Being prepared is key in enabling
property owners to make a timely insurance claim for damage to their property
and to ensure a reasonable and fair settlement from their insurance company.
Based on experience gained from
Hurricanes Mitch, Michelle, Ivan and Paloma there are a number of steps that
should be taken by any prudent property owner, both prior to and following an
event, where a claim on property insurance may be necessary.
Prior to hurricane season, one of
the most important preparations would be to ensure that a current reinstatement
cost assessment has been prepared with respect to the property, by an
appropriately experienced Chartered Surveyor and that the insurance cover is
appropriate to the assessment. It is advisable to keep a copy of the
reinstatement cost assessment in a safe place, with your insurance policy and
other important documents, as it will assist greatly in establishing the design
and specification of the property in the event of a total loss. It would also
be prudent for an owner to take their own photographic record of their property
and belongings. Although photographs will be included in a reinstatement cost
assessment they will generally only be for the purpose of identifying the
specification of construction and level of finish of the building and other
improvements to the property specified by the client. The owner should
therefore have their own photographic record of their contents.
Following damage to a property by a
hurricane, or other event, the owner should first contact their insurance
company as soon as possible and inform the company of their intent to make a
claim. It would then be advisable to retain the services of a local, independent
Chartered Surveyor to prepare a damage assessment, which will professionally
record and cost the damage incurred. In order to avoid any potential conflict
of interest, it is advisable to ensure, prior to instructing a firm, that the
Chartered Surveyors are not engaged by any of the firms of international loss
adjusters and would therefore also effectively be working on behalf of the
insurance companies. Caution should also be had in retaining the services of
‘Public Adjusters’ who are paid based on a percentage of the value of the
overall claim, rather than a set hourly rate normally charged by Chartered Surveyors.
Such method of payment means that the public adjuster has an inherent interest
in maximising the claim, rather than making a reasonable and independent assessment.
Whilst the maximisation of a claim may initially seem attractive to a claimant,
claims submitted by public adjusters are more likely to receive extra scrutiny
from the insurance company which can cause delay in receiving payment.
Using a local firm of Chartered
Surveyors in the preparation of an insurance claim for property damage means
that they will also be able to readily assist in the procurement of the
reinstatement and repair works, as soon as payment is received from the insurance
company, thus ensuring that the claimant and his family are back in their home
in the shortest possible time.
Simon J. Watson is the director of
Charterland Ltd. responsible for Valuations & Appraisals. He is a Fellow of
The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, a founding Board member and
former Vice-Chairman of RICS Caribbean and Caribbean representative to the
Board of RICS Americas. Simon has over 20 years experience in surveying, the
majority of that experience gained in the Caribbean. Charterland Ltd. are a
firm of Chartered Surveyors based in the Cayman Islands but providing a
comprehensive range of property consulting services including valuations, cost
consulting, property management and insurance claims adjusting services, across
the Caribbean region.