Dealing with a Flooded Home: Part II
If you’re just now joining us on our how-to path on filing a flood insurance claim, we covered the immediate tasks pertinent to building a solid case to present to your insurance adjuster in our last article. In this second part of our series, we will explore the logistical side of filing a claim. Researching and finding reputable contractors, getting bids, juggling both time and money... the continuation of filing an insurance claim can be an arduous task. Our aim is to wield you with the appropriate knowledge to power against the frustrations of the next part of your insurance claim journey.
Getting Bids from Reputable Contractors
If you’ve put in all the work required so far, it has probably been under the assumption that your insurer is going to compensate you for the damages and pay for the cost of repairs. The cost of repairs is calculated by a reputable contractor or “getting a bid.” It’s going to be in your best interest to shop around for contractors in your area and get different bids from each one. Bids are not always based on cost or labor alone. It is not uncommon for a contractor to bid low so they can win the job. If they do bid too low, their work might not be of such high quality. It also pays to be mindful of more local businesses in the area when searching for a reliable contractor. Depending on the size and area affected, there might be an incentive for contractors to provide discounts to help aid in disaster relief. Some contractors and companies do charge a fee to provide a bid, but most are happy to provide free bids.
When it comes to finding a reputable contractor, there are a few things you should consider before you move forward into any type of business transactions. A good start to finding a credible contractor would be to ask family and friends who have recently had renovations done to their home. People you are close to and your neighbors can be very reliable sources of information. Your adjuster may also have previous experience with established companies in the area to refer you to as well.
Another key point you want to pay mind to is if the contractor is insured and licensed. If something goes awry during construction you’re going to want to have some peace of mind in knowing that your contractor is insured. It’s also important to know if they’re willing to work with your insurance company. Most insurance companies have certain requirements your contractor must meet in order to work with them such as having a valid city- or state-issued industry license.
Once you’ve accumulated a selection of bids (3 or more should be plenty), present them to your insurance adjuster. Your adjustor will analyze the bids and let you know how much of the renovation cost they will cover. Once your insurer discloses this information, you can select a contractor to begin the renovation process. Revisit the bid, its timeline and final cost to make sure you are entirely satisfied with it before signing any paperwork. You could invalidate your right to demand modifications during the renovation process or authority on any new repairs that may resurface during the construction process if you’re not careful what exactly the contract entails. Make sure you, your insurance adjuster and the contractor are all on the same page before proceeding.
Assuming your claim was approved, you will be receiving compensation in some form, most likely a check. The modern proverb, “time is money,” will come into play here because there is no set timeline for knowing when you will receive your compensation. This will depend on your insurance company, your specific policy and if your claim is found to be payable. Your claim will only be found payable once the following occurs:
You and your insurer agree on the severity of the damage and cost of repairs
You have submitted a completed, accurate and signed Proof of Loss form
Any and all supporting documentation has been submitted with your claim
If both your home and your possessions were damaged, you may receive two checks from your insurer. One of the checks will be made out either to you, your mortgage lender or your contractor. The second check will be sent and addressed entirely to you to provide you with the compensation for the possessions you lost or were damaged.
You might find yourself with a policy that has been classified as a “replacement cost policy.” This indicates that any personal possessions that are damaged must be replaced by you (out of pocket) before your insurer can compensate you. This is why reviewing your policy with your adjuster and company is vital to the claim process. You don’t want to commit to something you aren’t comfortable with. Depending on your policy, however, you may be awarded up to several months to replace your lost or damaged items. If you don’t want to replace certain items, your insurance company may reimburse you for the cash value. Depending on the type and extent of the damages you are claiming, these checks can get pretty hefty.
Some construction companies may require you to sign a Direct to Pay form. This form removes you from being the middleman in all financial exchanges. This is a way to ease the transition and exchange of money while also simplifying the repayment process. You are not going to be held responsible for the control, or lack of control, of funds during and after the renovation process. Direct to Pay arrangements are typically not mandated by your insurance company, but rather exist for the security of the contractor.
Requesting Additional Payments
After repairs are underway or sometimes even completed, you may come across new damages you were not aware of during the initial assessment. This could include structural damage or further damage to your personal property. If you are looking to receive compensation for this, you’re going to need to file an additional flood claim with your insurance company. You’ll be required to repeat the entire claim process from the beginning, but only for the new items that were discovered. Most insurers have a standard 60-day limit to report an amendment to your claim. If there was a state of emergency declared in your area due to natural disaster, FEMA may grant additional time extensions based on certain conditions. As before, you’re going to want to notify your insurance adjuster immediately upon discovering the new damages and document it just as you did before. If the damage is extensive or needs to be looked at further your adjuster may schedule another visit to your home.
Appealing Your Claim
If you feel at any point during the claim process that you were not provided with what you felt was needed or deserved in terms of compensation or application of funds, it is well within your right to file an appeal. Before you begin the early stages of this process you should bring any discrepancies up to your insurance adjuster. The adjuster is going to have more knowledge that pertains to your claim than the insurance company or any available representative at that time. It’s imperative that you communicate earnestly with your adjuster about anything that you might be confused or upset with.
Unfortunately, earnest communication isn’t always effective, and you might find it necessary to get in contact with your adjuster’s supervisor. If after speaking with an adjustment supervisor and both parties are unable to progress forward, you may then ask for the information necessary to contact the insurance company directly. If after speaking with the insurance company you are still incapable of coming to an agreement there is one last option you can pursue: reaching out to FEMA. The Federal Emergency Management Agency may be able to provide you with the resources and mediation necessary to answer any questions or solve any outstanding issues between you, your adjuster and the insurance company when it comes to mounting an appeal for your claim.
There’s nothing more sobering than viewing the aftermath and subsequent damages to your home after it’s been flooded. That rush of emotion post disaster is the perfect catalyst to kick off the process of filing a flood insurance claim. In what seems to be a taxing and toilsome process, knowledge will serve as a valiant horse that will lead you into victory. Going into this process well-prepared, knowing what to expect, knowing what’s to be expected of you and where your responsibilities lie as a homeowner are going to make a world of difference in what type of experience you have.