Dealing with a Flooded Home: Part I
As hard as we try, we are no match for the forces of mother nature. When catastrophe happens we are left stunned, confused and afraid. In South-East Texas we are no strangers to torrential downpours and flash flooding. From spring all the way through fall we anticipate the raw and powerful force of rushing waters. A savvy homeowner will be judicious in the knowledge of previous flooding and take preemptive measures in purchasing insurance with flood coverage on the home. Every now and again, water builds up and starts to infiltrate our neighborhoods and homes. When this occurs, a lot can happen at once, and it’s important to be prepared and remain calm.
The process of filing an insurance claim can be tedious, but in the end the payout will be to your benefit. Join us in the first part of this series of navigating a flood insurance claim.
Where Do I Start?
If you have flood insurance you’re going to want to notify your insurance agent as soon as possible. It’s paramount to your safety and security to file your claim with all supporting information and accompanying documents collected and organized before you get in contact with your agent. Your policy may be able to offer you monetary compensation for items lost in the rising waters. This is, of course, is only possible if you were able to properly document and follow the necessary steps in providing appropriate evidence to support your claim. In the face of disaster, it may be hard to think clearly and make decisions, but provided you have flood coverage, filing an insurance claim will bring you much needed solace in such a stressful time.
Check Your Policy
Not all insurance companies cover flood damage. It is always wise to be informed and know what you are working with. Going over a copy of your policy before contacting your agent may save you a world of trouble and also allow you to prepare any questions you may have for your agent. When going over your policy, check your declarations page and make sure your information is up to date. If you have a mortgage you’re also going to want to make sure you’re its information is up to date. If you’ve recently refinanced with another company, you’ll want to let your agent know immediately.
Notify Your Insurer
This is where some frustrations might begin to set in. It may take days or several weeks for a claim to filed and processed. Depending on a variety of factors, there might also be a time limit to when a claim must be filed. So, it is imperative that you start the process as soon as possible. You’re going to want to have your insurance policy number ready when you call. Also, some agents work for multiple companies, so you might have to specify what company your policy is through.
You’re going to want to provide them with the best way to stay in contact with you. After a flood you might find yourself displaced and without a reliable source of communication. Providing your insurer with a couple of numbers, an email address and what time to best contact you will help ease your growing anxieties.
While you have them on the phone, you’re going to want to inquire about an expected time frame. While this might not be set in stone, it will provide much needed insight into knowing when to expect a home visit to evaluate the damage, or an appraisal. This way you can properly plan and have all the documentation ready when your agent arrives.
Documenting & Overseeing the Damage
Spending the day going through debris and wreckage is not glamorous or ideal, but that’s exactly what must happen before an insurance adjuster arrives to inspect your home. You’re going to need to sort through both the damaged and undamaged things in your home. When time is of the essence this is going to provide you with a much-needed advantage in having your claim processed as quickly as possible. Separating, not throwing away, the damaged and undamaged property is going to help your insurance adjuster know what’s been damaged and how much it’s going to cost to repair. This will also help you save items and property from being further damaged by water or mold.
Next, and possibly most importantly (next to filing your claim as quickly as possible), is documenting all of the damaged items and property. Failing to do this entirely or even just poorly could result in your insurance adjuster denying your claim. Take photos of everything. Furniture, clothes, toys, appliances, tools… if it’s been damaged, take a picture of it. You’re also going to want to photograph any major structural damage to your home. This includes water lines and cosmetic or surface level damages both inside and outside of the home. If you have any other buildings or structures on your property that were damaged, you’re going to want to photograph them as well. As most insurance companies will reimburse you for this, it’s advisable to have a licensed electrician assess any damage and correct any immediate dangers in and around the home. Safety is a priority.
After you’ve photographed enough household items to contemplate your career path and instead pursue stationary photography, we’re going to record and organize our collected data on paper. It’s in your best interest to keep a running list of all things damaged and lost. A description of the item, approximate value and date of purchase along with any receipts you might have held on to or salvaged are things you’re going to want to write down. You might not be able to remember every detail about a specific item, and that’s okay. Work from memory and use your best judgement. You don’t need any added stress.
Temporary Repairs & Accommodations
It could be several days or weeks before an insurance adjuster visits your home for an inspection after you’ve collected your documentation. If your immediate area or surrounding region was also affected this process could be delayed even longer, so it’s best to remain positive and proactive in what to do next. You want to keep safety a priority and ensure that your home is habitable in the meantime. Don’t jump in and start trying to tackle any major repairs. These will come after your claim has been approved. Direct your attention to smaller more immediate problems like mold or removing damaged carpet.
If your home is unsafe or you’re forced to relocate during renovation, it’s advisable to keep a record of related expenses. Receipts from any and all temporary repairs or relocation may be submitted with your claim for reimbursement. If you are unclear about this process or the stipulations involved, contact your insurer or agent to assure that these types of expenses will be compensated.
It is now time for your insurance adjuster to visit your home. Guide them through your property to showcase the damage both inside and outside your home. As you move about, you’re going to want to have readied a copy of the itemized list of damaged items and accompanying photographs for your adjuster to take to help expedite processing your claim. You will not receive compensation until an adjuster has been out to assess the damage and approve your claim, so be mindful when you are walking around with your adjuster. Walk them through your itemized list and answer any questions they may have.
We’re Only Getting Started
After your adjuster leaves, there could be even more time before you know if your claim has been approved and if you’re going to receive any compensation to start repairs. It’s important to stress to your insurer that you cannot begin any repairs until the claim has been cleared. If all went well and your claim is approved your next steps are going to be getting in touch with a contractor and getting bids… which is where we are going to pick up in the continuation of our flood insurance claim series.