A Substantive Due Process Challenge to the War on Drugs

Substantive Due Process Analysis of the Incarceration of Drug Offenders A. Framework In Washington v. Glucksberg, Chief Justice Rehnquist described the framework for substantive due process analysis: Our established method of substantive-due-process analysis has two primary features: First, we have regularly observed that the Due Process Clause specially protects those fundamental rights and liberties which … Continue reading “A Substantive Due Process Challenge to the War on Drugs”

Substantive Due Process Analysis of the Incarceration of Drug Offenders

A. Framework

In Washington v. Glucksberg, Chief Justice Rehnquist described the framework for substantive due process analysis:

Our established method of substantive-due-process analysis has two primary features: First, we have regularly observed that the Due Process Clause specially protects those fundamental rights and liberties which are, objectively, “deeply rooted in this Nation’s history and tradition,” and “implicit in the concept of ordered liberty,” such that “neither liberty nor justice would exist if they were sacrificed.” Second, we have required in substantive-due-process cases a “careful description” of the asserted fundamental liberty interest. Our Nation’s history, legal traditions, and practices thus provide the crucial “guideposts for responsible decisionmaking,” that direct and restrain our exposition of the Due Process Clause. As we stated recently in Flores, the Fourteenth Amendment “forbids the government to infringe . . . ‘fundamental’ liberty interests at all, no matter what process is provided, unless the infringement is narrowly tailored to serve a compelling state interest.”

Applying this method, one must first examine freedom from incarceration to determine if it is a fundamental right. If so, government policies that require the incarceration of offenders, including drug offenders, must serve compelling interests and be narrowly tailored to achieve them. This article assumes for the sake of argument that drug problems give rise to compelling state interests. It then reviews the interests asserted by the government in its pursuit of its drug war policies and the results of those policies to determine whether the policy of incarcerating drug offenders is narrowly tailored to those asserted interests.

B. The Fundamental Liberty Interest: Freedom from Incarceration

Federal and state laws subject drug offenders to incarceration. Incarceration is a tremendous deprivation of liberty that triggers the protections of the Due Process Clause. The Supreme Court has recognized this right on a number of occasions. In DeShaney v. Winnebago County DSS for example, the court held:

[I]t is the State’s affirmative act of restraining the individual’s freedom to act on his own behalf–through incarceration, institutionalization, or other similar restraint of personal liberty–which is the “deprivation of liberty” triggering the protections of the Due Process Clause . . . .

Perhaps the earliest explicit recognition by the Supreme Court of freedom from incarceration as a fundamental right under substantive due process came in Allgeyer:

The ‘liberty’ mentioned in [the fourteenth] amendment means, not only the right of the citizen to be free from the mere physical restraint of his person, as by incarceration, but the term is deemed to embrace the right of the citizen to be free in the enjoyment of all his faculties; to be free to use them in all lawful ways; to live and work where he will; to earn his livelihood by any lawful calling; to pursue any livelihood or avocation; and for that purpose to enter into all contracts which may be proper, necessary, and essential to his carrying out to a successful conclusion the purposes above mentioned.

An 1891 law review article noted that Blackstone described “freedom from restraint of the person” as “perhaps the most important of all civil rights,” and that Lord Coke felt “the liberty of a man’s person is more precious to him than everything else that is mentioned [in the Magna Charta].” Blackstone states that “the rights of all mankind . . . may be reduced to three principal or primary articles; the right of personal security, the right of personal liberty, and the right of private property.” Indeed, the original Latin in the Magna Charta’s “law of the land” clause uses the term “imprisonetur.”

No court has invalidated a criminal statute through the application of substantive due process analysis to the fundamental right of freedom from incarceration. At the same time, no court has ruled to the contrary. The Supreme Court avoided the question in Reno v. Flores:

The “freedom from physical restraint” invoked by respondents is not at issue in this case. Surely not in the sense of shackles, chains, or barred cells, given the Juvenile Care Agreement. Nor even in the sense of a right to come and go at will, since, as we have said elsewhere, “juveniles, unlike adults, are always in some form of custody,” and where the custody of the parent or legal guardian fails, the government may (indeed, we have said must) either exercise custody itself or appoint someone else to do so.

This analysis would not apply to adult drug offenders. The Fourth Circuit also avoided addressing freedom from incarceration as a fundamental right in Hawkins v. Freeman:

Hawkins’s rhetorical reference to the right as being “freedom from unjust incarceration,” and that of amicus, American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina, as the “right to be free from arbitrary incarceration,” are issue-begging generalizations that cannot serve the inquiry. A properly precise description can, however, be found in the facts and legal authorities relied upon by Hawkins in support of his claim. From these, we deduce that the precise right asserted is that of a prisoner to remain free on erroneously granted parole so long as he did not contribute to or know of the error and has for an appreciable time remained on good behavior to the point that his expectations for continued freedom from incarceration have “crystallized.”

Hawkins is distinguishable because it deals with an inmate whose parole was revoked. In any event, the casual dismissal as an “issue-begging generalization” flies in the face of nearly 800 years of common law tradition and over a century of Supreme Court decisions recognizing freedom from incarceration as a fundamental right. Indeed the language of the Supreme Court’s Ingraham decision supports the application of substantive due process proposed in this paper:

While the contours of this historic liberty interest in the context of our federal system of government have not been defined precisely, they always have been thought to encompass freedom from bodily restraint and punishment. It is fundamental that the state cannot hold and physically punish an individual except in accordance with due process of law.

The Court also stressed this fundamental liberty interest in Foucha v. Louisiana, a case involving the confinement of a person found not guilty by reason of insanity:

Freedom from bodily restraint has always been at the core of the liberty protected by the Due Process Clause from arbitrary governmental action. “It is clear that commitment for any purpose constitutes a significant deprivation of liberty that requires due process protection.” We have always been careful not to “minimize the importance and fundamental nature” of the individual’s right to liberty.

While the Foucha Court indicated that “a State may imprison convicted criminals for the purposes of deterrence and retribution,” the remark was dicta and did not involve any discussion of substantive limits on the police power. In Meachum v. Fano the Court made a similar remark in the context of a case dealing with prison conditions: “[G]iven a valid conviction, the criminal defendant has been constitutionally deprived of his liberty to the extent that the State may confine him.” Again there was no discussion of substantive limits on the police power. Indeed the previous sentence noted: “The Due Process Clause by its own force forbids the State from convicting any person of crime and depriving him of his liberty without complying fully with the requirements of the Clause.”

Recently in Zadvydas v. Davis, the Court noted:

The Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause forbids the Government to “depriv[e]” any “person … of … liberty … without due process of law.” Freedom from imprisonment–from government custody, detention, or other forms of physical restraint–lies at the heart of the liberty that Clause protects.

