One question I get asked by clients after a storm has damaged their home is: “Can I start making repairs?” This can be a difficult question as the real-world factors of cost, time, availability of materials, and labor are important considerations. It is also important to understand how repairs can affect your insurance claim as most residential insurance policies I deal with include what appear to be contradicting duties to mitigate and the duty to allow the insurance company to inspect.

In a recent Hurricane Harvey case, Stokley v. Allstate Texas Lloyds,1 the trial court addressed whether starting repair work waived the insured’s right to demand appraisal. In Stokley, the insured filed an insurance claim, ultimately filed a lawsuit, and then invoked appraisal. Allstate refused to submit to appraisal, making several arguments why appraisal was inappropriate—one of which was that the insured had already repaired some of the damage, the fence.

The court looked at the fact that only part of the property had been repaired and that the repaired property was only part of the claim, and ruled repair of the fence did not negate the benefits to be gained by appraisal of other property damage.

Whether repairs to damaged property will harm your insurance claim is a fact question that is case-specific. Some of the considerations should be:

  1. Are the repairs temporary or permanent?
  2. Are the repairs needed to make the home livable?
  3. What part of the property damage is being repaired?
  4. Can the areas being repaired still be inspected?

It is always a good idea to keep invoices/receipts to show the cost of the repairs and take pictures of the damage before repairing.

If you have a question about repairing your property or your insurance claim in a specific venue, feel free to contact a Merlin Law Group attorney.
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1 Stokley v. Allstate Tex. Lloyds, No. 2:19-cv-00197 (S.D. Tex Oct. 18, 2019).

  • Tad Balzer

    In my opinion, yes, a homeowner doing repairs most cases will affect their settlement – negatively. I believe it is human nature when effecting repairs out of pocket, rarely will an insured restore to pre-loss condition. Corners will be cut, cost saving will be key and once completed at the lesser level, the insured is not longer able to get the money for doing it correctly or in pre-loss condition. I believe this is exactly why a carrier will drag out settlements for months or years. It is in their best interest to do so.

  • It’s important to remember that most property policies REQUIRE the insured to make reasonable repairs to protect covered property from further damage.