By Paula Ebben

BOSTON (CBS) – For Brenton Wilson, there was a lot to like about the Haverhill townhouse he was looking to buy. “We liked the hardwood flooring and the openness of it,” he said.

He did have some concerns about the aging heating system, but was told the home came with a 13-month home warranty. “The way the seller’s agent explained it was if anything goes wrong within the terms of the warranty that they would repair or replace,” he said recalling the discussion with the agent.

Brenton decided to go ahead with the purchase. But a few months before the warranty was up, he heard a loud bang in the basement. “This is what blew off,” he said pulling a large metal plate off the front of his old furnace. “We came down to find a panel on the ground.”

Brenton Wilson’s broken furnace (WBZ-TV)

Home Warranty of America sent out a technician who agreed the unit needed to be replaced. But after several roadblocks, the company decided to offer a cash payout instead of replacing the unit.

But Brenton says that offer is simply not acceptable. “They are offering $872. Replacing it would cost in the neighborhood of $7,000,” he said.

According to Kevin Brassler, editor of Consumer’s Checkbook magazine, Brenton’s experience is not unusual. “The math always works out in the company’s favor, not your favor,” he said.

Brassler has seen a number of problems with the home warranties, including long, complicated contracts with pages of exclusions and exceptions. Many companies require consumers work with their own technicians, which Brassler believes is not in the consumer’s best interest. He also said warranty companies often have caps on the amount of money they will pay. “You are certainly not getting total coverage if they are capping out the payout at $800 if what you need is a new furnace,” he said.

Brenton Wilson (WBZ-TV)

Home Warranty of America told WBZ: “Thank you for bringing this to our attention. It is our understanding that the repair has been delayed due to the townhome’s HOA affiliation and location of the furnace. Due to the delay we have offered the owner a buyout as an option. We have been and will continue to work with both the customer and the technician until we come to a resolution.” -HWA Office of the President

Brenton says he hopes other homebuyers learn from his experience. “If anything needs to be replaced, or aging, I would insist on that as a condition of closing, or just find another property,” he said.

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Paula Ebben