Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Frozen busted water pipes? Don’t file a ‘flood’ claim

February’s relentless cold temperatures are wreaking havoc on the water pipes and fire-protection sprinklers of commercial enterprises and private homes alike. When the pipes freeze and expand, they tend to burst at the seams, causing costly — and miserable — water damage to the structure and contents of homes and businesses.

For the owners of these properties, a natural response is to pick up the phone and file an insurance claim for damages. But public insurance adjuster Wes Baldwin of Charlotte warns that there is a right way and a wrong way to report a claim: “When people are standing in several inches of water, due to frozen broken water pipes, it’s somewhat natural to tell their agent that their house or business is flooded.”

But don’t do it, Baldwin warns.

The reason? Baldwin, president of The Baldwin Company, Inc., Property Loss Consultants, for 39 years, explains: “The word ‘flood’ has a very specific meaning in the insurance industry, and using it in the wrong situation can lead to a denial of a property claim for what may be perfectly legitimate — and covered — water damage. The minute you mention ‘flood,’” says Baldwin, “the insurance company’s blinders go on: the standard property insurance policy does not cover damage brought about by floods.”

What business and homeowners need to report instead, says Baldwin, is water damage. But when caught in the throes of a disaster which threatens one’s home or livelihood, very few policyholders are able to think clearly enough to remember that distinction.

That is why Baldwin suggests that property owners now faced with frozen water pipes consider using the services of a Public Insurance Adjuster to help them navigate the intricacies of both their coverage and the claims process itself. A public adjuster is a specific kind of licensed adjuster who, hired by and working exclusively for the policyholder, is experienced and knowledgeable enough to make sure their clients get everything that their policy has promised them.

frozen bathroom, winter plumbing problems, ice covered floor, water damage
Heating issues caused pipes to burst and this bathroom floor to freeze over with ice.

One of The Baldwin Company’s clients, Rick Conley, manager for Regis Property Management in Dallas, TX, puts it this way: “When our water pipes froze and burst at our Dunes Plaza Shopping Center in Michigan City, IN, it brought a particular kind of misery. It’s hard to describe how cold it is traipsing around in 4 inches of water in one dark, unheated building after another, unless you’ve experienced it yourself.”

“Baldwin came in and handled not only that grueling physical part of documenting our claim but also the more cerebral parts of researching our policies and communicating with the insurance companies’ people throughout the process,” says Rick. “He even had ways of measuring the water damage within the walls of our structures that convinced our insurance company they needed to pay to get all that fixed.”

Property owners can find an extensive listing of licensed public adjusters at the website of the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters,

Related Websites:

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Public Insurance Adjuster offers help for hurricane and earthquake victims

Wes Baldwin of The Baldwin Company, Inc, Charlotte NC, gives us a simple tip for helping donate millions to the American Red Cross every time you order a book, some dogfood, or a new headset for your PlayStation

        What’s the last thing you ordered from Amazon – an e-book for your Kindle? maybe a DVD? These days, it could just as easily have been a box of cereal or a tube of toothpaste. People are going to for just about anything under the sun – especially if they have Amazon Prime’s free-shipping privileges.

So what does this have to do with helping the victims of recent hurricanes and earthquakes?

Few people realize that you can financially support the American Red Cross every time you order anything from Amazon. All it takes is simply adding a ‘smile’ to your Amazon bookmark, like this: Rather than bookmarking, change your bookmark instead to

Why? Once you start using the AmazonSmile website, Amazon automatically contributes the equivalent of .5% of each of your purchases to The American Red Cross.

At first glance, .5% of the $35 power cable you just ordered may not seem like much. But you have to look at the big picture: Through AmazonSmile, Amazon has already contributed $1.7 million to the Red Cross, as of last month (August 2017).

What’s more, you can help increase that total by spreading the word. Just post the following on your facebook page and other social media. Before you know it, you and your friends will be helping the families devastated by these unprecedented natural disasters every time you shop: 

Change your Amazon bookmark to to automatically support The American Red Cross

And – with Amazon’s gross income currently being estimated at $929 per second (that’s $55,000 per hour, or $1.3 million per day) – just look at the potential.