Freedom from incarceration is not just a fundamental right. It is the one of the most fundamental of rights.

C. Identifying the State’s Interests

Governmental drug policy interests identified in federal statutes include “demand reduction,” “supply reduction,” and “reducing drug abuse and the consequences of drug abuse in the United States, by limiting the availability of and reducing the demand for illegal drugs.”

Federal law sets specific goals for the National Drug Control Strategy. These include:

“Reduction of unlawful drug use to 3 percent of the population”;

“Reduction of adolescent unlawful drug use to 3 percent of the adolescent population”;

“Reduction of the availability of cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine”;

“Reduction of the respective nationwide average street purity levels for cocaine, heroin, marijuana, and methamphetamine”; and

“Reduction of drug-related crime.”

Goals are also set forth with regard to drug-related crime:

(i) reduction of State and Federal unlawful drug trafficking and distribution; (ii) reduction of State and Federal crimes committed by persons under the influence of unlawful drugs; (iii) reduction of State and Federal crimes committed for the purpose of obtaining unlawful drugs or obtaining property that is intended to be used for the purchase of unlawful drugs; and (iv) reduction of drug-related emergency room incidents . . . .

D. Defining “Narrow Tailoring” in the Context of Substantive Due Process

Assuming that the governmental interests are compelling, we must determine whether the incarceration of drug offenders is narrowly tailored to achieving them. The government must show that its policy passes strict scrutiny. The concept of narrow tailoring is not well defined in the context of substantive due process, but has been fairly well defined in regard to the First Amendment and Equal Protection. Equal Protection cases also arise out of the Fourteenth Amendment. In Wygant v. Jackson Bd. of Education the Supreme Court held: “Under strict scrutiny the means chosen to accomplish the State’s asserted purpose must be specifically and narrowly framed to accomplish that purpose.” In a footnote, the Court described narrow tailoring in even further detail:

The term “narrowly tailored,” so frequently used in our cases, has acquired a secondary meaning. More specifically, as commentators have indicated, the term may be used to require consideration of whether lawful alternative and less restrictive means could have been used. Or, as Professor Ely has noted, the classification at issue must “fit” with greater precision than any alternative means. “[Courts] should give particularly intense scrutiny to whether a nonracial approach or a more narrowly-tailored racial classification could promote the substantial interest about as well and at tolerable administrative expense.”

It is important to note here that a policy that does not advance the government’s interests violates substantive due process regardless of how it compares with the alternatives. If it does not accomplish its purpose, logic dictates it cannot be specifically and narrowly framed to accomplish its purpose.

E. Advancing Governmental Interests

Congress has identified certain tools for assessing the national drug control strategy. The National Household Survey is the measure for “unlawful drug use.” Similarly, “adolescent unlawful drug use” is to be measured “by the Monitoring the Future Survey of the University of Michigan or the National PRIDE Survey conducted by the National Parents’ Resource Institute for Drug Education.” On these measures, the goals are not being reached.

The measure of adolescent drug use that was specifically identified by Congress, illicit drug use in the past 30 days, worsened in 2001. More than 25% of US twelfth graders reported using illicit drugs in the past 30 days. That is nearly double the figure for 1992 and more than eight times the stated goal of 3%. Over 40% of 12th graders tried an illicit drug in the past year.

The PRIDE Survey and National Household Survey show similar results.

The drug war has also failed in its other goals. The Monitoring the Future Survey tracks how twelfth graders perceive the availability of drugs. Reducing availability is an explicit goal of the drug war. The perceived availability of marijuana in 2001 was slightly higher than in 1975. The figures for harder drugs are more disturbing. From 1975 to 1986, roughly 20% of twelfth graders said heroin was easy to get. That number shot up in the late 1980s and has remained consistently higher than 30%. Cocaine remains widely available to our youth, with nearly 50% of twelfth graders saying it is easy to get. The survey began measuring the availability of ecstasy in 1989, when only 22% of twelfth graders felt it was easy to get. In 2001, that number went over 61%, having jumped from 51% the year before.

Drug war policies are not achieving the stated drug war goals. They cannot be “specifically and narrowly framed to accomplish their purpose” because they are not accomplishing their purpose. Drug use has not been reduced in any significant way, and levels of drug use are far above the stated goals. Our children have easy access to drugs. We can’t even keep drugs out of jails. The drug war and the incarceration of drug offenders have also failed to achieve secondary goals regarding supply, demand, purity, drug-related health problems and drug-related crime. The policy of incarcerating drug offenders does not “directly advance[] the governmental interest asserted.” The War on Drugs is not working.

F. Alternative Means

Even if a court is persuaded that incarceration advances the government’s interests, the government must also show that its policy choice fits better than the alternatives. Critics of the drug war encompass a broad spectrum of backgrounds, and the range of “solutions” is just as wide. Libertarians and others favor outright legalization of drugs. The legalization of marijuana is a somewhat popular variation of overall legalization, and there are other variations such as the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes and decriminalization of drugs or marijuana. Another leading approach, known as harm reduction, looks at drugs from a public health perspective.

The effectiveness of some of these alternatives is difficult to assess. Even so, certain comparisons can be made. Advocates of treatment point to studies showing that treatment is much more effective than incarceration. Spencer notes:

The recidivism rate for first time Dade County drug offenders was sixty percent, but for those who successfully completed the Dade County Drug Court treatment programs, the recidivism rate reported by Dade County officials was only seven percent. Drug court treatment programs are also cost effective. It costs Florida only $2,000 to put a drug offender through a drug court program, as compared to $17,000 per drug offender for incarceration. As a result, other drug court programs are being established throughout the country.

Similarly, a Rand study found treatment to be seven times more cost-effective than current supply-control policy in reducing cocaine consumption.

G. The Incarceration of Drug Offenders is Not Narrowly Tailored

Incarceration involves a far greater infringement of fundamental rights than alternatives which are both more effective and less intrusive. The incarceration of offenders is not advancing the state’s asserted interests. The drug war is not narrowly tailored, failing the Supreme Court’s “established method of substantive-due-process analysis” as described by Chief Justice Rehnquist. The laws requiring the incarceration of drug offenders are therefore unconstitutional, if substantive due process analysis is applied.

IV. CONCLUSION

It is true that the approach suggested in this paper would limit the police power. Constitutional protection of individual rights exists for that very purpose. We face coercive government action, carried out in a corrupt and racist manner, with military and paramilitary assaults on our homes, leading to mass incarceration and innocent deaths. We can never forget the tyranny of a government unrestrained by an independent judiciary. Our courts must end the War on Drugs.

