You CAN dispute your homeowner's insurance settlement; here's how
TRENTON, DADE COUNTY, GA (WRCB) -- For almost three months, tarps covered where walls once stood.
An EF-3 tornado took so much of Kathy Moore's childhood home in Trenton, April 27, that she wants the rest of it torn down.
"I don't feel like I would ever think it was safe for my mother to live in," she told Eyewitness News back in May.
Monday, she got her wish. Demolition crews took the home down to its ground-floor tile and its blacktop driveway.
"I just kept calling, calling, calling, saying I'm not accepting that," says Moore.
Her mother's insurance company had deemed the damage 'fixable' for $53,800, less than half the appraised value, for insurance purposes, and barely two-thirds of its 'tax value.'
"I called the Insurance Commissioner's office; they told me to invoke the right of appraisal," she says.
Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee laws allow homeowner's the equivalent of a second-opinion, according to Greg Hawkins, Director of Consumer Services in the Office of the Insurance Commissioner.
Moore hired structural engineer Steve Hendrix. Four days after our first visit, he checked her mother's home from basement to attic.
"I've been doing this for 30 years," Hendrix told us May 27. "We're looking at the framing, the foundation, whether the foundation's been compromised, anything and everything that would affect your ability to repair a home, such that it would be safe and structurally sound."
His fee: $300.
"The second appraisal would be at the homeowner's expense," Hawkins says. "And the insurance company's appraisal would be at their expense."
Georgia's Insurance Commissioner keeps a list of qualified appraisers. Moore's insurance company hired one from that list.
"If the re-appraisers can't agree, a pre-approved umpire settles it," Hawkins says. "If they can't agree on an umpire, they can take it to a court and let the court appoint an umpire."
Moore's quest never went that far. Her insurer's appraiser actually helped HER case.
"He found that the whole roof line had been uplifted," she says. "When he and my appraiser started talking, he was already up to the policy limit. That told me we were going to get a much better settlement."
It was 'substantially better', Moore says.
"I won't get into specific dollars, but it probably was one and a half times the original check. But it won't allow us to replace the house because the estimate was even more than the policy limit," says Moore.
The resulting 'dollar gap' means Moore is torn between asking FEMA to make up the difference, or moving her mother somewhere outside the Glenwood neighborhood.
"It's gonna be years before the neighborhood will look like a civil place to live," she says.
An outbuilding, part of a wooden porch, and the concrete front steps are all that remain on the property. Furniture is stored in a POD container.
"My message is, it's definitely worth the fight," Moore says. "You have to stay on top of everything, you have to be able to document and keep good records, so you know who you've talked to and when."
"You can't give up. That's what they want you to do," says Moore.
Georgia's Office of Insurance & Fire Safety takes no direct role in disputes between insurance companies and policyholders. But it has a toll-free line to take complaints and questions: 1-800-656-2298.