Photo: Godofredo A. Vasquez, Staff
Some homes still hold water. Others are coated in grime. And then there are the houses that stand, while much of what was inside them is piled high on the curb, mountains of waterlogged rubble waiting to be hauled off.
These sites still carry emotional responses. But they’re not the end of Harvey’s effect on the homeowners. For some, the fight to be compensated by insurance companies will be protracted or complicated – whether by the sheer number of insurance claims or the battles that ensue over fair payments.
Sadly, this isn’t the first rodeo, so to speak for some Houston homeowners. They know the delicate dance of insurance claims. But for others who haven’t experienced this before, we have some tips to try to make this process of resettling your house into a home again a more fluid process.
If you don’t have a mortgage, lucky you, this process is going to be much easier as you’re more likely to get paid since insurers can send you the insurance payouts directly. Still, ensure that the payouts are commensurate by following the next set of tips.
TIPS FOR GETTING ORGANIZED
The United Way of Greater Houston offers ideas for organizing your post-hurricane repair and recovery.
For your family
List your available financial resources.
Identify other sources of financial assistance.
Make a list of things you will need to replace.
Take photos of damage that has occurred.
Consider joining a support group.
Return to normal routines as soon as possible.
For your home or apartment
Be sure your residence is safe before you return.
Contact your insurance agent. Don’t guess at your coverage.
Get more than one estimate for repairs.
Set up a safe place to keep receipts for all your expenses.
Determine what you can do by yourself.
Determine what you can do with the help of a few friends.
Determine what requires an expert (electrical, plumbing).
Check references carefully.
Check contractor and repair firms with the Better Business Bureau.
If you have a mortgage, this is going to be more complicated as insurance payouts are often sent directly to lenders (the people who underwrite your mortgage) to prevent fraud. The process can be complicated and elongated, but there are ways to avoid some headaches.
Document everything. Photos, videos, receipts, lists of your property, all this can help expedite insurance claims as some lenders will require proof – that there was damage, and that what you’re needing repaired actually existed in your home. And we mean everything.
Be specific. When chronicling your ruined property write down as much info as you can, such as serial numbers, model types, date of purchase, etc.
Don’t pile your damaged property on the curb, unless your insurance adjustor has been there to inspect your property. Remember, photos aren’t always enough. Some adjustors will need to see the affected property. Store the rubble in a garage or the back yard or somewhere they can be “safe.” After that, you can pile it up on the curb, assuming that’s legal where you live.
Don’t get eager to fix. Again, the adjustor has to witness the damage. Just wait to get your Tim Taylor on until afterward.
Inspect the adjustor. When he/she arrives, ask if they are an employee of the insurance company or an independent contractor. If they are the latter, ask if they can determine claim decisions and payments on the company’s behalf.
Contractors are your choice. While insurance companies will recommend contractors, you’re not obligated to use them.
Don’t settle. If your insurance payments seem low, you can file an appeal. If you do go that route, request copies of the insurance paperwork citing the specific language concerning the denied or limited claims.
Take advantage of no-interest loans offered by employers in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. That way you can begin paying for repairs while the insurance payout is being sorted out.
Use technology. Some insurance companies offer text alerts or apps that can tell you the status of your claim.
If you don’t have flood insurance, it’s a troubling situation and there are few options for reimbursement beyond applying for a federal loan and hoping for a FEMA grant, which can cover up to $33,000 of damage.