Fire, windstorms and other disasters bring disruption and emotional stress, often leaving the victims confused and vulnerable. However, the decisions Homeowners make will remain long after the stress and confusion have passed. The members of the National Institute of Disaster Restoration believe that property owners should have an understanding of their rights and the alternatives available to them when insurance repairs are required.
The insurance policy is a contract between the property owner and their insurance company. The insurance contract gives the property owner certain rights and imposes certain obligations. The national Institute of Disaster Restoration has prepared this Homeowner’s Bill of Rights so that property owners can better understand how their insurance policy relates to the damages they have suffered. Here are some of the property owner’s rights and obligations under the standard Homeowner’s policy.
1. After a loss, you may undertake and claim compensation for emergency work to safeguard your property.
In fact, you have an obligation to do so under the terms of most polices. Your insurance company may not pay the additional loss if you fail to protect your property against further damage.
2. If you have adequate coverage, you are entitled to receive the full cost of restoring your home to its pre-damaged condition.
However, you are not insured for the cost of repairing defects unrelated to the damage, such as maintenance problems, code deficiencies or prior damage.
3. You are entitled to employ, and should insist upon a fully-licensed and insured restoration firm of good reputation.
If you do not employ such a firm, defective workmanship as well as injury or other damage may become your responsibility.
4. You are entitled to employ a firm which has the experience and stability in you community to stand behind its workmanship and warranty.
The repair contract and its performance is strictly between you and your contractor. Your insurance company is not a party to the repair contract and does not warrant or guarantee the performance of any firm you may hire.
5. You are entitled to receive materials and workmanship equivalent to the quality of your work existing installation.
The insurance company has no obligation to provide better materials or to improve your existing installation , of course.
6. You are not required to accept the lowest bidder.
Nowhere in your insurance policy will you find the words: CHEAPEST, LEAST EXPENSIVE, LOWEST PRICE. It is only necessary that the rates correspond to prevailing standards in your area for work of good quality.
7. As owner of the property, you are entitled to receive a detailed listing of the repairs and quantities of materials to be provided, before work begins.
The dimensions and quantities listed should be accurate and specific , avoiding ambiguous terms such as “as necessary” . The work specification should be clear and understandable.
8. You should reject any contract or work authorization that does not meet federal, state, and local requirements for residential construction work.
You should be familiar with these requirements in order to enjoy the protections the law provides. Ask you NIDR contractor for this important information.
9. You are entitled to receive the services of a firm that can demonstrate skill and experience in damage repair as a full-time professional specialty.
Ask for current references, credentials and association memberships that indicates a professional commitment to damage repair as contrasted with part-time “specialists” and ordinary home improvement services
10. If you and the insurance company fail to agree on the amount of the loss, you may request arbitration. This procedure is included in the policy as a way to settle differences without litigation.
Either party may ask for arbitration (formal Appraisal) at any time prior to settle of the claim. It is a quick and inexpensive way to resolve over the amount of the loss.
Only the policy holder can demand that their insurance company respect their rights under the policy. The National Institute of Disaster Restoration recommends that every policy holder do this, out of a strong conviction that an enlightened policy holder is more likely to make sound decisions and enjoy the benefits their policy provides.
Reprinted from Cleaning & Restoration Magazine, October 1996 issue with permission from ASCR