Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Post-fire progress report #5

It's been a long, long day, and I'm worn out. I won't blog much tonight - my bed is calling me more and more loudly! Still, I guess some of you would like an update on developments since the fire in my house last week.

My insurers have assigned a forensic investigation company to analyze the shredder that appears to have been the source of the fire. One of their engineers came out this afternoon, and took lots of pictures of the fire scene (which I haven't been able to clean up, while waiting for him). He's taken the remains of the shredder back to Houston with him for technical analysis. It'll be interesting to hear what they find. I understand that if the shredder can be proved to be the cause of the fire, a claim for damages may be lodged by my insurers against the manufacturer.

I've finally got all the quotations for repairs and restoration. It looks like being a very expensive job. Smoke and soot were spread throughout the house by the A/C system during the fire, so that all the carpets and ceiling tiles have to be replaced, and the entire house repainted - the smell can't be gotten rid of any other way. I've now submitted all the quotes, totaling about $30,000, to my insurers, and I hope to hear by Friday whether or not they've approved them. I've also put in for about $9,000 of personal possessions and furniture damaged or destroyed by fire, smoke, soot or fire-extinguishing materials.

The real problem is going to be in paying for the repairs. You see, for amounts over $10,000, my bondholder insists that the money be sent to their Head Office in California. They'll cut checks for the repairs as and when their inspectors have certified that they've been completed satisfactorily. I can understand this: there have been many cases where home-owners have taken the insurance money and run for it, leaving behind a damaged house requiring expensive repairs before it can be sold. The bondholders have to protect their interests. Unfortunately, so do local contractors: and they need some money up front to buy materials, more as the job progresses, and the balance on completion. Without such payment arrangements, they won't do the work: and my bondholder refuses to pay in that way, wanting to inspect and verify the work's been done before disbursing a cent. Guess who's caught in the middle? That's right . . . me.

I'm probably going to have to ask my bank for a temporary line of credit, secured by the insurance payment, so that I can pay the contractors according to their schedule, and then be refunded by my bondholder once the inspections have been made. My insurance assessor has said he'll write to my bank to confirm the circumstances and the amount of the payout. That should help get the line of credit: but I guess I'll still have to pay a few hundred dollars in interest charges over the course of repairs. It's infuriating, but there's nothing I can do about it right now. Rest assured, though, once this lot is over, I'll be writing to Louisiana's insurance regulatory authorities, and to Governor Jindal, pointing out the problems inherent in such a situation, and asking whether something can be done about it. Being an election year, my Congressman and Senators will also get an earful. I'll be interested to see whether things can be improved for future cases like mine.

I'm also taking advantage of the restoration work to have some upgrades done on my own account. The house has never had proper skirting-boards (baseboards, as some call them), so I'll have them installed: and I've had a couple of old gas-fired wall-mounted space heaters taken out. I'll panel over the recesses with sheetrock, and that'll give me some more usable wall space for bookcases. (With a library the size of mine - about 2,500 books - I need it!) I've used different contractors for this work, so as to keep it at arms' length from those bidding for the insurance repairs, and I'll pay them separately as well. I should come out of this with a completely restored and renovated home interior, which is something to look forward to.

The next step will be on Friday, when I hear whether my insurers have accepted all the quotes. If they quibble, I'll have to get in more contractors (or the same ones again) to re-check what needs to be done and try for a lower figure. I'll also have to get to the bank and see about that line of credit.

If all goes well, the clean-up will begin in earnest next Tuesday. The painters will (hopefully) move in the following Monday, and the Monday after that should see the carpet installers arrive. Things should be finished in about three weeks, by September 21st, all being well. (Of course, in the building business, they seldom are, so it may be the end of September before everything's done.) I'll be moving into a hotel while the work's under way (fortunately, that's covered under my insurance policy).

When I move back into my house at last, I'll have the fun of unpacking and reinstalling all of my possessions, which will be in storage while repairs are under way. This includes my library, which will have to be re-sorted into subject and alphabetical order . . . groan! I think I might have to invite Ambulance Driver, Lawdog, Phlegm and a few other innocent victims fellow bloggers to come and stay with me for a week-long house-unpacking, book-sorting visit! (Beer and the finest Cajun food are on me, folks - and you'll find sleeping on the new carpet very comfortable, I promise!)

To make matters even more interesting, Tropical Storm Gustav is heading into the Gulf of Mexico as I write these words. Current projections show it growing to hurricane strength and making landfall near New Orleans late on Monday next week . . . just before work on my house is supposed to start! If it hits Louisiana, everything's going to be disrupted. My contractors are likely to be swamped with more urgent work, and Heaven knows when I'll be able to re-schedule things. Here's hoping Gustav misses us - although I can't really wish a hit from a hurricane on anyone else!

I'll keep you apprised of developments. I'll try to post more in the morning: but right now, I'm too tired to keep my eyes open. Time for beddy-byes!



Anonymous said...

Good Luck with the insurance company. They can be a pain.

Evil Transport Lady said...

Oh wow! I am so sorry for everything! I hope you get your settlement fast!

You are in my thoughts!

Ambulance Driver said...

You call, I'll be there -even if I have to take a sick day.