Harrisburg, PA - Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman today provided information to home and business owners in central and eastern Pennsylvania to help them file insurance claims for damages from Sunday’s strong storms, and to avoid repair scams.
“Experiencing significant home or property damage from a storm is scary and unsettling, but homeowners should try to remain calm and be as diligent as possible in documenting damage when they make a report to their insurer,” Commissioner Altman said.
The Insurance Department has brochures for homeowners and business owners with important information on how to file claims for storm damage. These brochures include key tips on what information you need to file an insurance claim for storm damage, as well as what questions to ask and what to look for to spot a possible home repair scam.
The brochure includes tips such as:
· Contact your insurance company as soon as possible after the storm;
· Save all your receipts;
· Take photographs or video before cleaning up or making repairs;
· After documenting damage, make repairs needed to prevent further damage or to live in the home, but don’t make permanent repairs before your insurance company inspects the damage and approves the repairs;
· If possible, determine what it will cost to repair your property before you meet with an insurance company representative who will assess your property damage. If you and your insurer disagree on the offer made to repair your property, be prepared to negotiate.
Storms that cause damage to numerous homes and businesses throughout a community can be a magnet for dishonest contractors. The “After the Storm” brochures also offers several tips for consumers on avoiding home repair scams, including:
· Ask for identification from anyone presenting himself as a public adjuster. Public adjusters are professional claims handlers, licensed and regulated by the Insurance Department, who can assist policyholders with the claims process. You can verify someone is licensed as a public adjuster by visiting www.insurance.pa.gov, clicking on “Consumers” on the top bar, and selecting “Find Insurance Professional.” If you suspect anyone or any entity is operating as a public adjuster without a license, report it to the Insurance Department’s Anti-Fraud Compliance Division at 717-705-4199.
· Home improvement contractors that do more than $5,000 of business per year in Pennsylvania must register with the Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. Ask the contractor for his Home Improvement Contractor (HIC) number and verify registration by calling the Attorney General’s Home Improvement Registration toll-free line at 1-888-520-6680.
· Ask for and check references before hiring a contractor. Get everything in writing, including the total cost for repairs, the work to be completed, the timetable for completion, and guarantees the contractor offers.
· Don’t sign paperwork with sections left blank that someone can fill in after you sign, and don’t pay a contractor in full or sign that the work is complete until the work is actually done.
Commissioner Altman also advised consumers to be wary of contractors with work vans or trucks that have out-of-state license plates or lack signs or insignias identifying the company name. She also reminded homeowners that flood damage is not covered by most homeowners’ insurance policies, and a separate flood insurance policy is required to pay for damage caused by flooding.
“Repairing your home or business after storm damage is an unsettling experience, but following these tips can help get your insurance claim approved and lessen your chances of getting scammed,” Commissioner Altman said.
Consumers with questions or wishing to file a complaint can contact the Insurance Department’s Consumer Services Bureau at www.insurance.pa.gov, or by calling 1-877-881-6388.
MEDIA CONTACT: Ron Ruman 717-787-3289 -
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