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Disputes with the Restorer

The relationship with your restorer begins with hiring the firm that you are most comfortable with from a reputation, quality and communication standpoint. Communication is paramount. Both you and the restorer should have a clear understanding of what is to be done when something goes wrong. They need to let you know if there is a problem, then the two of you need to find a mutually agreeable solution. The restorer should let you know how the project is supposed to flow. Having a daily report, either verbal or written, helps to let you know where they are in the project. Don’t be reluctant to ask questions or let you expectations be known. A good restoration company will walk through your property with you prior to asking you to sign a statement of completion or satisfaction. If you are not satisfied, let the restorer know before you sign. Create a punch list of items that need to be completed or corrected and agree to the resolution for each item.

Restorer and contractor communication
Communication is paramount. Both you and the restorer should have a clear understanding of what is being done and what will be done when something goes wrong. They need to let you know if there is a problem, then the two of you need to find a mutually agreeable solution. The restorer should let you know how the project is supposed to flow. Having a daily report, key personnel contact information and weekly meetings help to let you know where they are in the project. Don’t be reluctant to ask questions or let you expectations be known. Get an agreement to follow a communication system that includes:

Daily contact

  • Decide how and when you and the restorer will communicate on a daily basis. If you are not onsite when the restorer is working, consider having a notebook that is left onsite where you can leave the restorer notes or comments.
  • Key Personnel Cell phones
    In addition to the notebook, ask for the cell phone numbers of the key personnel so that you can reach them when needed. Don’t forget to make sure that they have your contact information as well.
  • Weekly meetings
    Set a day and time each week to discuss the progress of the project. Be prepared to discuss any issues that you have with the week’s activities or for the following week.

The quality of the work is not acceptable.
Before you raise the issue with your restorer, be sure that the complaint is valid. Nothing is perfect, and that is especially true when performing restoration services. Every house is different and not generally built to perfection.

When you live in a home that has imperfections, you tend to not see them after awhile.  It’s not until your attention is drawn to the problem that you realize that you have being living with it that way. You might begin to scrutinize the work of the restorer looking through a different set of glasses. Be fair about your scrutiny of the work. Don’t accept something that is obviously wrong, but allow some room for imperfection. Raise any issues and work out a solution amicably.

Problems with timeliness
“Best laid plans of mice and men.” There are projects that get completed ahead of time; some right on time; and then there are the ones that seem like they will never get done. Unlike reconstruction projects, emergency services contracts might not have an anticipated completed date. It’s not always possible to predict how fast something will dry.  It’s not unusual to find concealed or pre-existing conditions once a project begins. This might slow down the project, especially if there is a question about whether or not the additional work will be covered by the insurer. If there is a change to the scope of work, the restorer should communicate with you about the impact. Depending upon the type of contract that you signed, a change order for the additional work would need to be submitted to you for your approval. If you are having a problem with your restoration contractor’s timeliness, that is a different issue. Most States require that construction contract list a completion date on the agreement. Then a change order is required to change scope, cost and date. If your contractor has failed to do that then he/she has violated the terms of the contract and perhaps State law.

Problems with inappropriate conduct
Workers should conduct themselves professionally at all times. Inappropriate conduct such as using foul language, playing loud music, leaving the site a mess, smoking inside of your property, or exhibiting other unwanted behaviors, is not acceptable. It’s important that you communicate your concerns to the owner of the company as soon as possible. You have the right to ask that the inappropriate behavior stop and if necessary the worker not be allowed on your property. As we’ve discussed before, the manner in which you convey your concerns needs to be polite and yet firm. After all, it is your home.

Problems with the scope of work
Most problems with the scope of work are as a result of the client not clearly understanding what was included. You need to be comfortable with asking questions about what you do not know or understand. The restorer should be cooperative about providing you with a clear explanation of the scope. If a restorer does not want to clarify what is included, then that might be a good indication that they won’t communicate with you during the restoration process.

Sometimes the problem with the scope has to do with a conflict between the scope of work that the restorers has performed and what the insurer is willing to pay for. You should always make sure that the insurance company has agreed to pay for what the restorer is recommending. You might want to ask the restorer to assure you that if the insurance company isn’t going to cover some part of their work that they will not charge you for it. Most restoration contracts state that you are responsible for any monies not paid for by the insurance company.

