One of the most frustrating things about water restoration is getting a call from the adjuster saying your bill is too high. During my more than 14 years in the water restoration business, I have received many calls from adjusters saying that my price is too high for this dehumidifier or this fan, etc. This used to bother me until I learned the secret to avoiding most of these calls, COMMUNICATION, AND DOCUMENTATION. Remember that the adjuster has to justify his work to his boss and as long as the price and scope of the work can be justified, then it will be paid.
It is important to start work on the right foot. You should always obtain a work authorization signed by the insured before starting work. A work authorization will allow some insurance companies to pay you directly or at least include your name on the check.
Then as soon as the initial mitigation is done, call the adjuster and let him know what you did. This can be done on the way back to your office. During this conversation, let the adjuster know what you saw when you arrived and what you decided to do about it. During this conversation, I usually try to avoid talking about prices. If you ask about it, I’ll talk about it, but for me this is more of an informational phone call to the adjuster. At this point the adjuster has usually not been there, so calling him and informing him of what is happening is my main goal.
Next, you should have an itemized invoice. The invoice should include your company name, address (so they can send the check), and your tax identification number. Each room in which the work was performed should be separated and measured to the nearest inch. Then, within each room, list each item or equipment. At this point, it is good to comment on the items that are most questioned, such as the cost of dehumidifiers, number of fans, extraction, etc. Post comments with the articles, if your estimating software allows, justifying why you charge what you do for a dehumidifier or why you had 3 fans in a 6 x 6 room. Anything that can be questioned how. For me, this is one of the most important parts of the billing process. Yes, it takes a long time, but the adjuster will be able to see the reasoning behind the order line. This alone can prevent most calls.
Please include a copy of the signed work authorization and the signed certificate of satisfaction below. This not only shows that the customer was satisfied, it gave them permission to do the job. Make sure your work authorization form includes a section that allows the insurance company to pay you directly. I personally had my attorney review my form to make sure I was achieving what I wanted. I strongly suggest that you do the same no matter if you got a generic form from somewhere or came up with your own form.
Another tool that helps justify your bill to the adjuster is your daily humidity readings. You must maintain temperature, relative humidity, and grains (gpp) indoors, outdoors, unaffected area, dehumidifiers, and HVAC. By doing this, you will be able to learn about what happens during work. For example, several years ago we opened a new refrigerant dehumidifier and took it directly to work. When we got there and turned it on, we started running our psychrometric readings and discovered that there was a problem with the dehumidifier. It was great to discover that then and not the next day when we would have had a lot of evaporation and no dehumidification. Using the grain readings can also help you test that the equipment was turned off, that a door that you wanted to close was opened, that a window was opened, etc. When used correctly, it can show the adjuster why you needed an extra day. Also be sure to include plenty of comments to accompany your readings to help explain what you saw.
To accompany your daily moisture readings, try including a chart from a data logger. Data loggers can be configured to record temperature and relative humidity as often as you like. I like to set ours to log every minute and this gives you a nice graph of what is happening at work. When the job is complete, print the chart and return it with your invoice. As with your daily readings, a graph will help you demonstrate what you saw happening at work. (i.e. door left open, window open, equipment turned off, etc.) Taking an hour meter reading from your equipment at various points on the job can also help test when things were not working and should be turned in as part of your documentation.
Kevin Pearson is a partner at Pearson Carpet Care. He has more than 17 years of experience in the cleaning and restoration business. He is a member of various committees of the IICRC (Institute for Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification) and is a member of the board of directors of the PCRA (Professional Cleaning and Restoration Alliance). Kevin has dried up construction in Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. He has extensive experience drying residential homes, but has also dried office buildings, chemical plants, historic homes, Southern Methodist University, Stephen F. Austin State University, the Toyota Center (where the Houston Rockets play) and more.