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Insurance company tries to screw Minneapolis homeowner

Consumer alert: Insurance Minneapolis Insurance Company pulls fast one

News flash. Your insurance company is not always looking out for your better interest. In fact, in the past 30 years they have developed sophisticated internal systems for limiting, delaying or denying claims altogether. Here is one such story.

I just inspected a cedar roof on Prairie Lakes Drive in Eden Prairie and was shocked to find that this poor homeowner, let’s call her Jane, had been duped. Twice. First by an unscrupulous roofing contractor who’s name I am dying to print here (but I won’t for fear of getting my tires slashed). The second and deeper shock came from realizing Jane’s insurance company pulled a major fast one too. I won’t mention the name of said company but I’m happy to tell you in person if you’re interested. Their marketing gestures usually are centered around how well they will take care of you when a tragedy occurs. What a load of crap.

The short story is that a door to door roofer convinced Jane to let him inspect her roof for storm damage. He went up on her roof and created fake wind damage in over a dozen areas. The whole thing took less than twenty minutes. Pretty impressive work when you think about it. Also totally illegal. Jane’s insurance company caught on to the scam after they inspected the roof, issuing a fancy 20 page report that acknowledged the roof was damaged, but not by wind. Jane’s claim was denied. The only problem is that Jane’s insurance company neglected to tell her she-like 99% of all insured homeowners-was covered for vandalism, and that’s exactly what had occurred on her roof. Her insurance company acted in bad faith and quietly let the whole thing pass hoping Jane wasn’t sophisticated enough to fully understand the esoteric language in her policy that detailed her coverages.

Dishonest Minneapolis roofer preys on trusting people

Can you find the vandalism on this roof?

Here is the timeline of events in greater detail:

August 2011:

A representative from a roofing outfit doing some work down the street knocks on Jane’s door and suggests she may have wind damage to her cedar roof. Being a trusting soul, Jane gives him permission to get up there and conduct an inspection. The roofer proceeds to hop around the roof, manually pulling up small areas of cedar roofing to simulate wind damage to the best of his ability. He damaged between 12 and 14 areas in total inside of 20 minutes. And yes, this sort of thing can be done quietly if you’re an experienced D-bag like this guy. Sir D-bag then gets off Jane’s roof, knocks on the door and tells her she should call her insurance company because her roof needs replacing due to storm damage.

September 2011:

The sketchy roofer meets with a claims adjuster from Jane’s insurance company on the roof to review the damage. He points to all of the spots he damaged and suggests the entire roof needs to be replaced due to severe wind damage. The adjuster takes copious notes and photographs in addition to conducting four test squares (more on that later). At the end of the meeting the adjuster tells Jane he will be sending her a report to summarize his findings within a week or so, noting before he left that there is clearly a number of damaged areas on her roof. He purposely leaves out the part about what caused the damage because he didn’t want to end up in a fist fight with the roofer, who was still hovering around.

One week later Jane receives a written statement from the adjuster indicating the need for an additional roof inspection from Haag Engineering, a firm specializing in many types of structural, mechanical and geological engineering diagnostics and investigations. (Side note: Haag Engineering earns the vast majority of it’s revenue from referrals from insurance companies and has been accused of bias in a number of law suits around the country.) I am a Haag Certified Inspector and suspect my certification will be yanked when they learn that I’ve bad-mouthed them here. Oh well. I want the truth to be out there.

October 2011:

Haag Engineering inspects Janes’s roof and determines it is damaged, not by a storm or some other natural event but through “mechanical lifting”. This is insurance industry code for someone got up there and damaged the roof on purpose. Engineering reports and insurance policies are intentionally opaque and confusing for the simple reason that most people are too busy to dig in and figure out exactly what all of the jargon means. Hence is the case with Jane’s cedar roof in Eden Prairie. Her cedar roof was vandalized but the boys from Haag avoided using that word because it would raise red flags and cost their employers-the insurance company-a lot of money.

Shortly after receiving Haag’s report through her insurance company Jane was notified by her claims adjuster that her roof damage was not covered. Not being a cedar roof expert or homeowners insurance underwriter, Jane and her husband shrugged their shoulders and assumed they needed to start saving money to pay for the roof replacement themselves (about $39,000). No one from Haag or from Jane’s insurance company mentioned that her roof had been intentionally damaged, at least not in language the average person comprehends and so the claim quietly slipped away, along with any chance for financial recourse.

August 2012:

Now a year later, Jane and her husband had saved up enough money to get their cedar roof replaced. They felt good about using the roofer that was so helpful in working with their insurance company last fall (the very scammer that damaged their roof on purpose). Why wouldn’t they? Yet just to be a smart consumer Jane asked around her social circle for the name of another roofer to get a second bid. That’s when she called us. It turns out we have worked for four other neighbors.

I inspected the roof and found that other than the aforementioned isolated damaged spots it was in decent condition. After being repaired I estimated that it had another six years minimum of additional life. As I walked around from area to area I quickly realized  I was looking at a clear case of vandalism. I took many high resolution photos of the damaged areas. After explaining to Jane what I had found she was appropriately shocked. Worse, when I told her the roof damage should be covered by her insurance she was shocked even more because her claim had been denied.

I advised her to immediately call her insurance provider and pursue the coverage she deserved. I offered up the services of our in-house insurance badass, Pete, who has been in the business for almost as long as I’ve been alive. Pete frequently spanks around insurance claims reps and adjusters who try to play games with our clients. It’s somewhat amusing to watch. I am eager to see what happens in this case because it is such an ugly situation and she was so cool to deal with.

I will follow up in another blog with the outcome. I also plan on creating a Kuhl Case Study soon that will have photos of the damage done by the original roofer.

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