Please tell me more about the homeowners insurance claim process
August 28, 2015 5:53 PM   Subscribe

‎ A developer structurally damaged my house and after lengthy attempts to get him to fix it I contacted my homeowner's insurance company (allstate, if it's relevant) . They are willing to cover it. An engineer and contractor came out with the insurance company adjuster and I recently got the engineer's report and the contractors estimate. Now what?   

Is there any difference between using my own contractors vs the insurance company recommended ones? What if their cost is higher, or lower?  Do I have to have exactly the work in the estimate done or can it be altered?   How does that affect the total amount? I would  consider doing easy pieces like painting myself and ‎using the savings to have the contractor do other work. If additional damage is found, how is that handled?

This work will require permits and drawings stamped by an engineer, who deals with that?   ‎

Any other general info about the process is very welcome , including personal experiences.

Other possibly relevant info: 
I assume because they expect to recover the money from the developer's insurance, the adjuster has added work to the scope that I wouldn't have thought to ask for. Most makes sense, some I don't understand. ‎
Only the building was damaged, not any of my belongings.‎
I have a mortgage. ‎
The bulk of the repairs are most easily accessible from the developer's property. 
I am comfortable working with contractors and formal estimates.

I'm going to ask the adjuster these questions but want to gather as much information before that as I can. ‎
posted by sepviva to Home & Garden (2 answers total)
I am an adjuster but I don't deal in home claims. I am an engineer but not a structural engineer.

The insurance company recommended contractors are ones they can vouch for as doing a proper job for a fair price. You can probably go with another contractor but more supporting documentation may be required to give them enough evidence the job was done correctly for a fair price. That's also part of the reason the contractor came out, to give his estimate of what needs to be done and for what price. So your own contractor would have to be comparable, "within reason". If it's higher and you're willing to pay the difference, the adjuster may be ok with that. Same thing with getting the contractor to do other non-claim-related work... you will be paying for that yourself.

Altering the work, with the intent to divert funds for other projects... I'm leaning towards unlikely, but again it's up to your adjuster. Your insurance is only going to pay to do what is required to restore you to conditions "prior to your loss". Depending on your policy wording, and the damage, it may be possible to be paid out for the value of the damage and do your own thing... but it is more likely within the Insurer's rights to choose whether you get paid out in cash or have to get the repairs done. And if it's structural damage to the house that puts the integrity of the house at risk, then it's really in their own interest to ensure the repairs were done as required to ensure the house doesn't incur damage later related to these repairs (or lack thereof).

If additional damage is found from what that developer did, it can be lumped into this claim if you can prove it was that developer in that original incident. But the adjuster brought the contractor and engineer to help look at it; doubtful they missed something that you'll catch. Just sayin'.
posted by lizbunny at 6:54 PM on August 28, 2015

Response by poster: First, in case anyone else is ever looking for this kind of thing, the United Policyholder's website is very helpful. Doesn't answer my specific questions, but is otherwise by far the most useful resource I found.

Thanks for the helpful answer! It's definitely more than I've been able to get out of my adjuster.

This is minor, but I just can't let the "just sayin" alone, and maybe this will be helpful if other people find this. Engineers are not infallible, much as they seem to like to think they are. I'm not an engineer, but I review architectural and engineering drawings as part of my job, and regularly catch large mistakes by engineers. Things like not knowing details of the electrical code for grounding, or getting the electrical service size wrong, or estimating the comparative costs of foundation systems incorrectly. In this case, although the developer's inept excavation methods caused the initial problem, the situation was made dramatically worse by 1) his engineer not understanding how the building was built, refusing to admit he was wrong, then covering up the extent of the damage; 2) the three (!) engineers examining the plans for permits not understanding how the building was built, and refusing to listen to my explanation or, like, use google, and then refusing to admit that they were wrong about something. They also misread the survey drawings.

So yeah. Engineers do make mistakes, and non-engineers can catch them.
posted by sepviva at 5:52 PM on October 28, 2015

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