Tips on Dealing With Adjusters

Insurance companies employ their own adjusters. They’ll evaluate your property damage and help walk you through the claims process, free of charge. In many states, you can also hire public adjusters to help you file claims and negotiate your insurance payment. Public adjusters represent the claimant, and usually charge you 10-15 percent of any insurance settlement.

Schemes:  Most public adjusters are honest and competent, but some are crooked. They may come from out of town, and go door to door, trying to bilk disaster victims with insurance schemes. They might:

• Charge you a large fee, and then disappear without handling your claim.

• Refer your repair to a dishonest contractor for a kickback, and you may receive shoddy repairs in return.

• File false and inflated claims against your policy. Sometimes they’ll also try to convince you to join the scheme.

• Use their position of trust to access your Social Security number and other personal data for scams involving identity theft.

Licenses:  Public adjusters need licenses in most states. Ask your state insurance department if an adjuster is properly licensed in your state, or has any complaints or disciplinary actions. If the adjuster comes from another state, contact that state’s insurance department to make sure the adjuster is licensed.

References:  Ask people you trust if they can recommend a reputable adjuster.

Remember:  You are fully within your right to hire whichever contractor you desire.  Your home owners insurance adjuster or your public adjuster may recommend contractors, but the decision of whom you hire is completely up to you. 

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Mold Growth & Sporulation in Buildings – Part 1

A driving factor in building construction is the continuous pressure to save time and money. These pressures usually result in gradual shifts in how buildings are made. Beginning in the late 1940’s, these gradual shifts have resulted in better and better conditions for fungal growth. This is perhaps nowhere more apparent than in schools. In the 1940’s and before, schools were built of stone, brick and marble. Floors (at least in urban schools) were either hardwood (nutrient poor for most fungi) or marble. Walls were tile or plaster. Windows were operable, and the buildings were not tight, resulting in plenty of ventilation. Now, we have floors covered with carpeting, which holds water and nutrients. Walls are built of gypsum board that is filled with nutrients. Windows are sealed, which requires costly energy to ventilate, leading to low ventilation rates and accumulation of water. We can live with these changes if we understand how fungi grow so that we can efficiently limit their growth.

Molds are spread by spores, each of which contains all the genetic material to make a new colony. While traveling through the air or on your clothes or other carriers, they are dormant, and chemical reactions in the spore are going on very slowly. When a spore lands on a dry surface, it remains dormant and will eventually die. If water is present, it is drawn into the spore by a process known as osmosis. With the water are dissolved nutrients. The concentration and type of nutrients depends on the material on which the spore lands. If there is enough water and if the nutrient content is appropriate, then the spore will swell, and a germ tube will appear. The germ tube releases enzymes (catalysts) that help in the digestion of insoluble nutrients (e.g., starch, cellulose, etc). If the appropriate nutrient is available, the enzymes will break it down into soluble fragments, which will be absorbed into the germ tube, stimulating continued growth. The size the colony reaches depends on both environmental conditions and the genetics of the fungus. Given ideal conditions, it will grow to its genetically pre-determined size as long as sufficient water and nutrients are available and the temperature is appropriate or until the colony encounters competition from other fungi. If the proper nutrients are not available, or if the water supply disappears, then the germ tube and the spore die. Given proper conditions, fungi will generally grow vegetatively until some environmental variable becomes limiting. Water or nutrients may be depleted, or temperature or lighting conditions could change. When these changes occur, fungi stop vegetative growth and may begin to produce new spores.

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What is Puff Back?

In the US, approximately 8 million homes still use heating oil as their main heating fuel.  Of these, an astounding 80%, or 6.4 million, are located in the Northeast.  Many of these furnaces, despite being regularly serviced, can malfunction in the form of a “puffback.”  These puffbacks wreak havoc on paint, carpet, and contents of a home.  Most often, they’re covered under your existing homeowners insurance policy.

A oil furnace puff back is an actual explosion of unburned fuel lying in the combustion chamber of the furnace.  The strength and soot expelled by this explosion depends on how much unburned oil there is.  Two major malfunctions which can cause this oil to accumulate are:

  1. Leaks in the piping supplying the oil.  If you notice a slow drip of oil on the floor, call a technician to service the equipment.  These leaks cause air bubbles to get into the piping, which can move and push little bits of oil into the combustion chamber when the furnace is off.  This accumulates, and ultimately will ignite the oil and cause a loud bang.
  2. Problems when the furnace shuts down.  Inside the oil burner is a valve which is spring loaded and stops the flow of oil precisely when the RPMs of the oil burner begins to slow.  If there is even the slightest bit of dirt or debris on this valve, it can cause the same accumulation in the combustion chamber.

If your home experiences a puffback, you may notice some thermal tracks on the walls and ceiling where the soot has settled.  The soot will settle mostly near cooler areas on these surfaces, so you may notice it on nail heads on drywall, or in the corners of the ceiling.  Often, these tracks are indicators of areas of heat loss within a home as well.  However, even if you don’t notice any visible signs, that doesn’t mean the soot isn’t covering your walls, ceiling and contents.  You should have the unit serviced immediately, and call us so we can do a thorough inspection of the home.

If there’s evidence of soot, your insurance company will pay to have all areas affected cleaned (including contents and clothing), deodorized (in the case of carpet), and repainted (walls and ceilings).  Depending on the size of your home, this could mean tens of thousands of dollars.  If this should occur in your home, our trained and certified technicians can assist you in bringing your home back to pre-loss conditions.