Workshop offers claims, rebuilding tips
A seminar Tuesday sponsored by the Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce offered little known tips on home rebuilding and insurance claims after disasters such as Hurricane Ike.
Becky Aleman Howard of Aleman Construction and Homes said homeowners who have windstorm, contents or flood insurance deductable amounts with their polices should work with their adjuster or claims agent on several matters. In some cases, she said, the Internal Revenue Service will allow deductable monies to be written off at tax time. Computer users may go to floodsmart.gov to see if they are in a low-risk or high-risk flood area, and view maps of designated flood zones in their area.
“Flood insurance only pays cash value,” she said. “If you have a sofa listed at $1,000, the adjuster will depreciate the sofa and adjust the value. But in some cases you can buy ‘replacement cost’ insurance with your homeowners’ insurance.” Items covered under flood insurance include furniture, walls, carpeting and appliances such as water heaters and dishwashers; and debris removal costs.
Attached garages can be covered but only to a limited amount, she said.
If you deal with a public adjuster, he or she will either work for an insurance company or the National Flood Insurance Program and should be licensed by the state. A good rule to remember is to be nice to your adjuster.
“In many cases these people are staying in motels 90 to 100 miles away and spend all day serving lots of people,” she said. “They’re tired, so make sure they get every courtesy.”
The main thing to be aware of is, she said, “It is not the adjuster’s job to prove your loss. It’s your job. Document your damaged property, what you did to protect it and what it may cost to fix it.”
(For more, go to www.docudamage.com/catastrophe_claims.html).
Make sure you get the adjuster’s contact information in case they miss something. If that happens, don’t call them about it item by item. Make a complete list and send it to them. “This keeps them from getting 150 calls a day where they might forget your call,” she said. (It’s also a good idea to keep a log of everyone you talk to or deal with. You may disagree with your adjuster on a particular point and will want to call them or your claims agent).
If you have a mortgage, your claims check will most likely be made out to you and your mortgage company. You’ll have to work with the company on how to fix your house, she said.
Another tip is not to list an antique item as “an antique.” List what it is, then look up its value on a reputable Internet site or in a pricing guide.
“Some companies only pay a flat $250 for anything listed as ‘antique,’” she said.
When cleaning the home, make sure there’s no cause for mold and mildew when you replace the sheetrock. A home with more than 20 percent moisture in the walls can affect your damage claim, as well as the resell value of the house. (For more, go to www.epa.gov/mold).
You can measure water in the walls with a moisture meter. “Just because something looks dry, doesn’t mean it is,” she said.
And while the meters cost several hundred dollars, a cheaper route is to have the house treated for termites. The exterminators will probably carry a moisture meter and you can get a reading while they’re in the home. Workers with insulation companies usually have them too, she said.
Also, it pays to wait 30 days or more to start fixing the house. For instance, she said, if you replace your sheetrock too soon, it could affect your claim reward.
“Take your time,” she said. “This is your home. Or this is your business. This is your life.”
Another point is to deal with a licensed and reputable contractor, and read and understand the contract fully. If you don’t pay a contractor because you didn’t like his work, he can place a lien on your property, she said.
Other helpful Web sites for homeowners include: