On October 10, I got the phone call no homeowner wants to receive. It was from my real estate agent, frantically asking where the water shutoff valve is in the house we are trying to sell. What followed was a load of bad news. The water heater in the home had failed, sending a few inches of water throughout the entire finished basement. The water heater had apparently exploded, blowing a hole through the drywall. Water was running out the back doors of the walkout basement. Since the home is vacant and no one had been there in two days, the water could have been leaking out for as long as 45 hours.
Soon after my phone call to a restoration company specializing in emergencies of this type, I called my State Farm agent. He filed a claim immediately, and I received a call that same morning from an adjuster at the national office who asked questions to get my claim rolling. That afternoon, the local adjuster assigned to my case called to arrange an inspection of the damage. He agreed to meet the restoration contractor at the home, so I wouldn’t have to make the hour-long drive to let him into the house. A couple of days later, my agent’s office called to make sure the claim was proceeding smoothly.
The local adjuster handled the claim very fairly, even agreeing to pay for the increased electric usage at the home caused by all the industrial fans used to dry out the basement carpet. The national adjuster advised me that State Farm will also pay the hefty water bill we are likely to receive for the many hours the water heater was pumping out water.
We received our first check from State Farm exactly three weeks after the incident took place, and it covered all the charges for mitigation and repairs. We have not yet received our water bill, so it’s too soon to report whether that part of the claim will go as smoothly.
The one area where I feel customer service was lacking from State Farm is in their e-mail correspondence. About two weeks after the claim was filed, I sent the company’s national office an e-mail asking when to expect the first payment. I received an auto-response which said (in part), “Please understand you will not receive an immediate response from one of our claim representatives because your e-mail will follow the same process we have in place for the paper mail we receive. Normally, mail is attached to a claim and reviewed by one of our claim representatives within a couple of days of receipt at our office. Since e-mail communications are not secure, we will not be responding to you via e-mail.”
The insecure nature of e-mail is not a sound justification for failing to replying to messages electronically. To answer my question, State Farm would not have to release any personal information; they could just tell me when to expect a check. Or, the company could set up a secure website where customers could send and receive encrypted messages. Refusing to correspond with customers by e-mail is bad business. Interestingly, the local adjuster did correspond with me on other matters through e-mail.
I never received any answer to the payment question I submitted by e-mail, not even via a letter in the mail or a phone call. Overall, though, I am quite pleased with the assistance I’ve received from State Farm. My home is now fully restored and ready for a buyer.