Many of us that live in the Miami Valley have been accustomed to the realization that thunderstorms can and will occur at any time. Sometimes they can produce a nice, light rain with a little rumble of thunder here and there, while other times they may produce strong winds, extreme lightning, and even large hail. But on the night of May 27th, 2019 Mother Nature dealt the citizens of the Miami Valley a life changing experience like we had not seen in over 35 years.
As a family owned and operated home improvement company that has been in business since 1960, Thrush & Son LLC. has become accustomed to understanding the insurance claims process. There are laws and guidelines that we must abide by while assisting homeowners during this process. UPPA, which stands for the Unlicensed Act of Public Adjusting, is just one of laws that legitimate restoration and home improvement companies abide by. Further in this article I will follow up as to what I mean when I make this statement. As the insured you have to remember that sometimes an insurance claim can run seamless without any questions or postponement, while other times you may have an adjuster that follows the delay and deny tactics by intentionally ignoring legitimate line items.
Now you may be asking yourself, “What does UPPA exactly mean and what does this have to do with my insurance claim?” The answer is simple. In Ohio, if someone other than a licensed claims adjuster works with a consumer to settle a property insurance claim they are in violation of UPPA. What is allowed is that contractors can point out damage, but they should not “represent homeowners” in their insurance claims. Contractors can prepare and discuss an estimate with legitimate and reasonable line items, but they should not “negotiate claims” or “negotiate settlements” on the homeowner’s behalf. So when a contractor comes to your door knocking and states that he is an Insurance Claims Specialists who will also “Negotiate and handle your claim from start to finish”…. he or she is in violation of UPPA; Not only for offering to negotiate your claim, but for also claiming to be an insurance claim specialists.
Now let’s also say that this general contractor or roofing company knocking at your door mentions that they can waive your deductible and help get you “get a free roof!” Doesn’t that sound great? I’m sure it does… But there is one catch, though. It’s called insurance fraud. The following excerpt is provided by the Michael L Davis Insurance Company in a blog they had posted titled “Insurance Roofing Scams and How They Affect People”.
“We have all had our share of bad weather this year. Hail and high winds caused damage to the roofs of many homes and businesses. Many of those claims were legitimate claims. However, some were not. After storms, predators swarm, driving trucks that literally say, “Free Roof” on the side of their vehicle. Perhaps you have had someone knock on your door and say, “Did you know you have some roof damage? We can fix this for you and we’ll pay your insurance deductible so it won’t cost you a penny.”
“These offers can be tempting, especially if it is time for a new roof anyway. BEWARE! These are, more often than not, scams. The word “free” sometimes causes people to forget the old adage; “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” If the unscrupulous roofing contractor sees that the word “free” is not working, they may use fear. They will exaggerate the damage and the potential problems to scare a homeowner into a new roof.”
“You can go to jail. Roofing scams are illegal. Not only can the contractor go to jail, but so can you.”
Now if you do happen to have someone knock on your door from a company who is soliciting work from the storm, here is a list of questions that you need to thoroughly research before allowing them onto your property, let alone onto your roof.
-Is the company at your door a storm chaser and where are they located at? This is an important topic to research. A company that may be here today may be gone tomorrow and this can leave you and your home vulnerable.
-How long has the company at your door been in business? Here is an interesting fact that I enjoy discussing with homeowners when it comes to choosing the right contractor for their restoration and remodeling project. Did you know, according to which study you observe, between 90 to 97 percent of contractors have closed their doors before even celebrating 10 years in business? This is an interesting fact and also very eye opening. And while we are on this topic, do not, and I mean do not fall into the “combined years of business experience” trap. Just because a business may have 23 years of combined business experience, they may have actually been in business for only 9 months. Always be sure to get the truth behind every statistics that someone may portray.
-How many times has this company changed their company name during the previous years? This obviously goes hand in hand with the previous question and answer. Even the slightest change in a company’s name may be due to previous events and financial circumstances that they have experienced in the past or maybe they are attempting to leave behind a bad reputation that they once had.
-Does this company have a website or social media presence? A web presence not only creates and builds professionalism, but it also creates accessibility for you, the end consumers. This accessibility will not only ensure your comfort or discomfort, but it also to create a visible platform for online reviews and other social media stages. If the company knocking at your door does not have a website or any internet presence how can you actually believe the company actually exists or is who they claim to be?
-Are they accredited with the Better Business Bureau? Why should this be important to you as a property owner and consumer? I’ll tell you why. When a company becomes accredited with the BBB is means that they have voluntarily agreed to abide by certain ethical standards and has also successfully completed a more extensive vetting process than non–accredited businesses. When a business becomes accredited by the Better Business Bureau, it is stating that the company you are choosing to do business with supports the BBB’s efforts to promote truth in advertising and integrity in business.
These are just a few of the many questions that should be asked with regards to any contractor, whether they have knocked on your door or you called a number that you had seen on a sign in a neighbor’s yard. Do not be afraid to ask about other items such as Workers’ Compensation, liability insurance, certifications, training, references, Etc…
What happened too many of us during the night of May 27th is one that none of us will forget. It happened in a flash but the damage was done. The thing is… we are Miami Valley Strong. We are fortunate to have many upstanding citizens and ethical contractors to help rebuild the pieces and bring our communities back together. If you feel that you or a loved one may have been taken advantage of by an insurance provider or agent, presented an inadequate scope of loss by an adjuster or have had dealings with a contractor that has acted fraudulently, do not hesitate to contact your Dayton Better Business Bureau and the Ohio Department of Insurance.