Greg and I have been looking back and we have some thoughts and advice for anyone who might be going through a similar experience with a restoration company and insurance company.
I don't know if this will actually help anyone, but after a lot of back-and-forth we think it's worth putting this info out into the universe.
- Verify EVERYTHING the restoration company tells you with your insurance company.
EVERYTHING. Do not take anything the restoration company tells you, *especially* not right after they first arrive. For example, the restoration company may tell you that if you have an "actual cash value" policy that you will get money back. That's actually insurance fraud and is very much against the law. You will NOT come out ahead with money left over. Even if the restoration company says you will.
- Verify the way your insurance company will pay for the repairs. Our insurance company would have paid any contractor directly instead of sending us a check and having us pay the restoration company. Had we known this, we would have done things very differently. ASK your insurance company how they want to handle the repairs. In our case, we found out about three-quarters of the way through the repair process that if we had used one of their approved flooring companies they would have paid them directly and we suspect the quality would have been higher. This avoids any favoritism/collusion between a restoration company and their brother-in-law/good friend, etc.
- You may be panicking when you realize that your house is going to be unlivable for the next month (or more) because you will have no kitchen or water until substantial repairs are made. They will tell you that they will take care of everything. They are NOT your saviors--they are there to make money and may or may not have your best interests at heart. You are in an emotionally vulnerable position and I strongly encourage you to let the restoration company handle the dry-out/mitigation, and then STOP.
- If you do choose to let the restoration company handle the repairs, make sure you know who they are subcontracting. I still think that a lot of the things we have problems with would have been fixed with some direct communication, rather than information being filtered--and filtered incorrectly--through the restoration company.
- ASK QUESTIONS. Breathe. Ask more questions. Assume nothing. Don't assume that you're both speaking the same language and ask for definitions of everything. (See "actual cash value" in item #1.)
- Give yourself some grace. As I said above, when something like this happens, your entire life is going to get more stressful. You may not be as rational as you would be at less stressful times in life, and your decision-making process may not be as solid.
- Any time someone tells you they're not liars or fraudsters, you can be assured they almost certainly are. That old line of Hamlet's, "the lady doth protest too much, methinks" remains relevant.
Are we happy with the work that was done on our house?
Eh, not really. Maybe 70% happy. Has it made us fall out of love with our house? Yeah, more than a little.
We're finally to the point that looking at the base of the staircase doesn't make us want to scream, which I'm calling progress. I still occasionally curse the restoration company for hiring the flooring company they did, and the flooring company for making assumptions that were 100% wrong and could have been eliminated if the restoration company hadn't lied to me about talking to the flooring company, and the flooring company had bothered to verify *anything* with me. (I have photographic evidence that it was NOT like that originally, and you messed up a big feature that I loved about the staircase.)
Honestly, if we didn't like the neighbors to either side of us as much as we do, and if we were five years further along in our mortgage, we probably would have put the house on the market after this experience because it has left such a bad taste in our mouths.
Hopefully you can benefit from our experience and avoid some of the pitfalls we got caught in.
If you have any question I'll do my best to answer them, but I'm not an attorney, I do not play one on TV, and all opinions are my own.
If you've read this far, thank you. If you're curious about the companies we're not happy with, the restoration company has bright green vehicles and the name starts with S, and I'm still not 100% sure who the flooring company was because the restoration company was less than forthright about it.
The service that I am 100% happy with, and would highly recommend if I knew who they were, is the group of guys that packed up our possessions on the ground floor, moved them to the storage pod in the driveway, and moved us back in. They did not break a single thing, treated our stuff with care, and were respectful.
I wish I could say the same thing about the rest of the experience.