The Insurance Labyrinth

What a naked bathroom looks like

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As Hurricane Florence sped toward the coast of the Carolinas on September 10, the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Irma, I thought about the aftermath. As it has turned out, the aftermath of Florence is about about water and horrendous flooding, as it was for Hurricane Harvey and Houston in the summer of 2017. I thought about the morass of bureaucracy homeowners would have to go through with their insurance companies and mortgage holders once the flooding had ended.

I don’t know what the insurance laws are in the Carolinas, but here’s how it worked for us in Florida, in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma in the fall of 2017.

We initially thought we’d come through the hurricane pretty much intact. Yes, the roof of our back porch leaked badly, there appeared to be some water stains around light fixtures, some of the facia looked really worn and soggy. But then in October, we had several days of hard, driving rain and noticed water leaking down the wall in the kitchen. We saw saturated areas on walls in several other rooms. The roof definitely had leaks and it was possible that dry board in the walls had been saturated.

We filed a claim with our insurance company. An adjustor came out, inspected the house (but not the roof), and eventually we were sent a check for several thousand that wouldn’t even cover the cost of a square foot of the roof. Now what?

My friend, Enid, a paralegal who works for an attorney whose home in the keys was nearly destroyed in Irma, told me he’d hired a public adjuster and advised us to do the same. I’d never heard of public adjusters, experts who work for you, the homeowner. Their fee was ten percent of whatever new money they got from the insurance company. She gave me a name. That name gave me some other names. I Googled and educated myself about this rarefied world of insurance.

We eventually found an adjuster who agreed to come out to the house to do an inspection. James Angelotti. An intense guy, focused. He’d inherited his business from his father, who’d been a public adjuster for decades. He climbed onto our roof, took photos, inspected the interior the way a nosy relative might, searching for flaws. He had an infrared meter that he used where the walls showed water stains. He filed his claim in mid-November 2017, about 2 months after Irma had roared through. I’ve never seen anything so detailed, so meticulously calculated, right down to the penny. The insurance company had 60 days to respond.

That deadline came and went. James gave them some leeway because of the holidays, but by mid-February, I think it was, he turned it over to his attorney. Again, the insurance company was given a deadline – send another adjuster out to assess the damage. Again a deadline passed.

Then, two days after that deadline, an independent assessor from the company came out. His inspection was nearly as thorough as the one James had done. His deadline for filing also sailed by. But a few days later, at the end of May, I got an email from James that the insurance company was issuing a six-figure check nearly equal to James’s original estimate.

Then the hunt was on for estimates from roofers. We learned that you start from the top down. I found this process fascinating. In Florida, there’s so much business for new roofs that a lot of companies never bothered with call backs. Of those that did, most never bothered coming out to the house to inspect; they used software and their estimates were ridiculously high. Thanks to a recommendation from a neighbor, we hired Brad Simon whose Picture Perfect company gave us a picture perfect roof for a fair price.

Shingles! Forget tile!

Our mortgage holder, Wells Fargo, demanded all kinds of paper work before they released any money, and then it was doled out like a kid’s allowance. Okay, I get it that some people let the house go into foreclosure and abscond with the money. But we just wanted to fix up the house.

Once we had our roofer, we looked for a company that could do the inside work – replacing dry board, painting – and hired a young Bolivian man, Estefano Marchetti, and his crew. They’re also remodeling our bathrooms.

Today is September 18, more than a year since Irma hit. The house repairs will run into October. The insurance process isn’t quick. But if you’re a homeowner who has been paying insurance year after year, haven’t filed more than a claim or two in those years, and your insurance company is giving you the run around, look for a pubic adjuster.

James Angelotti is my new hero. Because of him, Brad Simon and Picture Perfect won a contract and so did did Estefano and his workers. James created a mini economy and we have a home being rebuilt from the inside out. So, for you in the Carolinas, start searching for a public adjuster. If you’re lucky, James Angelotti is certified in your state. If you’re really lucky, Brad Simon and his crew will give you a fair estimate.

Whatever you do, don’t give up. So far, we love these improvements and pretty soon, our cabana bath will have an awesome shower!

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3 Responses to The Insurance Labyrinth

  1. CJ says:

    Yes. Catastrophic. The national weather center said the hurricane was less than TWO MPH…just 2mph….from being a CAT 5. Simply mind-boggling. But we don’t have ‘climate change’, right??? Yeah, right. Duh….stupid idiots who refuse to admit Earth is undergoing rapid massive change, and we can’t beat Mother Nature. Crazy.

  2. CJ says:

    And now the Gulf shore areas and inland are sustaining Hurricane MICHAEL……landfall a few minutes ago as a CAT4. Weather authorities tell us this is unprecedented for several reasons. There has never been a CAT4 landfall there, not even Katrina. Before it’s done they say 92 counties will have been affected. Unthinkable. And, this one has a storm surge of 13 feet. Deadly beyond description. Once again my heart warmed to the announcements made by Governor in advance of storm that ALL shelters will take pets, begging people to not evacuate because they previously refused to leave their beloved pets. I wouldn’t leave Storm. Such compassion being demonstrated here trying to save more lives from this monstrous storm by allowing the pets to accompany their family to safety! Sending powerful thoughts to the regions affected.

    • Trish and Rob says:

      Central pressure in this one was 917 at landfall. Andrew was 922. This will be catastrophic.