Policyholder advocate Wes Baldwin founded the first ever Public Adjusting Firm completely based in the Carolinas, 41 years ago. Headquartered in Charlotte NC, The Baldwin Company is retained by both business owners and homeowners across the nation to assist them in putting together and presenting their insured property claims to their insurance carriers, making sure that the property owners receive everything their insurance policies entitle them to. Baldwin is past president of the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters, with whom he’s been instrumental in helping state legislatures enact specific licensing laws for Public Insurance Adjusters. He was selected as NAPIA’s national Man of the Year in 2008. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Hurricane Insurance Claims: Got a hole in your roof? DON’T report a ‘flood’ claim

By Wes Baldwin, The Baldwin Company, Property Loss Consultants

If Irma has punched a hole in the roof of your home or business, you may be tempted to call your insurance agent and tell them it has rained so much that your house is now flooded.

roof leak, water damage, flood claim, insurance claim, Hurricane, storm damage, property loss recoveryBUT DON’T DO IT!

Even if you are standing in your living room in water above your ankles - you need to know that, in the world of property-insurance claims, this is technically not a flood.

The term you want to use when reporting this type of insurance loss to your insurance company is “WATER DAMAGE.”

Believe it or not, using the word “flood” when you report property damage may improperly prejudice your insurance company’s adjuster against your claim.

The easiest way to distinguish floods from water damage is this:

  • If you have water coming into your house or business from the ground up, from below - this is flood damage.
  • Whereas, if you have rainfall entering your house from above, this generally causes water damage, and more often than not, it IS covered by your standard non-flood Property Insurance.

Need help sorting this out? You should be aware that your insurance company will assign one of its full-time professional adjusters to handle your claim. But, even though technically assigned to you, this type of adjuster’s allegiance is to the insurance company, not to you.

To level the playing field, you do have the option of hiring your own adjuster, a Public Adjuster, who represents only your interests – not those of the insurance company – to help level the playing field. For further information on public adjusters, go to the National Association of Public Adjusters (NAPIA), where there are state-by-state listings of PA’s for you to choose from.

But regardless of whether you choose to add a professional to your team or handle your hurricane insurance claim on your own, don’t be calling your agent and reporting that you have suffered a flood.

Policyholder advocate Wes Baldwin founded the first ever Public Adjusting Firm completely based in the Carolinas, 41 years ago. Headquartered in Charlotte NC, The Baldwin Company is retained by both business owners and homeowners across the nation to assist them in putting together and presenting their insured property claims to their insurance carriers, making sure that the property owners receive everything their insurance policies entitle them to. Baldwin is past president of the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters, with whom he’s been instrumental in helping state legislatures enact specific licensing laws for Public Insurance Adjusters. He was selected as NAPIA’s national Man of the Year in 2008.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Claim and Preparation Tips for Hurricane Irma: Meds, Pets, Labels and ZipLocs

By Wes Baldwin, The Baldwin Company, Inc., Charlotte NC

With mega-hurricane Irma hurtling our way this week, now is the time to find and review your homeowners and automobile insurance policies. Call your insurance agent to get updates on your coverage, if you need to.

You may or may not have a separate flood insurance policy, which would cover rising water.

But many other kinds of storm-related losses are usually covered by standard homeowners’ policies – in particular, wind damage and water damage from above (for example, rain falling through a hole in your wind-damaged roof). 

Regardless of what kind of property insurance you have, you need to act now to protect those policies and other essential documents, and to make arrangements for your family and your pets to weather the storm with you.

There are many lists available regarding emergency preparation (especially regarding food and water), but here are some practical actions that may have been overlooked:

Do these 2 things right away.
1. First of all, leave right this minute and take each of your cars to a gas station to fill the tanks with a reasonable amount of gas.
  • Don’t put this off: whole neighborhoods are fairly likely to lose power at some point during Irma, and gas pumps need electricity to run.
  • You also don’t want to wait until Irma is literally knocking on your door: gas stations often run out of gasoline when a hurricane nears.

2. While you are out, stock up on strong freezer ZipLoc bags; they provide pretty good protection from water.

  • You are likely to use one- and two-gallon sizes the most.
  • Look for bags labeled for freezer use; any others will be too thin and flimsy for hurricane use.
  • Go for the name brands like ZipLoc and Hefty. Now is not the time to take a chance that bargain brands may or may not work just as well.

