For us living in Florida we are no stranger to storms. Although we hope you never have to deal with damages resulting from a storm we thought it would be helpful to share some tips in case you ever find yourself in this situation.
Below are 5 tips to keep in mind in the event your home is ever damaged by a storm:
1) Document the Damage
The more comprehensive your documentation the better. Video has become a favored medium for recording damage, however, insurance companies and government agencies aren’t always able to receive or process video files. In addition to video, make sure you have still photos and plenty of notes to clarify what the photos represent. If available, before and after photos can be helpful in demonstrating the extent of the damage.
This can be a traumatic and overwhelming task, so try not to do this alone. Take a relative or friend that you can trust to be emotionally supportive and also helpful in identifying and documenting damage. Avoid lingering in unsafe conditions. However, if the area is safe, then take your time and document carefully. If you are taking video, slowly narrate what you are seeing and explain the damage you see, for example: “White door with broken window laying in about 4 inches of water in the backyard is the backdoor to the house. It is now about 25 feet away from the house, all hinges are broken, and the doorway is completely exposed”
Inside the home, check for evidence of flooding and roof leaks. Be methodical, yet avoid any areas that seem unsafe. Never enter a flooded basement or climb unto a potentially unstable roof. If you are not certain if your roof has been damaged, speak to your insurance company about an assessment by an approved roofing company.
2) Secure the Area
Again, safety is key here. Even small pieces of debris can feature sharp edges, so be abundantly careful if you must clear an area. For large jobs including removing trees or sizable debris such as cars, boats, parts of homes, etc. contact your insurance company to get access to their preferred provider list. Beware of post-storm opportunist who canvas neighborhoods asking for exorbitant prices for debris removal.
Your insurance company will likely have approved resources listed for water remediation as well as companies that will cover damaged roofs and broken windows to prevent further water damage. These resource are often available on the website so you don’t have to spend time holding to get information. Providers vetted by your insurance company will often not ask for money upfront, instead, they will help you file a claim to cover the costs of damages.
It can be confusing to know what is covered by the insurance company and what falls under your responsibility. Your best option is to gather information directly from your insurance company and your local municipality. Often, local sanitation departments will help with debris removal, but it can take time for them to get to your home.
3) File a Claim
After a storm, be prepared for possible long hold times when calling your insurance companies. Use a landline or make sure your mobile phone is sufficiently charged. Especially if you need to contact multiple insurance companies such as your home insurance company, auto insurer, flood insurer, and/or wind insurer.
When calling insurance companies, it is typically better to stay on hold rather than hanging up and calling back. Have your policy information handy (if possible), be prepared to calmly describe the damage sustained to your home, and have photo and video files ready to transmit once you have instructions from your insurance providers.
It’s a good idea to have pen and paper ready to take notes. Also, if you are leaving the area or do not have access to mail service, provide your insurance companies with a forwarding address where they can mail important documents. The same applies if you have a new or temporary phone number.
4) Tap Into Government Resources
Stay abreast of communications emerging from local, state, and federal agencies. They will have critical information on resources available to help with damage control and debris removal. Depending on the nature of the storm and the total impact to your community, your region may be declared a disaster area in which case different types of financial assistance and services may be available to you. There are many misconceptions about payouts from FEMA and other agencies, so please make sure you conduct careful research and speak to qualified personnel. Try not to rely on rumors or unofficial social media posts.
5) Watch for Deadlines
Insurance claims and applications for financial assistance all come with important deadlines. In the aftermath of the storms, days can be lost while you struggle to clean up and get life back to normal. Set reminders for yourself and make sure you have access to phone and internet service when needed to submit applications or substantiating documentation. Put your claim or case number on all correspondence and keep careful documentation of all submissions, conversations, and contacts.
Always start with local and state websites for information relevant to your immediate community. If weather is still a factor, tune into www.weather.com or any reliable weather channel in your area. If there is a risk of inclement weather during clean up, it is important to have a working cell phone or battery operated radio with you and audible at all times. Knowing about tornados or flash floods even minutes in advance can be life-saving.
If your community is declared a disaster area, visit www.FEMA.org to learn about resources and aid available to your area. Agencies such as www.redcross.org and https://www.disasterassistance.gov may also be helpful in accessing needed resources and support.
We certainly hope you never need to use this information and that you and your family are always safe and sound. However, should there be an incident in your area, we hope that the information and resources provided give you peace of mind and helpful guidance during a difficult time.
At Flagship Title we care about helping you stay informed throughout your real estate transaction. Have questions? Give us a call at 813.875.1200.
In case you missed it, check out our last Flagship Title post: What Is An Escrow Account? Do I Need One?