Every year about 6% of homeowners (one in 50) file an insurance claim for damage to their property. Of those claims by far the most common (about ⅓ of all claims) is due to storm and hail damage to the exterior of the home (roofing and siding). This adds up to many tens of millions of dollars every year spent on insurance restorations, and there are a plethora of contractors who specialize in executing these restorations and repairs. Selecting a good contractor is just as important for an insurance restoration project as it is for an “elective” remodel or renovation, and hiring the wrong contractor could lead to disaster in both cases. This article will explain how an expert restoration contractor navigates the complicated claims process by drawing from the experience of a 5-Star rated York County PA roofing contractor, JWE Remodeling & Roofing, who specializes in siding and roofing replacements due to hail and wind damage.
Intro: JWE Remodeling & Roofing Contractors from Hanover PA
We interviewed the heads of JWE Remodeling & Roofing, owner Jeff Erb and project manager RJ D’Angelo, to find out more about how they help southern PA and northern Maryland homeowners with their home damage restorations. Both Jeff and RJ have been in construction since they were “old enough to swing a hammer” (their words!), and were proud to tell us that they have held every imaginable position within a construction company: from helper to laborer, tradesman to foreman to project management, and owning their own construction company.
When they founded JWE Remodeling & Roofing in Hanover PA last year they did not specifically set out to specialize in insurance restorations – they were primarily a home improvement and roofing company. D’Angelo says, “I always had this sort of judgment that insurance restoration contractors were low-bidders and/or storm-chasers and we just didn’t want to be that. But it turns out that there are a lot of homeowners who need a good insurance claims specialist on their side when it comes to restoring their home damage, so there’s an opportunity to help people and tap into a market for a lot of work”.
That last part is especially true of southern Pennsylvania and northern Maryland – the Susquehanna valley – that gets wracked by storms about half of the year. JWE owner Jeff Erb says that without an expert roofer performing a roof inspection and documenting damage, insurance companies get away with paying for band-aid style repairs that don’t do enough to fix the home damage. “I quickly got tired of seeing my customers get hosed by their insurance companies. These people pay their premiums year-in and year-out, and then when it comes time to file a claim they get denied or short-changed. That doesn’t happen on our watch anymore”. Jeff and RJ have therefore partnered with Eric Hare of Chateau Public Adjusters, a licensed loss adjuster who works on behalf of homeowners. Learn more about the process below.
The Claims Process: Public Adjusters, Roof Damage Inspections, Discovery, Contracts & Claims Filing
Part of the problem, according to Jeff and RJ, is that a contractor is not legally allowed to negotiate with insurance companies on behalf of the insured property owner. So when they discover and document damage that they believe needs to be replaced, and have proved that damage to be caused by a covered peril (like a storm’s hail or wind), the insurance company can simply say “No” and the homeowner is left having to pay for it out of pocket or decide not to get the work done at all. With Chateau Public Adjusters on the case representing the homeowner, the team can fight back. Eric Hare (Chateau’s owner) can invoke appraisal or mediation, among other options for challenging an insurance company’s valuation of a loss. Let’s go over how the process starts.
Step One: Storm Hits, Roofing Contractor is Called
When a storm hits southern PA or northern MD and a home suffers damage, homeowners are best-served by calling Hanover siding contractor JWE for a free inspection and consultation. RJ and/or Jeff will usually meet with Eric Hare at the customer’s home and execute a thorough inspection of the roof and siding. Often times this inspection will reveal blown-off shingles, hail damage in the form of punctures and granule loss in asphalt shingles, or dents from hail in aluminum siding or metal roofing, detached vinyl siding or fascia trim, dented gutters, etc. “Most homeowners just don’t know what to look for, and don’t realize how extensively a hailstorm can damage a home,” says Jeff, “so if it’s left up to them, they may not be able to demonstrate to their insurance company exactly what the damage is that needs to be replaced, even though it does in fact exist – it just needs a trained expert to discover, document and report.” Once there is clearly storm-related damage documented, the team has the homeowner sign a public adjuster contract.
