If you live in the Atlanta area, you understand that homes are expensive. Therefore, if you find the perfect home for you and your family, you have to make sure you are adequately protected. After all, your home is also a valuable investment. That is where home insurance comes in handy. Even though it is not required by law, you should still have appropriate home insurance. You never know what might happen. What are examples of the most common home insurance claims people file in the Atlanta area?
Okay, so you have a slight problem: your kitchen is underwater. As much as you enjoy swimming, you would rather not swim…inside your house. In the kitchen. There’s something not quite right about that. At any rate, the question you’ve got now is what types of water damage are covered by home insurance?
We’ll explain what types of water nightmares are and are not covered by home insurance.
The alarm clock rings and you jump out of bed…onto a slushy rug and wet slippers. Yikes! Talk about water damage!
In the first part of this article on how to find the best Atlanta water damage restoration contractor to work with, we discussed why you want to work with an IICRC company. We also talked about the importance of learning how to turn your water off now instead of waiting for an emergency. Finally, we discussed who you should call first. If you missed Part One, not to worry – you can read it here.
Today, In Part 2 of this series Ron Vodjani of One Call Home Preservation, Inc. helps address these areas:
- What’s the best way to check that the contractor has insurance?
- Why should you immediately take a picture of your belongings?
- How can you protect yourself from insurance fraud?
- Why should you be home when the insurance adjuster shows up?
- What are the advantages and disadvantages of letting your restoration company handle all of the insurance paperwork for you?
What’s the best way to check that the contractor has insurance?
Ron shared from his own experience, reminding us of his water damage restoration disaster. “I asked the contractor if he had insurance and he told me that he did,” he said. “He even showed me a copy of it. Later on, when there was a problem, I needed to call his insurance company. They told me that they’d never heard of him. When I asked about the name of the company listed on the insurance policy, they gave me the man’s business number. I called the man and he told me that sometimes he lets his friends use his insurance. In other words, my contractor didn’t have his own insurance policy.”
The lesson? Ron tells us to make sure that the name on the insurance policy matches the name on the truck, the contract, and the workers’ uniforms. He also suggests calling the insurance company and double checking it for yourself. You can never be too careful.
Why should you take a picture of your soggy belongings immediately?
Ron told us about his experience as a consumer on this issue. “The contractor told me not to worry about anything. They would move all of my wet belongings for me. I wouldn’t have to lift a finger,” Ron said. “It sounded good to me, so I let them do all of the work. They picked up all of my personal belongings and took them outside. That night, it rained, but they never put a tarp over my things! The company lied and said that was how all my belongings looked already. If I’d taken pictures of my belongings and how they stacked them outdoors, I’d have been protected. Since I didn’t do this, many of my personal items were ruined.”
So, the lesson here is to take a picture inventory of all your belongings if you have water damage. You can use the free “Know your Stuff” app that was designed by the Insurance Information Institute. We’ve also got a Home Inventory checklist that you can download here . Smart consumers take inventory before they have a flood. But even if you don’t have an inventory before the water damage happened, taking one ASAP after the flood can still help you.
How can you protect yourself from insurance fraud?
Ron told us that some unscrupulous salesmen ask you how much your deductible is. Then they tell the unwary homeowners not to worry about it, and that they’ll work it out for them. All they have to do is to let them do the job. “What happens next is that they take the real estimate and then ADD on the price of the deductible and present it to the insurance company,” Ron said. “In other words, they’re overcharging your insurance company to make up the difference. This is insurance fraud.”
There is no such thing as a free lunch. If someone offers to do this for you run the other way, no matter how tempting it can be. It just isn’t worth it. Remember, insurance fraud—even of the unintentional variety on your part—carries a stiff penalty with it.
Why should you be home when the insurance adjuster shows up?
Some homeowners don’t want to be bothered with taking a day off when the insurance adjuster comes. This could be a big mistake. Ron told us that one reason why you want to be there when the insurance adjuster meets the water damage contractor at your home is to keep the contractor honest.
He shared the following story: “Before I had my own remediation company, I was used as the cleaning crew. I witnessed some scary things. One time, the contractor told the insurance adjuster that all of the first-floor beams were burned and needed to be replaced after a fire. Sometimes, depending on the damage, the beams can be scraped and “sistered” with a fresh beam next to it. This time, however, the beams were so burned that they needed to be replaced completely.
The adjuster agreed and authorized funds to be released for this. The homeowner was not there for this conversation. The contractor merely scraped the beams and offered to finish the basement ceiling for free as a bonus. The homeowner agreed and the new drywall ceiling hid the evidence that the work was never done. This is insurance fraud and raises everyone’s home insurance rates.”
