October 7, 2019 by Kris Rzesnoski, Vice President, Business Development, Encircle
Claimants’ disputes with contractors and insurers over the scope and quality of restoration work are all too common. All three parties have much at stake, making the situation fraught with potential for inflated claims and arguments. That’s why carriers may be looking more often to Registered Third Party Evaluators (RTPE).
What is an RTPE?
Ken Larsen, who has more than 40 years of experience in the restoration industry, presented the concept of the RTPE at the 2017 Restoration Industry Association (RIA) convention.
An RTPE is an exceptionally well-educated restorer with an exemplary reputation, according to Larsen. Typically, the RTPE holds one or more of the four highest designations that a restorer can obtain through the RIA (this may be in tandem with other industry-related advanced education such as university degrees).
To receive an RIA designation, a committee of three current RTPEs reviews an applicant’s credentials and references. The final step is an oath pledging the applicant to act impartially and to apply his or her knowledge to restore the building without consideration for any bias shown by a carrier, contractor or insured.
Any RTPE that fails to speak solely to the needs of the project may have their designation revoked. In other words, the evaluator gives no regard to “the demands or wishes of the materially-interested parties, insurance policy or program rules.” The evaluator speaks to uphold competent restoration practices that are in accord with the industry standard of care and applicable laws.
Why carriers like RTPEs
The designation has evolved in 2019, becoming more prominent within the insurance industry. That’s because they are synonymous with impartiality.
For example, the RTPE’s role has been expanded to include arbitrations or umpiring. In many cases, the evaluator’s involvement in an insurance claim wards off arbitration, as it allows both parties to get an independent report from an industry expert.
Carriers use RTPEs for claims in which the expertise of the insurer’s own claims representatives may not be sufficient. RTPEs can provide independent verification and validation to the restoration process and can include environmental sampling, moisture readings, particle counts, adenosine triphosphate (ATP) samples (which test for mould and microbes), and other measurements and quantitative assessments. Some are qualified as experts on estimation or valuation of a restoration process and can review the billing procedures to help a carrier understand the value and processes used.
An insurer’s ability to settle a dispute after the work has been performed is often difficult, since tensions and emotions are running high. Restoration contractors may be perceived as being in a conflict of interest when they define the scope of work and protocol on their projects. Payors may speculate that contractors have inflated — or deflated — the actual needs of the restoration process. A neutral professional, such as a registered evaluator, may be able to calm the situation through a competent file review.
In Canada, restoration work has been reviewed by many third-party administrators and competitive industry professionals who do not have the knowledge and experience necessary to properly understand the complex nature of the work involved on the job site. The situation becomes even more complicated when restorers fail to provide the proper documentation necessary to validate their actions. This compromises the trust between all those involved on the insurance claim.
Competing restoration contractors are clearly conflicted when they attempt to review their competitor’s work. This methodology of review rarely results in trusted and unbiased results, since contractors stand to gain future clients if they provide critical reviews of their competitors’ product. Simply put, critical reviews produced by competing local contractors should be skeptically scrutinized for such agendas.
Let’s say a contractor’s problem file ends up in court. That contractor will have a difficult time successfully arguing his or her position with anyone other than an RTPE as witness. RTPE evaluators have been formally trained. They possess the experience valued during depositions and court trial. You would not ask a janitor to spar intellectually with a doctor in court on subjects related to medicine. Only a doctor would be qualified to review another doctor’s work.
The RTPE is one way for the insurance industry to protect itself against the poor workmanship and fraudulent actions undertaken by a small minority of contractors and insureds. Generally speaking, RTPEs must complete their professional training and achieve a designation of Certified Restorer, Water Loss Specialist, Certified Mould Professional or Contents Loss Specialist before even being considered for inclusion on the registry.
Becoming an RTPE requires ambition and effort. The designations are difficult to obtain. In any given class, failure rates can range between 25% and 70%. Over the past 40 years, a total of approximately 675 Certified Restorers have received their designation. Since the 1980s, approximately 180 Water Loss Specialists have been certified.
Of these 850 industry experts, many have retired or their careers have evolved down a different path. Indeed, this small group of formally-trained experts places them among the most exclusive of groups within the property restoration industry. Of these select few, only 35 professionals have taken on the role of RTPE.
Kris Rzesnoski CR, WLS, CLS, is vice-president, business development at Encircle.
To learn more about the RTPE program, go to www.registeredtpe.com
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