Hit by Hail? 7 Mistakes you don’t want to make!
Big hail hit April 13, 2019 all over the Northwest San Antonio areas causing damage to thousands of homes and businesses. Were you one of them? If you were, unfortunately you are likely going to have to deal with it and get some things fixed in order to preserve the look of the property, the future insurability and resale value. If you don’t have experience in dealing with hail damage on your property and complex insurance claims, you may want to know these 7 mistakes people commonly make before you take action.
1-Replacing roofing or repairing damage before you’ve spoken with the experts.
Insurance companies want and often require you to mitigate future damage immediately by doing things like tarping your roof to avoid exposure to rain and water damage, or boarding up broken windows. However, you don’t want to replace roofing tiles or shingles or glass window panes until the Insurance company has documented and witnessed the damage for themselves or at least authorized you to do so. If authorized, take lots of photos and save everything. If you’re not leaking or dangerously exposed, it’s probably best to leave it untouched until it can be adjusted by an insurance representative in person.
If you do replacements and repairs the wrong way, like replacing roof tiles, you can jeopardize your entire claim because they won’t be able to verify what the storm has damaged. It’s often best to talk with a qualified storm restoration contractor before you file a claim to be sure you have enough damage to meet your deductible and can advise you on how to handle certain urgent repairs. Most property owners will far exceed their deductibles which typically range from 1-3% of their property’s value.
2-Paying a contractor up front.
If a contractor can’t afford to buy materials or doesn’t have the credit available to furnish materials to your site before they start your job, you might want to reconsider that contractor.
There are far too many stories of property owner’s paying construction contractors half or more of their insurance settlement up front and never hearing from them again. You don’t want to be a victim, so just don’t risk it.
There are many options for payment. For example, one safe, smart and fair process for paying a contractor is to give them partial payment, up to 50% of the job cost total on the day they delivered the materials to your property and showed up with their crews to work. A credible contractor will be able to fund materials and will have trusted relationships with crews that will show up for work without advance payment. Once the work is complete and insurance has sent any remaining balance to you, you can then pay your contractor in full.
3-Expecting the Insurance company to accurately assess all the damage.
Once you file a claim, the insurance company will likely send out an adjuster. Sometimes this adjuster is employed by the insurance carrier and sometimes the insurance company hires an outside, independent adjuster. These adjusters have varying levels of skill, expertise and experience. Their job is to respond quickly, make an assessment and document the storm related damage. They will then put together an estimate of the scope of work to be done and the estimated dollar value of the loss. It will only be an estimate and it may be fairly accurate or it may be far under the amount it will actually take to complete your job. They may pay you for a minor roof repair when you really need the entire roof replaced.
Keep in mind, these adjusters may have multiple houses to do a day and they are in a hurry. They have a broad knowledge, but are generally not experts in construction. They often don’t have the time nor have the experience in most cases to understand all that will need to be done.
4-Assuming you don’t have damage because you don’t see it.
If you don’t have experience seeing hail damage it can be very easily overlooked and underestimated. Roof damage has to be severe to see it from the ground, as it can be small and only seen up close and from the roof. If you’re seeing roof damage from the ground you are probably only seeing about 1/3 of what’s really damaged. Gutter dents may need just the right sunlight and angle to be seen. Paint chips from impacts may look like wear and tear. Cracked window beading and dented frames may just not get noticed. HVAC units may need to have a pressure test run on them.
Small dents in the metal roof or some hair line cracks in concrete roof tiles may look innocuous, but it can be serious. It may not look like a problem to you, but you can bet it will be a problem for a would-be home buyer or an inspector if you ever change your insurance carrier.
For example, a few dents in the hood of your car may not affect the driveability of your car, but you’re not going to get the same sales price for a car with dents as you would a car without. And if you ever change insurance carriers or they don’t renew your policy you may have trouble getting new coverage because an inspector will find the unrepaired hail damage. A few cracks in concrete or clay tiles can eventually become fully broken tiles and areas for water penetration.
We recommend getting at least one or two outside opinions before deciding what to ultimately do.
5-Not qualifying your contractor properly.
Most people focus on the roofs of their homes after a storm and overlook many of the other peripheral damage that may be thousands or tens of thousands of dollars. Roofing contractors are usually only going to handle your roof replacement and leave the other trades to someone else or to you to handle.
It’s up to you to decide if you want to manage a complex construction project or if you want to hire someone who can handle the entire job and knows how to work with your insurance company. If you hire a contractor, check them out. Find out how much of your job they can do, get some past job references, and verify they have current liability insurance coverage (sometimes they will fake this because it’s expensive). Call their material suppliers and ask if they have good credit with them. Check their BBB ratings, check their work area radius and be sure they will be near enough to handle any warranty work. See if they show up on time, are accountable and are easy to reach by phone.
6-Trying to go cheap or get a “deal” on repairs.
The old saying “you get what you pay for” fully applies here and because it’s your property, you want to get the best possible repairs for the money your insurance company is willing to give you. Insurance companies are smart and they’re not likely to overpay, but they will gladly underpay if you want to hire discount tradesman and get less than the best materials and management.
This is your valuable property and you want to preserve it. Don’t shop for the cheapest deal, shop for the best contractor that is going to deliver quality and make the process easy on you.
7-Not filing a claim before the policy’s deadline.
Michael Fried, Board of Directors of Texas Association of Public Adjusters, advises: “check with with your agent or review your policy for specific language, and do it right away because policies vary. The common thought is two years, but don’t count on that.”
The longer you wait the harder it will be for an adjuster to accurately identify what is hail damage. Impact marks age in and what was once clear evidence later may be muddled and look like something else. Remember, it’s a good idea to get a qualified contractor or expert to assess the damage to your property before making the claim to see if there is enough damage to exceed your deductible.
Owner of Peak Storm Services, LLC
Former licensed Texas Insurance Adjuster
Storm restoration contractor since 2007
University of Texas at Austin, Graduate 1989