For the full article, with endnotes, see: http://www.redlichlaw.com/crim/substantive-due-process-drug-war.pdf

Beware of Direct Transfer Designations – TOD’s, POD’s and Simple Beneficiary Designations

Direct transfer designations, like POD’s (payable on death designations) and TOD’s (transfer on death designations), and simple beneficiary designations, are mechanisms by which an account or other asset is transferred or paid upon the death of the account holder or asset owner to a beneficiary. They are often recommended by the administrator of the account, such as a bank, broker or life insurance company. While these can be very effective and inexpensive means by which to avoid probate and transfer assets at death, they are not without their risks and challenges. A lack of careful consideration of the risks and rewards of these mechanisms can be disastrous. A carefully prepared estate plan will consider, and resolve, all of the risks and challenges of these mechanisms.

Benefits of Direct Transfer Designations

Direct transfer designations, such as POD’s and TOD’s have several benefits. The most important benefits are that they are cheap and easy. Most institutions will permit you to make such designations as a service, for no additional fee. They are simple to create, and there is no need for an attorney or other professional. Most of these designations are made by account owners without legal or professional advice or counsel. Particularly because of this simplicity, they are very popular.

The second benefit is that the payment or transfer is more or less immediate and direct. Where there is a need to make cash or other liquid assets immediately available to a child or grandchild for some purpose, a TOD or POD appear attractive at first glance. Beneficiary transfers, however, typically require claim forms, and documentation in support of the claim. In reality, the process may take more time and effort than succession of ownership (such as through a living trust or joint tenancy with right of survivorship). Nonetheless, it is the assumption that funds are available immediately that often causes folks to choose direct transfer designations.

Unquestionably, direct transfers can have unique benefits as a result of this direct payment, whether or not immediate. For example, if you are widowed and want the bulk of your estate to pass to your children, but still desire a particular asset, fund, account or benefit to pass to a significant other or second spouse, without involvement of your children, a direct transfer may be warranted. Of course, such circumstances are specific, unique, and situational. The proper method for accomplishing an intended result depends upon first carefully considering all options to ensure that the proper tool is selected.

The third benefit is that a direct transfer designation may avoid probate, provided, however, that the beneficiary, transferee, or payee is alive at the death of the account holder or owner. If the beneficiary passes before or after, the asset may be probated. Particularly because the avoidance of probate may not be effective, TOD’s and POD’s are of limited utility in a carefully planned estate. Not surprisingly, because they are available at little or no cost, they are often used for the sole purpose of avoiding probate as an inexpensive substitute for more comprehensive planning. Make no mistake that these devices are NOT substitutes for living trusts. If you have utilized TOD’s or POD’s in your estate plan, particularly if you have done so without professional guidance, you may want to consider carefully the many possible disadvantages of these tools, and consider a more appropriate planning technique.

Regardless, these designations do not, at least effectively, accomplish several goals that might be accomplished by proper estate planning. For example, these devices do not avoid estate taxes, reduce the risk of guardianship, or permit management of assets during periods of incompetency or incapacity, and may not even avoid probate of the asset.

Moreover, there are several potential drawbacks to such devices, particularly if they are used without careful consideration or the advice of counsel. The biggest drawback to these plans is that they do not plan for contingencies. Additionally, use of such designations can cause illiquid estates, can lead to or cause unintended disinheritance, can lead to lawsuits or disputes, and can facilitate or encourage guardianship.

The limitations to such planning devices are discussed further below, followed by a discussion of their potential disadvantages.

Direct Transfer Designations Do Not Avoid Estate Tax

If you have any incident of ownership in or to an account or other asset, it will be included in your taxable estate for estate tax purposes. Consequently, direct transfer designations are not appropriate tools for estate tax planning, if your intention is to remove the value of the asset from your taxable estate. Generally, unless some other reason for excluding the account exists, the account will be included in your taxable estate notwithstanding the direct transfer designation.

POD’s and TOD’s May Not Avoid Probate

There are numerous instances where these techniques have been used to avoid probate, and yet the assets of the estate were nonetheless probated. Transfer upon death designations are not typically made for personal property, and may in fact be unavailable to transfer such assets. Under recent Ohio law, a transfer upon death deed was unavailable for real property that was owned jointly with a right of survivorship, as is most real property owned by a husband and wife. Regardless, if there are sufficient assets to probate, the other assets will pass through probate, even if liquid or other property avoids probate.

Moreover, these designations do nothing to protect assets from administration by a guardian or conservator in the event of incompetence or incapacity. They also do not prevent challenges to a will, appointment of executor, or other legal disputes which may ultimately be resolved by the probate court.

Finally, these designations will not avoid probate if the beneficiary passes away either before or after the account or asset owner. A probate administration may be necessitated, whereas property passing by way of trust will not need to be probated in the event of a death of an heir.

Direct Transfer Designations Do Not Avoid Guardianship

Direct transfer designations do nothing to protect assets from administration by a guardian or conservator in the event of incompetence or incapacity. For more information regarding the danger of guardianship, consider he Open Letter to Congress, drafted by the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse.

Direct Transfer Designations May Create Illiquid Probate Estates

One potential drawback to these designations, particularly when placed on all liquid checking, savings, and investment accounts is that an estate can be made illiquid. Lack of liquidity can be a problem where there is real estate, personal property, or other assets that must be probated. Probate administration and estate taxes must be paid, and if the probate estate is insufficient to do so, heirs may be required to return cash to the estate, or property may be sold at fire sale prices to satisfy obligations. It is important to consider that ad hoc asset level planning to avoid probate often leaves assets to be probated.

Direct Transfer Designations Do Not Plan For Contingencies

The biggest disadvantage is that these devises are usually limited, and do not provide for contingencies. These plans very rarely answer the “what if?” questions considered by a carefully prepared estate plan. For example, what if the transferee or payee dies shortly before or after the owner? In most cases, the designation will simply pay the estate of the deceased transferee or payee. If, for example, the payee is your son, and he dies before you, without a will, the account or asset will be paid in whole or part to your daughter-in-law. You may desire that no part of your estate pass to the spouses of your children, in order to protect your grandchildren in the event of remarriage. Moreover, if you intended to avoid probate of your assets, you may fail in your efforts.

There are numerous examples of contingencies that a living or testamentary trust can address which are not typically addressed by POD’s and TOD’s. What if the property passes intentionally or unintentionally to a minor? Do you want the property to be distributed to the minor upon his or her reaching age eighteen or obtaining emancipation, or would you prefer to protect minors from their inexperience and lack of wisdom in managing assets?

What if the heir has financial difficulties, lawsuits, judgment liens, tax liens, or similar problems at the time of your death? If you do not intend your assets to pay the claims of third parties against your heirs, you should consider an alternative to a simple TOD or POD.

What if your heir is undergoing a divorce, dissolution, separation, or other marital difficulty? A TOD or POD may or may not be involved in such a dispute, depending upon a number of factors and your state law.

What if an heir is handicapped mentally or physically at the time of your death. If you want to protect that heir, you may want more than a simple TOD or POD.

What if an heir suffers from a substance abuse or other dependency that could affect their ability to manage their affairs? TOD and POD clauses rarely protect a family from such contingencies.

What if an heir joins or becomes a member of a quasi-religious organization, cult, or other organization pursuant to which your heir agrees to surrender or deliver all of the heir’s assets? You may not want your worldly possessions to facilitate or benefit a cult.

What if there is a dispute, contest, or lawsuit? How is the dispute to be resolved, and on what basis?

Regardless which “what if” question concerns you now, you should consider many possible contingencies. As a result, a carefully considered and well drafted estate plan will consider and provide solutions to all of these and many more. TOD’s and POD’s simply have no solutions, because they are not, in and of themselves, “plans.”

Direct Transfer Designations Can Lead to Unintended Disinheritance

Another disadvantage of direct transfers is that they can lead to unintended disinheritance. This occurs because folks often use these to segregate accounts. In other words, a person will select one account with a TOD or POD designation for one heir, and another account for another heir. This is often done to keep confidential account balances which may favor one heir as against another. These can be disastrous in an estate plan. Consider the following example:

Widow Smith has three children and three CD’s. Two CD’s are worth ten thousand dollars, but the third is worth twenty five thousand dollars. Smith’s oldest daughter lives very near, is often helpful in Smith’s day-to-day activities, and is Smith’s designated attorney-in-fact. Smith makes the larger CD payable upon death (POD) to the oldest daughter, but makes the others payable to the other children. Unfortunately, Smith suffers a stroke and undergoes lengthy period of convalescence, including a stay in a nursing home. The expenses require the daughter, now acting through power of attorney, to liquidate one of the smaller CD’s, and to liquidate the larger CD to cash, of which she spends ten thousand dollars. Assuming the only assets remaining at Smith’s death are the checking account, which is now worth only approximately 15 thousand dollars, and the remaining CD which is worth ten thousand dollars, you can see how the POD failed to effectuate her wishes. The checking account is divided equally between the children (5 thousand dollars each) (Widow Smith probably assumed like many people that the checking account will only have a nominal amount of money in the account, which may not be true as the family deals with medical or other crises). Therefore instead of the oldest daughter receiving twenty five thousand dollars, she receives only five thousand. One of the other children receives fifteen thousand dollars. It is obvious the results were not in keeping with the intentions of Widow Smith.

An Attorney-in-Fact May Change Your Wishes

Most people who have utilized direct transfer designations assume that their estate plan is set, and their wishes will be followed. Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth. A direct transfer designation is typically a contractual right, which can be changed by an attorney-in-fact. Moreover, an asset can be transferred, and the designation “undone” by any person with authority over you or your estate, such as a guardian or conservator. Bottom line? A beneficiary designation is simply not an adequate estate plan for most people.

Direct Transfer Designations May Lead to Lawsuits Or Disputes

For all of the foregoing reasons, and countless others, direct transfer designations may cause your estate to be disputed, and may encourage, rather than discourage lawsuits and litigation. There is no substitute for a carefully considered and well drafted trust to ensure that your wishes are expressed and carried out.

Direct Transfer Designations May Facilitate or Encourage Guardianships

Particularly because they may create expectations in the minds of heirs, and because their use certainly does not discourage, and may encourage disputes, reliance on these in your estate plan might even encourage a guardianship application by an otherwise well-meaning heir as he or she seeks to protect their inheritance from others.

Guardianship may be necessitated by assets passing to contingent beneficiaries, as well, such as underage grandchildren. Since the goal of such designations is, in part, avoidance of probate, carefully consider their use in an estate plan.

Roofing Contractors – Understanding What a Roofing Contractor Does and Tips on Selecting One

What is a roofing contractor? Well a roofing contractor is somebody who agrees to complete a undertaking such as a residential or commercial flat roof. In exchange for completing the undertaking, the contractor would receive compensation. This is where the term contractor was coined, somebody completing a contract in substitute for money.

At times if the roofing contractor cannot finish the assignment, he can hire subcontractors to help with completing the assignment. This is more common with sizable sites such as churches, shopping centres, warehouses and other really big buildings. Subcontractors may likewise be used when work is completed on residential homes. Examples would include chimney mending, debris disposal and all-metal flashing.

The ideal roofing contractor is someone who exercises hardly a couple subcontractors. By utilising less subcontractors, it is more promising that the roofing company is much more knowledgeable and may complete an array of roofing related repairs and installation. Some other great bonus of utilizing less subcontractors is that the undertaking would presumably cost less. These savings are normally passed along on to the client.

Roofing is a really specialised skill.  Few general contractors get engaged with roofing because it necessitates a squad of roofers who are comfy working on a roof and are able to function in the all-powerful sun. This is why roofs are normally completed autonomous from the remainder of the house.

A roof is an integral part of whatever building structure, be it a theater, bungalow, warehouse or office tower. This makes it more crucial for a property owner or property managing director to obtain the copesetic contractor. Keeping up and mending roofs are important to keeping up a sound roof structure.

The roof is unclothed to the elements all the time, rich summertime sunshine on one extreme and frozen winter snow on the other extreme. This variability in temperature and atmospheric condition can wreak mayhem on a roof and is thence paramount to make sure the roof is adequately upheld. If a modest blemish or worn down condition is perceived by a property owner, then a roofing contractor should be called out to make sure that the roof can be renovated so that the whole roof does not have to be replaced in the near future.

When choosing a roofing contractor, one has to be very deliberate in arriving at the selection.

The greatest way to acquire a roofing contractor is to employ one for a insignificant repair or for roof maintenance. By engaging a contractor for a small job you can see how good that contractor really is.  If you like the work the contractor did, then by all means higher that contractor in the future when you have a massive repair or a complete re-roofing of your roof.

Another frequent option is to get an estimation from a contractor. Estimates are ordinarily free or cost a small fee. After obtaining an estimate you can then get an idea on how practised, professional and experienced a particular roofing contractor is.

Obviously, you can ask friends or neighbours who have recently had work finished on the roof and find out if they would recommend that roofing company. At times these recommendations are not always the advisable direction to select a roofing contractor because your friend or neighbor may not really realize how well or inadequate of a condition their original roof was in. They may have not asked the fitting questions and hence could have had what they comprehended to be a upright job but cost them a little more.

Another great place to check for roofing contractor’s qualifications is the National Roofing Contractors Association.  Did you know that roofs today also come with Energy Star Information.

One fundamental factor that I must stress is to find out if a likely contractor utilizes subcontractors. Again by employing subcontractors, this make  the undertaking much more expensive than it really requires it to be.

