Consumer Alert: Got storm damage? Here’s how to make sure your insurer pays for the repair

Consumer Alert 1/9

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Tuesday was a yellow alert day because of the strong winds that swept through our area. So, if the storm damaged your home, how do you make sure your insurer offers a fair amount for the repair? That’s the issue I investigated for you.

I’ve experienced the fallout from storm damage first-hand. I lost shingles during a windstorm last spring.  And repairing my roof was a process – a protracted, painful process. My roof is now repaired, and my insurer paid for it.

I lost shingles on the front and back of my home during that windstorm. And my insurer’s claims adjuster first estimated the cost of my repair to be $720.32. But I’d already gotten three estimates for the work, and I knew that was far too low.

After months of negotiation, my insurer’s new estimate was $11,200.47. Yep. You’re reading that right. My insurer’s first estimate was only six percent of the actual cost to repair my home.

What you do after the storm could cost you thousands or tens of thousands of dollars? The New York Attorney General says your first call should be to your insurer to let them know you’re going to file a claim. But the next calls should be to three reputable contractors, so you have three estimates in hand before your insurer’s inspector arrives. That way, you know what the job will likely cost, giving you leverage if your insurer tries to lowball you.

Here’s the rest of Deanna’s Do list after the storm.

  • Read your insurance policy.
  • Research your contractor. 
  • First talk to friends and neighbors and get recommendations.
  • Then make sure those contractors are members of the Better Contractor’s Bureau. Google them.
  • Ask your contractor at least these three questions: Are you insured? Can you provide references? Do you have someone in your office who is knowledgeable about the claims process and can answer my questions?                       
  • After you hire a contractor, ask him or her to be at your home when the insurer’s inspector arrives.
  • Become knowledgeable about your repair.
  • And if you can’t reach an agreement with your insurer, hire a public adjuster.

This last point is important. Consider adding building code or code enforcement to your policy. You have to pay more for it, but it mandates that any repairs meet current local and state codes.

I’m often asked whether you should use a contractor from your insurer’s preferred list.  Sure. But only use one of those contractors after you give them the same scrutiny as any other contractor and compare their estimate to at least two others.