Consumer warnings about public adjusters

If you own a home, chances are you will have to file an insurance claim at some point. When that happens, you might hire a public adjuster to negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf.

Action News Consumer Reporter Nydia Han has information you need to hear before you do.

A local couple says instead of helping matters, the public adjuster they hired made the claims process longer, messier, and much more frustrating.

Hurricane Sandy ripped part of the roof off Donna and Ray Taylor's home.

"It sounded like a plane," said Donna.

"And I said, 'This is not good. Everything's falling in,'" said Ray.

For help with their insurance claim, the Taylors met with a public adjuster from Metro Public Adjustment, Inc.

"He told us that he could get us more money than what we could get from the insurance company and faster," said Donna.

But they say after they signed the contract, the adjuster said it could take 6 months.

So the Taylors say they acted on their right to cancel.

This is a right everyone needs to know about.

Pennsylvania law gives you the right to rescind certain contracts within three days.

The Taylors say they canceled within 12 hours by calling back the adjustor and handing him a written notice.

They are upset Metro still tried to represent their claim after that.

"After we rescinded, they are still trying to get a piece of this pie," said Donna.

A pretty big piece! The company makes 25% of the insurance settlement.

"I said why would you submit the claim when we rescinded the contract yesterday? And he said, 'I was out there first,'" she said. "We wound up having to fight him on top of everything else we're going through. We wound up having to erase everything he put his marks on even after we rescinded."

Action News went to the company for answers.

When asked if this was the kind of behavior they like to see from your adjustors, Terry Desher replied, "Of course not. We try to help people. We're not trying to hurt anyone."

Metro says by the time its corporate office realized the Taylors wanted to cancel, it had already notified the Taylor's insurance company, which it must do within two days.

"We have agreed to the cancellation. There's no problem here. And if they got a notification, it's because we are working around the clock to satisfy people during the storm," said Desher.

The company's president says - "We are very sorry the Taylors had this experience with our company. We believe it was a genuine misunderstanding."

Meantime, be aware when hiring any public adjuster.

"They will come in and say, 'We get quick settlements with your insurance company.' But we've seen cases with some of the public adjustment firms, including this one, where it can take months and months for the claim to get adjusted," said Goode, Better Business Bureau.

They also warn to be careful when trying to cancel.

"The 3-day right to rescind can be tricky," says Goode. "In order for it to work properly, you need to send a written notice to the company so they receive it within 3 calendar days after having signed the contract."

Metro Public Adjustment points out that its Notice to Rescind says consumers should deliver the notice to their Bensalem office, and "provide notice of this contract termination promptly to your insurance company."

If the Taylors had done that, they could have eliminated any problems.

The Taylors are glad - in the end - they dealt directly with their insurance company.

"We got check in-hand within one week, and now we can start to move forward," said Donna.

As far as the adjustor allegedly saying it would take six months to get the Taylor's check?

The company tells Action News, "There's no six month issue. Those are not statements anyone should have made."

Bottom line - read any cancellation policy closely. Also, adjusters should be licensed by your state's insurance department.

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