I trust that this informative essay has aided you in readying an informed conclusion when taking a roofing contractor.

Corporate Values – Expertise

Expertise can be described as: “We build our strength on functional knowledge and being recognized as the authority in what we do.” A similar value is “Knowledge”:

“Our business depends on the skills and knowledge of our staff and we are committed to developing the skills and capabilities of all our people.”

An interesting example is this one:

“Global expertise – local knowledge” (1) this is very suitable for a research company.

This statement is very interesting for more reasons, but most of all because it directly supports this and another value on the side (client driven). It communicates first of all the learned lessons that global expertise (what you sell) can’t go without local knowledge (what you buy), because of cultural differences that operate on a local level. It this knowledge is directly communicated to the visitor (potential clients) of the site which makes it very exemplary. An excellent example where values are credible and make sense!

Expertise is a corporate value that can be used without problems. The advantage of this value is that is applies both to people as to a whole organization which makes is very useable in the value statement.

When to use it: the above research company is a good example. Knowledge-based companies value knowledge and expertise which is a success-factor for their business.

It is also a very straightforward value. You can almost measure it. Knowledge is hard to measure but the related issues like: learning, studying and open for new ideas and information are tangible elements to concentrate on in the recruitment process.

Not all companies will equally value the element of expertise and knowledge. It must fit a purpose.

Values need a balance. Expertise is only one of the values in the statement and its focus is on products and services, whereas the business of a company is successful when these can be sold to clients. Client focus is therefore suitable complement, although it is not a very precise value. More suitable would be to combine it with: “practical” or similar values where you stress the importance that knowledge or expertise is useless without a clear purpose. Otherwise you will stack it in a silo and nobody will really benefit from it.

Another complementary value is required to foster teamwork, because knowledge-based companies have an implicit dilemma to get stuck because of too much individual intelligence, but a lack of organizational smartness. Think about this when using or recreating your values statement.

Court Proceedings and Their Legal Transcription

Legal professionals have to deal with a large volume of recorded files on civil and criminal court proceedings every day. They need to spend a lot of time analyzing this information as the case proceeds. This leaves them with little time to create accurate and timely transcripts of the files. Moreover, managing transcription tasks in-house can be a challenging task for these busy professionals. To save time, effort and money, it is better to outsource these voluminous documentation tasks to a reliable and professional legal transcription company that can provide accurate, timely and confidential court proceedings transcription services. Whatever the individual client requirements, a reputable company can offer top quality transcription services at affordable rates.

Why Courts Proceeding Transcription is So Challenging

Legal cases usually begin in a lower court and then proceed to a higher court of law. The Unites States Court Systems is multi-tiered and comprises of Federal courts and State Courts, each with its own structures and procedures. Federal Courts are further classified as District Courts, Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. US State Courts generally handle a greater number of cases than Federal courts which usually handle more conservative cases and those of national importance.

In addition to this, every case involves a number of steps. For instance, take a criminal case. After the case is charged, the prosecutor issues a criminal compliant. This is followed by the initial appearance of the accused in the court, pleas, the court hearing to determine status, progress or direction of the case, the preliminary hearing, arraignment or first appearance of the criminal defendant on the formal charges before a judge, the pretrial conference or court settlement conference, the plea hearing, the trial, the sentencing, the appeal, and the post-conviction motion hearing. This means that criminal lawyers would need accurate transcripts for all these proceedings for the cases that they are handling, which is definitely not an easy task to accomplish when managed in-house. This is why most lawyers opt to outsource their court proceedings transcription tasks.

How a Legal Transcription Service Provider Can Help

An experienced legal transcription service provider offers simplified, accurate and timely services. With the transcription job taken care of, legal professionals can focus on their core business activities. Transcription is offered for court hearings/pleadings, arbitrations, briefs, meetings, focus group meetings, witness reports, criminal appeals, public hearings, court trials, deposition summaries, allegations, statements and correspondence.

Reputable companies have a team of experienced transcriptionists to work exclusively on each client project. These transcriptionists utilize advanced technology to ensure court transcripts with a high degree of accuracy. A reliable company provides court proceedings transcription solutions to attorneys, legal departments, financial institutions, law firms, and insurance companies among others.

Key Benefits of Good Court Transcription Services

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How Much Down Payment Do I Need To Buy An Early Education Company?

Unfortunately, the answer to the – “How much money do I need for a down payment?” – question is one that many people learn the hard way. We can make it easier for you here. The amount of down payment required for your purchase of a childcare company, daycare, Montessori, preschool, or special needs school is determined primarily by the following four factors:

1. Your credit score.

2. Your occupational background.

3. Whether or not you’re buying real estate with the business.

4. The lender you choose to make the loan.

In order… here we go.

Your credit score in this market needs to be 700 or better. In some cases, your score can be in the high 600s as long as there is a good reason for it, but ideally you and any partners need to have scores that will average out around 700 or more.

Next, your occupational background can be separated into four tiers.

a. Buyers that have owned at least one center for three years or more should anticipate a down payment of 10 to 15%.

b. Buyers that have three or more years of experience in the education industry but haven’t owned a center or school should expect a down payment of about 15%.

c. Buyers that do not have experience in the education vertical, but have a solid career in a child-related or education-related field such as pediatric nurse, child psychiatrist, dentist, child clothier… etc. should expect a down payment in the 15 to 20% range.

d. All other buyers should expect a down payment of 25%.

Third, if you’re buying a childcare company with real estate then your down payment amount will be lower than if you are buying a childcare company with no real estate. Your financing term will also be longer if real estate is included in your purchase. Assuming you’re using an SBA loan (most people do), your term will be a maximum of 10 years if you’re buying a company with no real estate, but the term can be as long as 25 years when real estate is included.

Fourth, the bank or lender you choose to make the loan can have a considerable impact on the cost of your loan. Costs include the amount of cash you have to use for a down payment as well as your interest rate, points on your loan, the amount time it takes the bank to close… etc. Bank requirements can vary materially. It’s always best to shop banks against each other so you can be assured of getting the best results. Remember, a quarter-point difference in interest rates means a lot of money to you over the term of your loan. Lastly, banks that have worked with and understand our industry are more likely to provide better terms for you.

While there are certainly other factors that will affect the approval of your loan, covering these four successfully will take you most of the distance.

(Legal Disclaimer: Always consult the proper professionals before taking action. By and before the use of the information provided herein, reader agrees that BFS┬« is not responsible for viewer’s actions related to said information.)

How to Pass the Final Exam of the DipFA

Introduction

I’ve been helping students through their DipFA qualification for almost two years’ now and this article is designed to share all the best practises, tips and strategies that can help you achieve a really good mark in this challenging exam.

I’m going to share with you various tips that have come from examiner’s reports, students I’ve worked with over the years and share with you a really good structure that can help you prepare.

