Posts Tagged damage

How to get storm damage repairs for an insurance claim

How to get storm damage repairs for an insurance claim

8 Things to know before hiring a contractor for storm repairs

Insurance can be a real godsend if your home receives storm damage, but it only writes the checks. It’s up to the homeowner to get the work done and finding good, reliable contractors can be a challenge. You want to know the work will be done correctly, timely and completely. If a problem turns up later, you’ll need to be able to get in contact with the contractor to make it right. Many property damage claims are made after a major catastrophe and local contractors are quickly booked up. Out of state companies come in to fill the demand. The question is, who can you trust? Here are some general tips to reduce your risks and have a more favorable outcome:

1. Make sure your contractor is licensed in Iowa.

Why is important to have a licensed contractor? If you hire an unlicensed contractor, you are assuming more risk. You become the de facto general contractor and are responsible for the quality of work and it is in compliance with the local building codes.  Ask for their Iowa license number and verify by looking it up on the Iowa Workforce Development site. You can search by registration number or by contractor/business name.  Search for an Iowa contractor.

2. Ask for a certificate of insurance.

They should have both:

  • General liability insurance
  • Workers compensation insurance

Without workers compensation insurance, you could be held liable if a contractor or their employee is injured while working on your property. If your contractor were to accidentally damage your neighbor’s property when working on your house and they don’t have general liability insurance, you can be personally liable. The certificate of insurance should be in the name of the business doing the work and the effective dates of the policy should cover the time your work is being done. Look for a minimum of $1M in liability coverage.

3. Check credentials.

  • Talk to references. Make sure they are not outdated, their work should’ve be done in the last few years.
  • Do a Google search and check several sites, including BBB.org. Look for user reviews and beware of anyone with too many complaints.
  • Ask how long they have been doing this kind of work (both as an independent contractor and working for someone else).

4. Get a detailed, written estimate.

It should include everything on your insurance estimate (unless you hire multiple contractors). Don’t allow unlimited or unspecified rates for labor or material. They should refer to your insurance estimate for materials and give you a flat fee.

  • Upgrades or work outside the scope of the insurance estimate should be approved by your insurance adjuster especially if you’re going over your budget.
  • Ask about Class 4 impact resistant shingles. Have you noticed that not all roofs in your neighborhood are damaged the same? It may be some have newer or higher quality shingles. Class 4 shingles cost more than standard shingles, but they can help prevent the need for re-roofing after every storm saving you from another insurance claim. Many insurance companies give generous discounts, up to 15%, for Class 4 shingles so the extra cost can be negligible. Not all roofers will suggest it because repeat customers are good for their business.

5. Get a general timeline.

Depending on the extent of the damage, a delayed schedule can expose your home to further damage. Make sure you are in agreement on the timeline.

6. Know who’s doing the work.

Will they be doing the work with their own crew or subbing out all or part of the work? Check the sub’s credentials as well.

7. Ask about warranties.

Not all contractors will guaranty their work. If one does, get the details in writing and make sure you are able to follow up with them years down the line.

8. Don’t pay in advance.

I’ve been burnt by this personally and had to pay legal fees to get my money back when the contractor abandoned the job. No more than 15% down should be necessary to secure your place on their calendar. If they don’t have good credit with their material vendors, that’s a red flag for you.

Storm damage repairs

Storm damage from the August 10, 2020 derecho in Iowa.

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Is damage caused by rioting covered by insurance?

Is damage caused by rioting covered by insurance?

Images of burning buildings and vehicles are dominating the news lately as some protests have turned violent. Many may wonder who pays for the damage caused by rioting and civil unrest. Can your auto or homeowners insurance cover the damage? Is it covered the same as vandalism or other criminal activity?

The short answer is yes. Insurance can cover your losses, less your deductible, subject to the terms and conditions of your policy of course.

On a “standard” personal auto policy, your vehicle’s comprehensive coverage covers damage caused by riot and civil unrest, just is it does for vandalism or theft. The “standard” homeowners policy (HO3) is an open peril policy, meaning it covers all types of loss to your dwelling expect for those that are specifically excluded in the policy. For example, flood and earth quake losses are excluded (not covered) in most homeowner policies. As long as riot or civil unrest isn’t excluded, and it usually isn’t, your loss should be covered.

Note that your personal property, things like furniture, clothing, electronics, etc. are generally not open peril, but named peril coverage. That means only perils which are named in the policy are covered. Although riot and civil unrest is often a named peril. Check your policy to be sure. Like auto insurance, your homeowner’s deductible will apply, which is usually at least $1,000.

Why the need for the disclaimer, “subject to the terms and conditions of your policy”? In order for any loss to be covered it must not violate any of the terms and conditions. This can include prompt reporting of the loss and it was accidental, not intentionally nor invited by the insured. The insured has an obligation to mitigate losses by taking reasonable measures to protect their property. For example, if a storm tears a hole in your roof you should have it tarped as soon as possible to mitigate any additional damage from rain. This doesn’t mean of course, you need to put yourself in harm’s way.

Hopefully, this helps give you a general idea of how it works. Contact Ed at Insurance Gurus for specific questions about your own circumstances.

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Preventing basement water damage

Water Damaged Basement

It’s been said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you ever had to deal with the clean up and reconstruction from water damage you’ll appreciate that advice. A wet basement may or may not be covered by your homeowners insurance.

Are wet basements covered by home insurance?

It depends on the source of the water and the optional coverage you purchased on your policy:

  1. If water seeps through your basement walls, floors or windows, that is considered a flood. Floods are excluded (not covered) on homeowners insurance.
  2. If water backs up from a drainage system, such as a floor drain, sewer line or a sump pit, the damage COULD be covered but only if you have optional water and sewer backup coverage added to your policy. Due to the frequency of these claims, the cost of this coverage continues to increase.
  3. Damage from plumbing leaks, burst pipes and water overflowing from sinks and tubs is generally covered on your base home policy. It is all subject, of course, to the terms and conditions of your policy.

Even if insurance does cover the cost of the damage, you will still have to pay your deductible (usually $1,000 or more) and deal with the disruption, mess and paperwork of getting everything put back as it was before. In most cases you will also face increased home insurance premiums for the next three years. Therefore, prevention is a much better way to go!

Early detection is key to prevention

Fortunately, most water damage losses are avoidable. Here are some tips to help protect your home better.

  1. Consider replacing your sump pump regularly. I have customers who replace their sump pump every 7-10 years to avoid having it fail at an inopportune time. Sump pumps are relatively inexpensive, some are less than $100.
  2. Have a backup power source. A major reason for many sump pit overflows is a loss of power, especially during a storm. Battery backups are the most common. There are also sump pumps that can run off your water pressure for backup power. Emergency generators are another option.
  3. Water detectors. These are inexpensive and effective at giving you an early warning for trouble.
    1. For around $11 you can get a simple device that works like a smoke alarm, setting off an audible alarm when water is detected under it.
    2. Internet connected water detectors send an alert to your smart phone when it detects water. The advantage of this system is it can alert you even when you are away from home.

Water detectors should be placed in potential problem areas such as near your sump pit or floor drain to give you early warning. You can buy multiple units around your home, wherever water leaks can appear like under sinks, dishwasher or waterline to your fridge.

Insure your home for the big disasters but be proactive to prevent them in the first place. That’s the best emergency plan! Insurance Gurus represents several top-rated insurance companies. Ask for a free review of your homeowner insurance today.

Internet connected water detector. Just $49 at Menards.

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