Protect your important papers. Use good, strong Ziploc bags to put all the following together NOW:
  • Your homeowners and automobile insurance policies
  • Round up keys and put them in the bag with your policies:
    • Extra set of car keys
    • Extra house key
  • A portable non-electronic list of phone numbers and other contact info for crucial family and neighborhood contacts:
    • Include a paper list of cell-phone numbers for each member of your family/household.
      • Why? Those phone numbers have most likely have been saved on your own cell phone for so long that most days you can’t remember them at all.
      • Your cell phone may run out of power, rendering your Contacts list totally inaccessible.
    • Numbers for distant family members and friends who will need to hear from you
    • Doctors’ and vets’ phone numbers
          You can store this list in your cell phone’s Contacts.
    • But you should also print out this contact list, put it in a ziploc bag, and give a copy to each member of your household
  • If you’re able, print out a GPS-style aerial photo of your house, showing surrounding roads and identifiable landmarks. Write your Zip code on the photo, and then fold it up and put it in a ziploc bag that you can keep in your purse, pocket, or backpack in case you need it to help rescuers find you, if stranded. (Remember: Your actual street address may not be of much use if you have to call 911, as street numbers are rarely visible in flooded areas.)

Pack up all Prescription Medicines for all members of your household.
  • Check to make sure that each person in your household has enough of their meds for at least one week, or better.
  • If necessary, go to your pharmacy immediately and request Emergency Rx Refills for anyone’s medications that are running low. Do not delay.
  • Gather up meds for each member of your household. Pack them in freezer-strength ziploc bags, and label them for each person.
  • Put together lists of prescription medications and pharmacy info for each member of your household
  • Include on these Rx lists any necessary contact info for your family members’ doctors
  • Place these prescription/pharmacy/doctor lists in a separate bag in a separate location from the medications themselves.

If you have pets, they will need you now more than ever. Make plans NOW to look after them during the storm. Most shelters allow pet owners to bring their cats and dogs with them, and during emergency situations, some hotels permit your pets to stay with you, as well. But to do this, common sense dictates that you need to have some way to restrain your pets. Take the time now to….

  • Dig out that dog kennel or cat carrier that is in the back corner of your garage
  • Make sure you also have strong leashes for each of your pets, plus a way to tie the leashes to a post, etc.
  • Make sure each pet is wearing its current rabies tag, as well as easily visible identification on its collar
  • Find your pets’ current shot records, make copies, and place them in a Ziploc with your human medical information
  • Be sure that your pets’ ID tags have your CELL phone number on them. [Remember: your home phone may not be useable either because of power outages or because of flooded homes – so anyone who happens to find your pet won’t be able to reach you on your home phone.]
  • Pack up some pet food and light-weight food and water dishes for your cats and dogs.
    • (Remember: you may have to hand-carry all of this, so don’t try to pack up 25 pounds of dogfood.)
  • If your pets require any daily medications, don’t forget to pack them, too.
  • Put all of the above pet items into a waterproof bag of some sort that you are sure you can carry by hand. If you are using large garbage bags, double-bag them. And then LABEL the bag (see below).

A day or two before the storm is due to arrive at your location – possibly knocking out your power for hours, or days, or more – be sure to take the following precautions:

  • Get $100 to $200 in cash from the bank. Don’t put this off: with power outages, ATM’s and even retail stores’ cash registers may not be working.
  • Charge your cell phone(s).
  • Purchase backup batteries for your cell phones, and charge them too.
  • Put each person’s cell phone and batteries in strong (freezer) ziploc bags.
  • Fill your bathtub with water. Find a one- or two-gallon bucket to keep near it. You will be able to flush your toilets, no matter what, with this water/bucket combination.

Label everything. Make sure you have some wide, clear packing tape. Make big 3” x 5” labels to tape onto each of your plastic bags. Using either a broad marker or a bold font in 24-pt or larger, include the following info:

  • Your family’s last name
  • Your family’s primary cell phone number
  • In smaller print:
    • Names and ages of all household members who should be with you during the hurricane
    • Name and descriptions of any pets traveling with you – also your veterinarian’s phone number
  • Cover each 3 x 5 label with clear packing tape. Cover labels with tape completely.

Go ahead now and put one of these 3 x 5 labels/cards in each household member’s purse, bookbag, backpack, or any other sort of tote bag.

Prepare for the worst...

  • Assume you will have to leave your house in a hurry…
  • Assume that you are going to be without electricity for a while…
  • Assume one or more members of your household will be hard to find/get in touch with…
  • Assume that a lot of important things are going to get wet…
  • Assume your life is going to be totally derailed and disorganized for the next several weeks, but always…

Pray for the best.