Firstly what is the final exam all about?

How the exam works?

It’s a 3 hour written, soon to be typed, exam where you need to digest a case study beforehand and then create a carefully written report to your fictional client.

The case study is delivered to you in advance, about two weeks. You have time to prepare, read up in areas of weakness, put together some figures to back up your report and write it completely in advance. And you should too, why not, that’s why they send it to you beforehand.

On the day of the exam, you’ll get a couple of wobblies, i.e. some subtle changes to the exam paper that might change your report slightly, but if you’ve done your preparation well enough, these last minute changes won’t cause you too many problems.

Picture your client

The case study will be as real as possible, there will be some anomalies and these need to be verified. However you should treat it as a real person and write the report to this person, not the examiner, although you’ll want to impress him or her to gain marks. Care with too much impressing as you might fall foul and the examiner might mark you down for over doing the technical aspects.

Plain language is so important, bear in mind who the client is and write for them to understand. Picture them sitting down with a cup of tea with their feet up, reading your report, and trying to make head or tail of it as they sip their brew.

The marking system

It’s important to appreciate the marks you gain from the paper so you can focus in the right area.

You get a total of 150 marks –

  • 10 for the introduction, summary
  • 10 for calculating affordability
  • 30 for presentation, language, style
  • 100 for your options, recommendations and advice.

So spend some time on a well crafted introduction, calculations and style and you’ll already be on for 50 marks, and you only need 75 to pass.

A time honoured structure

  1. Introduction
  2. Purpose of report
  3. Synopsis of situation
  4. Summary of objectives
  5. More information needed
  6. Attitude to Risk
  7. Affordability Assessed
  8. Immediate improvements/quick fixes
  9. Recommendations
  10. Next Steps

The structure explained

Introduction

Begin the report by writing to the client and address him or her by name and talk in the first person e.g. “Brian we spoke about your desire to purchase a home abroad and to do this I will be looking at….”

Agree the purpose of the report and this should link in with his objectives and aims. Talk about the information gleaned, but be brief here, don’t just go repeating what’s in the Factfinds. Summarise to suit your own words and language to match the client

It’s here you may wish to start making some assumptions so that you can agree his objectives clearly. This may be followed by some questions to ask him if you need more information or to confirm or clarify something. Assumptions are fine, as long as you know how these are to be clarified or you merely ask the client to confirm. I know in real life you wouldn’t make any assumptions but do you?

Only when you and your client know where you’re going can you really get into the report and decide the action for him to take.

Affordability assessed

Here you can gain some handy marks for showing your knowledge of Income Tax and National Insurance to work out how much money the client can afford to pay for your regular income product you’re going to recommend.

Don’t space out your calculations like a textbook; instead write them out for the client to understand. Narrate every line of figures so they know what you mean and can follow.

Be accurate, obviously, you’ll get marks for the right answer. But you’ll get more marks for the workings out along the way. It’s just like doing your maths exams at school.

Immediate improvements/quick fixes

There may be some really quick things that might improve your customers situation and don’t merit a heading in the recommendations section.

For example switching investment name from husband to wife to minimise taxation or paying off a credit card or other high interest loan with money from deposits.

Recommendations

This section is worth 100 marks and is the meat of the whole report. Break down your recommendations into chunks and allocate time according to how important they are. Try to decide how many marks the examiner might allocate to each section and then spend relevant time on each one.

Try to put them in priority order as this is good financial planning practice.

Put down the options to the client, explain them, and talk to the client as you go.

Make your recommendations and justify why, use real figures where you can. Don’t leave it open for the client to decide and too many “we’ll decide these when we meet again.”

You want to earn marks with a firm recommendation with a justifiable reason why.

If you’re not qualified to advise, pass them onto someone who is or another professional such as a solicitor.

Think of your five W’s – what, who, how, why and when, for example

  • What is the advice
  • Who is involved
  • How will you make it work?
  • Why do they need it
  • When should you start it?

Next Steps

The final part of the report is the next steps section. Here you’ll want to wrap things up, give a clear direction for the client to know his next steps, confirm your review arrangements, fee structure maybe.

Some final tips

Keep an eye on time – 3 hours is a long time when you’re sitting on the beach doing nothing but goes really quickly when you’re enjoying yourself. Seriously though, plan your time and make sure you finish the report. You get most marks in the first few minutes of any section, so you need to at least start every section.

Presentation and structure. It needs to be clearly laid out and look like a proper professional report with headings, sub headings. Maybe tables, a series of bullet points, graphics, illustrations. Why not, after all it’s for the customer, so maybe a risk graph might work better than a wall of words. Most people, nowadays, are visual in nature and pictures can paint a thousand words.

All technical terms explained. Don’t throw in a technical term, without explaining it, just don’t. Anything slightly complex will need explaining in words the customer can understand. Beware the TLA – three letter acronyms – our world is full of them, you know what they mean but does your client?

Less is more. Good communication is powerful and uses few words, just take a look at posters and leaflets; they’re conservative with their use of words. Why waffle on when a short concise statement will do. Besides you only have 3 hours to write.

Summary

Some useful ideas and tips here, I hope you agree. Remember to do as much preparation beforehand to maximise your success in the exam. Good luck

How To Work Remotely With Your Virtual Assistant

There used to be a time when someone had to be physically in the office to take care of the administrative tasks. Things like typing, answering the phone, filing, etc. But with technology today there’s no need for you to have a physical body sitting in an office taking up space. You can hire a virtual assistant to do those things remotely. Having a virtual assistant will enhance your business flexibility.

When you hire a Virtual Assistants Chicago and the virtual assistant works remotely from anywhere you don’t have to pay for any health insurance, worry about coffee breaks or extended lunch hour, no equipment to buy like computers, monitors, fax machines or office supplies. A virtual assistant will have her own equipment and office supplies and take care of their own health insurance. So that saves you money! Now it’s easier than ever to work remotely online with a virtual assistant.

Skype – Skype is one of the preferred ways to work remotely with your virtual assistant. You can Skype from anywhere in the world. It’s easy to set up and if you are not tech savvy you can learn to use it. You can use it from your computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. You can send files, you can share screens with one another. Instead of going back and forth via email sharing screens is a great way for you to actually see what your virtual assistant needs to show or you can also train her on a task while recording it so she can have access to the video.

Dropbox – One of the great things about Dropbox is it is completely FREE!! You get 2GB of space which is a lot of space. You can share files back and forth with one another using Dropbox. In order to do this, all you need to do is place the files in a folder that is designated for sharing. Dropbox is ideal for backing up information. If your computer was to crash or you lose your smartphone you can use Dropbox to access all of the files that were in them. Plus Dropbox can be accessed from any computer since it is a cloud based application.

