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Guardian Adjusting Blog
Tips and information on all types of property damage claims.

 

Property Insurance

Rick Tapanes - Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Homeowner’s Insurance Basics

You have brought your dream house, now it’s time to buy homeowner’s insurance coverage to protect what may be one of the largest investments you make in your lifetime. How much coverage do you need? What is covered? What will it cost? What are riders? Keep reading to learn the basics of buying insurance for your new home.

Determine Coverage

The first step in buying insurance coverage is determining how much you need. Instead of market value, insurance company’s use the homes rebuild cost to determine the price of the coverage. It makes sense because a damaged home will be repaired, not replaced. Depending on where you live, the home may require flood insurance. This is not included in homeowners’ insurance policies and must be purchased separately.

Included in a homeowner’s insurance policy is coverage for the contents, or your possessions. The typical amount of coverage is 75% of the home’s insurance value. There are also usually limits on the coverage for certain high value items. If you own expensive jewelry or collectibles, for instance, you may want to consider additional coverage for those. You will also want to inventory all of your possessions in the event of a claim. Take photographs or a video of all of the rooms in your home to document your possessions and put receipts for expensive items in a safe place. This will save you a lot of grief later if you need to prove what was damaged or destroyed to your insurance company.

Shopping for a Quote

A good as place as any to start comparing property insurance quotes is with your existing auto insurance company. Some, but not all, insurance companies offer multiple types of coverage. You may find that your auto insurance company will give you a good price if you bundle in your homeowner’s insurance with your existing auto coverage. Next, contact an independent insurance agent. Generally, independent agents are registered with, and can sell policies from, several different companies. This is a great way to quickly compare various quotes.

However you approach it, you will want to get quotes from at least three companies. Compare prices and take a look at reviews from existing customers. One or two bad reviews might indicate disgruntled customers who decided to vent online. It is better to get a broader idea of customer satisfaction by looking at many ratings and reading several reviews, both positive and negative.

Escrow

Many homeowners prefer to include their insurance premium in their mortgage payment. This can be easily set up with your mortgage company and is usually preferred by the bank as it gives them assurance that the property is covered. On a side note, you can include your property taxes in your mortgage payment as well. This allows you to write one check a month instead of three.

Glossary

Here are a few terms you should become familiar with when shopping for homeowners insurance:

Deductible – This refers to the amount you must pay for any repairs before the insurance company pays for the rest. For instance, if your deductible is $1000 and you property suffers $5000 worth of damage, you will pay $1000 and the insurance company will pay the remaining $4000. Deductibles are yearly, so you only pay your deductible once in any given year even if you experience another loss later that year. The higher your deductible, the lower your insurance payments will be.

Liability Coverage – This type of insurance covers medical and legal costs if a person is hurt in your home or on your property.

Premium – This is the cost of your insurance coverage. It is typically paid in monthly installments.

Rider – This is an additional policy that is in purchased alongside a homeowner’s policy to cover specific, usually valuable items in the home. Riders can be purchased for things like expensive antiques, or artwork.

Right to Repair

Rick Tapanes - Friday, February 26, 2016

You May Have Options if Your Insurance Company Invokes the Right to Repair

Does your property insurance policy include a “right to repair” clause – sometimes called “option to repair”? If you do not know, look under the “loss payment” portion of your policy where right to repair clause is usually found. On the surface that term certainly sounds like something that will be beneficial to you, but in reality it is a euphemism that grants your insurance company control over who will repair your damaged property. The concept of right to repair has been around for some time. Recently Florida insurance companies have been making it part of their regular process.

The problem with this approach, from the point of view of the property owner (it generally works out great for the insurer) is that your insurance company is interested in repairing your damaged property for as little money as possible. The contractors that will repair your property are working directly for the insurance company, not for you.

Furthermore, you have no control over the payment to the contractor and therefore have no control over the work. You will be unable to make any repairs yourself, if you are so inclined, and will not be allowed to bring in your own contractors. The right to repair also strips the property owner of their right to dispute the settlement. The insured and anyone advocating for them is taken out of the equation. The insurance company retains control over everything. Unfortunately this can sometimes result in substandard repairs.

But it is not so cut and dry. By invoking the right to repair the insurance company actually becomes the guarantor of the work done and has to accept liability for any law construction upgrades that the building department requires. For this reason, the right to repair is often used as a simple strong arm tactic. The insured is given the option to accept the insurance company’s settlement offer or they threaten to bring in their own contractors and take over the repairs.

