Floridians are no strangers to storms, whether it’s a passing afternoon thunderstorm or a raging hurricane. However, tropical storms and hurricanes tend to cause more storm damage to properties during the summer months, so we’ve compiled some tips to keep in mind in the event your home is ever damaged by a storm.
1) Secure the Area
Safety is key here. Even small pieces of debris can feature sharp edges, so be extra careful if you need to clear an area. For large jobs like 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 opportunists 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.
2) 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.
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 onto 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.
3) File a Claim
After a storm, be prepared for 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.
At Title Junction we care about helping you stay informed throughout your real estate transaction. Have questions? Give us a call at 239.415.6574.
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