Be there when the insurance adjuster shows up. This way you know what the insurance company is paying to be done to repair the water damage. You’ll know what to expect and you’ll be able to make sure the right work is being done safely.
What are the disadvantages of letting your restoration company handle all of the insurance paperwork for you?
Let’s face it: you’re busy. Sometimes a restoration company will tell you that all you have to do is sign on the dotted line and they will handle all of the insurance negotiation and paperwork for you. This could be tempting. There are some advantages to you as the homeowner. You don’t have to miss work. They make all the calls. They handle the headaches, the paperwork, and the inspections.
“To be honest, I like to do business this way,” Ron told us. “That way I can be assured I’ll be paid at the end of the job. Unfortunately, I’ve been taken advantage of by some unethical homeowners in the past and never got paid in full. Be that as it may, I still believe that the consumer wins in the end when they handle the paperwork themselves.”
We asked Ron to explain.
“It all comes down to control of the money,” Ron said. “When you sign over the paperwork to the restoration company, you don’t see the invoices and you lose control of the money.”
We asked Ron to tell us why it’s so important for the homeowner to see the contractor’s invoices to the insurance company. He told us, “When I was the consumer during my flood remediation, the contractor had the equipment at my house for 2 full days. However, they billed the insurance company for 13 units for 3 full days. This meant the insurance company paid 33% more than they should have. This is insurance fraud and hurts us all when our rates go up.”
He continued, “When you sign over the paperwork to them, you have no clue of what they’re billing the insurance company. Retaining control of the paperwork keeps you in control.”
We asked Ron why it’s important for the consumer to control the money if they’re only going to give it to the contractor anyway. Ron answered, “What if you’re unhappy with the job that the contractor did? What if it was shoddy workmanship? What if they never cleaned up after themselves? What if they billed for more work than they performed in your home? If you control the money, then you can hold back payment until the work is completed per the contract and to your satisfaction.”
Basically, whoever controls the money has the power. If you’re so busy that you don’t have time to manage the details, be sure to find a restoration company that you can really trust.
We hope you found this interview helpful. We want to thank Ron Vodjani of One Call Home Preservation, Inc. for sharing all of these secrets to choosing the best Atlanta water damage remediation company – although we hope you never need them! Please remember Ron’s suggestion that your first call should be to your home insurance agent if you ever have a sewer backup, burst pipe, or leaky hose. Our agents are standing by to assist you every step of the way.
Want to get a free home insurance quote? Give us a call or fill out our online quote form today and we’ll help you get the coverage you need at the best possible rate!
4 things you need to know before selecting an Atlanta water damage repair expert
Just suppose you got back from vacation and found three inches of water in your home. What would you do first? Hopefully, you’d call your trusted home insurance agent! But what would you do next? Would you use a Yellow Pages to find an Atlanta water damage restoration contractor? Or maybe jump on Google or ask for suggestions on Facebook? For today’s article, we interviewed Ron Vodjani of One Call Home Preservation, Inc. of Woodstock Georgia. He’s got some great tips to help you to protect your rights as a homeowner.
We caught up with Ron and talked about a few things…
- What is the IICRC?
- What’s one dangerous mistake contractors that are not IICRC certified might make?
- How can a homeowner turn off their water immediately?
- What is the most important call a homeowner needs to make when they have water damage?
Ron has been in the home improvement industry for many years. But back in 2007 something happened to him as a consumer that would change his entire business focus. Ron had a flood in his home. He called a water damage contractor and had a pretty bad experience. Ron decided to learn this business from the ground up. Then he built a water damage remediation company so that his clients would never have to go through what he experienced.
We started this interview by giving Ron a hypothetical – he’s got a family member who lives out of state. They call him in a panic because they’ve got a flood from a broken water pipe. There’s no way that he can go to help them in person. What’s the best advice he could give them as a homeowner to help them protect their interests?
What’s the IICRC?
“The first thing I would encourage them to do is to pick a water restoration pro that has been certified by the IICRC,” he said.
What does the fancy acronym stand for? “It stands for The Institute of Inspection, Cleaning, and Restoration Certification,” Ron told us. The official website tells us that the purpose of the IICRC is to set and promote high standards, ethics, and practices for the inspection, cleaning, and restoration service industries. According to the website, “As an ANSI-accredited Standards Developing Organization (SDO), the IICRC has led the way in establishing the main industry standards and reference guides for professional carpet, upholstery, and fabric cleaning, water damage restoration, and mold remediation.”
