When weather catastrophes hit, they usually create a backlog at insurance companies. If you’re the only one in town who had the storm blow a tree on top of your house, you might get paid quickly. If you're one of many victims, you might have to wait in line for a claim to even be assessed. It may help move things along if you prepare in advance for storm-related claims.
The Forecast Calls for Early Estimates
It’s wise to get a couple of estimates in advance on how much it would cost to replace your house. According to Nationwide, nearly two out of three homes don’t have enough insurance coverage. You should carry enough to rebuild, store items that weren’t damaged, and pay for debris removal. Check your policy to ensure you have replacement coverage and your personal property and related expenses such as temporary housing are covered.
Know What’s Covered
Homeowner’s policies have exemptions, so they may not be the total answer for your insurance needs in the wake of storm damage. For example, you may need a separate policy to cover flooding, especially if you live in a flood-prone area. You may or may not be required to have hurricane coverage in certain areas of the country. If it's an option, you need to know what risks you're taking if you don't take it. Deductibles can be tricky too. Let's say a tornado takes out the porch one day, and another twister carries off some of the roofing the next. You might have to pay a separate deductible for each strike.
Images are Everything
Volunteers often rush to aid victims of a storm, and could begin removing debris or patching roofs before the insurance adjuster comes around. You may need to do some of that yourself just to keep the home safe. Even so, take pictures of the damage before you begin any repairs and save receipts for materials. Claims adjusters rely on the proof they see in the photos to pay your claims when they can’t verify the damage first-hand.
When the Fix-It Brigade Arrives
Wait until you get a list of approved contractors from your insurance company before you hire anyone to start sthe rebuilding process. For one thing, you never know who is coming around your neighborhood with estimates for quick repairs. Your insurance company vets its contractors so you’ll know they’re on the up and up. You’ll be able to get a couple estimates and then choose one off the approved list. That way you’re sure to get your insurance claim covered.
What FEMA Can Do For You
When the insurance company has done all it can do, the federal government may step in with FEMA grants. However, those only go to people who have filed homeowner insurance claims. Those grants don't pay for repairs or to make the home livable again, but will help with temporary food and shelter.
Linda Ray is an award-winning journalist with more than 20 years reporting experience. She's covered business for newspapers and magazines, including the "Greenville News," "Success Magazine" and "American City Business Journals." Ray holds a journalism degree and teaches writing, career development and an FDIC course called "Money Smart."