The Claim Game

What Contractors Should Know About Filing Insurance For Customers

Angie Lewis, Writer
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Insurance claims are a growing part of the roofing business, and not just after a storm.

Contractors who understand how to file insurance claims have a definite advantage. Those who know how to manage the claims process can make sure customers get the roof they need – including everything that should be covered by the insurance carrier – with minimum stress and interruption.

The expertise can make a difference when customers are choosing a roofing company, especially after a storm. In the aftermath, the peace of mind provided by a knowledgeable contractor can translate into future repeat business and positive word-of-mouth for the company.

Filing A Claim

Vincent Bruno Jr. has counseled many anxious homeowners.

After Hurricane Katrina in August 2005, Bruno, owner of VJ’s Construction in Mandeville, LA, handled more than 40 claims a month. He saw homeowners cry because they were so overwhelmed.

“They have no idea what they’re going to do,” he says, “and certainly don’t have the money to put on a new roof.”

A licensed claims adjuster from 2013 to 2017, Bruno has advised homeowners on fire, wind, hail and other peril insurance claims. He knows the insurance claims process well, from identifying damage after a storm and filing the claim to meeting with insurance adjusters and putting on a new roof. He also knows how to make the process work for his customers.

One tip: Make sure the drip edge is part of the claim. According to most state/county building codes, the drip edge should be replaced when a new roof is installed.

“With a drip edge, I’m changing it out, because that’s what code tells me,” he says. “I’m going to get that money back or take the loss.”

Knowing how to talk to insurance companies means he can make sure that item and other necessities are covered. “What helps a lot,” Bruno says, “is knowing how to use Xactimate, the estimating software most insurance companies use”.

“The right contractor will make sure his homeowners receive all money allowed by the estimating program,” he says. “Maximizing the claim guarantees there is enough money for a customized Atlas Roofing system to be properly installed by a licensed and insured roofer.

“If you don’t know what to ask for, you ain’t gonna get it. So I’m going to maximize every single claim that crosses my desk.”

Know When To Wait

After a storm, homeowners may be eager to file a claim, especially if their neighbors are doing it.

“Many homeowners will file a claim based on activity in their neighborhood and active roofing companies working the area knocking doors or putting out fliers,” says Michael Brady, owner of Regional Roofing & Construction in Harahan, LA. Brady is also a certified roof inspector with Haag Engineering and a licensed claims adjuster with the state of Louisiana.

Always evaluate a roof for wind or hail damage and verify losses before proceeding with a claim, he advises. An unnecessary claim can go against the customer’s insurance if it is denied.

Keep an eye on deductibles as well. Many insurance companies now have a percentage deductible for wind and hail, he says, which may exceed the amount of a homeowner’s claim.

Tips For Contractors

Contractors who want to handle more insurance claims should begin by familiarizing themselves with the process. Learn what to look for and how to talk with adjusters. Understand how long the process takes so you can reassure worried customers.

Other advice from Bruno and Brady includes:

  • Learn how to use Xactimate, the software insurance companies use to estimate damages and payouts.
  • Remember to check weather-tracking software, even on projects that may not obviously be storm related. Even if, for instance, you see hail damage that is years old, you may still be able to file a claim for the customer.
  • Know what kind of damage to look for. Some roofers mistake blisters on asphalt roof shingles for hail damage. Hail falling on a roof will also damage the soft metals – the vents, plumbing stacks or valley metals – as well as the roof shingles.
  • Read insurance industry publications and websites and follow applicable social media to keep up with the latest information in the field, including changes in the process or calculations for deductibles.
  • Be wary of homeowners who think they can swindle their insurance companies and keep the money. “They go with an unscrupulous contractor and think they can outsmart their insurance company,” Bruno says. “While they may end up being able to keep part of the payment, they end up holding on to the depreciation, and their insurance company will never pay for another roof.”
  • Check out Asphalt Life’s tips for contractors, such as Handling The Surge of customers after a big storm.

What Contractors Should Tell Homeowners

Besides handling the details of the claim, contractors can help their customers by offering the following advice:

  • Know whether you have an RCV (replacement cost value) or ACV (actual cost value) policy and understand what the deductible is before making a claim. Homeowners should know that the RCV allowed by an insurance company is only an estimate, so supplements will likely be needed.
  • Use a local contractor. If problems arise after the install, homeowners can still contact the company.
  • Don’t sign a contract giving a contractor permission to handle your claim and meet with an adjuster without reading the fine print – you could end up being forced to use that roofing contractor for the installation whether you wanted to or not.
  • Verify that the contractor is licensed in the state in which your home is located.
  • Verify that the contractor is properly insured with his/her own insurance company and call to make sure that the insurance is up to date.
  • Share helpful Asphalt Life articles for homeowners such as How To File A Home Insurance Claim and Picking A Roofing Contractor.

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