Harrisburg, PA - Following the strong storms, tornadoes, and historic flooding in the commonwealth, Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman today provided information to home and business owners to help them file insurance claims for damages, and tips to avoid repair scams.
Property and business owners should get familiar with their policies or talk with a representative from their insurance company to identify what their policy covers and doesn't cover. Policyholders should also find out what their policy deductible is, and any dollar limits on the amount of damage the policy will cover.
The department also wants to remind 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.
"Experiencing significant home, property and business damage from a storm can be incredibly difficult, but we want Pennsylvanians to know there are resources available to help them through the process," 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 repair scam.
The After the Storm brochure includes tips such as:
- Contact the insurance company as soon as possible after the storm.
- Save all receipts.
- Take photographs or video before cleaning 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 insurance company inspects the damage and approves the repairs.
- If possible, determine what it will cost to repair the property before meeting with an insurance company representative who will assess the damage. If there is a disagreement on the offer made to repair the property, individuals should 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 brochure also provides several tips for consumers on how to avoid home repair scams, including:
- Ask for identification from anyone presenting themselves 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. Individuals can verify someone is licensed as a public adjuster on the department's website, Find Insurance Professional. If Pennsylvanians suspect anyone or any entity is operating as a public adjuster without a license, it can be reported to the Insurance Department's Enforcement Division at 717- 783-2627.
- 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 their 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 contractor guarantees.
- Don't sign paperwork with sections left blank for someone to fill-in later, and don't pay a contractor in full or sign that the work is complete until the work is completed.
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.
"Repairing a home or business after storm damage can be challenging, but following these tips can help Pennsylvanians file claims and lessen their chances of being scammed," said Commissioner Altman. "In addition, property and business owners should review their insurance policies annually to make sure they have the appropriate coverage."
Consumers with questions or wishing to file a complaint can contact the Insurance Department's Consumer Services Bureau, or by calling 1-877-881-6388. The department also has a dedicated Flood Insurance page for Pennsylvanians looking for additional information.