- Is it worth opening up an insurance claim?
First thing to look at would be your insurance policy. If the deductible is higher than the repair that is needed, then you should not open up an insurance claim. Another recommendation would be to call a Licensed Public Adjuster who is familiar with both insurance policies & construction. Public Adjusters can offer free consultations and they can tell you if it is worth opening a claim. Keep in mind that hiring drying, mold remediation companies, and environmental companies can cost thousands of dollars out of pocket. One thing insurance companies will look at when raising premiums is how many times the policyholder has opened a claim in the past few years. If you have opened more than one insurance claim in the past three years, then your insurance premium will go up.
- What kind of water damages are covered?
- Sudden and Accidental Leaks that occur in less than 2 weeks.
- Slab Leaks (Slab Leaks are sometimes excluded in insurance policies)
- Sudden Dishwasher Leaks
- Water Purifier Leaks
- Garbage Disposal Leaks
- Rain and Wind Together
- Burst Pipes
- Washing Machine Leak
- Refrigerator Leaks
- My insurance claim got denied. What is considered to be a Long-Term Leak?
The first thing you want to look at is your insurance policy coverage limit. Your insurance agency can also provide you a copy of the declarations page which specifies your coverage. Secondly, you want to determine how long the leak has occurred for as insurance companies will usually deny coverage for any long-term leaks. Long term being if a leak has occurred for a period of over 14 days. Although mold can grow within 24 hours especially when hot water and humidity is present, there are still clues as to what insurance companies look at for a denied claim.
- What does it mean when I have multiple leaks throughout my house?
The first clue is when you feel heat underneath your wood or tile floors. Another sign is if you have had multiple leaks within that past 1-3-years. The third sign of if you see damp spots or in multiple areas around the house and a sudden increase in your water bill. What are the cause of these leaks? The cause of these leaks occurs when the original builder of the home has installed cheap and thin copper pipes which cause the pipe to corrode a lot faster. Many plumbers offer re-piping services where your plumbing is simply rerouted throughout the house. The second method is a temporary solution for homeowner which is called a direct access. Plumbers will find the exact location of the leak and fix only that portion of the pipe. There are currently no insurance companies that will cover you to re-pipe your home, but there are some insurance companies that cover direct access. If re-piping is needed, then this type of job can be very costly. One thing to consider is to look at is if the builder’s warranty is still active.
- How Long does a typical water damage claim take from start to finish?
There is no exact answer for this. Each insurance companies have their own policies and methods of handling insurance claims. If the area is not properly dried out, mold growth and discoloration can occur after a long period of time. By that time, your reported damages will be considered a denial due to long term damages. Do not wait or delay on opening a water damage claim.
- What is the typical process behind a Water Damage Claim?
Every homeowner who plans on opening a claim should look for a professional licensed plumber who can locate and find the cause of leak as well as provide evidence of how long the leak has occurred. Remember that insurance companies will not cover any long-term leaks. If you plan on opening up a water damage claim, I suggest homeowners and building owners to take a pics/video of the leak occurring and hold on to the broken pipe, disposal, filtration system, washing machine, or water heaters throughout the claim to make sure that there are no coverage suspicions. Insurance companies will go out themselves or send an expert for an inspection to see what the cause of leak was and how it happened. What does a Damage Rebuild Companies Do Exactly? Once the leak is fixed, the water damage rebuild company will have to come out to do the drying job in order to prevent further water damage and mold growth. Damage Rebuild companies must provide proof the drying process and will come out daily to check the progress of the drying job. How long does a drying job last? The right answer is however long it takes. Normally a typical drying job takes about 5-7 days. During that time the insurance company will offer you to stay at a hotel if your house is inhabitable. What if my house has asbestos and led? If your house was built before 1980 insurance companies will require you to have an environmental expert go out there to test for lead and asbestos. If the tests come out positive, then any demolition cannot start until the lead and asbestos abatement is done. Once the demolition is done, the public adjuster or estimator will come out to provide a detailed estimate of what is damaged. Why do I need a Public Adjuster when I can just get my own estimates? Most homeowners do not have experience dealing with water damage/fire damage claims and get emotionally involved. Another issue is that most homeowners do not have knowledge in insurance policies and knowledge in construction. Most contractors, floor experts, cabinet experts are not licensed by the Department of Insurance and are not legally allowed to represent you on your claim in the State of California. Another reason is that these experts might not be using the same not able to estimating software that insurance companies use to negotiate. Public Adjusters will come out to do walkthroughs with the field adjuster or independent adjuster. The negotiation process in which the Public Adjuster and the Field / Desk adjuster will keep in contact throughout the entire claim. What do Public Adjusters Charge? A public adjuster will charge a small percentage based on what they settle for. No upfront costs.
- What does it mean when an insurance company recommends their own water/fire damage experts or an IA (Independent Adjuster)?
First There are usually three different types of adjusters when going through a property claim. The first is the Desk Insurance Adjuster with controls everything internally. The desk adjusters usually never come out on the field and controls all points of contacts. The second adjuster they will use is the field adjuster. Normally field insurance adjusters are the ones that come out and do the damage and repair measurement/estimates of the entire property. Mainly insurance adjusters are the ones that solely work for their own company. The Third adjuster is the third party (IA) or Independent Adjuster. Independent Adjusters are usually from out of state and are usually hired as third-party estimators. These adjusters can be very busy especially when insurance companies are either short staffed during Catastrophes or when Insurance Company or do not want to take the liability for lowballing.
What does it mean when my insurance company referred me to a water damage rebuild company? People have to know that there are water damage rebuild companies that work strictly on the insurance companies side. Why does that matter? There are Water Mitigation companies out there that get fed about 30+ jobs per month by the insurance companies themselves which means they can have a biased opinion and look for shortcuts to not payout as much. How does this affect the me, the policyholder? Since insurance companies have the authority of how much gets paid out, they are also able to use leverage against their water damage rebuild vendors on what areas should be removed and what stays through their referral programs. My recommendation is to find a licensed and highly reputable mitigation company that is able to do honest and proper work. Usually there are two reasons as to why insurance companies hire independent adjusters.
- Fire Damage Claim – The Process
For policyholders who have gone through a fire claim. My recommendation would be to not touch the affected area and to wear safety mask as there can be some toxic soot floating around. When opening up a fire claim, the adjuster who comes out will figure out who responsible for the fire and do an ongoing investigation. Insurance Companies are legally allowed to go after who is responsible for the fire which is also known as subrogation. Mitigation companies will be out there as well to properly clean up the soot and damaged areas.
- Additional Living Expense – Hotel and Meal Reimbursement in an Insurance Claim –
First you want to determine what your Additional Living Expense (ALE) or Loss of Use Coverage Limit is, and ensure this is covered on your declarations page? The second thing you would need is to provide insurance companies with a legitimate reason as to why your home and kitchen is inhabitable. Insurance companies will only cover ALE or Loss of Use during two stages. Emergency work that is needed such as drying, mold remediation, and led &asbestos abatements. The Second stage would be during the repair and build back process. If the kitchen is unusable throughout your entire claim, then homeowners have the right to claim for only the additional amount when purchasing meals outside their home. Note: Insurance company requires policyholders to keep all hard copies of their detailed meal receipts (Alcoholic Drinks are NOT covered). Any repair work that is not related to the current damages are also not covered by insurance companies. If a hotel has a kitchen additional meal expenses will not be given to policyholders since they already have access to a useable kitchen.