Steps to take After a Hurricane
In Florida, it pays to stay on your toes during hurricane season. This may help you minimize the property losses that you might otherwise sustain while also keeping you and your family safer.
Recovering from a hurricane is not quick. Months of hard work may be required before you feel like you’re back on your feet.
However, knowing what to expect and the steps that are necessary for recovering your home after a hurricane can give you more certainty at a time when that commodity is in short supply.
Be sure that you’ve got a hurricane insurance policy well before the season starts, and then use these tips to get back on your feet.
Knowing When It’s Safe To Go Back Home
It’s natural for people to want to return home with all possible speed after a hurricane. Unfortunately, recovering your home after a storm requires a vast amount of patience, and that is especially true with this step.
Returning home before the authorities have advised you that it is safe to do so is never a good idea. Instead, wait until they have lifted all restrictions. Remember that your life and well-being are far more important than your investment in your home. A lack of potable water, electricity and sanitation can make returning to your home too early just as dangerous as trying to ride out the storm in your living room.
When authorities do say that returning is authorized, watch out for hazards such as loose power lines, gas leaks and potentially dangerous wildlife. Proceed with caution, and don’t be in too much of a hurry to move back in. Maintain an alternative shelter until your home is ready to be occupied again.
Does Your Home Insurance Cover Hurricanes?
Basic home insurance policies frequently don’t have coverage for hurricane damage. However, because you live in a place where hurricanes are a relatively common hazard, it’s likely that your insurance agent either persuaded you to purchase separate hurricane insurance or wrote a home insurance policy that included hurricane coverage.
Most hurricanes bring two significant hazards with them. These are wind and water. This may mean that you need two separate insurance policies for windstorms and flood damage.
Windstorm insurance policies kick in when your home suffers damage thanks to high winds. Flood insurance protects you when a surge of water or a flood causes damage to your property.
The best way to obtain flood insurance is through the National Flood Insurance Program, or NFIP. If your insurance agent offers flood insurance, it probably is done in accordance with the NFIP.
When floods strike, your insurance pays for the direct physical loss of the covered structure and your belongings. NFIP policies feature two types of coverage. One of these is building coverage, which applies to plumbing and electrical systems, water heaters, furnaces, refrigerators, stoves, built-in appliances, foundations, staircases, well water tanks and other features of your home.
The second type of coverage is for the contents of your home. This protects your furniture, washer and dryer, clothing, electronic equipment and more.
Essentially, if any of these items is damaged in a flood, then it is eligible for coverage under your flood insurance.
Understanding Your Deductible
Most people are familiar with insurance deductibles. That’s the amount that you typically must pay out of pocket before your insurance protection kicks in. However, the deductible on a hurricane insurance policy is a little different when compared with other policies.
People are accustomed to choosing a dollar amount for the deductible on their car insurance policy, but in certain U.S. states, like Florida, hurricane insurance carries a deductible that is a percentage of the insured home’s value.
This deductible typically ranges between one and five percent. Accordingly, if the insured value of your home is $500,000 and the deductible on your hurricane insurance policy is five percent, then the insurance company will make a $25,000 deduction from payment that they make on your claim.
In Florida, insurers generally offer hurricane insurance deductibles of $500, two percent, five percent and 10 percent. Some insurers may offer deductibles in excess of 10 percent. Work with your insurance agent to determine a coverage amount and a deductible that are appropriate for you. Ideally, your coverage will be enough to completely rebuild your house if it is required.
Taking the Proper Steps
Filing a Claim
Filing a hurricane insurance claim is a complex process, and technicalities, errors and omissions only exacerbate the difficulties. Accordingly, it is wise to locate and review your hurricane insurance policy as soon as possible in the aftermath of a storm.
This will help to refresh your understanding of what your policy covers, and it also may yield important instructions regarding how to file your claim. Even more critically, your policy likely will tell you how much time you have to file your claim. It is not unusual that steps like notifying your insurer of the loss and filing a claim must be completed in a relatively short period of time.
Accordingly, it makes sense to contact your insurance agent or the claims department of your insurance company as soon as possible after the hurricane passes. Typically, you will be assigned a claim number on this first phone call, and your information will be given to an adjuster who will review and assess the damage to your property.
Make a List of Valuables
It may take some time for the adjuster to visit your property. In the meantime, you can facilitate the process by taking pictures and making video recordings of the property. This step is critical, as it enables you to prove your claim. These photographs and video recordings also preserve the state of the property as it existed immediately after the flood. The insurance adjuster may rely on these to help document your claim.
In addition to photographic and video evidence, maintain a written list of all of the damage that your property sustained in the hurricane. Write down the value of each item, and if you can locate the original receipt, include it with your list. The more organized you are, the easier the adjuster’s job is and the less likely it is that something will be overlooked.
Create a Paper Trail
Try to keep written records of all of your interactions with your insurance company. Use email and letters as often as possible to create a paper trail, and make notes on all telephone conversations. If things go wrong down the road and you believe that your insurer has acted in bad faith, this documentation will be valuable.
Give Yourself Time to Heal
Recovering from a hurricane is no easy task. Remember that a natural disaster exacts a mental, physical and emotional toll in addition to all of the property damage. Just as your house cannot be restored overnight, neither can your equilibrium.
A series of advances and setbacks is inherent in the recovery from any disaster. You’ll have bad days and good days, but you’ll probably also see that overall you’re traveling in the right direction.
Celebrate the small victories, and don’t let the setbacks get you too low. Remember that Waypointe Realty is here to help you prepare for a storm or to recover from all of life’s hurricanes.