If your home has hurricane damage due to Florence, you probably feel a bit overwhelmed by the repair and recovery process that lies ahead. Hurricane Damage Insurance Claims can be a daunting process! Fingers crossed you have your home properly insured, as this is the best way to ensure you get your home back to normal. For many homeowners, they do not deal with something like this more than once in a great while. For many this is the first disaster their home has experienced, and they don’t know where to start.
It can be an overwhelming process
When it comes to lingo, laws and estimates, the insurance company is the one with the experience. How many of you have ever filed a hurricane damage insurance claim before? Probably not a lot of you! We are here to assist you along the way, to ensure that you know the rights you possess, and use them to negotiate the benefits you paid for in your policy. Our goal is to help you understand the insurance claim process.
Many homeowners first step is to notify the insurance company. We are not going to tell you NOT to contact them, we are simply going to precaution you on a few key items (that most homeowners have no idea about) BEFORE you contact your insurance company.
Flooding is NOT covered by most homeowner’s insurance. Now, if you happen to have bought flood insurance, you should be good to go. In general, damaged caused by wind, wind driven rain or water that came into your home will be covered by your homeowner’s insurance. If the water came through the roof, windows etc. you should be covered. Damage that is caused from flooding- ie; damages that came from the bottom up or was due to an overflow from a body of water, may not be covered if you do not have flood insurance. Flooding IS covered by auto insurance in most cases when your vehicle is affected.
You do NOT have to wait for an insurance adjuster to come out to start the mitigation! If your home is wet, you can call WHOMEVER you choose to come out and begin the water damage mitigation (that’s the technical term for drying process… as long as they are a reliable contractor who can complete the work for you). Your insurance company WILL cover the mitigation work. Hurricane damage insurance claims are an emergency service, which is preventing further damage from occurring in your home, such a mold and rot. Insurance companies prefer if you make temporary repairs while waiting for your adjuster, and most companies REQUIRE you take precautions to mitigate the damages. What does this mean? Tarping roofs, boarding up broken windows, and starting the dry out process are all things that can be done to prevent further damage. If you have water spots, chances are you have further damage you can’t see. A reliable restoration company will be able to discover the full extent of your damages. Make sure to keep copies of your receipts, as your insurance company will reimburse you for most funds spent mitigating damages.
These are actual pictures from the water mitigation that happened at my house after Hurricane Florence. Conveniently for me, I knew who to call the second I noticed water spots, and was able to get Cape Fear Flooring & Restoration out ASAP. And guess what… they were out, had everything dried, wet stuff removed, roof tarped – a WEEK before I even heard from my insurance adjuster! AND it was all covered. My home was dry, no further damage was occurring and I didn’t have to worry about exposing my family to mold!
You do NOT have to use the insurance company’s contractor! When you notify your insurance company of damages, they may try to send out one of their contractors. They may even assure this is the fastest way to get your home back to normal. Buyer beware – this is NOT always in the best interests of the homeowner! It may be an attempt by your insurance company to control costs, and prevent you from hiring your own contractor. While there is nothing necessarily wrong with working with an insurance contractor, you should know that you are not required to do so, nor may it be in your best interests. Talk to friends and neighbors who have filed claims, and check out the contractor’s reviews online etc.
The initial payment isn’t always final. In most cases, an adjuster will inspect the damages done to your home and offer a lump sum for repairs. This is based on the damages they saw, and the terms and limits of your policy. The first check you get is often based on these numbers. Occasionally this is an advance against the total settlement amount, which means that there are more funds coming, as the work progresses. If they offer a settlement on the spot, you can accept that check right away. If you find down the road that there are other damages those funds don’t cover, you can reopen the claim, or your reliable mitigation and restoration experts can file a settlement with the insurance company to get more funds. This happens often with water damage due to storms, as there is often damage that can not be seen until the contractor starts mitigating.
Your insurance estimate and Restoration company estimate will differ! The insurance adjusters job is to ADJUST the bill! When they arrive on site to complete an estimate, often they do not take all the damages into consideration. Let’s say your roof needs replaced from the hurricane. They may provide a figure based on the shingles alone. However, they may not take into account the felt, nails, labor and unforeseen issues that may arise in this cost. A Restoration company who provides an estimate will take all these factors into consideration. It is then the restoration companies job to intervene on your behalf, with the insurance company, to ensure that everything that needs to be fixed, gets fixed AND gets covered! We will negotiate with your insurance company to make sure your home is returned to “Pre Loss” condition.
People often settle for less than they should because they don’t know better. Or they are exhausted. Especially near the end of a long complicated claim (such as hurricane damage), homeowners just want it to be over! Hurricane Damage Insurance Claims can be a hassle, all the going back and forth with the insurance company trying to make sure not only all the damages are covered, but your personal items are covered as well. This is often an issue when a homeowner isn’t working with a company with experience dealing with insurance claims. A veteran company will be able to better handle the back and forth with the insurance company, supplements etc.
