What is a "public adjuster" and are they legit?
May 20, 2021 6:03 AM   Subscribe

Recently I've been contacted (by mail and in person, although I wasn't home for the in person visit) by a "licensed public adjuster" claiming they can help get a new roof for my home paid for by insurance. Is this a thing? How does it work? How do they get paid?

The company is DC Home Doctor Public Adjusters, and the letter says that they could see damage from the ground and are confident they can get me a new roof at little or no cost to me. There is an offer for a free inspection.

Our roof is probably 10-15 years old and not in great shape and we were planning to save up to replace it next year. There are several skylights that are improperly installed and need to be replaced or repaired (they leak and there's water damage on the interior drywall), and the shingles are on their last legs. It's gonna be an expensive job and it seems too good to be true that insurance would help pay for it.

My understanding was that insurance coverage of a new roof tends to be prorated based on the remaining useful life, so if your roof is already super old they're only going to pay a small portion, if any, toward replacement. But that's what my parents have said was their experience and I don't know if that's true in all cases.

If it matters, I have USAA insurance and live in Illinois (Chicago). We did get ice dams during the winter and there were two storms last year that probably didn't do the roof any favors although I don't know if there is specific damage tied to those events.

If this is legit, how do these people get paid? Do I pay them and hope they recoup enough from my insurance to make it worth it?
posted by misskaz to Home & Garden (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Unsolicited messages saying "I could see damage to your roof" is a pretty common scam, it might just be coincidence that your roof is actually in need of repair.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:22 AM on May 20, 2021 [6 favorites]

This sure sounds like a variant of the free roof inspection scam.
posted by Mitheral at 6:26 AM on May 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

Did you have any hail in your area recently?
posted by peacheater at 6:28 AM on May 20, 2021

Your homeowners insurance will pay for repairs to a roof due to damage outside normal wear and tear. For instance, massive ice storms that damage your roof faster than normal wear and tear would be covered by homeowners insurance. If the "inspector" can't make a story that your roof was damaged due to a natural disaster, they could just tear up your roof to make it look like it was.

It should be noted that in many states, your homeowners insurance is not obligated to cover you indefinitely, and they can cancel your insurance or massively increase your insurance rates due to excessive claims. In some states, thus can be triggered by a single claim.
posted by saeculorum at 6:51 AM on May 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I'm aware of the scams and that's why I asked this question, but those are typically claiming to do the roofing work themselves, right? As best I can tell, this company is an insurance adjuster but not affiliated with a particular insurance. It's definitely a thing in Illinois. They wouldn't do the work themselves, they just negotiate with your insurance on your behalf.

That said, saeculorum, I'm worried about making a claim that gets us booted or raises our already high rates, so thanks for confirming that. Even if they are legit, might me hiring a public adjuster flag me as a problem customer or something in their system? I know that USAA tracks even non-claim inquiries very closely.
posted by misskaz at 6:54 AM on May 20, 2021

Best answer: With enough work, the adjuster can probably concoct a story to get a claim paid. The insurance company will not pay for any repairs outside those induced by weather (ie improperly installed skylights will not be fixed, nor will the interior drywall damage). You will not be paid your deductible, and the insurance company will use prevailing rates to determine what they will pay. The money will be enough to have someone replace your roof, but you will certainly not get a broad choice to top end roof companies.

I strongly expect your homeowners insurance will be less inclined to pay your *second* claim, though.

It's up to you to decide if that's worth it. Roof replacement is not cheap.
posted by saeculorum at 7:08 AM on May 20, 2021

Best answer: When you submit a claim to your homeowners insurance, they may hire an independent adjuster to price out the claim. For instance, a tree falls on a house, damaging the house and the contents. Your insurance company hires a third party to examine the damage and assess the cost of repair and the value of the damaged contents. That's a real job and adjusters are often retired or semi-retired contractors who do not work for a specific insurance company in part so the insurer can say "we had a third party assess the damage and this is their analysis" rather than "we had our employee assess the damage and this is our analysis".

I have never heard of an adjuster drumming up business for themselves in this way. I'd be surprised if an insurance carrier allows a homeowner to choose their own adjuster as there is potential for collusion there, so I don't understand how this would work if it is on the up-and-up.

When I was working for an insurance company and occasionally had a hand in this process, the process went like this: homeowner tells insurance company they have damage and makes a claim; claim is assigned to an "in-house" adjuster who works for the insurance company; adjuster hires an independent adjuster to do the assessment of the damage; independent adjuster sends that assessment to all relevant parties (homeowner, adjuster, perhaps contractor) and gets paid; in-house adjuster applies that analysis to the terms of the homeowner's insurance coverage; claim gets paid or not.

This seems like it bypasses some of those steps in a way that is odd to me. I'm not saying it's a scam, but it strikes me as odd.
posted by gauche at 7:15 AM on May 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

I don't see a basis for an insurance claim. No storm or tree damage. The fact that weather didn't help your roof any is not storm damage, it's ordinary wear & tear. You might get something, but then if you had another, genuinely legitimate claim, your insurance cost might go way up, or even be canceled. Your state has an insurance commission; it will be under the Attorney General's web pages, call them and ask about the 'Adjuster'. I'm confident it's a Scam.
posted by theora55 at 7:19 AM on May 20, 2021

Best answer: We had the soil stack in our prior house go bad several years ago. The plumbing job to fix it did damage to the bathroom floor and the wall of the adjacent bedroom. We also had to open up the wall in the dining room so they could replace the stack through there.

