Auditor advises steps to take after storm damage
HELENA – State Auditor Matt Rosendale is advising Montanans to be vigilant after last weekend’s storm brought strong winds and damaged properties in Northwest Montana.
“Folks need to take steps immediately to document storm damage and be on the lookout for storm chasers,” Rosendale said in a press release. “Work with your insurance company to get the claims process started and make sure you have a reputable contractor or auto body shop. My office is available to answer questions and assist with any insurance-related problems after these severe storms.”
Montanans have experienced problems with out-of-state contractors after major weather events in recent years. It’s important for homeowners to take the right steps from the beginning to prevent bigger problems down the road. Consumers must take ownership of the process and not hand off responsibility to third parties. Property owners control all of the contractual agreements with insurers and contractors, it’s ultimately up to the consumer to make sure everything happens properly.
If your property was damaged over the weekend, here is what you should do:
• Immediately take photos and thoroughly document all damage before beginning any cleanup or repairs.
• Then, take steps to prevent further destruction of the property. Cover broken windows and holes in roofs, put tarps over places that could get more water or wind damage, etc.
• Contact your insurance company and get the claims process started. Make sure you understand your deductible, what is and isn’t covered, and your responsibilities.
• Don’t sign an agreement with a contractor until you’ve talked to your insurance agent or company representative.
• Beware of high-pressure sales tactics and unsolicited offers from contractors. Don’t feel rushed to sign a repair contract. Get multiple bids and check references. Choose a contractor who will work with your insurance adjuster to assess damage and costs of repair.
• Verify that the contractor you’re considering is registered to do business in Montana, has workers compensation insurance, liability insurance, and is bonded.
• Get a written contract and never pay in full for work before it’s completed.
• Maintain ownership of the process: don’t hand over Power of Attorney or responsibility for settling the insurance claim, don’t sign a contract that has blanks or isn’t thorough.
• When dealing with damage to vehicles or trailers, work with reputable auto body shops and get multiple bids.
Contact Rosendale’s office with questions or concerns about insurance at 406-444-2040 or csimt.gov
Contact the Montana Office of Consumer Protection with concerns about contractors at 444-4500 or dojmt.gov/consumer
If you dodged impacts from the recent storms, take time to review your insurance policy, pay attention to your deductibles and other details, and make sure you have the coverage you want in case of future weather damage.