Monday, August 09, 2010

Well, folks, now you know why I FINALLY switched my insurance to Mercury (here in California), where by grouping my policies (auto + home), Mercury was able to give me BETTER coverage than State Farm at HALF THE RATE. I kid you not.

Read what RB has had to go through:


Friday night, 4:00pm, wife and I notice water outside the front door. After some investigation, determined it was coming from inside a wall in the coat closet, on the other side of the entryway by the front door. At 4:30pm I called my agent who asked if I wanted “Servpro” to come out and do whatever it is they do. I declined saying I’d look into it further. By 5:15pm, we knew we were in over our head. I called and left a message for my agent and then contacted a local flood/restoration company. Naturally, I assumed my HOI would cover a slab leak or at least the ensuing damage. Around 5:30 or so I was on the phone starting the claim process with their claim center. I was told a member of their claims dept should contact me to explain the process within a couple hours. Meanwhile, the flood and restoration company was busy tearing out the wet drywall exposing the leaking pipe. A couple hours later, I initiated a second call. I was greeted by someone who ‘was so glad I called’ and could connect me to the claims department. The claims department indicated they couldn’t authorize any work (I had contacted a local plumber and scheduled him to come out on Saturday morning for repair and/or leak detection) until the damage had been inspected by their adjuster. When I asked when the adjuster would be out, I was told he was off for the weekend and most likely would return my call Monday morning. The claims rep stated that only the adjuster would know my policy and its coverages and exclusions and that the amount of coverage could not be determined without an investigation. I tried my agent again via email and phone, no answer either way. Like a good neighbor, State Farm was…out at the lake fishing or whatever.

Meanwhile, the flood and restoration guy left his blowers blowing and his dehumidifiers dehumidifying.

Saturday morning, the plumber confirms a slab leak but opts not to repair until we discuss with the insurance company. He suspects the leak is about 12” down, below the slab. Neither he nor the flood/restoration guy had EVER heard of a slab leak not being covered. They both indicated, in their experience, that State Farm most likely would not cover repair to the pipe itself, but, based upon what they’ve seen in the past, the insurance normally covers everything else including the drying, wet stuff rip out, slab intrusion, and rebuild. Since State Farm couldn’t tell me what was covered and not, we waited.

Sunday, while waiting, I looked up another local State Farm agent I’d met through the local chamber of commerce. I emailed her. Wouldn’t you know it, she returned my email by calling me within an hour, unlike my own agent.

Monday morning, I finally reach the adjuster. He indicates the field rep is already in the field for the day and won’t be able to assess damage until Tuesday at the earliest. The adjuster indicated that slab leaks are not covered under the policy but that the ensuing damage should be. This meant we would have to pay to cut into the slab and repair the line. At NO time did he mention the infamous ‘subsurface water’ exclusion. I reached my agent on Monday and gave him a piece of my mind. He was less than helpful and claimed to have never received my email. He admitted that he does not check voicemail messages over the weekend. At this point, I’ve made peace with the fact that I’d be paying for my deductible and the plumbing repair in its entirety. I was unsure if the tile damaged to get to the plumbing would be covered or not. Meanwhile, blowers blowing and dehumidifiers dehumidifying

Tuesday morning. The flood and restoration guy arrives and confirms the area is dried. He has done his job correctly and saved our tile from water damage. The State Farm field rep shows up. He does his thing. To his credit, he did the best he could and seemed genuinely empathetic, BUT, wait for it, State Farm has an exclusion for water originating below the surface. If the leak is 12” down, it is below the slab. Therefore, absolutely NOTHING is covered, not the primary event nor the ensuing damage.

In conversations with the adjuster, the agent, and their field rep, they all were adamant that NO ONE covers damage originating from subsurface water and that this is very well known in the industry. To which my flood and restoration guy says, “Uh, no it’s not.” My question, if it’s so well known on their common HOI policy, why the hell didn’t anyone I spoke with when I started the claims process know this??? Had I known on Friday night, I would have told the flood and restoration guy to take a hike and would have gone and rented my own blowers and dehumidifiers from home depot. Since I thought the insurance company was going to cover the loss, I assumed they needed licensed and bonded contractors to do the drying scientifically and not Joe Blow homeowner.

In my opinion, State Farm acted in bad faith by delaying the inspection process and failing to explain the coverage of my HOI policy when I explicitly explained on Friday night that I had a SLAB LEAK. If this exclusion is as well-known as they indicated, certainly their own staff would have known it when the claim was initiated.

They did offer to pay for the leak detection, which I thought was fair considering that $250 got them off the hook for the $3400 drying bill, $3000 rebuild bill, and $900 plumbing repair (more like $2400 because we opted to reroute OUT of the slab).

The ‘good’ news is that my HOI policy is up for renewal in four days. I’m shopping for a new carrier. I wonder if my mortgage company is aware that State Farm lacks this coverage? I wonder if they’d force their homeowners to look for different HOI…