All of this does not mean that the property owner is without rights. The insured has the right to demand that the insurance company provide the scope of work that will be done. This should include plans to make repairs with quality materials and that adhere to building code. Read your policy carefully and understand what is involved.

This is where a public adjuster from Guardian Adjusting can be a great help. The best time to call a public adjuster is before any damage has occurred. One of our public adjusters can review your policy with you beforehand and explain the right to repair clause. In the event of property damage, your public adjuster will at the ready to assist you in dealing with the insurance company. Since right to repair is often nothing more than a bullying tactic used by the insurance company, you may be surprised what a strong advocate on your side can accomplish. Call us today to set an appointment and have the protection you need at the ready.

Underpaid Claims

Rick Tapanes - Monday, January 25, 2016

Don’t Settle for Your Insurance Company’s Underpayment

Unless you have experienced property damage in the past, or have some expertise in estimating the cost of property damage, you may not even be aware if your insurance company is underpaying your claim. Without someone with that expertise working on your behalf, you may be opening yourself up to be taken advantage of.

It is not to say that insurance companies are out to cheat their customers, but their adjusters will work to minimize their costs, even if that means that you don’t get every dollar you are entitled to. Minimizing your settlement and underpaying your claims are simply ways to increase their bottom line. It is actually rare that an insurance company’s first settlement offer will be sufficient to make necessary repairs. In the worse cases, you may end up with a denied claim and no money for repairs whatsoever. Without an advocate, you are likely to take what they offer without question.

A Second Opinion

In order to protect your interests, it is best to get a second opinion on the extent and cost of your property damage. Public adjusters work as advocates for the insured. A public adjuster will perform their own inspection of the damaged property, provide a complete and unbiased estimate of the repair or replacement costs, and even act as a negotiator with your insurance company. And the services do not end there. A public adjuster will also help you complete and file your insurance claim paperwork and provide contact information for reputable contractors to get your repairs done. Furthermore, you can count on your public adjuster to be available every step of the way to answer your questions and address your concerns. In fact, by simply hiring a public adjuster, you are sending a message to your insurance company that you will not just settle for what they offer.

After the Fact

If you already accepted a settlement that you later realize is too low, or if your property insurance claim has been denied, it may not be too late. A public adjuster can help you with the process of reopening a claim and getting you the money you deserve. Reopening a claim for further settlement is a complex process and should definitely not be attempted alone.

The public adjusters at Guardian Adjusting Services have years of experience dealing with underpaid claims and reopening denied claims to get their clients the money they need and deserve to repair their property. Call Guardian Adjusting Services before damage occurs and we’ll be ready to act in the event of property damage. If you have already accepted a claim, call us as well. We can review your settlement and help you reopen your claim.

Insurance Fraud

Rick Tapanes - Monday, December 28, 2015

Insurance Fraud Costs Insurers and the Insured

According to the FBI, insurance fraud is estimated to be over $40 billion dollars each year. That number does not include health insurance fraud. Property insurance fraud accounts for about $32 billion of that. Five to ten percent of all insurance claims paid are fraudulent and one third of insurance companies say that number is closer to 20% for them. According to these estimates, insurance fraud costs the average American family anywhere from $400 to $700 every year.

Insurance Fraud Takes Many Forms

Fraudulent insurance claims can range anywhere from thousands to millions of dollars. Property insurance claims can take many forms. Below are some of the most common insurance fraud schemes insurance companies deal with.

  • Intentional damaging of property to make an insurance claim on it.
  • Overestimating the costs of lost or damaged property on an insurance claim.
  • Overstating the extent of damages on an insurance claim.
  • Staging a fake robbery to file a claim on stolen property.
  • Asking a repair company to inflate their bill to cover the insurance deductible.
  • Forging evidence like repair bills in support of a property damage claim.

Insurance Fraud Red Flags

Insurance companies now use computer software that analyses statistics to red flag claims that need to be investigated further. Insurance adjusters are also trained to identify these red flags that often point to fraudulent claims. Here are just some of the behaviors and circumstances that may point to a suspicious claim.

  • Absence of the insured at the time that an incident occurs. If there is no good reason why the entire family and the pets were out of the house when it burned down, the insurance company will investigate further.
  • The insured is recently divorced or separated. This is not unusual but combined with other factors it may cause the insurance company to dig deeper.
  • Serious financial difficulties on the part of the insured. Recent foreclosure or bankruptcy may be cause for further investigation of the claim.
  • The insured pushes for a quick settlement. Some people just want to get their property fixed quickly, but if the insured is particularly adamant about speeding up the process to get their money, it may warrant scrutiny.
  • An unusual amount of familiarity with insurance terms and processes on the part of the insured.
  • Claims that are filed shortly after insurance coverage begins or is increased.
  • The damaged or destroyed property was up for sale or very recently purchased.

