It’s probably fair to say that emergencies typically happen when you least expect they will. And when they do, navigating to help and solutions can be challenging, especially depending on the emergency. If you are faced with a fire or water related emergency, this article is intended as a heads up whether you find it in advance of a problem, or in the midst of searching for help. I have recently learned that even this emergency driven industry is flush with companies that will not hesitate to take advantage of both the homeowner, property owner, as well as much advantage of the insurance companies paying their bills. I’d like to open your eyes to some of the areas to watch out for, to listen for, and to take stock in so that less (and ideally no more!) companies can get away with the dishonest activities they are currently engaging in when no one is watching.
Here is a scenario: You wake up in the morning and discover your pipe burst, you left your outside hose on while you were away, or worse yet, the storm overnight was bigger than you realized, and all of a sudden you discover your basement is flooded. Your storage area in your basement holds belongings that are special and important to you, some things that would be impossible to replace. The water in your basement is deep covering your basement floor soaking your carpet and the bottoms of your furniture. What should you do?
The first thing you will probably do is exactly what you likely did. You went to Google to search for Water Damage Restoration companies nearby. You probably found this article in the mix, which is good for you! As you consider companies to contact, don’t just call the first one necessarily on the list just because your adrenaline is pumping and your basement is filling with water. If in fact, both of those are true and you are excitedly in need of help right now, I invite you to read on to discover questions you can ask and things you can look for if it turns out you experience fire damage or it is your basement that floods next. You’ll know exactly who to call and why.
There are ample service providers that will fit the bill, but watch out for some that will not hesitate to cheat the system and take advantage. Here are a few questions you can ask and a few things you can inquire about initially with Restoration companies you may be considering:
- How long have you been doing this work? What is your experience level?
- Just curious, will the technicians coming to my house be certified with the IICRC?
- Who will actually be coming to my house? Will they be employees of your company or temporary workers filling in on a job?
- If I need to be leaving my home due to a larger loss or fire damage, who will actually be involved in packing up my home’s belongings? How are my belongings accounted for?
- Will there be a manager, foreman, or supervisor on my job daily? How often?
- Usually a Restoration Company can assist with a rebuilding process when necessary which would require a construction license. What is your company’s License #? If they produce a License #, this number can be used to confirm it is active, current and that no enforcement actions have been claimed against them. If their License is current, it also indicates their own insurance is, as well.
- Just curious, when was the last water or fire restoration job your company did? Nice to know they are in the business and actually doing the job currently.
Once you've assessed a company meets your scrutiny and you've chosen a good fit for you, you will want to keep a close eye on a few things just to keep a checks and balances so you can cross check your itemized bill at the end. Start at the beginning, even before your Insurance Company Representative may have the chance to come out. Use your phone or another camera and take pictures of the damaged areas. You can never take too many pictures! Due to the nature and urgency of your situation, frequently the Restoration Company will arrive far in advance of your Insurance Company Representative. The Restoration Company has some time to assess what has already been damaged, what may be too far gone, and what can be saved. It’s important to me to emphasize that a good number of Restoration Companies conduct their businesses with integrity and do not fall into a category of shady. It’s also important to note, that there are a good number, unfortunately, that do.
Typically in a water damage situation, an initial cleanup step taken right away will allow for fans and dehumidifiers to be put out and run together to assist with mold prevention and drying. During this time, the shady companies will run extra fans and dehumidifiers, not really needed to dry out wet areas. Some will run equipment in areas that are clearly too far gone and will need to be demolished, gutted and replaced, so running drying fans and dehumidifiers has no purpose. When I heard this, I asked why and the answer surprised me. The reason is because the insurance companies pay well for these drying fans, as well as other equipment, to run and the longer they run, the bigger the payout these companies are earning from the insurance companies. This would be an interesting time to snap a few pictures if you are in your home. Taking pictures of how many fans and dehumidifiers are actually running and then comparing them to the number on the bill in the end will let you know if you've hired an honest company or not. Another trick of the trade is to embellish the number of fans and dehumidifiers and / or the number of days they ran when submitting the equipment costs to the insurance companies. The shady Restoration Companies have figured out that without anyone watching, they can get away with a whole lot more, and the insurance companies are none the wiser.
Besides the obvious distaste for being dishonest, some of the other problems that domino from this kind of conduct ultimately comes back to the consumer. It never feels good to learn that someone has cheated a system and gotten away with it. Insurance rates are based in part on how much has been paid out on claims, so when companies like that take more than they should be, they are contributing to higher insurance rates for everyone else. Another side effect is that it makes you wonder where else these companies are taking and not giving, where else are they cutting corners for their own gain, and what will come back to the homeowner to haunt them because of it and when?
My point of writing this article is to provide some heads up and beware type of information for those facing water, fire, flood damage issues. It’s always a challenge on top of the adrenaline and emotions to figure out who would be a reputable and safe company to call in to help. The last thing you want to feel in the middle of your own catastrophe is that someone has used your situation to take advantage of a system for their own gain. Again, for those finding this article in the midst of an emergency of your own, I am sorry for your unfortunate experience. I’d like to try and make the rest of it a better and reliable experience by providing this heads up and list of proactive questions above to help you. For those stumbling upon this information and not in a state of flood, water, or fire damage problems, stash the info away and refer to it if you ever find yourself needing to call on these type of fire, water, flood damage experts in the future.
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