A public adjuster (PA) is hired by a homeowner to protect the homeowner’s interests after a disaster has occurred. PAs assist homeowners in preparing and filing insurance claims so that they receive a prompt and fair settlement.
Harvey M. Goodman, president of Goodman-Gable-Gould/Adjusters International, in Rockville, Md., says that remodelers who receive a call from a client to help them after a disaster should recommend that the homeowner work with a PA.
“It’s a question of where you start and stop the repairs,” Goodman says. For example, he points out, for a roof damaged by fire, the insurance company may focus on just the damaged portion of the roof and offer to pay the client the cost of replacing 3 square feet of roofing, which may not fit seamlessly with the larger 20-square-foot roof. Or, if the insurer offers to replace just the carpeting in a damaged room, it may not blend with the carpeting throughout the rest of the house.
“[Public adjusters] make sure people do not diminish the value of their asset,” Goodman says. He works with remodelers to identify the scope of the work. “If you have a production home without a lot of custom finish work,” he points out, “it may not warrant the same type of supervision and cost structure as a home that was custom-built.”
Paul Lesieur, a former PA and the owner of Silvertree Construction, in Minneapolis, recommends that remodelers form a relationship with a PA, just as they would with other professionals. “Approach them as you would a realtor who you want to work with,” he says.
For disaster work, a remodeling company should be able to respond 24/7, so it could, for example, board up a home’s windows within hours of a fire. It would also have to be able to complete the job on a tight schedule. “If a family is going into a hotel with three kids, that is not the time to [try to] talk them into their [remodeling] dream job,” Lesieur says. In addition, crews would have to be trained in fire- and smoke-damage repair.
Goodman says that the standard fee for a PA is 10% of recovery received from the insurance company. “But for large losses, we will work for less,” he adds.
According to The National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (NAPIA), the adjusters services can, at the very best, save homeowners the cost of their fees. Lesieur says that when he practiced, an insurance company might offer a homeowner $100,000 for a loss, and he would negotiate $136,000 for the owner. “Minus our $13,600 fee,” he points out, “the homeowner ended up with a better settlement.”
—Nina Patel, senior editor, REMODELING.