Homeowners Insurance issues

The woman who purchased my old Maplewood is having an issue with her homeowners policy.  We’ll call her T.  Her neighbor’s house recently burned down, and T’s house was damaged.  The neighbor’s house burned so hot that the siding melted off of T’s house, her porch suffered damage, and all the wiring on that side of the house melted, it “looks like spaghetti.”  T’s insurance sent an adjuster out, he looked, and now the insurance company is saying they’ll cut a check for $7,000 for repairs.


T has had two people look, and both said electrical alone will run a minimum of $20,000 to repair, which I believe.  Literally every wire on that side of the house, every outlet, all of it is melted.  Electrical isn’t cheap and needs to be done right for safety.   And that doesn’t even address the siding that literally melted off her house, and the front porch that needs structural repairs.  $7,000 is an absolute insult.

Is this normal insurance bullish!t?  When we had a claim on my grandmother’s house they came back with a realistic number and even set up the contractor to do the work.  I’m worried that the insurance company saw an old woman of color with a foreign accent and decided to screw her over thinking she might not know any better. 

I don’t want to see her lose the house, but doing repairs out of her own pocket is not feasible for her.  How can she appeal this, and are they’re any resources out there to help people in her position fight the insurance company for a fair and reasonable compensation to repair the house?


I think she needs to explain that contractors fees in this area are more expensive and get estimates. We had a similar issue with a claim and once we had a local contractor submit the estimate they took care of it. 

She should get estimates for EVERYTHING related to the damage, including personal items damaged (electronics etc) sheetrock repair, painting. 

Sorry she is dealing with this. 


Yes I do think this is pretty typical. And some insurance companies really make it difficult. 



spontaneous said:



Is this normal insurance bullish!t?  When we had a claim on my grandmother’s house they came back with a realistic number and even set up the contractor to do the work.  I’m worried that the insurance company saw an old woman of color with a foreign accent and decided to screw her over thinking she might not know any better. 


Yes it is normal ******** and, of course, contrary to everything said on the TV commercials. A woman in Maplewood had a similar problem and went back and forth with e-mails for a very long time. She finally had to hire a lawyer (me) and sue. The Company eventually paid her.


STANV said:

spontaneous said:


Is this normal insurance bullish!t?  When we had a claim on my grandmother’s house they came back with a realistic number and even set up the contractor to do the work.  I’m worried that the insurance company saw an old woman of color with a foreign accent and decided to screw her over thinking she might not know any better. 


Yes it is normal ******** and, of course, contrary to everything said on the TV commercials. A woman in Maplewood had a similar problem and went back and forth with e-mails for a very long time. She finally had to hire a lawyer (me) and sue. The Company eventually paid her.

 Ugh, I don’t know if T has the money for a lawyer 


https://www.twp.maplewood.nj.us/community-services-department/public-health-division/pages/seniors-caregiver-resources

Try Maplewood Senior Resources or Essex County Division of Senior Services.

Main Office Number: 973-395-8375
Information & Assistance Numbers:
973-395-8365, 973-395-8367, 973-395-8368


And yes, this is what insurance companies do.


I will answer your question, spontaneous.

A letter (or online equivalent) to NJ Dept. Banking and Insurance laying out all the facts. When the customer is in the right, NJDOBI is always successful in persuading the entity in the wrong to do the right thing. With no sweat or agita on the part of the customer. 

Once ( pre internet adoption by the State), a “VP” of a NJ regulated insurance company tracked me down at work 2 days after I mailed the letter to NJ Division of Insurance to “ apologize for the misunderstanding” and reverse course on a previous decision.

Things may be different now, with the passage of time, and covid.


Would reaching out to the Bamboozled column in the Star-Ledger be of any use? They do seem to get results and advocate pretty doggedly for the people whose problems they are trying to solve. 

When our basement flooded, the insurance company was pretty reasonable, but didn't want to replace the raised floor and paneled walls (from the previous homeowner, not my taste!). The flood happened in August while we were away and the stagnant water had stood for several hot days. There was mold and mildew that we could see - but it wasn't until I started questioning the adjuster and raising the possibility of getting an outside company in to test for toxicity that they agreed to rip out the walls and raised floor and pay for replacement. Sometimes you have to make some noise, but I can see where it might be difficult for someone not comfortable with the language and going on the attack. 


They should hire a private adjustor.  That adjustor will note every last thing that needs repair, down to a crack in the plaster.  They typically get a percentage of the recovery, but add so much to the list that it is well worth it.  I had a claim on a rental property that the insurance company tried to pay me 10k for.  The adjustor got me 55k and took 20%, or 11k.


FilmCarp said:

They should hire a private adjustor.  That adjustor will note every last thing that needs repair, down to a crack in the plaster.  They typically get a percentage of the recovery, but add so much to the list that it is well worth it.  I had a claim on a rental property that the insurance company tried to pay me 10k for.  The adjustor got me 55k and took 20%, or 11k.

