Your basement has three feet of water from a leak that started in your second floor bathroom. What do you do?
If you are like most homeowners, you would call someone for help. If you’re lucky enough to know a public adjuster, a contractor, or an attorney in the field (which you do!) you may call them first. Some may choose to call their insurance company.
Either way, at some point, you will need to clean up the water. So you will likely need a specialist in the field: a remediation company.
Some of these companies are fantastic. They show up within an hour or two, they work for three days straight, and they completely dry out your property to prevent further damage. But it isn’t all good news out there. Some of these companies will charge you for work they didn’t complete, or they may do far more work than is needed in order to increase the bill.
All the while, even if the original contract you signed with them says the insurance company should pay their bill, if your insurance company doesn’t, they will come after you for the bill.
In this article, I’d like to give you some insight into the things to look out for with remediation companies, so you aren’t stuck with a job poorly done, or an inflated bill you have to pay for yourself.
1. How did you find the company?
Is the company you’re looking into referred by your insurance company? If so, remember that they have an interest in keeping the cost low. They are likely a “preferred vendor” for the insurance company.
While this may sound impressive, it may mean that the company doesn’t do everything that is needed to properly dry your home. That puts you at risk for issues down the road, like mold and rot.
To be clear, I’m not saying that all preferred vendors are bad. What I am saying is that you need to make sure they aren’t cutting corners just to save their real customer – the insurance company – money.
2. Look at the bill BEFORE you allow the remediation company to present it to your insurance company.
You may be thinking, “Who cares what the bill is if the insurance company is paying for it?”
Well, it matters for two reasons. First, if you have water damage and get it remediated BEFORE the insurance company accepts coverage, you may end up being on the hook or the total bill.
Make sure to look at the full invoice of line items and confirm that everything they are billing for was actually done.
Second, if you have a large enough claim – say, every floor in your home was flooded from a leak on the top-most floor – you may hit your policy limits. If you do, that means the remediation company is cutting into the money you need to fix your home.
In other words, if you have $150,000 policy limit, and the remediation bill is $50,000 (yes, they can be this high), and it will cost $130,000 to fix your home, you will be $30,000 short. So, be sure to review the bill before it is submitted.
3. Don’t sign the certificate of completion until you KNOW everything is done correctly.
There is no law, statute, or other requirement saying you need to sign the certificate of completion as soon as the remediation company asks for it. In fact, you absolutely should NOT sign the certificate until you have had time to inspect the property, let it sit for a bit, have the remediation efforts confirmed by someone else in the industry, and you are sure that all of the remediation was done correctly.
I have handled countless claims with remediation and insurance companies where mold forms AFTER the remediation is complete. This is followed by a huge fight over who pays: the insurance company (because it is related to the original water damage) or the remediation company (for not getting all the wet stuff out.)
In these fights, the very first thing every remediation company brings up is the signed certificate of completion. This document often says you are satisfied with the work they did, that they did a good job, yada yada yada. So, it is very important that you wait to sign it until you know everything was done correctly.
4. Make sure everything is documented.
Just like with any insurance company, it’s important to document as much as you can.
When a remediation company is needed, make sure there are photographs from before and after their work. Even better, if you can get photos during their work, do it. If you can show that wet insulation, the damage behind the wall, or even under the floor, that will go a long way in making sure your insurance company can’t deny your claim.
If you are dealing with a water loss, it is also a good idea to ask for the remediation company to do moisture testing, and to document those readings with either photos or on paper.
It is often necessary for a remediation company to get the water or damage out of the property before the insurance company sees it. While there is no requirement to wait for the carrier to see the damage before remediation, it certainly will help to have it all documented for them to review.
In the insurance world, remediation companies are a necessity. They work quickly, they know what needs to be done, and they should be on your side throughout the process. The problem is, just like in every industry, there are some bad apples – companies who only care about the bottom line.
So, take heed. And if you ever have a problem before or after the remediation company was in your home, give us a call and we will do all we can to help.
Click here to speak with an attorney at Wheeler, DiUlio, & Barnabei.
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