Email – You can always use good ole email as a way of communication. Some virtual assistants and clients prefer to only use this method of communication with a client. You can check in with one another daily, weekly or biweekly whichever way you agree on to send time reports, or answer any questions.

Project Management Software – There is project management software such as Basecamp, Teamwork, and Asana to name a few that a Virtual Assistant uses to track her time and keep an eye on the projects that she is working on. It lets her know what she needs to do and how much time she has used and has left in the project. The best thing is she can give you access to the software and you can see for yourself exactly what she is doing and how she is using the allotted time. Since you have access to the project management system, you also can add files to the project and notes for the virtual assistant letting her know you have made some changes or added something to the project. Nobody wants to be micromanaged and having access to this system is the same as being able to peek over her shoulder.

So there you have it. There are other ways that you and your VA can work remotely together. It all depends on what you two agree on and what works for the both of you.

Who Is Responsible For The Demise Of Small Business?

The thing is more of us older and senior people still judge a store by the service they provide. If that is the case, how come we have allowed our friends and families with businesses to be taken over by large corporations? These friends, family, and neighbours were the ones who gave us service, they lived in our neighbourhoods, knew our names, and made sure we received excellent service. These real people didn’t have cookie cutter scripted interaction with us, but genuinely interested in their customers. They appreciated our business enough not to annoy us at the end, you know with point cards or up-sells. When we bought something they took us to the cash, put it through themselves no waiting in lines, and sincerely thanked us for the business.

Back in the day a shoes store was a shoe store, not a grocery, drug store, and hardware in one. It was about smaller specialty stores. The people in them knew their products better, so of course they were able to provide service. In the box stores if you’re lucky to find someone, they can read the labels as well as you. If something was not on the shelf it was no big deal to go see if any were available in the back. Box stores expect us to come into their 5 football field size stores, find our own stuff, receive no service, pay and be happy their price was lower. The problem is we’ve become cheap, and still expect the same service for a pair of shoes that cost $20, as one that is $150. We can’t have it all, made our bed and now need to sleep in it.

Next time you walk into a box store start getting grumpy about service, lashing out at the one poor associate who makes minimum wage, who is overwhelmed, not trained properly, barely surviving back off. At one time we lived in a democrat society, where a majority ruled, and our governments had no choice but to listen to what we wanted. Obviously we had no concern that large businesses were starting to squeeze out small and medium size ones, and changing our tune from quality products to cheap inexpensive. Free trade was great right, so many people lost jobs in the manufacturing industry, but getting bad quality shoes for $20 was real savings! No problem that unemployment is high, no real worthwhile job creation, the economy is in toilette, and the backbone of any countries economy has always been the small and medium size business. Instead we focus on the environment saving trees instead of people, and complain there is no service when walking into box store that purchase goods from other places. We are not even supporting our own people, and demand service really!

It’s time to go back to basics, first people need to be fairly paid, bring back the small and medium size business concept, and have a better economy. Once that is accomplished we can afford to pay for the quality, and the service will be there. The small and medium business even if they had the same products and pricing winning by who has better service! If you’re looking for exceptional service perhaps the first place to demand it is from our Governments. Then we can move forward walk into a small neighbourhood business, able to support them, and in return like before obtaining the service we as customers deserve. Box stores herd us in like sheep, and most people can’t afford to go somewhere else. The ones most responsible for the demise of small business is us the older and senior people who didn’t care about the future!

Is My Insurance Company Trying to Cheat Me?

Let’s be honest, anyone who has had an insurance claim has had this or a similar thought run through their head. For many years insurance companies have done things to earn a bad rep. I’ve been in the insurance restoration industry for the last 10 years, and during this time I can honestly say that I have rarely met an adjuster or contractor that wanted to skimp on the settlement. The few times I’ve seen this is when the policyholder has been extremely difficult to work with. Yes, bad estimates happen, however, most of the time the feeling of being “shorted or cheated” comes from not understanding your policy and how it pays out.

The biggest misunderstanding is most often the issue of matching. Insurance policies are specifically written with terminology and phrases to avoid matching. Homeowner’s coverage is to replace the damaged items with like kind and quality. While as a homeowner and contractor I often don’t agree with this and I will fight it to the best of my abilities. To explain this policy the easiest is to give you situations where you will most likely run into this situation. Let’s say you have a flood where the carpet has to be removed in the hallway. The same carpet runs throughout the home. The living room opens and connects directly to the hallway with the same carpet and you have 3 bedrooms directly off of the hallway and an office with french doors off of the living room. The carpet in the hallway and living room will be replaced but the carpet in the bedrooms and office will most likely not be replaced as most insurance policies are written to stop at doorways.

The other situation is most often with kitchen cabinetry. If water damages your lower kitchen cabinets (or a fire, your uppers) most insurance companies will allow replacing the run of damaged cabinets (meaning all of the lowers or all of the uppers). If you have specialty/custom cabinets you will most likely be given a custom price to rebuild that run of cabinets to match what was there. Very rarely is matching kitchen cabinets likely these days, however, it is not impossible. Over the past 25 years, there are hundreds of cabinet styles and specialty finishes, from dozens of manufacturers. Unless you recently replaced the kitchen, it will take countless hours of research to find the cabinet manufacturer that made your cabinets (a good place to locate the manufacturer is on the inside of the door. Let’s say you’ve managed to find the manufacturer, companies usually discontinue a line every 4-7 years, or they make considerable changes to it. On top of the possible discontinued issue, it is very likely that the elements have changed the finish on your cabinetry. Perhaps your contractor has pointed the issues out to your adjuster, depending on the difficulty they may add extra money to allow to get a close match, perhaps a custom cabinet.

This is where you have several options:

1) You can take your budget and get quotes from cabinet places on a less expensive cabinet to replace all of your cabinetry. Remember that by using less expensive items elsewhere in the reconstruction you will have that money to allocate towards your new cabinetry budget.

2) You can certainly create a unique custom kitchen by finding an opposite finish cabinet to replace your lowers or uppers with. It is very common today to mix cabinetry finishes to give a unique custom look to fit your style. For example, let’s say your cabinets are a stain cherry cabinet in a shaker style. You could go with a complementing stained or painted finish cabinetry, perhaps in antique white or black.

3) If the mix/match isn’t your style consider a paint treatment. My best example of this is a fire I did in Durham, NC in 2007; my client had a small grease fire that scorched the finish on 3 of her upper cabinets above her stove. The insurance company allowed for replacement of these upper cabinets. She was not happy with that. (Now to be fair, this was an extremely smart professor at Duke University and as soon as the fire happened she started dreaming of her new kitchen.) When I broke the estimate down into our budget for the cabinets she was highly disappointed. She wanted her new kitchen. I replaced the 3 damaged parts of the cabinets with unfinished stock pieces that matched in style and repainted all of her dated oak cabinetry to a new beautiful modern black. We added new hardware, repainted the walls and I was able to get new countertops for her, by choosing a less expensive replacement floor. Within 2 weeks she had a brand new remodeled kitchen with nothing more than her deductible out of pocket.

