HARRISBURG, Pa., Oct. 26, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller today recommended steps homeowners whose property suffered damage in the recent flooding that hit several north central Pennsylvania counties can take to properly file claims with their insurers and to avoid being the victim of a home repair scam.
"The days following a disaster such as a flood are stressful and can be overwhelming. Filing a claim for property damage can be confusing, especially if you have never done it before," Commissioner Miller said. She reminded homeowners flood damage is not covered by typical homeowners' policies, so in most cases residents will need to have flood insurance to get coverage.
She offered several tips for homeowners when filing a claim. These include:
- Contact your insurance company as soon as possible. Follow instructions given by your insurer, and keep a record of the people you spoke with, including the name and title of each person, and the date you spoke with them;
- Save all your receipts;
- Take photos or video before you begin clean up or repairs;
- After documenting damage, make repairs necessary to prevent further damage, but don't make any permanent repairs before your insurer inspects the damage and approves the repairs;
- Don't rush to a settlement. If possible, determine what repairs will cost before your insurance company representative assesses the damage. If you and your insurer disagree on the offer made to repair your property, be prepared to negotiate.
- If your claim is denied, review your policy carefully for what is and is not covered. You may file an appeal with your insurance company's claim manager. If questions remain, contact the Insurance Department's Bureau of Consumer Services at www.insurance.pa.gov, or by calling 1-877-881-6388.
"Always ask questions if you don't understand anything your insurance company representative tells you," Commissioner Miller said. "This is your home and property, so ask as many questions as you need until you feel comfortable you have a handle on the situation."
While most business people are honest, natural disasters can also attract scammers and others who are looking to take advantage of people in distress. Be wary of anyone knocking on your door and offering to do home repairs or help you file a claim with your insurer.
"Under Pennsylvania law, people called public adjusters are licensed and regulated to act as professional claims handlers. Public adjusters are employed by policyholders to assist with the insurance claims process. Always make sure to ask anyone claiming to be a public adjuster for his licensing information," Commissioner Miller said.
Consumers can verify someone claiming to be a public adjuster is licensed by the state at www.insurance.pa.gov, going under the "Consumers" tab, and selecting "Find Insurance Professional." A public adjuster can present your claim to your insurer, and negotiate on your behalf as to what your insurers will pay. Consumers can report anyone or any company operating as a public adjuster without a license to the Insurance Department's Anti-Fraud Compliance Division at 717-705-4199.
When repairs begin, consumers also need to make sure they are working with a reputable contractor. Make sure the contractor is appropriately insured and bonded. Home improvement contractors who do more than $5000 of business per year in Pennsylvania must register with the Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Protection. Consumers should ask contractors for their Home Improvement Contractor (HIC) number and verify the contractor is registered by calling the Office of Attorney General, Home Improvement Registration hotline at 1-888-520-6680. A contractor claiming to be representing you on your claim cannot do so without being licensed as a public adjuster.
"It's a good idea to check references and licensure on any contractor you are thinking of hiring, and to get more than one estimate for the work if possible," Commissioner Miller said. "Make sure you get all estimates in writing, including the total cost for the repairs, the work to be done, the timetable for completion, and any guarantees the contractor may offer."
There are several things you should not do as well, including:
- Don't sign paperwork with sections left blank. Someone can fill in information after you sign the paperwork.
- Don't pay a contractor in full or sign that the work is complete until the work is actually finished.
- Be cautious of contractors with vans or trucks with out-of-state license plates and/or that lack signs identifying the company.
"Recovering from flooding is difficult and stressful. Don't add to your problems by becoming a victim of a scam artist. Always take time to ask questions and get the cost and scope of repairs in writing," Commissioner Miller said.
Consumers with questions or complaints can visit the Consumer Services Bureau on the department website, or call 1-877-881-6388.
MEDIA CONTACT: Ron Ruman- 717-787-3289
To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/wolf-administration-offers-homeowners-important-information-on-filing-claims-avoiding-scams-following-flooding-300351939.html
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Insurance