in dispute resolution are logical next steps.

Meza said it is important to thoroughly read a home warranty contract and pin down what it guarantees before purchasing it, and to keep detailed records, such as text messages.

“Home warranty programs and services out there, it’s tough to gauge if they work or not, if they’re going to cover everything that you need,” said Meza.

Officials at Fidelity’s headquarters and its San Antonio representative did not return messages seeking comment for this story.

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About the Authors:

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined the KSAT 12 Defenders in 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

Joshua Saunders is an Emmy award-winning photographer/editor who has worked in the San Antonio market for the past 20 years. Joshua works in the Defenders unit, covering crime and corruption throughout the city.