The Law in Florida

In Florida insurance fraud is a felony. The severity of the crime is directly tied to the amount of the fraudulent claim or claims. Fraud in excess of $100,000 is a first degree felony and a defendant could face jail time as well as fines. A recent, extreme Florida case involved a ring of 22 people that hit insurance companies for $7.6 million over nine years. Some members of the ring acted as recruiters that would approach homeowners that might be willing to cooperate in the schemes. Homes and other properties were intentionally flooded or set on fire and the fraud ring would receive 20% to 30% of the settlement. The ring leader is facing 30 years in prison for arson, forgery, grand theft and racketeering.

Insurance fraud is a crime that affects anyone that buys insurance. Luckily it is taken seriously by law enforcement and efforts continue to curb the costs to insurance companies and society as a whole.

Hiring a Public Adjuster

Rick Tapanes - Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Picking the Right Public Adjuster

Most people do not realize that when your home or business is damaged, you must document the claim. This means that time has to be spent listing all of the loss, item by item, and determining the cost to replace or repair everything. After filing a claim, you are not done. Unless you negotiate with the insurance company and basically fight for the money you are entitled to, you are likely to get paid less than you expect or deserve. This is where a public adjuster comes in.

Insurance companies have their own adjusters. One of them will visit our property to survey the damage and make a determination of the cost of repairs. Do not think for a minute that the number they come up with will be in your best interest. A public adjuster works for the policy holder. Similarly, they will visit the site survey the damage and determine the extent and cost of the damage. The difference is that a public adjuster serves the policy holder’s interests, not the insurance company’s. A good public adjuster will also be able to uncover hidden damage that is not readily apparent and insure that it is included in the property damage claim. Furthermore, a public adjuster will act as an advocate for the policy holder until such time as the settlement is paid. They help document the damage, prepare the insurance claim, meet with insurance company representatives, and guide the policy holder along the entire process.

What to Look for in a Public Adjuster

Finding a good public adjuster may take a bit of effort and research. Not all public adjusters are equally experienced or effective. Make sure you hire a public adjuster that will work hard to get you the money you deserve. Here are some steps to take before deciding which public adjuster you want to represent you.

Hire Within Your Area – This is a matter of accessibility. There are damage surveys to perform, meetings with the insurance company to attend, repairs to oversee. Make sure your public adjuster works in your region and will be readily available to assist you.

Hire a Licensed Public Adjuster – It is not uncommon for a public adjuster to work under a colleague’s or employer’s public adjuster license. Ask to see the professional’s license documentation to insure you are hiring someone qualified to do the job. Also find out how many years of experience, as well as what specific skills and credentials they have. This will help in your choice.

Check References – Past employers and clients are ideal. Ask if it would be OK to call them. Talking to a previous client is the best way to learn about the public adjuster’s dedication, demeanor and the outcome of previous work. They will give you a good idea of what level of service and performance to expect.

Negotiate the Fee – Public Adjusters generally work on contingency fees. They will get paid when the property damage claim is settled and the fee will be a percentage of that settlement, usually between 5% and 15%.

The best idea is to and establish a relation with a public adjuster before any damage has occurred. This way the public adjuster will already be familiar with your insurance coverage and ready to represent you immediately in the event of property damage. Guardian Adjusting has a team of highly qualified public adjuster ready to meet with you. Call us today to set an appointment and be ready in case of a future event.

Roof Leaks and Water Damage

Rick Tapanes - Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Does Your Policy Cover Roof Leaks?

When it comes to water damage, homeowners’ insurance policies become a bit complicated and specific. Damage from flood waters, which insurance companies define as being caused by rising water from an existing body of water entering a property, requires a seperate flood policy to cover it. Conversely, if your living room becomes “flooded” by rain water coming in through a leaky roof, a flood insurance policy won’t help. The majority of property insurance claims are for water related events, yet most policyholders do not have a clear understanding of what water damage they are covered for.

The first thing to do is review your property insurance coverage to understand exactly what is and is not covered. Talk to your insurance agent or a public adjuster at Guardian Adjusting. Your public adjuster can identify any holes in your coverage and make sure that you are ready for any eventuality.

