After a fire or water loss, which can result in mold contamination, the only goal of most homeowners is to have competent and timely restoration that will protect both the indoor air quality as well as the asset value of the property. Similarly, the goals of good contractors are to restore the home, be paid for the services, and have a happy customer. The goals of reputable insurance companies are to restore the home to pre-loss conditions and pay a fair market price for the services. Since these goals are not mutually exclusive, they all can be realized with little or no conflict, right?
Most people who have experienced such losses are probably raising their eyebrows as they whisper, “Yeah right,” to the question. Unfortunately, many factors, including policy exclusions for mold, poor documentation from homeowners, greedy contractors, and overburdened insurance adjustors, can cause conflicts, delays, disappointments, and antagonism during the restoration of a covered water or fire loss.
At times, little can be done by the homeowner to mitigate antagonism if an adjuster takes on a confrontational demeanor from the get go. However, in many cases, proactive measures that begin at the time an insurance policy is purchased empower homeowners to steer an unfortunate loss in a harmonious manner. The following “to do” list for the insured party will go a long way toward making sure that the insurance company, contractors, and homeowners play together in the same sandbox without throwing sand in each other’s eyes.
- Understand the insurance policy before purchase. Ask questions about mold riders, sump pump and drain coverage, covered water losses, water damage after fires, smoke and soot damage, odor mitigation, and deductibles.
- Research and retain a list of reputable water damage, fire, and mold inspection companies and restoration contractors so that you can be in control of who is hired to do the work.
- Have your home inspected by a qualified inspection company that can document conditions relative to water damage and mold before you ever have a loss. This step can prevent claim denials due to poor maintenance or historical damage.
- Retain records of prior losses and repairs.
- Retain photographs and receipts of furnishings and belongings.
- Have realistic expectations regarding repairs.
- All documents, including the insurance policy, should be stored in a fireproof safe at home or at another location.
Just like a group of kids in a sandbox, bullies exist on both sides of the fence with insurance losses. Courtesy, common sense and commitments to doing the right thing are sometimes overshadowed by fear, greed, and hidden agendas. I still believe that it is wise to be prepared and try to play nice before calling in the troops.