The Calm After the StormMay 04, 2015 01:00AM ● By David Williams
The spring storm season has the potential to introduce the most unpredictable of problems for homeowners. We checked in with Lisa and Regi Powell of Powell Insurance, a Farmers Insurance agency, for their best advice on how to navigate the process if your home sustains storm damage.
The Most Common Mistake?
Lisa: “Automatically turning in a claim. Every claim stays on your record for three years, even if you end up later saying, ‘Never, mind, it’s not worth collecting on it after my deductible.’ Many people may not understand that it is still counted as a claim. We recommend getting an estimate outside of the insurance process in order to make the best decision about whether or not to proceed with an actual claim.”
Regi: “This is also important because claims frequency can effect your premiums, even your eligibility. When in doubt, talk to your agent first. That’s what we’re here for.”
How to Best Protect Your Rights and Your Property?
Regi: “Each state has a different statute of limitations on claims. Get a good estimate from a reputable contractor. That cost is reimbursed in the process if a claim is, indeed, later filed. You wouldn’t want to find much later on that, for example, you have water problems from a damaged roof. Now you’re faced with bigger, costlier issues.”
Lisa: “Water is one of the things you should be most concerned about as a homeowner. It is stubborn, persistent. If you don’t fix a roof after a storm, over time water leaks or damage may occur. This water damage may not be covered if you didn’t take the proper steps to repair the original storm damage.”
Okay, So Now it’s Time to Make Repairs
Lisa: “We have what we call a Preferred Provider program…a list of trusted contractors. A lot of companies have similar programs. The financial relationship is still between the homeowner and the contractor, but those that make it onto our list have gone through a thorough vetting process. They’ve jumped through a lot of hoops to make the cut and be on that list.”
Regi: “And don’t forget some of the simplest tips when making repair decisions. Talk to your friends and neighbors. What great experiences have they had with contractors? Who do they trust? If some guy shows up in your driveway offering to do work, check his truck’s license plate. If it’s from Florida or Alabama…well, there are a lot of storm-chasers out there and they, like any business, can be all over the map in terms of ability, reliability, even honesty.”
What Does My Insurance Company Need to Know?
Regi: “Keep them updated throughout the process. Your contractor may point out, for example, that you need to replace a skylight after, say, some hail damage. But if that sky light wasn’t identified in the original adjusting process, it causes problems later. If additional damage is found, let’s be sure to get that into the claim so you will be paid accordingly.”
Lisa: “Which is a good reminder to take a comprehensive approach to any claim. Our adjustors are trained to inspect the entire property. Do you have a pool? A tool shed? Ask your claims adjuster to inspect your entire property, not just the roof or siding. An adjuster may often find damage you didn’t know existed.”
And Before the Storm?
Lisa: “Perhaps our most important role is to make sure you have the appropriate type and amount of coverage along with deductibles that work for you before a storm hits, before an auto accident, before a fire.”
Regi: “It’s just human nature to believe that bad things will never happen to you, but there’s a reason we send update offers and call people to review policies. That’s one of the tougher parts of this job—a homeowner learning too late that their policy didn’t meet their needs.”
Lisa: “There are so many factors that go into recovering from storm damage. We recognize that it’s a stressful time. This is your home. It is important to you…and it’s important to us.”
Regi: “It is really gratifying to help people through these things. Just like being in an auto accident, storms can be traumatic and you may have more important things to worry about than the roof over your head. This is what your insurance agent lives for. When in doubt—and especially if you’re in any way confused about the process—call your agent. That’s what we’re here for.”