Tampa Flood Victims Need to Educate Themselves About Water Restoration Work – Be Careful What you Sign!
As Tampa area businesses and homeowners deal with the serious flood and water damage, they will need the help of a water restoration firm to clean-up and dry out their property. Once local authorities give the all clear and it’s safe to return, mitigation efforts should be started immediately to avoid further damage or mold issues. If insured for the loss, you will find that most insurance policies require that you take reasonable and necessary measures to protect and preserve your property from further damage. This can be a difficult and challenging undertaking that requires decisions often involving a great deal of money at a time when your insurance adjuster may not have seen your loss or given the OK to start the dry-out or restoration process. Our recommendation is to hire the restoration company to do the drying and clean-up work only. You can then get quotes for reconstruction once things are sorted out with your insurance company. If possible, have the restoration company give you the scope of work and pricing in writing and then give it to the insurance adjuster or send it the insurance company for their approval. If possible, schedule a meeting at the site with all parties present. If this is not practical, make sure you take pictures of the damage and document all expenses for your insurance company. If you don’t document your damages, the insurance adjuster may not include it in the damage assessment.
Compounding this process will be decisions related to the value of items that need to be restored, where the items value is less than the cost of cleaning or restoring it. In some cases where the loss is severe and the policy limits are low, you may need your full policy limits to pay for the total lost value of items. Emergency restoration cost can be very expenses. Drying out a building can be problematic as often times building components that are not damaged will have to be removed to facilitate the dry-out process. Damaged property such as business stock or personal property may need to be removed and stored. It’s always a good idea to photograph personal property/inventory before it’s removed or placed in storage. This protects you for the inevitable inspections that will follow from the insurance adjuster and possibly inventory and salvage firms.
As with any business, there are many honest and reliable restoration firms but there are also fast buck operators who want to run up a restoration bill as high as they can. Drying out costs are very profitable. Storage and handling inventories often carry significant marked-ups. You will be approached by restoration firms to sign work authorization forms that give a firm lien rights if their bill is not paid in total. It is not uncommon to have insurance companies contest the excessive and unreasonable charges from dishonest firms. When they do, we have seen many cases where they will pay part of the bill but not the total. Then they will remind you that you signed the work authorization without approval from them. You also may have issues with restoration cost for work that is not covered. For example: if you do not have a flood policy, your insurance company may only pay for restoration costs related to wind damage. Before you approve any restoration work, make sure you are clear on these issues!
Remember, emergency restoration work authorizations are contracts. If possible have them reviewed by your attorney or call in a public adjuster to manage your claim. Another possibility is to have the insurance adjuster give the OK for the scope and price of the work to be performed. Always get this in writing! We have seen some policyholders successfully change the work authorization forms to state that any payment for services must be approved by the insurance company. Also be very leery of work authorization clauses, also known as Assignment of Benefits that assign your insurance policy proceeds to restoration firms. Use common sense. It’s your insurance money. Once it’s paid out you cannot go back for more.
If you have questions regarding any property insurance related issues please call 800.321.4488 or contact a public adjuster to submit a question to one of our insurance claim experts. As always, the professional public insurance adjusters at Tutwiler and Associates are here to help with any questions you may have. Please visit www.PublicAdjuster.com to stay updated on the insurance claims process and tips for your insurance claim.