For over 20 years, I’ve represented homeowners in front of large insurance companies. I spend my days assisting my clients in the preparation, presentation, negotiation, and adjustment of their insurance claims. Today, I’m sharing an experience I had while handling a water damage claim in Porter Ranch.
How did you first become involved with this claim?
I was contacted by a young couple who found me while searching online. They’d already begun dealing with their insurance provider at that point, but they suspected something was wrong. I made an appointment to meet with them and evaluate the damage.
What kind of water damage did they have?
They were facing extensive flooding from a broken supply line to the toilet. The water damage was most severe around the bathroom, but it ran all throughout the first floor of their home. It had also affected the kitchen cabinets and vanities. Unfortunately, their insurance provider was trying to evade responsibility for the full extent of the damage, and they’d failed to provide fair compensation for loss of use.
What exactly does loss of use mean in this case?
A loss of use provision requires your insurance company to provide the funds to maintain a normal standard of living during restoration. In this claim, the insurance company was offering to compensate the couple in the form of a daily budget. However, the couple could not find a house to live in for the budget that the insurance company gave them.
Is the insurance company allowed to offer such a low budget?
The key is that the loss of use budget cannot be arbitrary. The insurer needs to determine the market value of the home. Next, they are supposed to find equivalent homes and average the amount it would cost to rent and furnish a similar property. By forcing the couple to accept a low daily budget, they were essentially asking them to remain in their house during repairs. This was a serious safety hazard, as the home was actively under construction.
How could the homeowners proceed?
In this case, they were between a rock and a hard place. The couple had just had their first child, and they were given no choice but to stay in an environment that was full of exposed rusty nails and missing walls. The situation was extremely stressful, and they’d never filed an insurance claim before. They weren’t aware of some of the options available to them, and they weren’t sure where to turn. Worse still, they were being pressured to accept an overall settlement for repairs.
Were you able to help them?
The day I met with them, they informed me that the insurance company had given them an estimate of $30,000. Looking around the home, I could see that the scope of work included in the insurance estimate was not adequate. I told them they should not accept a settlement until they’d met with a general contractor specialized in restoration to come up with the proper scope of repair. I gave them some referrals for companies I knew would be trustworthy.
At that point, they weren’t ready to commit to working with us, so I invited them to call back after they’d gotten an independent estimate. Homeowners are under so much pressure during the claims process. It’s important to me that they never feel pressured to take on our representation.
Did they contact you again?
Within the next few days, the couple called me back. They’d met with a contractor who gave them an estimate of $140,000 to repair the full extent of the damages. At this point, they asked me to represent them.
The thing that stands out to me most about this case is not the behavior of the insurance company. Instead, it’s something that the husband said to me after our first meeting. During that meeting, we did a walkthrough of the home, and we talked for hours about their claims process. As I was leaving, the husband stopped me and said: “You completely deserve everything that has been written about you on Yelp.”
It was incredibly rewarding to hear a statement like that from someone who, at that point, was not yet a client. His words were a powerful reminder of how important our work is to the homeowners we represent. I’m very proud of the positive reputation I’ve been able to build, and I’m grateful for the opportunities that reputation continues to offer.