Step Two: Signing a Public Adjuster Contract to Get a Claim Filed
In order to work on their behalf, the public adjuster must be retained by the homeowner. The homeowner therefore signs a contingency contract with Chateau Public Adjusters, which allows Eric and Chateau to work with the insurance company and get the claim approved by meeting with the insurance company’s adjuster, negotiating towards a settlement, etc. The contract states that Chateau will be paid a fee out of the insurance company’s payout, unless the homeowner hires Chateau’s preferred contractor, JWE Remodeling and Roofing, to execute any and all insurance-approved restorations and repairs, in which case the fee is waived. “It is essentially a zero-risk situation for the homeowner. The contract allows me to work on their behalf to get them money for repairs to their home. If we don’t get any payment approved, then the homeowner owes us nothing because we didn’t do our job. That never happens. When we do get approval for, say, a roof replacement due to storm damage like hail and wind, the homeowner hires JWE for whatever the insurance company agrees to pay – no more, no less. Then JWE pays us our fee. The homeowner can’t lose. All they ever pay is their deductible.”
Step Three: The Homeowner can Relax While JWE and Chateau Handle the Claim and get the Restorations Approved
Once the homeowner has signed with Chateau, Jeff and RJ know that they will be executing a repair or replacement of any damage they find. They thoroughly document and report all instances of damage, meet with adjusters, etc. Ultimately, the insurance company’s adjuster will send to Chateau a scope of work which itemizes what they have approved. “Most of these adjusters are familiar with us by now, and we all have a good working relationship. Every once in a while an adjuster will lowball us with what they are willing to pay for, and then we will have our own adjuster challenge their evaluation if it’s not enough. We usually reach a fair settlement, though”. Once the funds have been released, Jeff and RJ will go over options for materials with their customer. At this point, Chateau Public Adjusters and Eric Hare are finished with the project and it comes down to a regular job between the homeowner and their contractor, JWE.
Step Four: Choosing Materials and Executing the Restorations
Now that funds have been approved and a scope of work has been set, Jeff and RJ of JWE will go over options for materials. For example, if a roof replacement was approved and paid for, the insurance company usually pays for what was already there. In many cases that’s a 3-tab asphalt shingle roofing system, which is inferior to more modern architectural asphalt roofing shingles. “I don’t install 3-tab roofing systems. They’re junk, and I don’t put my company name on junk,” says Jeff, owner of JWE. “This is what separates JWE from most insurance restoration contractors: we refuse to do cheap work. At the same time, we made a promise to our customers that they would not have to pay a dollar more than their deductible, and it wouldn’t be right for us to come to them at the last minute with an upcharge. So I give my customers the upgrade to an architectural asphalt shingle roofing system for free. It means we make a little less money, but we get to confidently stand behind each of our roof replacements with a lifetime warranty and we can sleep easily knowing that we have installed the highest quality roof possible.” This type of dedication to quality and service has earned JWE Remodeling & Roofing dozens of 5-star reviews from happy customers who have great things to say about them.
JWE is certified by top roofing manufacturers like CertainTeed, GAF, IKO and others. These lifetime-warrantied roofing systems are installed in any shingle color their customers want, and the warranties are registered with the manufacturer so they transfer to the next owner should the home be sold. “It’s the last roof most of our customers will ever need to get for their home,” says RJ D’Angelo, “and the same goes for siding replacements.” Usually the amount approved for siding by insurance companies is enough to pay for quality vinyl or aluminum, windows, doors and trim products, and JWE doesn’t cut any corners on these installations. They stand behind all their home improvements and restorations, whether they are paid for insurance or out of a customer’s pocket. “Our name goes on everything we do, and our reputation for quality workmanship is important to us,” says Jeff Erb.
Finalizing the Restoration: Recovering the RCV Check
Most insurance policies are written such that the initial check pays for the Actual Cash Value (ACV) of the damaged portions of the home. Then, after the roof replacement is executed, new siding installed, etc. the contractor sends pictures and a signed completion certificate to the insurance company and the second half of the funds are released – the Replacement Cost Value, or RCV. Scammers and storm-chasing roofing companies often manipulate this by fabricating the work, or not executing the replacements that they bill the insurance company for. This is of course insurance fraud, is illegal, and gives the entire industry a bad name. Customers should be wary of storm-chasers and make sure to check references, associations, certifications, reviews, etc. before hiring an insurance restoration contractor. JWE has gone to great lengths to separate themselves from the scammers. They are one of York County’s only Google-Guaranteed roofers: background-checked and verified, they have an A rating with the BBB, are fully licensed and insured, and have excellent reviews.
If your home has suffered storm damage to your roof or siding, contact a qualified local contractor with a good reputation and ask about their affiliation with public insurance adjusters if your insurance company is notoriously difficult to work with. Remember that you have paid into your insurance for a reason, and you ought to hold your insurance company accountable when it comes time to file a claim!