Policyholder advocate Wes Baldwin founded the first ever Public Adjusting Firm completely based in the Carolinas, 41 years ago. Now headquartered in Charlotte NC, The Baldwin Company, Inc. is retained by both business owners and homeowners all across the nation to assist them in putting together and presenting their insured property claims to their insurance carriers, making sure that the property owners receive everything which their insurance policies entitle them to. Baldwin is past president of the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters, with whom he has been instrumental in helping state legislatures enact specific licensing laws for Public Insurance Adjusters (which are not the same as Independent Adjusters, who work for several insurance companies – not for the policyholders). Wes Baldwin was selected as NAPIA’s Man of the Year for the entire U.S. in 2008.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Baldwin Company’s Wes Baldwin invited to be sole presenter at exclusive financial conference in Florida this week

ST. PETERSBURG – 22-October-2015 – Wes Baldwin, president of renowned Carolinas public-adjusting firm, The Baldwin Company, Inc. (, has been asked to be the sole presenter this week at a by-invitation-only financial conference in St Petersburg.

 Sponsored by Raymond James Tax Credit Funds, Inc. (, the exclusive event has gathered together 15 of the nation’s most significant non-bank syndicators of Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) development. Baldwin was asked to address the issues that can arise from property-insurance claims when LIHTC projects – whether completed or still under construction – suffer losses from such insured perils as fire or weather-related Acts of God.

According to the meeting’s organizer, Raymond James’ Steve Johnson, Baldwin was invited due to his more than 40 years of extensive experience as a Public Adjuster (PA) in settling claims for apartment and condo complexes across the country. Public Adjusters are professional claims adjusters who are retained by insured property owners – both commercial and residential – to help analyze, document, put together, adjust, and as the owners’ representative, reach a realistically sufficient settlement with their insurance companies.  Baldwin has extensive experience in claims arising from not only fire losses but also such storm-related perils as hurricanes, tornadoes, and hail, to name but a few.

Baldwin, who founded his company in 1976 in Columbia, SC, prior to moving to Charlotte in 1981, has led the way for Public Insurance Adjusters in the Carolinas: When he started his firm in the 1970s, the public-adjusting profession was not well known in the southeastern part of the country. But, as the first public-adjusting firm based in the Carolinas, Baldwin set a precedent for thorough and ethical assistance with property claims throughout the area, and has since been followed by several more PA’s in the intervening 40 years. Baldwin has enjoyed the esteem of his fellow public adjusters as indicated by having been elected to serve on the board and as president of the PA industry’s professional association, the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters (, as well as having been named that group’s Man of the Year in 2008.

Firms represented at the LIHTC conference in St. Petersburg this week included syndicators from such heavyweights as Boston Financial, National Equity Fund, Richman Asset Management, WNC, City Real Estate Advisors, Boston Capital, Enterprise Community Investment, RBC, and Redstone Equity Partners.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Message from Ana and El Nino: GET READY

By Wes Baldwin

Surprised to learn a tropical storm formed off the U.S. coast, and in early May?

Our Atlantic tropical systems typically form off the west coast of Africa, don’t they? Yes, but that’s during Hurricane Season, which doesn’t officially start until June 1. Tropical Storm Ana – like an impatient deb who can’t wait till the actual season to make her debut – made her entrance 3 weeks ahead of schedule, followed by an even rarer May landfall. So what does this portend?

Also, close on Ana’s heels we hear rumblings about El Nino and its impact on the storm season in both the Atlantic and Pacific basins. What does this mean for us, especially this summer and fall?

According to the National Hurricane Center, since 1851, we’ve only had 20 named storms in May.  The last year in which we had any Atlantic storms in May strong enough to be named was 2012, and when the full hurricane season actually began that year, it was a doozie: 19 named storms, including 10 hurricanes – 2 of which occurred in June (also rare) and the last of which, Sandy, descended on N.J. and N.Y. just before Halloween.

So what does El Nino have to do with any of this? In the years we are said to be influenced by El Nino – a weather trend determined by warmer than usual Pacific water temperatures measured off the west coast of equatorial South America – we usually hear less dramatic predictions for the Atlantic and Gulf hurricane season. It’s El Nino’s sister, La Nina, who can show up the following summer and really pack a wallop on the East and Gulf Coasts.

Even so, the UK Met Office (short for Meteorology Office, the UK’s public weather service), says an El Nino pattern triggers “a huge release of heat from the Pacific Ocean, which can disrupt weather patterns around the world.” Also in England, Tropical Storm Risk (TSR) stresses that their Atlantic forecast for 2015 includes more uncertainty than usual, due to the unpredictability of El Nino. TSR, the UK Met, and other experts say that, although 2015 may bring as many as 8 to 13 named storms in the Atlantic basin, probably only 1 or 2 will be ‘major’ hurricanes.

