Monday, October 27, 2008

On Injustice and Broken Furnaces

We live in a world that is unjust. Those who are in power often manipulate and dominate those who are in a position of weakness, making a profit off of their powerlessness. Because "they can," they do.

We have just experienced such a phenomenon in our work at Mulberry House.

The purchase of the home came with a 1 year home warranty that is supposed to cover all mechanical failures that occur after the closing on the house. We were repeatedly assured by the realtor and the home warranty company themselves (even in the agreement document itself) that ANY mechanical failures in the home which occurred after the closing date would be covered by the warranty. According to the papers, everything in the house is covered except for counter-top microwaves, which they classify as the owner's responsibility. Having this warranty in place greatly influenced our decision to buy the house.

A furnace in the house failed within the past few days. This furnace was fully functional at the time of purchase and in the weeks immediately following (we have more-than-sufficient documentation from the home inspector testifying to this fact). Again, we purchased the house with the assumption, on the testimony of the inspector and the realtor, that the furnace would either fully function after the purchase or be replaced in a timely fashion.

We followed the correct procedure, paying the $100 deductible and having an approved technician come to the house. We even received word by phone last Friday that our furnace was covered fully under the warranty and that it would be replaced. Great news indeed!

This morning, however, they called us back and canceled their previous approval saying, "Because the furnace is old, it was foreseeable that the furnace would fail." Therefore, we are disqualified for any replacement of the furnace, any parts and labor, or repairs. In short, we get nothing.

Their reason is this: in her report, the technician mentioned seeing some rust in the basement. The home warranty company says that because rust is a visible sign of potential problems, we should have foreseen the failure of the furnace before buying the house. Because rust was present, regardless of when the failure occurred, they never would have covered our losses. We have been disqualified from any service and are responsible for all expenses.

They have refused to send out another repair person to reevaluate the furnace and we cannot get our deductible of $100 back (despite the fact that no services of any kind were performed for us). In other words, we paid them $100 to come out to the house, agree that they were liable and approve us for service, then change their minds and pocket the money without helping at all.

There is no appeal process available to us. By classifying this as a "foreseeable problem", these furnace "experts" have trumped any claim we might make. This little loophole was just enough for them to LEGALLY wriggle out of their obligations. Note, these experts made the decision to cancel our claim from an office miles away, basing their decision entirely on one word in a report.

Sadly, this is how our world functions. Decisions are not made based on the fulfillment of promised outcomes but on the preservation of a large profit margin. Much like our current health care system, the claims handlers never ask, "What is the best solution for the parties involved?" or "What am I obligated to do?" but rather "How can I make sure that I don't take a loss on this?" and "How much money can I make?"

I hope I don't sound like I am just whining about my lot in life. I wanted to share what it is like to be in a position of powerlessness... to be exploited for personal and corporate gain... to be cheated and lied to... to be robbed, with no legal recourse... to be angered and frustrated and saddened... all of it completely "legal".

Now, pause for a moment and think about our friends in the city who experience this sensation regularly. When you are poor, things happen TO you. You don't wake up and plan for the future... you wake up and brace yourself.

Pray for us, my friends. We have a friend who does furnace repair. He is going to help us out. Hopefully, we'll have heat before temperatures get cold enough for pipes to freeze. God will provide, as He always has.

I write to you very conscious of the brokenness of things... but also very conscious of God's unchanging promise to set right all that is wrong in the world.

Lord, Haste the Day.

Peace to You,

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