5 Questions with Barry Swidler
Barry Swidler is a fourth-generation owner of American Fire Restoration, a family business that began in 1917. He is currently the president of that company, based in Queens, New York. He is also the chair of the RIA Advocacy and Government Affairs (AGA) Committee’s Third Party Consultants (TPC) Subcommittee.
You currently chair the AGA's TPC subcommittee that addresses their contractor challenges. What inspired you to lead this cause?
I was interested in getting involved and leading the TPC subcommittee because we find over and over again that we are treated unfairly by TPCs. Sometimes, we are done with the work and the invoicing, and then the TPC shows up. They, without any knowledge of the specifics of what was done and in contradiction to what the adjuster had previously agreed, slash away at our invoice.
This is patently unfair, especially when there was a prior agreement with the adjuster. I figured this was a good way to act on the frustration that I have felt.
What kinds of challenges are your committee members addressing?
Some of the topics the subcommittee is addressing are time and material pricing versus unit cost; changes to labor classifications or hourly rates after the work is completed; withholding funds on undisputed amounts; and requests for evidence of the contractor’s cost.
Can RIA members assist you with your committee's mission?
Our committee is well into our mission, but if there are topics that RIA members would like us to consider for inclusion in our position document, they should send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What can all restoration contractors do to minimize conflicts with TPCS?
This is a tough one. The short answer: Get everything in writing before doing the work. Of course, that is not always possible, as often the TPC doesn’t show up at the job until the work is done. That is the essence of why dealing with a TPC is often very difficult and unfair. The restoration contractor does not have the benefit of negotiating the deal before doing the work because the party whom they will negotiate with is not identified at the time of the loss. The AGA will address this in our position papers about what is proper and what is not proper for the TPC who arrives after the work is done.
Is there light at the end of the tunnel for those who are frustrated by their experiences with TPCS?
That’s the million-dollar question. Yes, we as an industry can band together and come up with best practices. But will the TPCs, TPAs, Xactimate or the insurance companies listen to our concerns and address them in a fair manner? I am confident that the AGA members are reasonable people who see things from not only our side but that of the other side. And I am hopeful that the TPCs, TPAs, Xactimate and the insurance companies will listen and respond in a fair manner.