What you need to know after a storm damages your home including how to work with Insurers, Adjusters, and Contractors to fix your home with the least headaches and hassles possible.
Minnesota Exteriors wants you to be aware of some basic ideas / tips when repairing or restoring your home after a storm or natural disaster. You will need to work with your insurance company, their adjuster, and a qualified contractor to make these repairs a reality and get your life back too normal as soon as possible. We have put these tips together from our 70 years in business along with some information from the Better Business Bureau and the Minnesota Department of Commerce.
Step 1: Contact your insurance company
- Call your insurance agent or insurance company and provide a description of your damage. Once your loss is reported, an insurance company adjuster will contact you to inspect the damage. It can be an advantage to a homeowner to have a qualified contractor at the adjustment inspection to help the adjuster find all damage to the home.
- Take photos of the damaged areas. Pictures can be valuable if any questions arise during the claims process. A qualified contractor can help with this part of the process.
- Make temporary repairs to prevent further damage – cover broken windows, damaged roofs, etc. Keep track of supplies and materials you purchase. Your insurance company will reimburse you for reasonable expenses in making temporary repairs.
- Do not have permanent repairs made until your insurance company has inspected the property and you have reached an agreement on the cost of repairs. An insurance company may deny a claim if you make permanent repairs before the damage is inspected.
- Read your policy to determine what is covered and the level of coverage that exists. Most policies have deductibles that will apply. Some deductibles are only a few hundred dollars and others are much larger and sometimes a percentage of the homes value. Understand how much of the loss you will be responsible for in the repair / restoration process.
- A typical policy will usually cover the replacement cost for the damaged portion of your home, including any upgrades that are required by local codes when damage is repaired.
- Refrain from filing an insurance claim for repairs that you do not intend to make. There could be repercussions from your insurance company when you are being compensated to make certain repairs. Keep in mind that if you hold a mortgage on your home, your mortgage company may have a vested interest in you making the repairs and most mandate you to make the repairs.
Step 2: Contact a contractor about repairs
After a storm event, there will be contractors seeking work, some licensed and reputable and some not. You will have contractors knocking on your door and canvassing your neighborhood. You will hear and see advertisements on the radio, television and in the newspapers plus direct mail. How can you make an informed decision on whom to hire to restore your home? Keep reading for some very important tips and information.
- Remember to ask the contractor if he/she is licensed in Minnesota as a building contractor. Make sure the contractor license is in good standing and there are no enforcement actions against the contractor license. Contact the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry at doli.state.mn.us for online license lookup.
- Ask for proof of liability insurance and workers compensation insurance. A qualified contractor will not have a problem providing these items.
- Get all proposals in writing, and be sure the contractor’s name, phone number, address, and license number is on the proposal. Beware of fly-by-night repair businesses.
- Ask your contractor for references. Check with the Better Business Bureau to read a company’s reliability report.
- Be aware that anything you sign is a contract. Read carefully or avoid signing an “estimate” or “authorization” form before you have actually decided to hire a particular contractor. Pay special attention to any details in bold, that are underlined or that you need to initial. Once you ‘sign for it’, in many cases ‘you bought it’. Many of these estimates ‘legally’ bind you to work with the contractor that provided the estimate.
- Some contractors specialize in storm damage repair. Ask your contractor to explain their process for working with insurance companies and to describe what you can expect to experience during the process. For example, the claim may need to change depending on whether or not additional damage is found during the restoration process.
- Local or national companies may both do a fine job with your storm damage repair needs. If you choose to do business with someone who is not local, be sure to understand who will be taking care of any service needs that may arise after the completion of the project and the contractor has left town. A company from Ohio, Oklahoma, Florida or elsewhere is a LONG way away if you need service on the work down the road.
- Some companies list bids on their contract to do service work on your home and some do not (basing their pricing on insurance allowance). Both are acceptable methods of conducting business.
- Consumers may or may not be entitled to a re-inspection if their initial storm damage claim is denied. Factors taken into consideration may include the quality of the original report and the photos from the original inspection. You may want to ask a qualified contractor to assist in asking for a re-inspection.
- Understand the differences between warranties and guarantees. The manufacturer warranties their products and contractors have warranties on service. Contractors may also offer customer service guarantees. Get copies of any/all warranties and guarantees.
The most important thing for a homeowner to do after a storm is to understand their insurance policy and not make hasty decisions about which contractor to hire to fix your home. Unscrupulous contractors try and take advantage of a homeowner’s fear at this time. As long as you make temporary repairs such as boarding broken windows you have time to chose and hire a competent contractor using the information above.
Minnesota Exteriors has been in business locally for 70 years and has worked with insurance companies on behalf of thousands of Minnesota homeowners. To learn more about repairing your home after a storm or other catastrophic event call the storm damage experts or contact us today for a free storm damage inspection.