Lots of items you buy nowadays come with warranties -- cell phones, cars and even homes.

Those home warranties often pay for the cost to repair or replace home appliances, electrical systems and even heating and air conditioning systems. But the KVUE Defenders discovered that finding a reliable company requires some work.

In Austin's hot housing market, timing is everything.

Gabriel Neila couldn't wait to move his growing family into a newly renovated Central Austin townhome. So they put an offer on it the day they looked at it.

“After living in the house a couple of months I started seeing -- nothing extreme -- but little things here and there,” he said.

So he started searching for a home warranty company. After doing some research and comparison shopping, he paid $400 for a home warranty from Delta Home Protect out of Atlanta.

“I thought I'd made a good purchase,” Neila said.

However when it came time to use it, Neila said he ran into trouble.

“I purchased it in May 2016 and it was in August when I had a problem with the guest bathroom,” he said.

It was a leaky sink that should have been covered by his home warranty.

“I kept calling this person and she kept saying there was nothing she could do,” he said.

"The garage door would not fully open. We tried to put a claim in them and they would never send anybody out," Ponzio said.

Elizabeth Nickens in Oakland, California canceled her contract after Delta refused to fix her dishwasher.

"I was told these were fully refundable contracts except I never received a credit on my credit card bill,” Nickens said. “I realized I wasn't the only one with big problems with this company."

The Defenders discovered the Better Business Bureau had more than 1,800 calls and complaints about Delta Home Protect in the first 8 months of last year stretching from the west coast to the east coast.

"Generally the things we get complaints about are about coverage and difficulty in getting certain items repaired,” said Erin Dufner, the chief marketing officer at the Better Business Bureau.

Our investigation found the Delta Home Protect business address is an apartment outside Atlanta. The registered agent for the company is Yitty Shteierman.

Court documents show Shteierman owes $2,100 in unpaid rent. In 2010, she was convicted of stealing $200,000.

Nickens and Neila hope others learn from their experience.

"It hurt us. It hurt my family," said Ponzio.

“I do think it was necessary at the time, I don't think so anymore,” said Neila.

Here are some things you should consider before buying a home warranty:

  • Look for a company with 20-plus years of experience
  • Ask about the customer retention rate
  • Read the fine print, know what's covered and what's not
  • Make sure all makes and models are covered no matter the age of the home system or appliance
  • Be sure there is no 30-day wait, no limit on the number of service calls you can make and that the number is available 24/7.

And here’s an article about the difference between home warranties and home insurance.