Whether your water heater fell over, the kids forgot to turn off the bathtub faucet, the normally serene river down the road has burst its bank, or a 24-foot storm surge in Bell has wiped out your home, Water Damage happens. In fact, that’s why many homeowners carry insurance – to protect their homes from unpredictable catastrophes.
Unfortunately, one man’s catastrophe is another man’s problem. This is true especially when dealing with your insurance company over Water Damage Restoration claims. Is it a catastrophe or is it your problem? Is the flood event covered or not?
Most homeowners in Bell insurance policies exclude certain types of flooding so it’s useful to review your policy before and during the water restoration claims process. If you have National Flood Insurance, you should be prepared with that information as well.
Water damage and restoration claims are subject to all kinds of rules and loopholes and your insurance company knows exactly what they are doing – do you? If you’re getting the runaround from your insurance about a restoration claim, don’t take their word for it. Read your insurance policy and find out exactly what is covered. You pay your premiums for the service that the insurer provides. When it’s time for restoration for a covered loss, you don’t deserve to be short changed.
While many water claims are specifically excluded from an insurance policy, not all are. During hurricanes and major storms, some water damage is specifically excluded such as water damage from a storm surge. However, if your roof blows off and the rain damages the interior of your home, then the water restoration would likely be covered. Beware of the insurance agent that wants to classify damage as something other than it is. For example, if the agent claims the water damage is due to storm surge when it’s clear that the reason the home is water damaged is because the roof blew off, then stick up for yourself and demand that the adjuster look at the obvious.
In these cases, restoration compensation could be less than what’s needed thanks to an insurance adjuster whose eyes are on the bottom line, not what you are entitled to under the terms of your policy. Get a professional involved if you need help. Public insurance adjusters can act on your behalf and get a better settlement offer while specific contractors, such as roofers and rebuilders, can document the damage, make reasonable efforts, and back you up when you’re filing a restoration claim.
Your insurance company wants to save a few bucks while you want to make sure that you can restore your property. You are at odds with each other even though you are business partners. Get a third party involved and ensure that your restoration goes the way it should.
Sources state that the estimated lifespan of any given common household storage water heater is anywhere from five to fifteen years. Per these assumptions, one could reasonably expect to incur 2 to 6 water heater related issues or replacements within the 30 year lifespan of a typical mortgage. Obviously, this a real yet commonly underestimated potential source of significant water damage.
Aging water heaters will rust and leak. If the property owner catches it in time then the potential for damage is minimal but if the property owner not discover the damage in time, the resulting damage can be substantial. In Florida, due to the high water table, basements are a rarity so heaters are typically located on the same floor as the living area thus maximizing the need to regularly inspect the water heater for wear and rust and resulting damage should a leak or breakage occur. Similarly, apartment and condominium dwellers, depending on the size of the unit, may have the water heater located in an area that is central to the unit thus maximizing the radius of the potential damage.
There are various things you can do the reduce this potential water damage risk. Common wisdom includes regular inspection for any water leakage, regular inspection for rust, turning off the main water source if you are going to be away from your property for an extended period of time, and having a relief valve installed on the water heater - assuming you do not already have one - in order to regularly remove the bottom sediment which promotes deterioration and oxidation. Before you embark on the later, however, and you do so at your own risk, be careful NOT to splash yourself with the potentially scalding water that is coming from the water heater and, similarly, be sure to have a pail stable enough to handle the hot water and hot sediment without breaching. Better yet, have a professional check it out for you.
In a perfect world water heaters never leak and all damage is caught in time or is minimal; unfortunately, in the real world, when the water heater breaks, it is reasonably sudden and the damage is extensive. Since most people do not turn off the water lead in when the leave, as it is not a common consideration most people would do on a regular basis, once breached, the water heater not only dumps the contents of its storage tank but the water continues to flow due to the open water line contributing to extensive water damage. Should this occur, then you owe it to yourself to hire an independent and customer focused water damage restoration company. Only an independent water damage restoration company focuses its interest on customer service and customer satisfaction so that your restoration is its interest and such company will do whatever it takes to restore your asset to its preloss condition.
Water Damage Restoration - WRT Exam
Getting Water Damage Invoices Past Insurance Adjusters
One of the most frustrating things about water restoration is getting a call from the adjuster saying your invoice is too high. During my 14 + years in the water restoration business I have gotten plenty of calls from adjusters saying that my price is too high on this dehumidifier or this fan, etc. This used to bug me until I learned the secret to prevent most of these calls, COMMUNICATION & DOCUMENTATION. Remember that the adjuster has to justify his work to his boss and as long as the price and scope of work can be justified then it will be paid.
Starting off the job on the right foot is important. You should always get a work authorization signed by the insured before starting work. A work authorization will allow some insurance companies to be able to pay you directly or at least get your name on the check.
Then as soon as the initial mitigation is performed, call the adjuster and let him/her know what you did. This can be done on the way back to your office. During this conversation just let the adjuster know what you saw when you arrived and what you decided to do about. During this conversation I generally try to steer away from talking about pricing. If they ask about it then I will talk about it, but for me this is more of an information phone call to the adjuster. At this point, usually the adjuster has not been there and so to call and inform him/her what is going on is my main objective.
Kevin Pearson is a partner in Pearson Carpet Care. He has over 17 years experience in the cleaning and restoration business. He serves on several committees with the IICRC (Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification) and is on the board of directors of the PCRA (Professional Cleaning and Restoration Alliance). Kevin has dried building in Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. He has extensive experience drying residential homes but has also dried office buildings, chemical plants, historical homes, Southern Methodist University, Stephen F. Austin State University, The Toyota Center (where the Houston Rockets play) and more.
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