I am in desperate need of advice. I did everything I could think of to move this claim quickly and to be proactive and stay informed, and yet everywhere I turn I'm getting rebuffed. I'm sorry this will be long, but I have worked my tail off on this, so there is a lot of detail.
We had a tree fall on our house on April 19 of this year during a storm with straight-line winds that clocked over 80 mph. The tree fell on our mother-in-law suite and sent a shock-wave through the whole roof of the suite, breaking loose all the trusses and rafters and sinking the ceilng in the living room/kitchen area. The suite is not safe to stay in, but thankfully the main part of the house is.
We called our insurance agent that night, called the company the next morning. This was on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. The insurance company said they would have the adjuster call us to arrange a time to evaluate our damage, and assured us that this appointment would be around Monday/Tuesday of the next week. We were given the go-ahead to remove the tree from the house to avoid further damage. My sister, who missed being hit by literally seconds, ended up having to see a doctor for PTSD, and all of us are feeling very traumatized and unsafe.
The adjuster called us on Monday, April 25th at 5 p.m. to tell us that it would be ANOTHER week at least before he would get to us even though he would be in our area the next day. When we protested, he said there had been a lot of damage in our area (we knew this because there had been storms back to back, but our house took the most damage in our town). We asked to be prioritized because of the major damage our house took. He got short with my husband, so I called him back, explained that we did not feel safe in the house, that the roof is being held on by the grace of God and gravity and more storms were on the way, we are all suffering from anxiety attacks, and would he at least approve us moving into a hotel so we could feel safe? Suddenly he got more cooperative: he said while he hiimself could not approve of a hotel (as he is an independent adjuster and it would come out of his pocket) he could have the company staff adjuster call us the next morning. We did get the call and they approved us going to a hotel as long as we paid up from and they would reimburse us. We finally made the decision not to do that (thank goodness, as we would now have been in the hotel for over a month!), but we did emphasize how bad our damage was and she agreed that the adjuster would be able to see us sooner (even though we were told this was flat-out impossible before).
The adjuster came out on April 28th and did a thorough inspection. We had our contractors out there with him with the exception of the electrician and the adjuster agreed with everything we claimed and even pointed out a couple of things. He said he would have the claim filed with the company the next morning and we could expect our claim to be resolved and have a check within 7-10 days. We asked specifically if he meant 7-10 BUSINESS days and he said no, 7-10 days, which would have been May 9th at the latest.
The staff adjuster questioned one item on the claim - they said they needed an itemized bill from the contractor who removed the tree from the house showing how much was for tree removal and how much was for yard clean-up. We call the contractor and within an hour he had re-written the itemized bill and we had emailed it and received receipt of the email from the insurance company.
May 9th came and went and no check, no phone call, no email, no contact. We tried repeatedly to reach our staff adjuster and finally were able to talk to her on May 12th. She said the check had been mailed at the beginning of the week. We asked the total amount and she said while the claim had been approved for the entire $28,000 (miinus $1000 deductible), the check was only for $15,500. They insurance company plans to hold the other $11,500 until it receives ALL of our receipts for work and replacement of personal items. Now, I understand there are people out there who pocket their check and don't fix their house, but the things they are withholding are beyond my belief: my sister's personal property that we considered totally lost and beyond repair was some $1650. Out of the $15,500, the insurance company put $825 at her disposal, saying they will release the other $825 when she presents receipts for $1650 - how in the blue blazes is she going to replace $1650 worth of property with $825 and then present receipts for $1650?? She makes minimum wage and lives with us to make ends meet! Same thing with the carpet - they approved our contractor estimate of $1404, but only include $702 in their check - they will send the other $702 when we present a receipt for $1404 - do they really think the carpet company is going to install $1404 worth of carpet and take $702 for it and agree to wait for the rest? This is a poor community and no business here can afford to do that.
But this aside, the insurance company tells us that because this partial check is for more than $10,000, it must be made out to my husband, me, and to the lien holder of our mortgage, who must endorse it before we can deposit it. Again, from their point of view, I can sort of understand it, but in the real world, how exactly is that supposed to work?? They say we can take it to the nearest branch of our mortgage holder, which to our knowledge is over 200 miles away, and get them to endorse it. So me, being a stickler for detail and making sure things are done right the first time, asks if they have the mortgage holder listed as [the bank] (since we have already had to correct this insurance company on this - twice). No, they have a company that does not even exist. When we bought this house 2 1/2 years ago, it was through [a company]. In the 6 weeks between closing and our 1st payment, the mortgage had been given over to [one company], then to [a bank] against our wishes and without any permission or even notice. As I said, we had informed the insurance company of this change TWICE already, yet the check that is "in the mail" is made out to a company that has never held the mortgage and does not even exist. And the adjuster is surprised that I am upset by this. First she offers us no solution, though how we are expected to get a company that does not exist to endorse a check on a house where [the bank] is the lien holder is beyond me. We finally get her to agree to stop-pay that check and issue a new one, which she says she will overnight to us (only after we emphasize that the damage is getting worse every day from the weight of the roof, which is sitting improperly on the house now). She also tells us we can go ahead with temporary repairs! With what? We already owe almost $4000 for the immediate repairs that had to be done, such as removing the tree.
