Is the insurance company going to care if I strike these line items?
July 9, 2024 3:25 PM   Subscribe

I had some water damage in my home and got an estimate for replacing the flooring, which was provided to the insurance company (State Farm, in the U.S.). Some of the work on the estimate seems unnecessary; is the insurer going to mind if I arrange for a new estimate excluding that work?

I have a hard cap on the payout for this incident and can't afford all the work. Luckily, not all of the work seems necessary (e.g. the flooring company is proposing replacing all the internal and external doors on the first floor, but only one of the doors and/or door frames even got wet, and that one didn't get wet enough to require more than a hand towel wiping it dry).

If I arrange for a new estimate where the flooring company doesn't do some of the work they had initially proposed, I'm assuming that will be provided to the insurance company (it probably should be, since this is their money being spent)--but are they likely to consider getting a new estimate/haggling about the work unreasonable?

I recognize in this that I'm not the expert, but I also recognize that I saw how wet the various doors and door frames got; aside from right outside the bathroom the leak was exclusively below the flooring.

Sorry if this is a silly question; I've never needed to file a claim against my homeowner's insurance before, and I'm eager not to spend money which doesn't need to be spent, but I also don't want to make the insurance company think I'm unreasonable and/or a risk.
posted by johnofjack to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The way my insurance claim went with Travelers, for about $6k of damage from a leak caused by an ice storm, they did not care how the money got spent.

An insurance adjuster did a remote video tour of the damage, and sent us their proposed settlement estimate at whatever standard payout rate they have. It was very detailed with line items for everything: replace x sqft of drywall at $y/sqft, etc. We accepted and they sent us a check to settle the claim. Being handy, we did some of the work ourselves. Being not-too-particular, we left some of the work undone.

I imagine it would be possible to contest their proposed amount, which would make things more complicated.

Travelers never saw an estimate from a contractor in our scenario, maybe it's different if you already have contractors involved.
posted by hovey at 3:46 PM on July 9 [2 favorites]

I am in the middle of a similar experience as hovey's. My contractor came up with a proposal and sent it to my insurance company. After some discussion, the insurance company sent me a big pile o' cash. I can spend it to do repairs, or I can spend it all on lollypops and never do the work.

Before you tell your insurance company nah, you don't need that much money, I would ask your contractor why they want to replace all the doors. There might be more going on than you realize. Maybe the floor swelled and damaged the door frame, I dunno, this isn't my area of expertise. I appreciate your wanting to be honest but make sure you don't screw yourself in the process.
posted by The corpse in the library at 4:19 PM on July 9 [11 favorites]

We are also in the middle of a similar experience. Our insurance company (also State Farm) decided on an amount of money they would give us based on an estimate from a contractor and they sent us a check. It's up to us how we spend that money. We don't have to do everything that was in that original estimate and we don't have to have all the work done by a contractor; we can do it ourselves if we want.

However, the check they sent wasn't for the total amount they're willing to pay. There is a certain amount that we will get only if we show proof that the work was done. If we choose not to replace something that was included in the estimate, or if we replace it with something that isn't equivalent to what was already there, we forfeit some money that we could otherwise get.

You might want to check whether your payments from the insurance company work the same way. But I'm sure the insurance company won't think there's anything unreasonable about choosing not to do all the work that was proposed. Clearly the whole reason they have money you can only get if you do all the work is that many people choose not to do all the work.
posted by Redstart at 5:11 PM on July 9

In my experience the insurance company's contractors often over-price and over-do the work. You may be able to take the payout and hire your own people.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 6:37 PM on July 9

Hi there! I work for a general contractor in an admin role (US; MA, lots of snowflakes).

If you have any questions about a line item on an estimate, ask the contractor about it!

There are so many dependencies in a house, and seemingly non-relevant things interact with structural soundness and an ever-expanding municipal code/requirement system they could explain. The contractor should also be able to offer you some context for how they arrived at those line items and their assigned dollar amount. If your contractor has to pull a permit for this work, they have to be specific about the scope in the permit application (at least where I am). Perhaps they're just preparing for the worst — that when they tear the damaged floor up, there may be damage to the door frames in the sub-flooring that will compromise their structural integrity or whatever. Did they visit the site to get an idea of current conditions?

In the agreements I prepare, I would, at the client's request, provide any "maybe we'll need this, let's see" estimates as an addendum to the more specific and known aspects of the work, with the attendant overhead & profit and another, separate calculation with a tally of all work estimated. Each of those line items could also be included the main estimate as an "allowance" — a minimum amount based on the information available at the time, which is understood will change based on updating to meet codes, owner selections for materials, that sort of thing. That should be tracked in your cost tracking as an "add-on" or "extra," with the additional work being done upon your approval of a presented estimate for anything not included on the original agreement you signed.

And you could also just go back to your contractor and say, "All I want is an estimate to replace the floors" and tuck away the other work as Advice and do what you feel is needed right now.

Please note: I do not have a Construction Supervisor License nor a Home Improvement Contractor license, I just work for someone who does.
posted by feistycakes at 9:03 PM on July 9 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the feedback, everyone. I asked for a revised estimate but, depending on what I hear back, may just end up going with a different company. I am absolutely certain the doors will not be a problem (and, if I'm wrong, I'll deal with it if/when it comes up).
posted by johnofjack at 5:27 PM on July 11

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