Ron noted that this means that the consumer wins because the correct kind of work will be done based on the type of water damage there was. We asked Ron to explain that a little bit.
“First of all, I want to tell you up front that the majority of water and mold remediation companies are real professionals. However, here’s something to think about. All it takes is having a truck and a few dehumidifiers for a person to call themselves a water restoration company. That’s scary.
“For example, when I had my flood back in 2007, the contractor showed up with 13 humidifiers because they knew that the insurance company pays a set price per dehumidifier required. They put 3 of them in my closet alone! I felt ripped off because all of my circuit breakers were tripping. They also tore up my wood floors because they understood that the more they tear up, the more they get paid. After I went through the IICRC certification program, I learned that they handled it the wrong way. I was determined to build my company based on the IICRC principles.”
Can you give us an example of dangerous mistakes contractors that aren’t IICRC certified might make?
“Sure,” Ron answered. “There are different categories of water damage. There’s Category 1, 2, and 3. They’re not all treated the same. For example, Category 2 water is considered “gray” water, perhaps from a leaky washing machine hose. On the other hand, Category 3 water is sewage water. So, if a toilet backed up, you couldn’t simply disinfect, mop up, and install a dehumidifier! Instead, there would be special restoration steps that are required so that the consumer is protected from health risks. Someone who’s not certified may not know that and could unintentionally threaten the homeowner’s health.”
“Another mistake had to do with my hardwood floors,” Ron continued. “The IICRC calls for dehumidifiers being used for 2 days before making the decision to see if the floors need to be replaced. The bad contractors I used returned the next morning and tore up my floors before giving them a chance to dry out. This meant my insurance agency had to pay the bill for all new hardwood floors. This is bad for everyone because it makes your homeowner’s premiums go up unnecessarily.”
The lesson for you? Make sure that the professionals you choose are IICRC members. Look for the logo on their website. The official website tells us that IICRC Certified Firms have earned the right to display the IICRC logo as a symbol of quality. To achieve IICRC-certified status, firms must meet a rigorous list of standards in business ethics and expertise. According to the “Benefits for Consumers” page on the website, all IICRC certified firms must:
- Give accurate information to the customer and act with honesty and trustworthiness.
- Require a formally trained technician that has passed all necessary tests for all jobs.
- Have a continuing education program so that technicians keep up with the latest changes in the industry
- Have liability insurance to protect all parties in case there’s an accident.
- Have a written complaint policy and agree to Better Business Bureau or similar judgment to resolve conflicts, and accept the conclusions or recommendations that are reached.
Can you see why Ron recommends that you only work with an IICRC-certified company?
Do you know how to turn the water off?
If you discover a water leak, the first thing you need do is turn it off. The longer the water flows, the more damage you’ll sustain. The odds are greater that you’ll have mold problems later on.
So here are a few million dollar questions for you:
- Do you know where your whole-house water valve cutoff is?
- Do you know how to turn the water to your washing machine off?
- Do you know where the shut-off valves for your toilets are located?
- Can you turn off the water to your water heater tank?
- Can you turn off the water to your dishwasher?
There’s an old Ben Franklin quote that says, “An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.” This really applies to the water shut-off valves in your home. To figure out how to turn things off, first visually inspect each of the appliances mentioned above. Usually, you can spot the shut-off valve when you look for it. Still not sure? Check on Youtube for video instructions or ask a friend who’s a plumber or handyman to point them out. Worst comes to worst, you can call a water damage pro. Ron says he gets calls all the time and is glad to walk people through the steps. He offers it as a professional courtesy whether he gets the job or not.
Don’t wait for an emergency to figure this out. Take 20 minutes and walk through your home and figure out how to turn off all water-based appliances right now. In an emergency situation, your head will probably not be screwed on tight. Learn where the shut-off valves are now and teach your family how to turn off the appliances, too.
Call your insurance agent first.
Ron told us that your first call should always be to your insurance agent. “They’ll schedule a time for an adjuster to come look at your home’s damage. They also have a vendor list available with approved water and fire remediation companies listed for you to call. This saves you work. Now, you don’t have to use their vendor list. You can use your own contractor if you’d like. However, their companies have been checked out already. They have proper proof of insurance, they use the insurance pricing guidelines, and they’re most likely IICRC companies.” If you want to search for your own contractor, then be sure to check out their reviews carefully.
The lesson? Your agent is an ally. Call them and they’ll walk you through the steps to help the claims process go quickly and smoothly.
We hope you found Part 1 of this series helpful. In Part 2 we’ll discuss how to protect your personal belongings as well as how to avoid being the victim of insurance fraud.