The plumber referred us to a "public adjuster" who would help us make an insurance claim for the repairs - covered because we had an HO3 endorsement on the policy. The adjuster's argument was that insurance companies' in-house adjusters tend to undersize the claim for the work required, similar to what others have noted upthread.

The adjuster's fee was 20% of the final claim value from the insurance company.

We ended up using the adjuster, but it felt weird and slimy all the way through. Dude had a nice SUV. Came off like a used car salesman. We got about $5,000 out of the insurance company. They did not drop us and they did not increase our rates.

I'm not sure we would have thought to make a homeowners' insurance claim for this situation. Maybe the plumber could have mentioned that as an option without also introducing the adjuster. Who knows? We ended up deciding not to use that plumber again - it was two brothers, one of them was a nice guy, the other guy was a jackass.

I can accept that negotiating with the insurance company yourself puts you at a disadvantage, because you don't do this every day and they do. I can also accept that other people might have a sense for when and how you can make claims that you wouldn't think to do. But I agree with others - you haven't had an event that would clearly trigger a claim, so this feels off.
posted by sockshaveholes at 7:37 AM on May 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In my state public adjusters are common (though they don't do cold calling) because a big storm will come through, destroy roofs and other property, and many insurance companies will give the adjusted current value instead of full replacement value for the damaged stuff. Like my specific quote was a $10,000 deductible because my roof was old, and $1000 for everything else - fence, A/C condenser repair, and some window damage.

We said screw that, got an adjuster, and the got a more fair payment, $5k for fence and a $5k deductible for a $15k roof. We paid the adjuster about $1000.

Like sockshavesholes says, the adjuster is a super slimy dude, but so was the insurance adjuster, and the roofer (we did so many interviews and picked the least-slimy one). The whole process was awful.

BTW, roof deductibles are different depending on the company. Some consider the age and some do not - so you may want to shop around if you can.
posted by The_Vegetables at 7:40 AM on May 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

I don't recall where I heard this, but it stuck with me. You should be more inclined to trust someone if you chose them to help you, than if they chose you to offer help.

Do your own research, go with someone who seems decent, has good reviews, maybe ask for some referrals. Don't go with the cheapest, or the most expensive.

Might be worth it to may a home inspector a hundred bucks to check the roof for you after it's done - and let the contractor know ahead of time that you'll be doing that. Or you can pay them a couple of hundred and have them check your whole house at the same time - maybe they can catch problems you didn't know you had (looking at you, my slowly crumbling, water damaged chimney).
posted by pyro979 at 8:06 AM on May 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

There was a 'qualifying event' in our area - a massive hail storm that also led to a storm of roofing solicitors to swoop into our area. I couldn't see any damage, but I did end up contacting an adjuster within the year-long window where claims would be accepted. Some guy went on our roof, said he saw some damage that might qualify but it's not a slam dunk - I said go ahead and try the claim. They made the claim and a new pair of guys climbed on the roof and looked at it. Less then a week after that, the claim was basically denied from the insurance. We'll see how much my rates go up, but I feel it was a calculated gamble with the potential outcome a new roof.

My concept is that the adjusters are better at getting a claim accepted then I am. The stipulation being that they decide who makes the repairs.
posted by Dmenet at 8:08 AM on May 20, 2021

Best answer: Public Adjusters in Illinois - How they get paid and what they do.

6. Many public adjusters in Illinois tend to be simply repair contractors. Some have not even passed the public adjuster exam and found loop holes in which to get licensed. Some Public Adjusting companies are not even controlled or owned by a Licensed Public Adjuster but rather a contractor, who may or may not have been charged with insurance fraud or other crimes. The simple fact is you need to do your homework, meet the owners, and speak with an attorney to run a back ground check on any one you are thinking about trusting hundreds of thousands of dollars with. The person you hire will have their name place on your insurance settlement check.

Yes. Illinois law requires public adjusters to be licensed with the Department of Insurance. Contact the Department at (866) 445-5364 to verify that the public adjuster is licensed and in good standing before signing any contract. Make sure you see a proper License. Also ask if they passed the Public Adjusters Exam. Some have not and still were granted a License. Check to see if they have ever been charged with a crime.

Illinois Department of Insurance gov site re public adjusters, licensing. DC Home Doctor yelp listing. DC Home Doctor Public Adjuster (Sales) 2020 job opening.
posted by Iris Gambol at 10:26 AM on May 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you all so much! I'm glad my spidey sense is still working. I don't plan to respond to this solicitation. When we get the roof replaced we want to change some of the skylights and make sure it's done right. The last thing we want to do is rush the job before we're ready (we're definitely not right now) or not be able to select the roofing company. We knew a roof replacement was in our future when we bought the house two years ago thanks to the pre-purchase inspection, so we're planning for it.
posted by misskaz at 11:01 AM on May 20, 2021

Truly independent adjusters you hire yourself are totally a thing. Adjusters hired by insurance companies have an incentive to low-ball the claim so they keep getting hired. Not all of them do, but it is a thing that happens sometimes, and that's when you hire one yourself. I would be wary of one making unsolicited contact saying they see damage.
posted by wierdo at 11:19 AM on May 20, 2021

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