Perform Regular Maintenance

The typical homeowner’s insurance policy will cover water damage caused by accidental events. The most common reason for a denial of a water claim is neglect and failure to perform regular maintenance. So, imagine that a storm brings a large amount of rain with it and suddenly your roof starts leaking in several places. Some furniture and drywall is damaged and a large portion of the carpet and floor becomes soaked. The next morning your insurance company’s adjuster gets up on your roof where she finds no visible damage. There are no roof tiles blown off by the wind or damage from a tree branch that hit the roof. The insurance company’s stance will be that the damage is due to negligence and failure to properly maintain the roof, which is the homeowner' responsibility. Similarly, any water coming in to the property through a leaky pipe or crack in the wall falls to the homeowner to prevent through routine maintenance.

Other things you may have trouble securing a claim for are improperly installed plumbing fixtures that leak, and malfunctioning appliances like refrigerators, ice makers and air conditioners. All of these items require maintenance and sometimes replacement and will not be covered by the majority of homeowners’ insurance policies.

On the other hand, you may be surprised to learn that damage resulting from these leaky roofs, walls and appliances is often covered. So, although your insurance company is not going to fix your roof, it is likely that your policy covers damage to floors, and furniture due to those leaks.

The best advice is to know what your property is covered for before the damage hits. Maintain a relationship with a public adjuster from Guardian Adjusting to stay on top of your insurance coverage and for the peace of mind of knowing that they will be there in an emergency to protect your interests.

Flood Insurance

Rick Tapanes - Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Do Not Overlook Flood Damage Coverage

In insurance terms, a flood is caused by water from a rising body of water entering a property. Not considered flooding are things like water from a broken pipe or rain coming through a leaky roof. The distinction is important because it means that your property insurance policy will not cover you from losses from a flood. Flood damage coverage requires its own separate policy. In South Florida it is advisable to have flood insurance coverage whether or not your property is in a designated flood zone.

NFIP

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) was put in place in 1968 to allow property owners to obtain insurance protection for flood damage to their property. Managed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), NFIP also encourages communities to adopt and enforce flood management regulations, especially to reduce flood risks in new development and construction. This program was started because property owners in some areas where literally unable to purchase flood insurance from a commercial insurance company and to reduce the costs of Federal disaster relief. Today NFIP is the only option for flood insurance for property owners.

Public Adjusters and Flooding

Even though The National Flood Insurance Program is managed by the government, it doesn’t mean you should overlook hiring a public adjuster if you have experienced property flooding. You still want an advocate to help you get the settlement you deserve and to help you get your property dried out and once again usable. A public adjuster will perform a thorough inspection of your property to insure that all of the damage is identified and included in your claim. Your public adjuster can arrange for a dry out company to get the water out of your property.

A public adjuster will work with you every step of the way, documenting damage, preparing the insurance claim, repairing your property and securing your settlement. Guardian Adjusting Services has the best public adjusters in Florida. They have over 100 years of combined experience and will work tirelessly to get you the highest settlement possible and get your property repaired. Call us today to set up a consultation and be ready in the event of flood damage in the future.

Public Adjuster Responsibilities

Rick Tapanes - Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Duties breakdown of a Guardian Public Adjuster

The Guardian public adjuster's main responsibilities are to:

  • Evaluate existing insurance policies in order to determine what coverage may be applicable to a claim
  • Research, detail, and substantiate damage to buildings and contents and any additional expenses
  • Evaluate business interruption losses and extra expense claims for businesses
  • Determine values for settling covered damages
  • Prepare, document and support the claim on behalf of the insured
  • Negotiate a settlement with the insurance company on behalf of an insured
  • Re-open a claim and negotiate for more money if a discrepancy is found after the claim has been settled

Typically a policyholder hires a Guardian public adjuster to document and expedite their claims, obtain a more satisfactory claim recovery, more quickly, and completely restore their residence or business operations, and insulate themselves from the stress of engaging in an adversarial role with a large corporation. However, the cost of hiring outside experts, no matter how well-earned, can be an added burden when they are borne entirely by the policyholder. The added burden can be alleviated by the work of a Guardian public adjuster. However, policy holders who are not properly indemnified by their insurance carriers may be left with little choice but to hire professional assistance to recover the claim payment to which they are entitled.

Guardian public adjusters are able to recognize claims that may be insubstantial and disputable and explain such problems to the client. The everyday meanings of terms like "collapse", "partial collapse" and "extent of physical damage" might be entirely different from their legal interpretations, requiring the adjuster to clarify such terms for the client.Regulations regarding the uses of these terms are constantly in a state of flux so it is important for Guardian public adjusters to have a firm grasp of the law including the division of legal responsibilities between insurance companies and policyholders.

