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.
___________________________
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.

  • philip weber

    I worked for many years for the insurance industry. I always to property owners the same thing. YOU MUST MITIGATE! You must make temporary repairs to ensure no further damage occurs. This is not brain surgery. A couple quick examples…

    1) hail causes holes in the property owners vinyl siding. We recommend that the homeowner of a siding professional or anyone of their choosing that has appropriate insurances should place a water proof or resistant tape over the openings. This will prevent or reduce to the best of the property owners ability the damage from getting worse.

    2) Another common example … wind blows shingles off the roof and exposes felt and sheathing. If you simply leave it that way you are in effect causing the damage to get worse. A rain storm on exposed sheathing will likely leak into the attic and probably into the home which was preventable. If the property owner hires a roofing or a professional to tarp the roof so that it is reasonably protected than the owner has done their part. If they simply leave it and do nothing the damage that results from their incompetence could be denied.

    A good adjuster will explain this to property owners. A good adjuster will encourage Temporary Repairs and stress not to make any permanent repairs. Not to many GOOD adjusters anymore but none the less.

    In short, yes do temporary repairs (NOT PERMANENT). I have never ever seen a temporary repair cause a lower settlement. I have seen incompetence cause a lower settlement. I have seen “permanent repairs” which make the cause of damage impossible to determine result in a denial of the claim.

    If you install new siding on your home before the adjuster gets there than they can not determine the damage, what caused it or if it was there. I have seen people take photos of the damage then fix it. That can work… I strongly advise against it. Stick to temporary repairs.

    BTW… I have been part of a claim in which the home was being sold. The adjuster denied the hail damage to the roof. To keep the sale in tact the owners replaced the roof and on my advice shingles were labeled and kept in the yard for a second inspection. After requesting a second inspection the second adjuster bought the roof even though it was on the ground and a new roof had been installed.

    I no longer work for the insurance industry and now help property owners and contractors as a’ Cause of Damage” expert.

    Hope this was helpful.