Since the adjuster had told us we had to have [the bank] endorse the check, I (being proactive and wanting this accomplished asap when the check gets here) call [the bank] and explain the situation, asking what procedure I need to follow to expedite this. The rep tells me that [the bank] can give us a commit code over the phone and gives me a number to the Property Claims Department, telling me that once I have the check in hand to call this department and they will be able to endorse it over the phone so I can deposit the check. Then I call my credit union to find out how to keep them from holding this check for up to 10 business days. They tell me that as soon as I have [the bank]'s endorsement to bring the check to a local branch and show a supervisor, who can approve it. Only problem is that the nearest branch is in another state - when we moved, we kept our account with [a company] because we liked them and we had a great reputation with them, so we use a "sister" credit union to do our banking. In that case, [the company] tells us that once we have [the bank]'s endorsement commit code, to call a [company] supervisor and alert them to accept a fax of the front and back of the check, then gave me the fax number. The supervisor will confirm the endorsement and fax the confirmation back to me, which I would then take to my sister credit union and deposit the check, which would not be held. See, I'm being as proactive as possible here.
So we wait, no check comes in the mail overnight. The check wrongly made out to [a company] arrives - this check that the adjuster says was mailed on May 9th, but which is dated May 11th and is post-marked May 12th - but no other check. We call and call and finally get the adjuster again on May 19th. She says again the check will be overnighted, but offers no reason why it was not overnighted after we talked to her on May 12th.
We received the corrected check on May 20th - a handwritten check, but at least it has the right names on it. I nearly fainted from relief - at last we can get started after a month of tension, and it's only been a month because I have pushed and pushed to get things done asap. So we call the Property Claims Department at [the bank]. Now we are informed that we SHOULD have called them in the first place and opened a claim on this damage. I tell them I called the main customer service number, the name of who I talked to, and that I had asked exactly how to go about this, and what I was told. No matter. Now [the bank] wants US to endorse the check and mail it to THEM (am I right in thinking this gives them the power to cash the check?). After THEY confirm everything that has happened over the past month, they will deposit the check to our account (we have no account with [the bank], just the mortgage), oh, okay, then they will rewrite us a check, this time from [the bank], so we can deposit it with our credit union. This will take 7-10 business days after they receive our endorsed check and then we will receive their check for - get this - $10,000 of the $15,500! This is because they want proof that the repairs have begun before THEY release the other $5,500. We tell them that we cannot START the repairs until at least the $15,500 is released and that the insurance company is already holding another $11,500 for the same reason. They don't care. We talked to a supervisor, who got very impatient with our "lack of cooperation". We again told her what their CSR had told us a week ago and she says they have call centers all over and she has no idea how to tell what rep we talked to. I gave her the name of the rep and the date of the call. She says there is no record on our account that we called. I told her I have phone record that proves otherwise. She says she will mail us the guidelines that she must by law follow, which we should have requested in the first place, even though we had no idea they existed and we did request information on how to handle this a week ago with the rep that apparently doesn't exist. But, she says, in the meantime we should just trust her and endorse the check and send it to [the bank]. I asked her how I could trust she was telling the truth when the previous person I contacted did not. She said, "Ma'am, I have no reason to lie to you." I asked her what reason her CSR would have to lie to me.
But the upshot is that we are now asked to endorse the check and send it to TX, where it will take us 7-10 business days after it's received to get part of it back. No ifs, and, or butts. She gave us her full name and her extension and said we could call her back immediately to verify this. We did so, repeatedly, and got tossed around their voice automated system for over TWENTY minutes until we finally got someone to give us her email address. When she got the email, she called us back. Now all the sudden, those guidelines that were set in stone and law have changed. Now we can send the endorsed check with a letter showing why we need over the $10,000 to get started - we still wouldn't get the whole $15,500, but we would get over the $10,000 - and we need to include a statement from the main contractor of how much money he MUST have to begin work.
I am scared to death to do this - after having been lied to, misinformed, delayed, and given the silent treatment by both the insurance company and the mortgage holder for over a month, I am terrified to endorse this $15,500 check and send it out into the ether, having no guarantee but their word of when it will return or how much it will be or if it will be enough to start work. And I have no idea what my options are otherwise.
We did call the Property and Claims Department back and talk to a different representative, who offered to fax us the guidelines instead of making us wait extra time for them in the mail. She at least understood our concern about sending out an endorsed check before we saw the "guidelines". She was also the first person in all of this who asked if any of us had been hurt and expressed sympathy for our plight. I have heard numerous complaints about [the bank] over the years and dreaded dealing with them when our mortgage was unceremoniously handed to them without a by-your-leave. But I have not had much problem with them until now. We pay ahead of schedule, we pay extra principle, and they even offered to lower our interest rate, although they could not lower it to a point that made the closing costs worthwhile. But as soon as this nightmare is over, we will transfer the mortgage from [the bank], no matter the costs involved.
I have always been one to confirm and document everything I can. I have taught my children, "If you can't prove it, it didn't happen," and they have already learned in their late teens and early 20s just that. I have always been one to be as prepared as possible, especially in money and legal dealings. But I did all that, and it has gotten me nowhere. The insurance company has agreed that there will be a supplemental claim for damage we can't possibly see until the roof is taken off. But part of that claim is going to be a psychiatrist's bill because I am literally at the end of my rope. Well, that's if I can afford to pay the psychiatrist up front....
Any advice at all would be helpful. We have had a $28,000 claim reduced to $10,000 cash and are expected to pay out the other $18,000 ourselves on the front end with the flimsy promise of reimbursement in the sweet-bye-and-bye. How is this supposed to work in the REAL world??