You do not have to get multiple bids when dealing with storm damage! Insurance companies are not trying to rip you off, but they are trying to hold onto every penny they can! How? The insurance company will request you get three different bids on damages and then send them in. In most situations this is a great practice, however, in a storm claim situation this is a definite DO NOT! Regardless of whether it is flood damage, roofing or flooring, your insurance company cannot require you obtain multiple bids or require you use their contractor. There are several reasons NOT to get multiple bids when dealing with storm repairs.
- Insurance companies are obligated to pay predetermined market pricing that is updated regularily to reflect market increases due to high demands caused by storms and other market changes. Insurance companies use a software called Xactimate or their own similar version, which determines material prices by region as well as labor prices. These numbers are updated sometimes multiple times in a month. This software will produce your summary which lists all of your damage and the value of the claim, which you and your contractor are entitled to upon your home being inspected by your adjuster. Materials and labor are very sensitive to market surges. Shingles, nails, decking, and associated materials can increase by as much as 30 to 40 percent during storm season. Cape Fear Flooring & Restoration uses this same estimating software (Xactimate) when we go out to assess damage and begin work on a property, so you can rest assured that our estimates line up with what your insurance company would provide. If they don’t, we will negotiate on your behalf to ensure that as much is covered as possible!
- Your insurance company is only liable to pay you their summary amount OR the bid amount from a contractor, whichever is the lowest, minus your deductible. Bids WILL ALWAYS BE LOWER THAN SUMMARY PRICING! That is how a normal contractor wins a job, by bidding the lowest. This is not a situation where you are trying to find the best pricing. When asking you to obtain 3 bids, what they are trying to accomplish is the lowest possible payout on your claim. The real problem with this? There are no specs. When we provide estimates, it is our estimators job to make sure that we are including as much as possible in the estimates. Your roof does not have a list of specs nailed to it. You have no idea what pieces, parts or materials each roofer will be leaving out in order to give you the lowest possible bid. Are they replacing your drip edge? Do you have more than one layer of shingles that will need to be removed? Is there damage in underneath the shingles that the adjuster didn’t see initially? Unless you are a roofer, you probably don’t know or care what materials are being used so long as it is the best possible roof. However, your insurance company only has to pay the lowest bid. They do not care if the bids are apple to apple.
- This has come to be a very taboo word for homeowners, when in fact – it should not be. Supplements can be your friend – if handled correctly. It is most commonly associated by your insurance company as a nasty contractor trying to scam them out of more money, after he agreed to do the job for a certain price. Now, this does happen on occasion, However, supplements are honest and allowable parts of your claim. Your insurance policy says your home is to be repaired to the state it was in prior to the storm (ie “pre-loss condition”). Occasionally your home will need to be brought up to code as well, if it is no longer in compliance. Your insurance company will come out and provide you with an estimate, and then your contractor will agree to work for the predetermined price provided in your estimate. When working with Cape Fear Flooring & Restoration, we will be on site as soon as possible so we can provide you with any items we notice that your insurance company may miss, right away. In fact, this is why we ask to be your FIRST call after a storm – so we can provide a much more detailed estimate to your insurance company and cut out all the hassle in the middle.
Now let’s say, once your roof is removed, additional damage is found, or items were missed by your adjuster who had 151 claims to get to when he did your adjustment due to the hurricane, or your home is not currently in compliance with your city, county or state codes for efficiency, etc. Your contractor will file a supplement for the additional costs, your insurance company approves it and you are out no additional costs. Had you had 3 bids and your insurance company granted payment for the lowest, their answer to these previous scenarios may be, “your contractor bid the project and we agreed to pay that amount. We are not responsible for any items he failed to find”.
You also want to keep in mind this: While you are out there getting your multiple estimates, further damage is occurring to your home. Roofs left un-tarped will continue to leak into the home every time it rains. Water damaged sheetrock and insulation is sitting and continuing to rot, and potentially even mold – which can cause serious health issues for you and your family. Not only that, but in the event of a major natural disaster like Hurricane Florence, every reliable contractor and restoration company in the area are busy running all over doing actual repairs and they don’t have the time to provide everyone with an estimate, especially if they AREN’T going to get hired to do the actual work when it is all said and done. There is just TOO MUCH to do, and not enough time to do it.
PLAIN AND SIMPLE: THERE IS NO ADVANTAGE TO YOU IN A STORM CLAIM SCENARIO TO GET MULTIPLE BIDS!!! The only winning party is the insurance company!
It is important to understand your insurance company is not trying to rip you off. Nor are they trying to get out of paying for repairs. But keep in mind, they are in business to make money and their job is to try to settle each claim for as little money as possible, while staying within the law. It is not their job to act on your behalf, look out for you or work in your best interests. That is why you hire a reliable, outside company like Cape Fear Flooring & Restoration, to assist you along the way.