Damage control

Gerry Phelan
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It’s been more than three weeks since tropical storm Leslie made her unwelcome visit, and I’m still dealing with the storm. Waiting on roofers and insurance adjusters has tested my patience, but taught me some lessons, as well.

I’ve never had to make a house insurance claim, so the process was new to me. During the storm, a section of my roof flapping in the air sent jitters down my spine and I worried about the tug at my pocketbook. I know nothing about shingles or wind damage, but what was once flat was no longer so, and it just didn’t look right.   

I called a roofing company that afternoon. I’d seen their ads and an online search gave them the thumbs up. The owner told me he was already on the hustle doing repairs. I told him I was unsure of the extent of my damage, that I didn’t think it was as bad as some others, but I needed help. He said if he wasn’t in the next day, he would be by on the weekend.

I called a few days later for an update, and he indicated they’d get to me soon. Monday morning I saw the company truck in the neighbourhood doing a job and I thought maybe I was next.

By Tuesday afternoon, still nothing and another phone call didn’t go well. They weren’t going to get to me until the end of the week at the earliest. I wondered aloud if I should seek out someone else. The contractor’s words were clear but a week too late: “Doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “If you can find someone else, go for it.”  

The search began. The first call and the company said they’d get to me in the next day or two, guaranteed by Friday. They didn’t show. A week and a half after the storm, and still no roofer. The newest guy tells us to call early Monday morning.

I had similar luck with the insurance company. A newspaper ad right after the storm said to submit claims as quickly as possible. I wasn’t sure I had one, but made the weekend call anyway. “I am not licensed to tell you that” was the reply to my inquiry about my uncertainty about filing a claim given I didn’t know the scope of the damage yet.

On Monday morning my insurance broker was more understanding, but the process left something to be desired. Determine the damage, make emergency repairs and then file a claim. They’d send out someone to assess things and determine if it was caused by the storm. Hmm … I can’t get a roofer to tell me if I have damage. If one shows up, do I send them on their way again until my insurer agrees to help pay? I don’t think so.

I posted an appeal for similar stories on Facebook and Twitter, and got a few. Most of them praised their insurance companies. One told me “our fence blew down. We called our insurance provider while the storm was still blowing and contractors were in that afternoon!”  Another said she called her insurance broker the morning after the storm and someone showed up within hours.

Some were like me. There is more than one home still undressed, insulation or wrapping showing where the siding should be. Contractors told me they were up to their eyeballs with work. And since we filed our claim, we’ve been waiting days for an adjuster.

I will pay more attention to the words of wisdom from the Insurance Bureau of Canada. They advise: “If your property has suffered insured damage, contact your insurance representative after the storm passes. If it’s safe to do so, mitigate against further damage after the storm passes. If you need to make a claim, it’s best to initiate the process as soon as possible.”

Lesson learned.

Next time, the insurer will be my first call.  But contractors who say they will be somewhere should show up, or at least phone and say they can’t make it. To those who didn’t, the damage to your business is done. Good luck in fixing that.

Gerry Phelan is a journalist and former broadcaster. He can be reached at gerryp@bellaliant.net

Organizations: Insurance Bureau of Canada

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Recent comments

  • Dion
    October 21, 2012 - 11:17

    The problem is that people want a free ride/charity from their contractor's and insurance companies in these cases. It is your house, your investment, is a phone call to one or two companies over the week really being pro-active? When a storm like this hits the normal labour force doing the emergency repairs is stretched and insurance companies will even pay a premium to contractors in surrounding unaffected areas to come and assist. Even with this additional support, the storm still creates a supply demand ratio roofers and contractors have a right to take advantage of to make record profits from, just as the hardware stores and retail outlets does when they increase prices for generators and sheets of plywood etc. Sure there is legislation that is supposed to curb this profiting from disaster; it is enforcing the legislation that would be the problem during a disastrous event. Here is what you need to do: 1) Round up your neighbours that have been affected. Call the company of your choice with the news then that you are a central coordinator for not only 1 roof, but for (5, 6, 9) units in the same area. This speaks to the contractor’s bottom line since they can get more business in one day with repairs so close to each other. 2) Have money ready to pay. Cash is king and contractors will rather see money in the bank than wait the 90+ days insurance companies say they will pay them by. You can still submit the costs too your insurance after the fact. 3) You don’t have to use specialized contractors for the emergency board-up or tarping phase of the event. Use smaller handy men and carpenter companies to at least do the initial emergency services to avoid secondary damages in the form of water entering the property etc. Once the property is secured against the elements then you do not have the same sense of urgency to get it repaired. (And you might even be able to help your neighbours that are in more need during this time) 4) Keep your receipts and incurred expenses since the insurance companies will reimburse you for costs incurred (if you have a covered loss and your roof or house was not so deteriorated that the damage would have happened if the bus driver broke wind while driving by.) 5) And make sure your policy does carry coverage for this damage. So often we assume we have insurance but we forget that we cheaped out during purchasing the policy and perhaps omitted flood, hail, earthquake etc. coverage’s. Don’t just assume you are covered and then be mad at the adjuster when you are informed YOU did not purchase coverage’s for that particular type of event. But back to the contractors not calling us back after a storm that affected the whole area. It is like blaming retailers for not having snow blowers for sale during the year’s biggest snowstorm since so many other people got to the store and bought the blowers and shovels before you made it out of your bathrobe. I do recognize that with today’s communication devises contractors should at least call to let us know of any delays to appointments, but I feel this only applies when it is business as usual and not when a catastrophe like a tropical storm has hit. I wish you the best and remember...The early bird catches the worm.... Dion

  • Eli
    October 05, 2012 - 08:40

    Gerry, it's been a complaint of mine for years; every Tom, Dick, & Harry, (or Harriet) carries some kind of mobile communication device. But call you when they are late or won't be there for their appointment? Forget it, it doesn't happen. Ignorance or arrogance, I'm not sure.