4) You could order the cabinets to match your existing cabinetry and if they don’t match well enough you can go back to your insurance company and have them come back out to assist you with another option. PLEASE NOTE: if you’re set on getting a kitchen completely different than what you had and you opt to try and match your existing cabinets and fail, the insurance company is not going to pay to replace the newly replaced cabinets again. Do not go out and get cabinets that clearly will not be a match to your cabinets and then call the insurance company and say “I tried to match the cabinets but they don’t match.” This is fraud and you can be charged.

The best advice I can give anyone is to understand your policy. Look at your declarations page thoroughly. Understand your coverage. If there are any changes in your home update your insurance as necessary, to protect your home, yourself and your family.

Understanding your claim can be both easy and confusing. It’s easy if you listen, take notes and ask questions (to both your insurance company and your contractor). I’ve seen homeowner become completely befuddled by a claim when they try to make sense of it without knowing enough or by trying to break down the estimate line item by line item and add up the totals to “checkup” on the contractor or adjuster. Just remember that life becomes unsettled when it’s least convenient. There is never a good time to have to file an insurance claim. However, life is unpredictable and it will slap you in the face when you have all your balls in the air. I recommend to all of my clients to get a spiral notebook or notepad the moment they have to file a claim. Write everything down because if you’re like everyone else as soon as you think of a question for you adjuster you’ll forget their name and lose their contact information and/or your claim number. Keep track of everything. Start collecting pictures of things you like that will have to be replaced, it’s good to dream but don’t be unrealistic. Don’t assume that because something got wet it will be replaced. Carpet is one of the most argued for items. Most homeowners assume that because the carpet was wet for several hours before it was discovered it will be claimed as unsalvageable. In a general Class 1/Category 1 (Clean water) loss most carpet can and will be saved. Restoration companies are HIGHLY trained to dry these items. Carpet is replaced as a last resort. It may need to have the pad replaced and be restretched/rekicked and cleaned but in rare situations does it require replacement. Delamination is a reason for replacement. Delamination is when the primary and secondary backing of the carpet separate. One of my favorite arguments for carpet replacement was from one of my homeowners in Virginia who said that her carpet wasn’t wet before and therefore should be replaced. I had to laugh on the inside when she said this because while I am confident that the 83 gallons of water which we removed from her living room were not present prior to the loss; the water did not damage her carpet. She argued her point (I think she was a law student) for nearly an hour and a half. She did not win. She argued that water damages fabric and since it was not wet prior to her loss it should be replaced to prior condition. I agree that water does damage some fabrics but her carpet was not made of silk or wool. It was average nylon carpet, and after checking the tags of 8-10 pieces of clothing (looking for nylon) that she normally wears and washes, she dropped that argument. She rebutted that the carpet color changed/darkened where the carpet was wet. Yes, it was darker where the water was, because it was still wet! Two days later upon completion of drying the carpet, the homeowner confirmed that the carpet color returned to its original shade. Nonetheless, her next argument was that by getting wet, the carpet’s structure was now damaged. She couldn’t really explain what she meant, but I was confident I knew where she was trying to go. When I explained to her that during the manufacturing process carpet is routinely exposed to several “water baths” in order to manufacture it. When she learned that water is used in the manufacturing process she had no further arguments. Feel free to use any of her argument should you want to try and get your non-damaged carpet replaced. If you’re carpet gets wet with clean water and isn’t found to be delaminated, look for staining from furniture feet. Staining IS a valid reason to replace carpet.

Drywall and trim are the other most commonly damaged items in a home during a water loss. Drywall patches are 100% acceptable in restoration. The insurance company does not owe to replace all of the drywall in a room because there was a section that had to be removed. Understand that drywall can usually be dried without any relating issues. If a section has to be removed a patch fit to the squared-up removed section is acceptable. Once properly taped and mudded that patch will not be noticeable, if it is than your contractor needs to have another drywall crew redo the repair. Yes, drywall is hung in 4×8 or 4×12 sheets but that does not mean that you need an entire new sheet of drywall “because it wasn’t previously patched.” Any new drywall will be sealed and painted to match.

Insurance companies/adjusters are starting to release the reins on painting of a room. It varies company to company- adjuster to adjuster- and on the clients’ attitude. For years the standard has been to apply two coats of paint to the new drywall and 1 coat to the remaining section of wall (corner to corner). The corner to corner theory is that when painting a room you can/typically stop in the corner once you have an entire wall painted. You never want to stop mid wall because that will be noticeable. Also with corner to corner if the paint shade is slightly off it won’t be visible as it stops in the corner and light casting shadows will affect the paint shade as well. Having been met with so many contractor arguments over painting the remaining walls, during the last 2 years we have seen the corner to corner rule relax. Typically now, if I have a 12×12 room and I patch one of the walls, I will apply two coats of paint on top of two coats of primer to the new drywall. I can usually get the adjuster to approve repainting the remaining walls, to match. This does not mean that you get to change your 12×12 powder blue dining room to Victorian red. This means that you get a fresh coat of powder blue paint in your dining room. However, if you’re nice to your contractor you can update that powder blue to a similar tonal value color such as a grey blue. Cultivating and fostering a good relationship with your contractor can only benefit you.

One of the other biggest items homeowners don’t understand that don’t get covered are the source repair costs. Example: the ring between your toilet tank and bowl rots, causing your toilet to leak. The insurance coverage will be to repair the damage that the toilet caused. It however, will not cover the cost of fixing or replacing that toilet, or your cost to hire the plumber to come out and shut off the water and remove the toilet. In short, your insurance company is not trying to “stick it to you”. It is important to note that any form of water damage should be cleaned in a timely manner. Water damage can spread to mold damage, and your insurance company is not likely to pay for a mold inspection if they feel that you aided the progression of the mold by delaying in drying the area. If something doesn’t make sense. Ask about it. If you don’t understand the answer or are having difficulty with your adjuster ask for their supervisor. If something raises a flag in the supervisors head they can and often will either send out another adjuster/field reinspector or come out and investigate. Don’t be afraid to ask if you truly feel that you’re not being treated fairly. Your insurance agent can also help to explain your policy to you.

Regardless of what you feel you’re owed, just because you’ve been paying into you policy for x number of years doesn’t mean you get everything and anything you want. Indemnity is a basic insurance principle that states that you, as an insured should not be allowed to profit from an insurance loss. This principle is important and helps to protect both the insurance company and you.