While your insurance company is often pegged as the bad guy when your homeowners claim starts going awry, there is an overlooked enemy—predatory vendors. Ironically, third party companies and public adjusters may try to exploit the “we’ve got your back” narrative of insurance advertising. As suggested by their tendency to sell themselves as members of your insurance company, these folks have suspect motives. Ultimately, their agenda is exploiting your misfortune by charging hyper-inflated prices that will be taken straight out of your insurance check.
If you have been a victim of a predatory vendor in the wake of tragedy, do not feel like a fool. These individuals specifically seek out vulnerable homeowners in areas of significant property loss who just want to return to normalcy by any means, and as soon as possible. Chances are, your property has become a bit of a revolving door—everyone from family members to contractors to adjusters have been coming over to survey the scene, and ultimately, extend a helping hand. Fortunately, there are steps that you can take to weed out the bad seeds.
When in doubt, ask for identification. Whether it be a license or a business card, use the information that the vendor presents to verify their legitimacy with your insurance company. Another good litmus test is determining who will be footing their bill. If the answer is your coverage, be wary. As mentioned, predatory vendors are after your check from your insurance company. However, if the vendor’s fees are being paid directly by your insurance company, then your insurance company likely sent them. So, to recap, if the vendor’s identification and fee arrangements point back to your insurance company, then all signs point to legitimacy. If the stranger on your doorstep checks out, then by all means, let them in. You don’t want to jeopardize your claim through non-cooperation with your insurer.
Still, if you are suspicious that a third party has slipped through the cracks, don’t hesitate to have a lawyer look over any documents that have been thrust into your hands to sign. Whether it be a work order from an alleged contractor that leaves prices to be filled in at a later date, or an hourly rate agreement from a poorly-trained public adjuster, critical review from a lawyer can possibly save your home from being robbed of repair funds. It can also help you determine the source of vendor funding. If your policy indicates that you are responsible for vendor fees, you have the right to choose who you want working in and around your home. Lawyers can also point you to legitimate, licensed vendors who have had a good track record with helping clients. By personally examining your case (as opposed to answering the door for everyone who may stop by) it becomes easier to make a match.
If preventative measures have presented themselves too late, don’t worry, lawyers can also help after the fact. Being that one of SVHC’s specialties is property casualty, we have fighting predatory vendors written into our history. A lawsuit can help return your stolen funds, and in some cases, you may be entitled to reimbursement for penalties and attorneys’ fees. Because predatory vendors are so prevalent, most property casualty attorneys have seen their fair share of foolishness, from repeat offender public adjusters to contractors who took the money and ran without a single day’s work. With some expertise, these moles can be wacked back into their holes.