DennisBeaverMay 19, 2012 (Original publish date) • By Dennis Beaver

“Mr. Beaver, I am the president of a disaster restoration company in Central California where two of your recent columns really got applause from all of us here in management. You zeroed in on something that happens far too often, and that’s customers who received — and kept — insurance checks intended to pay our bill.

“It is important for your readers to understand that insurance proceeds received, and meant to pay the restoration company, are designed to do just that. When customers use that money for other purposes, they may be breaking the law.

“Disaster restoration contractors are ready to help homeowners at their time of need, such as after a burst pipe or smoke damage from a fire. They truly help our communities. Just like sudden illness or death, at these times we are most vulnerable, do not know where to turn, what our rights are or how to select a qualified company. You could do a real public service by explaining damage remediation and what homeowners need to know in order to hire the right company for their type of loss. Thanks again, Eric.”

Know in advance who to call when the pipe breaks

Eric’s suggestion to become aware of who to call before it’s necessary is a message that Tampa, Fla.-based Pete Cosigli firmly advocates.

As an authority in the area of restoration and damage repair, Consigli lectures frequently both in the United States and abroad, holding the position of industry advisor for the Restoration Industry Association of Rockville, Md. Even though he is not an attorney, we find his knowledge of the law and common-sense approach to the prevention of legal disputes admirable.

“The question is not if there is going to be a loss requiring the services of a restoration company. It is when. And, for this reason, I urge your readers to become familiar with companies in their community, and what types of certifications they have — the kinds of losses they are trained and qualified to handle,” he tells You and the Law.

“You want a company that is certified for the kind of work you’ll need, such as fire, water, drying, mold and other related services. Look at the phone book and the Internet to see which trade organizations they are members of and what certifications they hold. Being unprepared — not knowing who to call — could make you vulnerable at the time of loss. So, just like moving into a new town with small children, you would look for a pediatrician before your kids are sick. The same logic applies here. Know in advance who to call when the pipe breaks,” he urges.

“ tells you how to find members of the oldest and largest restoration trade association. gives you a list of certified technicians in various cleaning and restorations disciplines. These organizations have stringent codes of ethics and conduct as well as a grievance process which can help consumers in the event there is some problem,” Consigli points out.

Damage restoration is science based — watch out for red flags

We asked, “You just returned home from work and find that a broken pipe has flooded carpet, floors, walls, soaked your furniture and other personal property. You call a restoration company and they arrive promptly. What should the homeowner expect at that time?”

“A competent technician will ask the customer, if it is known, to explain what caused the incident — which pipe burst and where it was located, for example — and will try to determine the sequence of events which led to the damage. It is critical to be sure that the cause was determined and that it was fixed before restoration efforts are begun,” Consigli stressed.

“Today, damage restoration uses scientific principles and begins with a thorough inspection to determine what materials are wet and the degree of saturation.

“The use of appropriate diagnostic instruments is absolutely essential at this stage. A huge red flag would be a technician saying something to the effect, “Gee, that looks and feels wet (or dry) to me, without actually using moisture-testing instruments to verify the accuracy of that statement.

“Sudden, accidental water damage is the most common restoration emergency that homeowners are likely to experience. The more you know — in advance — the better prepared you will be to select a qualified company. Your worst nightmare in a water-damage claim is moisture which should have been discovered and treated, which then leads to mold, odors or structural damage,” Consigli cautions.

Restoring a water-damaged home can be incredibly noisy. Next time, we’ll tell you what questions to ask your adjuster to make life so much more bearable while your home is being dried.

Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.