Claim Process

Rick Tapanes - Monday, August 24, 2015

Tips for Dealing with the Property Claim Process

The property insurance claim process in Florida can be tedious and exhausting. You often end up butting heads with the insurance company on a number of points while they drag their feet getting your claim processed and your property repaired. This can sometimes lead to bad decisions on the part of a frustrated or desperate homeowner. It is not uncommon for a claimant to accept less than they are due because they become overwhelmed with the process and just want to get their life back in order.

Below are some tips that will help you through the property insurance claim process and make it as smooth as possible. These guidelines are brought to you by the public adjusters at Guardian Adjusting Services. Public adjusters work on your behalf in case of property damage.

  1. If it was not done ahead of time, you need to inventory your damaged possessions. Include photos of everything and specific information, like serial numbers, where possible. Once everything is inventoried, estimate the replacement cost for each item. This will help you get compensated properly for those lost items.
  2. You are entitled to the full replacement value of any luxury items that have suffered damage. Do not accept valuations for replacement of these items. Receipts will, of course, help, so gather the ones that you can to make copies for the insurance company.
  3. Do not hire a remediation company to do your repairs. Some unscrupulous dry out companies may include reconstruction in their dry-out contract. If you are hiring a company to come to your property and perform an emergency dry-out, ensure that they are not slipping extra work into the contract you are signing in the middle of the night when you are relieved and happy to see them. Leave repairs and reconstruction to qualified contractors.
  4. Review your policy for provisions for additional living expenses (ALE). Many insurance policies provide funds for living expenses while your home is being repaired if you are evacuated from your home. So, there may be no need to sleep at a friend or family member’s home, or even pay for accommodations yourself.
  5. Do not sign off on your final settlement if you have not acquired the services of a registered public adjuster. Public adjusters work on your behalf and will deal with your insurance company to get you the highest settlement possible on your claim.

Give Guardian Adjusting Services a call now, ahead of any possible property damage. We will review your policy with you to identify any gaps in coverage and be ready to respond in case of a disaster. It is the best way to get the settlement you deserve.

After a Fire

Rick Tapanes - Friday, July 24, 2015

After a Fire Safety Is the First Concern

Last month we talked about how to be prepared in the event of a fire and what to do if you are caught in a fire. This article will cover some tips on what to do after a fire has hit your home. A fire can be a disorienting, frightening and even traumatic experience. It is important after a fire to keep a cool head and not to make any mistakes. Rebuilding will come later, but immediately after a fire your first concern should be to keep yourself and your family safe.

The first rule after you have gotten yourself and anyone else out of a burning building is not to go back in. Don't assume that a home is safe to reenter after a fire has been put out. Allow the authorities to inspect the building and determine when it is safe. In some cases, if the fire and damage to the structure are severe enough, the building may never be safe again.

Make sure to contact family members and friends to let them know what has happened and where things stand. If you are a tenant, a call to your landlord is also in order. Talk to the fire authorities about how to obtain a copy of the fire report that will be filled out. Your insurance company will need that. Next, call Guardian Adjusting to have an expert public adjuster come to your side and help you with the upcoming insurance claim process. Finally, contact your insurance company and report the fire to them. Some homeowner's insurance policies provide emergency funds for living expenses and lodging, and you may need those right away.

If the house is deemed safe to enter, the next step is to secure the house. You might need the help of a contractor to board up windows, and doors and well as make temporary fixes to insure that no one unwanted will enter the building. Looters can be a real issue in homes that have been damaged and are empty of occupants after a fire. Understand your homeowner's insurance policy as many make it your responsibility to keep the home safe while it waits to be repaired.

How Your Public Adjuster Will Help

Your public adjuster from Guardian Adjusting will help you get your life back to normal and act as the middle man between you and your insurance company, insuring that you get the maximum settlement owed to you to get your home repaired quickly. The public adjuster will perform their own thorough inspection of your property to make sure that all of the damage is properly documented and reported. In addition, your public adjuster can assist in quickly securing the materials and repairs your home will be needing. In short, a good public adjuster will help you get get your life back in order as quickly as possible.

The public adjusters at Guardian Adjusting have decades of combined experience handling fire damage claims in South Florida. Contact us today to meet one of our adjusters and know that they will be there, ready to help, when the time comes.


         
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