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Five months later, Portland family still struggles to make tornado repairs

Posted at 3:00 PM, Nov 12, 2015

PORTLAND, Mich. – The touchdown of a June tornado in Portland left hundreds of families affected – having to fend without belongings and in some cases, their entire homes.

Michelle and Chris Turner were no exception. Their family home on Green Street was hit hard by the storm, and right away the damage was visible.

“There was debris all over,” said Michelle. “The minute I went upstairs, you could see that the plaster had cracked in our bedroom and you knew that the roof had lifted off.”

The gable of the home was ripped off, windows were racked, and the frame of the home's north face was leaning several inches away from the frame of the home. And that was just on the surface. What worried the Turner’s – and contractors that would later inspect the home – was what lay beneath layers of paint and drywall. Potentially severe structural damage that would cost thousands to fix.

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So the Turner’s immediately entered a claim with AAA Insurance, their provider. The day following the tornado, a claim manager came out and did a run through of the home.

“He kind of explained that because it looked structural, you can’t see it, that we were not safe to stay here. That we would have to leave,” said Michelle.

“He said no matter what happens, I promise I will make you 100-percent-plus whole. He said next summer you guys will be sitting out on your deck, remembering that this happened. And I said, we don’t have a deck. And he said next summer, you’ll be sitting out on your new deck remembering this day.”

In the weeks to follow the tornado’s touchdown, the Turner’s would bring in their own contractor and structural engineers, who estimated the repairs at $203,000. AAA also sent out a third party contractor, who assessed only the visible damage at $99,000. AAA also sent out their own estimator to come by the home to take pictures and highlight visible damage. His estimate came in at $55,000.

The first week in November, the Turner’s got their estimate. AAA was going with the lowest bid of $55,000 – an assessment made by their own estimator. The Turner’s were surprised, and of course worried, that the estimate may be too low. Especially since AAA told them the estimate would likely be consistent with that of contractors and engineers.

We reached out to AAA on the Turner’s behalf. They provided us a statement which read:

“AAA has received two different opinions for the repair of the insured home. Our Engineer concluded that the structure can be repaired. The insureds retained an expert, and their inspections have a somewhat different view and the main issue is the insured desires the entire home to be demolished and rebuilt.

We empathize with the family and the damage that their home sustained. We have committed to making alternate living arrangements for the family for as long as it takes until their home is repaired. We have proposed a formal appraisal process, as indicated in their Homeowner’s Policy, to resolve the price differences in order to bring about a resolution. At this time, this has not been accepted by the insured. We remain committed to arriving at a fair cost to repair the insured’s home.”

So now, with an existing mortgage looming over them, the Turner’s are left with questions and worries. AAA is paying for temporary housing, but the Turner's want to go home. And with this amount, the financial results could be crippling.

“Financially this could be detrimental to us,” said Michelle. “If they force us into a settlement for something like $55,000, we still have a mortgage on this house. I feel like if we get forced into it, it would be, financially, our ruin.”