South Florida Sun-Sentinel
After Hurricane Wilma, many South Florida Sun-Sentinel readers still had plenty of questions about the claims process. Here are answers to some of those questions.
Q. The estimate I got from my adjuster is less than what my contractor said it would take to rebuild my home. What should I do? Do I have to just take what they give me?
A. This was a common problem after the 2004 hurricanes, because some adjusters weren't factoring in the post-hurricane higher cost of materials and labor. If this happens to you, check with the state Department of Financial Services, which established pricing guidelines for construction materials to help in such disputes.
Those guidelines should be posted online on the department's Web site, www.fldfs.com. The information also will be available through the department's consumer hotline, at 800-342-2762. You also can call the Department of Financial Services to register a complaint. That complaint also can serve as a step toward state-sponsored mediation, which many people used to help settle their 2004 insurance claims. A complaint with the state is required for mediation, and complaints can be made through the Department of Financial Services Web site or through its toll-free hotline.
Q. What happens if the cost of materials goes up after work starts? Am I stuck footing the bill?
A. You should be able to file a supplemental claim with your insurance company to cover those costs. Call your insurance company or the state Department of Financial Services if you have questions.
Q. My condo association is assessing me to help pay for repairs, and I think my insurance policy covers some of those costs for me. How do I get money from my insurance company?
A. Many insurance policies include what's known as a "loss assessment clause" -- basically, if your homeowner or condo association assesses you to help make repairs to common areas or structures, you can recover some of the costs from your insurer. Typically it's up to $1,000.
But not everything is covered under that clause, said a spokesman for the Department of Financial Services. For instance, some companies aren't covering the assessment if it goes toward paying the deductible on your association's master policy. Also, tree removal generally isn't covered, unless the trees fell on a structure and damaged it.
Q. I keep calling Citizens Property Insurance Corp., but end up waiting for a long time on hold or can't get through to a human being. Help!
A. The claims center for state-backed Citizens Property Insurance Corp. -- the largest insurer in South Florida -- is open 24 hours, a company spokesman said. He suggested calling back during off-peak times, such as the early morning, to see if you might have better luck.
Another option you can employ is using the Department of Financial Services as an intermediary.
Q. I've got my insurance claim check, but my mortgage company is holding onto it and will give me only part of it until repairs are done and they've inspected them. Can they do that?
A. Yes, and they typically will if it's a large check -- more than $10,000 or $20,000, depending on the lender.
If you feel you're not being treated fairly by your lender, who is named on your insurance policy, call the state and complain.
The Department of Financial Services has established a consumer hotline to help people with their insurance questions and problems. You can reach the department at 800-342-2762, or find it online at www.fldfs.com.
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