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You’re at a disadvantage when you have house damage or a total loss of your home. You face a home insurance claims process that could easily stretch out for more than a year, require reams of paperwork and leave you mentally and physically exhausted.
Unless you’ve already run the gauntlet of a major home insurance claim, you don’t know what to expect.
At Allegiance Public Adjusters, we specialize in helping policyholders work through the insurance-claim process and show them how to recoup their losses. We have nearly 22 years of experience in the insurance industry and are a licensed public adjustment firm.
Unfortunately, most people don’t learn much about insurance until they have a loss. Allegiance Public Adjusters work on behalf of policyholders to help them get all that they’re entitled to from insurance claims. We help evaluate damage and rebuilding costs, track the flow of insurance payments and amounts due, and work with home insurance companies to expedite our clients’ insurance claims.
Here’s what takes many people by surprise when they have a home insurance claim, whether it’s due to fire or natural disasters.
1. A claim for a total loss of a house can cost less than rebuilding a damaged house.
New construction from scratch costs less per foot than construction for rebuilding. Often it’s “easier” to fix your problem if your house is simply gone, rather than to try to repair damaged sections. For example, when you start from scratch (new construction), you don’t have to tie into existing construction — some of which may be outdated, so you have a clean slate to start with. Also, it’s often more costly to bring your old house up to code than to start fresh.
2. If you have a mortgage, your insurance checks will be made out to you and your mortgage bank.
Your mortgage holder is likely listed as a “loss payee” on your home insurance policy, so payments for rebuilding are issued to both you and your lien holder. And don’t expect your mortgage holder to sign the check over to you. While each lender’s requirements differ, Policyholders have to endorse and send the check to the mortgage company, and it may sit in an escrow account until repairs are made. Mortgage banks typically release the funds back to you in three installments over the course of your reconstruction. Mortgage companies want to be sure your property is repaired before releasing payment to you. As a result, you may have to advance your own money for constructions costs until the mortgage company verifies the repairs.
3. Insurers are increasingly issuing checks for “undisputed amounts”.
That is, they may realize that there is not a full agreement on the amount of damages but will issue payment for the amounts that they believe that they are liable. This doesn’t mean that you sign away your rights to continue the claim, just because you endorse and cash the insurer’s check. Unless the check is marked, “full and final settlement” (which is very rare), do not be afraid to cash the check.
4. Don’t sign a release on your home insurance claim.
This takes the home insurer off the hook for any future payments on your claim.
Insurance companies may ask the insured to do it when they think there’s a problem or big dispute coming. The home insurance policy does not require the insured to execute a release, so why should you?
5. Don’t let your insurance company replace your Pottery Barn stuff with Walmart stuff.
The values of particular items are often disputed in home insurance claims. If you’ve bought expensive items, your insurance company may say it can replace them with very similar items from Walmart or Target.
An Allegiance Public Adjuster will battle back and forth with the carrier. You are entitled to be paid for what you had — not a knock-off version of it.
6. Many condo owners have no idea that they need their own home insurance policies.
They think that the condo association’s policy covers their property. However, the association’s policy covers only common areas, typically up to the walls of your condo. If you want your own space and belongings protected, you need an HO-6 home insurance policy. Otherwise, all your belongings, furniture, appliances and cabinets are uninsured.
Without an HO-6, you may have no liability protection if you’re sued for something that happens within your condo, like a slip-and-fall injury.
7. If you’re evacuated, don’t sleep at a shelter.
Your home insurance covers your “additional living expenses” if there’s a mandatory evacuation, including hotels and food — even additional transportation costs.
There’s no need to sleep in a shelter when the insurer will pay for a hotel. Most policyholders don’t realize that they have this coverage.
8. After a widespread disaster, and many times after even relatively minor storm events, insurance companies will bring in company adjusters from out of state who aren’t familiar with local costs.
Adjusters from outside our area will not have a handle on how much tradespeople such as electricians or plumbers charge, or how much it costs to rebuild a house. Often they will rely on a software program called Xactimate — which isn’t very exact if you don’t account for local costs. They’re not as familiar with local building codes. Many out of state adjusters can’t comprehend that it will cost $300,000. or $400,000. to rebuild someone’s house. They can’t comprehend local building values if they are accustomed to handling total losses of $100,000. or $200,000.
9. People regularly settle for less than the total cost of their damages because they are exhausted.
Especially near the end of a complicated claim such as a total home loss, homeowners just want the process to be over. Even if your policy entitles you to “replacement cost” of your belongings, home insurance companies will initially issue checks for your belongings’ actual cash value. Then, later, when you replace the items, you need to submit your receipts to get the remainder due.
The reality is that most people don’t go back and submit receipts because they’re so frustrated with the claim and they just feel overwhelmed. They’ll settle for less and close the claim and rebuild for less, and most insurance companies know this.
10. The value of hiring an Allegiance Public Adjuster
Hiring an Allegiance Public Adjuster can put you on an even playing field with your insurance company. Your insurer may assign three different adjusters to work on your claim: one for “additional living expenses,” one for your personal property and one for the building portion of your claim. An Allegiance Public Adjuster will be able to explain the process and work on your behalf handling the countless meetings, e-mails, phone calls and paper documents that flow for a large claim. Our clients can get on with daily life and leave the insurance adjusting to a professional. We are available 24 hours, seven days a week.
11. Public adjuster fees
We will calculate our fee based on a percentage of your total claim.
Even if you’re working with the best home insurance companies, it’s better to hire an Allegiance Public Adjuster early in the process in order to streamline your claim. Even if you have already submitted your claim, we can pick up the ball and maximize your settlement. Generally, the sooner we can get involved in the process, the better the results. This is because presenting the claim properly, from the beginning of the process, will go a long way in getting the best results.