In looking at such predictions, though, CBS Meteorologist Mike Augustniak notes we need to realize what hurricane experts refer to as ‘major’ hurricanes are only Category 3 and above storms (minimum sustained winds of 111 mph).  Within those parameters, he says, the U.S. might be lulled into complacency when we note that we haven’t had a Cat 3 storm make landfall here for almost 10 years (Wilma, in October 2005 was the last). Instead, we should remember that hurricanes less than Cat 3 can still be devastating:  Sandy (2012), Irene (2011), and Ike (2008) were all Category 2 when they made landfall, yet they caused a combined total of $100 billion in damage.

AccuWeather’s Dan Kottlowski points out that “just because this season’s numbers [may be] low, it doesn’t mean that people should let their guard down.” As TSR warns, it only takes one land-falling hurricane to make it an active season for the residents and businesses involved.

So what to do?
  • First of all, realize that not only coastal communities are involved in hurricane damage. Just ask residents of Charlotte NC, a city some 200 miles inland, whose homes and businesses were ripped apart when Hurricane Hugo toppled giant oak trees onto them in 1989. Everyone living anywhere in a state bordering the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico should consider themselves potentially susceptible to hurricane damage.
  • Secondly, take time to document what you have now, before a hurricane threatens. Grab your smart phone, and either videotape or photograph all parts of your home or business, both inside and out, including attics and other storage areas (don’t forget to open up drawers and closets, too). Make oral identifying comments as you go along. Store this photographic record on a disc or in a cloud away from your home or business. And then, if a hurricane or other storm strikes, this will be the easiest and most convenient way to prove to your insurance company what you had prior to the storm. Do this today. Bear in mind that your paper files where you may have carefully organized your purchase receipts through the years may not survive a storm.

  • Next, revisit and become familiar with your insurance policy. If you don’t understand something or are not sure whether certain situations are covered, now is the time to find out. Contact your agent with your questions, and go over your concerns. Ask specifically about your coverage for wind-storm damage and hurricane claims. (see  right).
  • Put together an emergency evacuation kit. Many websites provide sample lists of what to include (click here to view the American Red Cross checklist). But – beyond the obvious flashlights, batteries, and candles – the bare essentials are these:

    • Water
    • Non-perishable foods (and don’t forget the can-opener)
    • Copies of your property insurance policies, with your agent’s contact information included. (Your agent is the one you call to report damage and file a claim, not the insurance company listed on your policy.)
    • Prescription meds and/or detailed lists of your medicines (can be printed out from your pharmacy’s website)
    • Extra set of keys to everything – house, car, storage unit, office, etc.
    • Wrench to turn off access to natural gas at your home or business
    • Print-out of emergency phone numbers, including your own family members (Remember: you may not be able to access your contacts on your phone)
    • Extra battery for at least one cell phone, and possibly also for one portable computer or notepad
    • Leashes/crates/food for your pets
    • Cash – in case ATMs are without power
    • And, if you can store it safely, 1 to 5 gallons of gasoline

  • Plan ahead for filing an insurance claim, should the need arise. This may not sound very urgent at this point, but be aware that a hurricane claim will likely be an extensive and exhausting process, and will be doubly hard if you’ve been displaced by storm damage.  Very few laymen have any experience documenting, let alone adjusting, a claim. But you can bet that your insurance company has plenty. Consider using the services of your own professional adjuster who can help you with these tasks. A Public Adjuster can help level the playing field and take some of this burden off you, particularly in times of disaster or trauma. Take a few minutes now to visit the website of the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters ( to find a comprehensive list of licensed, reputable PA’s in your state. It would be helpful if you could interview a few of them now, and talk to their former clients. But at the very least, print out their info and store it with your policies in your emergency evacuation kit.

No one wants or expects to become a hurricane victim. But should it happen, being prepared ahead of time can help lessen the trauma.

Wes Baldwin is the president and founder of The Baldwin Company, Inc., in Charlotte. He has been a Public Adjuster for over 40 years, and has served as president of the National Association of Public Insurance Adjusters, as well as having served on the Board and in other capacities since 1980. He was named NAPIA’s Person of the Year in 2008.  Based in NC and SC, hurricane claims are one of his specialties. Learn more about Wes Baldwin at


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