After months of disputing the fire damages with our insurance company we found it necessary to seek out the assistance of a public adjuster firm.
A public adjuster is a professional claims handler who advocates for the policyholder in appraising and negotiating a claimant’s insurance claim. The public adjuster interprets the homeowner’s policy, assesses the damage and how much it will cost to repair, and negotiates with the insurance company on behalf of the homeowner until the claim is settled.
I researched local public adjustment firms and found one of the largest in North America. Their advertising stated the many large corporate claims as well as homeowners they represented.
I met with a representative from the public adjuster firm. He said that they would provide me with a public adjuster to handle the structural damage to our home. He said that by examining the documentation I had, that they would be claiming for a rebuild, not a repair. He also said that since so many items of our belongings were missing from the inventory list, provided by the insurer, that we would be provided with a public adjuster to re-inventory all of it. It was all in the insurer’s possession at the restoration company’s warehouse. He also stated that they had a large legal team to represent us, should it come to that with the insurance company. I signed a contract with him and agreed to a percentage of our claim as payment upon settlement with the insurance company.
A public adjuster and his team from the firm met with us at our home to access the fire damage and go over provided documentation. He too, stressed that a rebuild was necessary, not a repair. The private adjuster was very helpful in providing further documents that proved his argument. He had a structural engineer examine the damage as well as review the insurance company’s idea to “glue the broken joists.” The structural engineer provided a document that detailed the correct and proper way to replace the broken joists. He also stated that along with the other damage, that the means did not justify the cost. He said that the house should be torn down and a new one built.
The public adjuster was also very helpful in interpreting the toxocologist report that I had ordered from the insurance company. The report proved that the mold that the insurance company spoke of, was very superficial. It proved that the soot content left in the house was far greater than any mold content. One of the building inspectors from our region also attended the property and said “There’s no way you should be repairing this house. I wouldn’t live it in.”
As promised we were provided with a public adjuster by the firm to review the inventory list of our belongings, provided by our insurance company. I met with him at the restoration company’s warehouse to go through our things. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it! Once we started going through the boxes, approximately one out of every three or four boxes had our missing things in them. They were there but never accounted for. A pretty low bad faith tactic for insurers to get out of paying…I wonder how many people don’t realize things they were never reimbursed for. In our case, there were so many items missing, we couldn’t help but notice. I’m guessing that they had banked on our life being in such upheaval from the fire and a new baby, that we wouldn’t notice. It took nine consecutive Tuesdays, at least 6 hours per day, for the private insurance adjuster and myself to re-inventory all of our belongings so that we could submit a correct list. The warehouse was nearly an hour away and I was never even reimbursed for having to drive there to correct their mistakes, nor for my time.
While at the restoration company, the public adjuster also assisted me in reviewing the items that the restoration company cleaned. All of our resin collectables remained yellow. It was obvious that the restoration crew used harsh chemicals to clean my keepsakes. All of the paint had very noticeably faded on my Royal Doulton figurines. Decals were peeling from glassware. Soap and water most likely would have worked on these items. Some of my dishes were broken during the cleaning process. The public adjuster pointed out that they were broken after the fire because the break was clean. if the break or chip was already there, it would be soot stained.
They cleaned our five piece cherry wood bedroom furniture set. It was only two years old at the time of the fire. It was in mint condition. However, after the restoration company was through with it, it was extremely damaged. They had removed the large mirror that was attached to one of the dressers. When doing so, it was obvious they let it slipped. there was a huge and deep scratch across the top of the dresser now. The end tables also showed scratches that weren’t previously there. I could still smell the remnants of the fire on the furniture as well and it smelled strongly of the chemicals they used to clean it.
Our kitchen table was still dirty. It was made of pine so they said would attempt to clean it and repaint the legs and back of the chairs white, had not been done. the white parts were discoloured heavily and yellow. Our wrought iron and slate coffee table with matching end tables had been cleaned and repainted. There was a heavy scratch on one of the pieces of slate. More like a gouge. The paint job was pretty shoddy to say the least. They had done some type of quick matte finish. You could see scratches in the metal. And when wiping it with a paper towel, bits of paper stuck to it because it was so rough. The public adjuster told manager from the restoration company if they cleaned, repaired and repainted these items as they were suppose to, I would accept them and remove them from the inventory list. Her reply was “Well, we’ll have to speak to the painter. generally if the work exceeds the value of the item, we don’t do that.” What??? Our coffee and end tables were $800 two years prior when we bought them new.
We also inspected my clothing that I had asked to be cleaned. I should have listened to the manager from the restoration company when she attended our home just after the fire. She advised me not to keep any clothing; to throw it all away. But she did say if I really wanted some of it, they would attempt to clean it and I still had the option to reject it if I was not satisfied with it. The clothing was very dull. The colours had faded. The smell coming from them was very strong also. They smelled of heavy cleaning product. Not happy about parting with my leather and suede coats especially, I rejected them.
Incidently on two occassions, I broke out in a very large and itchy rash all over my body after attending the warehouse. Most likely from handling the smoke and soot damaged articles as well as the items cleaned with harsh and chemical cleansers. I also suffered headaches nearly every time I attended. In the same warehouse where ours and other policy holders possessions were stored, the restoration company cleaned and repainted articles also.
On one occassion, when I went to speak with the owner of the restoration company, we passed by many buckets full of used drywall screws and nails, painted baseboards and mouldings, etc. The owner said “When you’re ready to rebuild, we offer many building materials at discounted prices.” Had my ears just served me correctly? Did he just try to sell me back what he took out of our house?