Don't get ripped off in the wake of Hurricane Sandy

November 1, 2012

We begin with a consumer alert about insurance.

Some homeowners have a SPECIAL deductible. It's called a hurricane or tropical storm or named storm deductible. It's a percentage of your home's insured value.

Insurance companies should NOT apply that deductible to any Sandy-related insurance claims. That's because Sandy did NOT actually meet the threshold to trigger it.

Of course, you will have to pay your STANDARD deductibles for wind and storm-related damage.

Here are some other things you need to know as you try to put your home and your life back together again.

"Our whole front patio cement has to be taken up and the deck is all off," said Priscilla Gray of East Oak Lane.

Priscilla has a lot of work to do after Hurricane Sandy blew down a giant hickory tree in her front yard. And she says more than a dozen contractors have already offered to help.

"Since Tuesday. Every day, up and down the street, knocking on the door," she said.

But Priscilla says she's taking her time choosing the RIGHT contractor, and consumer experts say she's wise to do so.

"If they're not licensed and insured, you should not be using them," said Lance Haver of Philadelphia Consumer Affairs, "because there is no guarantee that this is a person who will do a legitimate job for you."

In Pennsylvania and New Jersey, contractors who do a certain amount of business MUST be registered with the state. Check to make sure they are and ask to see their insurance policy.

"Don't pay all the money upfront," said Haver. "A legitimate contractor will not ask you to do that. You should not do that."

Pay in advance no more than a third of the total price of the contract.

When it comes to your insurance company, don't take the first offer if you're unhappy with it.

"You should, if necessary, try and negotiate a higher payment," said Haver. "And if that doesn't work you should look for a public adjuster. While there are dishonest contractors, there are also some insurance companies that may not want to pay the legitimate claims."

And finally, he said, if a tree falls and brings down power lines, "you yourself should not hire anyone to touch it. You should make sure you call PECO. This is a dangerous situation and PECO should come out and take care of it at no cost to you."

Also, make sure you see what the federal government is offering you in the way of help. You can do that by going to FEMA's website.


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