We suffered water damage to our home, and have had a difficult time seeking remedy with Liberty Mutual Insurance. We have now filed a complaint with the Department of Insurance.
I know Liberty Mutual does mass marketing and offers premium reductions to State and County employees … this is how they got us to be a customer. We may put together a PowerPoint slide show at some point with the photographs of our house and circulate the presentation via the internet, but so far we have not done that. Here is what happened
On the morning of August 14, 2009, my wife and I woke up to what amounted to a lake in our upstairs carpeting. The service line to the hot water side of the upstairs bathroom sink had burst, and the water ran for an unknown amount of time during the night while Patti and I slept.
When I went into the bathroom, there was approximately ¾ of an inch of water on the floor, water was running from under the sink and vanity, down the wall and onto the floor, down the air conditioning vent, and into the carpeting in the hallway.
The water had saturated the carpets in the upstairs hallway, the stairwell, and partially into two upstairs bedrooms. When I went downstairs, water had soaked the sheetrock of several walls, and had soaked the carpeting in part of the room … it was a soppy mess. When I went into the garage, water was running down the wall, and leaking from the ceiling all over our vehicles. I immediately moved the vehicles for fear the sheetrock ceiling was going to collapse. To us, the sight was devastating.
For whatever good it did, I grabbed our carpet cleaner and began sucking up as much water as I could, while Patti got hold of the insurance company.
Liberty Mutual was quick to send out a restoration company, as well they should. The restoration company arrived about an hour later – surveyed the damage, and asked for equipment to clean up the mess. We were put up in a local hotel for four days while they dried out the house.
What is upsetting is the handling of our claim. We have faithfully paid our premiums for probably more than 8 years with this company, and have not filed a homeowner claims with them of any kind.
I first met with the claim representative the Monday following the damage, August 17. She was accompanied by the owner of the restoration company, who coincidentally owns a local construction company. The three of us walked the house. At first I was ok with everything, even with using this construction company -- but as I watched, it became very apparent Liberty Mutual did not have our best interests at heart. (my opinion, they seem to feel they have been just peachy).
There was a great deal of talk of “patching and painting”, not removing and replacing. I can’t speak for you, but I have a huge problem with just painting over and covering obvious water damage … especially since we may decide to one day sell our home, wherein we have to disclose anything that has happened to our home. Who in their right mind is going to want to buy a home that had prior water damage where the damage was just painted over and covered up?
The owner of the construction company remarked that the bathroom floor upstairs would have to come up because it was slightly buckled indicating water had gone underneath the tile floor – which the claim representative immediately responded “no, we will just replace the grout. We are not going to replace that (indicating the floor)” The vanity was not pulled away from the wall so the area would dry (this was the source of the water), and I was told there was no reason to replace it, despite the obvious water damage to the base. It seemed to be an argument to get them to agree to change the floor under the carpet upstairs, which by this time had buckled in at least two places – but after walking the area several times, the claim representative agreed the floor would have to be changed. (how you are supposed to change the base floor without removing tile and carpet is beyond me) Despite my repeated complaints, I was emphatically told they absolutely would not replace the carpet and padding … anywhere in the house … but was told that merely drying them out would suffice. There are still stains in the carpet despite it having been steam cleaned.
My wife had spent considerable hours painting our downstairs several years ago. We no longer have any of the paint that was used, and I doubt it is available as it was a specialized mix so she could sponge paint the living room. Despite the obvious water damage to several of the walls and three doors, we were told only two of the walls, and part of the ceiling needed to be replaced.
Despite obvious water damage to the sheetrock in the garage, Liberty Mutual felt it is “okay” to just paint over it. It was acceptable to replace the sheetrock on one wall since the restoration company had cut a hole in the wall to dry it out.
We were given the “okay” to move back into our house on August 18th. When I visited that morning and met with the worker from the restoration company, the house was still close to 100 degrees inside. At one point I turned on the air conditioner, but it did not seem to operate very well. After some investigation on my part, I discovered that water had gone down the ducting, and into the bottom part of the heater / air conditioning unit. I am assuming the weight of the water had knocked off the duct work, and this would explain why water collected and pooled in this area of the ceiling. I did not discover this until the restoration company was preparing to leave after giving an “all clear”. The man doing the work helped me re-attach the duct work, and the air started working a little better. I explained to him that water was coming out of the air conditioner; but he did not seem overly concerned.
Based on our treatment from Liberty Mutual, we made a decision to search for our own construction people. I obtained two bids from different constructions firms.
One contractor has been a huge, huge help to us and is obviously very knowledgeable of construction. His bid was $20, 000 and that was without replacing the carpeting or the upstairs vanity. There is a separate bid to replace the affected duct work to the air conditioner.
I received the first appraisal from the insurance carrier. They felt $5, 000 for the damage would suffice … and the bid was more about painting, patching, and covering up. They were not going to repaint the from room … only spot paint the areas affected by the water which would have left us with three different colors of paint in the front room.
I raised a stink with the adjuster, and she finally agreed to come back out. Two weeks after the initial loss, she called telling me she “was concerned” that our house may not have dried properly, and wanted to bring out another restoration company to test and see if everything was done properly. All the research I have conducted via the internet and the people I have talked with indicated the carpets and pads should have been removed, along with the air conditioning duct work and upstairs vanity.
The adjuster came out a second time on August 28th. This time she brought with her the claims manager and the same exact restoration company as before … however this time it was a branch out of Sacramento and not Vallejo. It became apparent to me almost immediately that this was being done so as to “confirm” their original position. I felt as if Liberty Mutual was attempting to pressure us into accepting their first appraisal as accurate. The tactics remind me of low-balling and coercion. The restoration company indicated the duct work had to be replaced because of health reasons.
One of the contractors we had talked to had agreed to come out and meet with the adjuster, and we are so glad that he did. Had it not been for him being here, I know that no headway would have been made with Liberty Mutual. He argued on our behalf because much of what Liberty Mutual was attempting to do was just unacceptable.
The manager for Liberty Mutual told the contractor and myself that there was no reason to replace the sheetrock in the garage – he claimed that sheetrock becomes stronger after it is exposed to water (???)
Liberty Mutual has agreed to adjust their estimate, or so they say as I still have not received a revised estimate, but they are still refusing to cover the carpet and padding, as well as some of the other work both contractors recommend be done.
We are in the process of trying to find a public adjuster to argue our claim with the insurance company so we can get our home repaired.
We just want our home repaired to the same as it was prior to the water loss –
And if you haven’t changed all the service lines in your home, you may want to call a plumber and have it done. This can happen to anyone.