Problems with payments
Ultimately you are the one that has to sign the contract with the restorer and restoration contactor. No one else can authorize them to work on your property. Payment disputes come in many forms including but not limited to:

  • Dispute between the insurer and restorer over the scope of work
  • Dispute between the insurer and restorer over the pricing
  • Dispute between you and the restorer or contractor over the quality of work
  • Dispute between you, the restorer and the mortgage company
  • Dispute over payments to subcontractors (liens)
  • Delays in payment
  • Dispute between the insurance company and your public adjuster

Each reason for a dispute has its own set of solutions. However, Most of them begin with a review of the contract. If you’ve included a statement such as the one mentioned under Problems with the Scope of Work that requires the restorer to only charge you for the services paid from by the insurance company, then you can go back to that agreement. You might also want to include a statement in your agreement with the restorer or contractor that they will not charge you for any amount that is in excess of the unit cost or hourly rates that the insurance company has agreed to pay. An alternative to this phrase is that they will not charge you for any amount that is in excess of the unit cost or hourly rates that are published by Xactimate for your area. (Xactimate is an estimating software program used by both insurers and restorers).

Hire a consultant
There are a number of well qualified restoration and environmental consultants that are available to assist you in the event that you need a first or second opinion. From the standpoint of a consultant, they are more beneficial the earlier that you get them involved. It is harder to reconstruct a project if the data does not exist. Be sure to find out from your insurance company representative if they will pay for a consultant. The insurer might want to bring in their own consultants. Not all of them are qualified. This is truly one of those that times where “buyer beware” applies.  You can find qualified consultants on the Cleaning and Restoration Association website.

If you find yourself in litigation, you might need a consultant that can also qualify as an expert. You will want to have your own expert represent you. Be prepared for a hefty retainer and hourly rate. Retainers can run from $1500 and up. Hourly rates can be $250 to $350. However, it is money well spent in developing your case. As it relates to hiring an attorney or an expert, you generally get what you pay for.  You can find qualified experts on the Cleaning and Restoration Association website.

Advantages of using a CRA Select Member
The Cleaning and Restoration Association (CRA) has developed an application process for its members that require that they meet a higher criterion than those used by the vendor programs. It is called the Select Member Program. In order to qualify the restorer must:

  1. A Candidate company must meet the following organizational requirements:
    1. Be a legally organized business entity
    2. Have a current business license
    3. Have the appropriate contractor’s license(s) where required
    4. Have a contractor’s license(s) bond where required
    5. Have technicians with appropriate industry certifications
    6. Be adequately insured for the services offered
  2. A Candidate company must meet the following business practices requirements:
    1. Have a clean BBB report
    2. Have a good financial record
    3. Have a good reputation (customer and industry)
    4. Offer a limited guarantee of their work product
  3. A candidate company must agree to:
    1. Follow the CRA Customer Satisfaction and Ethical Practices
    2. Mediation or arbitration in the event of a dispute
    3. Have the above requirements monitored on a regularly scheduled basis

Select Member Dispute Resolution Policy
While we hope that there will never be a dispute between a Select Member and one of their customers, we require that each Select Member agrees to handle disputes in a specified manner. Our Dispute Resolution Program is as follows:

Dispute Resolution Policy
In the best of business relationships differences may occur. Therefore, each Select Member agrees to the following procedure for the resolution of complaints as they occur.

  1. If there is a customer complaint, the Select Member agrees to address it with the customer promptly (within 2 business days if possible). The Select Member will make every good effort to resolve the issue in good faith and agrees that the following information will be recorded and submitted to CRA:
    1. What the issue is.
    2. How the customer would like to see it resolved.
    3. Any contractual language that may have a bearing on the resolution.
    4. Confirmation in writing of any agreement for resolution that was reached.
  2. If a resolution cannot be reached, the Select Member will invite a mediator to assist in resolving the issue. The mediator or mediators may be formal or informal, professional or otherwise satisfactory to both parties.
  3. If the mediation does not bring a solution, then the Select Member agrees to arbitration under the rules of the American Arbitration Association.
  4. The intent of this provision is to preserve the unity and integrity of CRA Select Member program. Nothing should be construed to prevent any party from exercising its legal and constitutional judicial rights within their jurisdiction.

Code of Ethics
As providers of cleaning and restoration services to the public, we strive to apply the following principles with those that we have a business relationship.

  • conduct our business affairs with honesty and integrity;
  • to treat our customer’s property with care and respect;
  • to render our professional services consistent with current industry standards;
  • to continue to develop proficiency in our services by attending relevant training programs;
  • to share our knowledge with others in our industry; and
  • to avoid or disclose any conflicts of interest with our customers

We need to address one other possibility and it’s that your insurance company might have one of CRA’s Select Members as a restorer on their vendor program. If that is the case then you have a restorer that has gone through two rigid selection programs. If you choose to go with them, please let them know that you are happy to see that they are a part of the CRA Select Member Program.

The advantage is this program is that the restorer is pre-qualified. The pre-qualification process is much more extensive than the insurance company’s criterion. There is a dispute resolution policy that the restorer has agreed to follow.