A pipe burst at my parents’ house last week. It erupted in the middle of the night. Therefore, by the time that they noticed it, several rooms were steeped in water. They needed to immediately remove some of their belongings and begin to pull up the carpet. However, they also needed to deal with their homeowners’ insurance. Here’s what I’ve learned about that so far.
When A Pipe Bursts on A Weekend
The problem occurred on a weekend. In theory, the insurance company is available 24/7 to assist with these types of emergencies. After all, they have to understand that you can’t just sit in inches of water in your home until 9 am on Monday. However, it’s a call center that deals with the weekend calls, not your usual homeowner’s insurance representative. When my dad called, he didn’t feel like they were very helpful. It sounded like they expected him to wait until Monday to deal with the problem. As a result, he and my mom started pulling up the wet carpet themselves.
Who to Talk to at the Insurance Company
When Monday came around, they called their homeowners’ insurance company. They spoke to their regular representative. However, she isn’t the person who actually deals with issues like that. And here’s where things got confusing. They were referred to contractors who could start the work. Additionally, they were referred to the adjuster who figures out whether or not the homeowners’ insurance pays for the work to be done. Unfortunately, my parents felt really unclear about who was supposed to do what when.
The Contractors Arrived
The contractors arrived. They set up industrial fans to dry out the house. My parents had already pulled up most of the carpet at this point. (In fact, their homeowners’ insurance rep reprimanded them for that.) The contractors work with the insurance company. So, they had my parents sign a bunch of paperwork. The paperwork didn’t have a price estimate on it but instead had a blanket statement about how they’ll give a price as soon as they’re able to accurately estimate one. Then they left the fans on and the house to dry.
When Will The Adjuster Arrive?
My parents expected to hear from the insurance adjuster right away. However, she never returned their calls. The contractors came and went all week long, checking on their fans. Then, at the end of the week, my parents received a notice that there was a $10,000 lien on their property. Reviewing the paperwork they’d signed, they learned that they had agreed to a preliminary lien.
At first, we were all worried about what this meant. Basically, they agreed that if the insurance doesn’t cover the cost of the repairs, then they will cover it. If they don’t do so within a certain period of time, the contractors will take a mechanics’ lien out on the property. So it’s not actually a lien, yet, but more of a notice that there could be a lien. Still, how are they supposed to know if the insurance company is going to pay for the repairs? After all, the adjuster hasn’t called back, yet.
They finally reached her the following Monday morning, over a week after this debacle began. She gave them verbal, but not written, assurance that the insurance will cover everything. She said that she won’t be coming out to look at the problem but instead will rely on the photographs sent by the contractor.
At this stage, my parents aren’t sure what’s next. They aren’t happy with the contractors and would like to work with a different agency. However, they don’t know what that means for the insurance payment. Moreover, they need to get in writing what the insurance company will and will not cover. They don’t want to be responsible for any payments. So, they also have to pause all work until they get that information. They want to make sure that the lien doesn’t go into effect one day.
What We’ve Learned So Far
Here’s what we’ve learned so far:
- Know your policy in advance.
- Moreover, know exactly what steps you’re supposed to take when an emergency occurs in the home.
- As soon as you get someone on the phone, make sure that they explain the exact steps to you and the order in which they will occur. Get that in writing.
- In fact, get everything in writing.
- And although it should go without saying, make sure you read before you sign. It’s easy to forget that in the midst of an emergency but it’s so important.
- You can pause the work at anytime. You aren’t obligated to move forward with their plan. It’s okay to change things.
- However, each change does complicate things. There are a lot of moving parts. Therefore, you have to stay in constant communication with your homeowners’ insurance company even when it’s tough to do so.
I’ll keep you posted on how it progresses. If you have any experience or advice with this type of situation, leave a comment to help me out!
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