 Ray Testa of Atlantic Adjusting.

https://www.atlanticadjustingcompany.com/about-us

Ray fought with State Farm and got us more than double their offer on repairing our home after Sandy. It was absolutely worth paying the commission he charged. He also helped us when our initial contractors were doing a poor job. He really does go to bat for you. I don't know if he specializes in only larger claims.


T should begin by reading her homeowners insurance policy. Unfortunately, not all home owners insurance will offer the same level of coverage.  The better policies will give the homeowner replacement value for damage such as that you describe.  There is generally an additional charge for this sort of policy and not everyone can or wants to pay for that.  Others will pay out a lot less.  Thus the difference between your experience and T's.  T should still follow the excellent advice given above; however, reading and understanding the policy will give her a better understanding of how much she can expect to recoup. 


dickf3 said:

I will answer your question, spontaneous.

A letter (or online equivalent) to NJ Dept. Banking and Insurance laying out all the facts. When the customer is in the right, NJDOBI is always successful in persuading the entity in the wrong to do the right thing. With no sweat or agita on the part of the customer. 

Once ( pre internet adoption by the State), a “VP” of a NJ regulated insurance company tracked me down at work 2 days after I mailed the letter to NJ Division of Insurance to “ apologize for the misunderstanding” and reverse course on a previous decision.

Things may be different now, with the passage of time, and covid.

 Just want to second this recommendation from dickf3.  I've known several people whose insurance companies reversed decisions after NJDOBI was informed and a complaint was filed.  It's easy to do this also. There is an online complaint form: https://www.state.nj.us/dobi/consumer.htm

Or you can call them at: 


609-292-7272 or our Consumer Hotline 1-800-446-7467
(8:30 am to 5:00 pm EST Monday through Friday)

Additionally, there is an Insurance Ombudsman whom she can contact. (I've reached out to Ombudsmen in other departments in Trenton, and found them very responsive, and helpful in giving advice about how to escalate my concerns.)  

Insurance Claims Ombudsman
PO Box 472, Trenton, NJ 08625

Consumer advocate providing information and assistance on insurance related issues
Phone: 609-292-7272 or 1-800-446-7467
FAX: 609-292-2431
E-mail: ombudsman@dobi.nj.gov


Good luck!

I just wanted to say I’m glad everyone else chimed in, especially bikefixed because I remember his situation! 


I vaguely remember Bikefixed’s situation, but mostly the part about an oak tree crashing into the house and hitting a dresser so hard that a drawer flew across the room.  I didn’t remember that he had insurance issues

I guess we were just lucky with my grandmother.  When my father called they told him over the phone that tenant damage was not covered as it was “wear and tear” but that they would send out an adjuster because he insisted.  The adjuster took one look and said no way in hell was this wear and tear, it was straight up vandalism by the now evicted tenants and only required a police report for them to pay out the claim


spontaneous said:

I vaguely remember Bikefixed’s situation, but mostly the part about an oak tree crashing into the house and hitting a dresser so hard that a drawer flew across the room.  I didn’t remember that he had insurance issues

I guess we were just lucky with my grandmother.  When my father called they told him over the phone that tenant damage was not covered as it was “wear and tear” but that they would send out an adjuster because he insisted.  The adjuster took one look and said no way in hell was this wear and tear, it was straight up vandalism by the now evicted tenants and only required a police report for them to pay out the claim

 Better than that, the insurance company sued the tenant. It was willful damage. They were pissed because I filed for eviction for non-payment. Damage was $19,000. 


Yeah, that one branch flipped the dresser onto the bed we were smart enough to not be in. Another branch punched through and busted the radiator off the lead pipe and threw it as well. Anyway, the area-wide disaster immediately depleted the ranks of the local insurance adjusters so SF brought in people from all over the country. Our team was a pair of folks from Maryland and Colorado so there was little regard for what things cost here AND they didn't care at all about the full replacement coverage we had been paying for. It wasn't until Ray pointed it out in a letter to the local authorities that they took notice but they still offered less than half of both the repair estimates from contractors.

Again, **** State Farm.

spontaneous said:

I vaguely remember Bikefixed’s situation, but mostly the part about an oak tree crashing into the house and hitting a dresser so hard that a drawer flew across the room.  I didn’t remember that he had insurance issues 


yahooyahoo said:

State Farm sucks.

 Actually, we've had State Farm for many, many years and overall have been pleased with the company. That said, some years ago, the agent who took over for a retiring previous agent proved to be beyond awful. We switched to a different office and different agent (on a friend's recommendation) and have been pleased ever since. I guess the moral of the story is that a good rep can make a big difference. (That holds true, of course, for all companies, not just insurance companies.)


T found an electrician who wasn’t afraid of all the melted wires and heat damage to come look at the situation.  I don’t know if his estimate is any lower than the original one she had.  I forwarded the resources here to her, and haven’t heard back if she’s following up or if they’re just going to accept the disgustingly low offer the insurance company made.  She doesn’t really respond to my text messages.  Last time I was out that way I didn’t see her around, next time I’m out I’ll look again and see if I can find her to get an update 


Without giving away too much personal information, it seems that T was big part of the issue  in that she didn’t understand what paperwork the insurance company would need   question  and now her daughter is handling the situation with the insurance company directly.  




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