Contact us for a FREE quote! Cell: (407)274-6081 Office: (407)703-3332
Contact us for a FREE quote! Cell: (407)274-6081 Office: (407)703-3332
Painted exterior of home 4
Those pictures you see after a hurricane – ordinary people out there in waist-high water, rescuing both their neighbors and strangers, coming from other states and other counties – demonstrate yet again not only the resilience of Americans but our decency in reaching out to others without a thought to personal safety.
It also makes us all think: What would I do if such a natural disaster were to strike my home or business? What follows are the resources available. Even if you're not in the hurricane area you may have friends and family who are, so be sure to share this with them.
Start with FEMA
Massive property damage translates into tens of thousands of insurance claims. Most homeowners' and renters' insurance policies cover wind damage but not groundwater flooding. The distinction between actual flooding and storm-driven water damage can be subtle but may have important insurance implications.
While FEMA offers grants to victims, it admits that the amount is often much less than what is needed to recover.
The region affected by Harvey is underinsured — only one-sixth of homes in Harris County, Texas, whose county seat is Houston, have active National Flood Insurance policies. There are about 1.8 million housing units altogether.
What about businesses? Small businesses may be eligible for a disaster loan program through the Small Business Administration.
Based on statistics like these, it's expected that a large portion of overall economic damage caused by flooding won't be covered by insurance.
The Next Steps
What to do:
Other important tips:
Expect a check within five business days after your insurance company agrees to pay your claim.
Also notify your mortgage company and auto loan lender — monthly payments may be deferred for a period of time and late fees typically are waived because you're living in an area impacted by a natural disaster.
Your area may lack power not only for days but for weeks. You may have to purchase food, medical supplies and other necessities using cash instead of credit or debit cards. Areas without power revert to a cash-only economy. Many banks and credit unions will set up mobile branches open beyond typical banker's hours so that affected consumers can access cash or easily apply for loans needed to repair damage.
Notify your utility and cable companies so bills will be halted. You may even want to notify the three credit bureaus and the Federal Trade Commission to have a fraud alert placed on your accounts to lower the chance of becoming a victim of identity theft. Creditors often are willing to negotiate a payment plan and review your budget.
Moving Forward With Insurance
Once you get your immediate issues taken care of, you will probably have a lot of back-and-forth with the insurance company over the coming weeks and months. Here is what you can expect:
Unfortunately, even with the combination of FEMA, homeowners and flood coverage, not all repair costs will be paid — there will be gaps when trying to make your home the way it was before the hurricane hit. Damage caused by even a few inches of water in a 1,000-square-foot home can easily cost more than $10,000 to repair.
Insurance companies typically provide additional living expenses for hotels and meals if you can't live in your house or conduct business while repairs are being made. You should expect to shell out your own money first, but you'll be reimbursed for expenses within 30 days. Companies will reimburse for sump pumps, generators or supplies like wood for do-it-yourself repairs. Filing claims as soon as you can is smart just to get your name on the list. It will help you get the most from your benefits. Find out what your policy provides beyond the immediate benefits.
With some companies, you may have to do some negotiating with your adjuster about the extent of damage to some possessions. Realize, too, that the insurance company's estimate of how much it will cost to repair your home and your own contractor's figures may not be anywhere near comparable. Either a compromise can be hammered out or you can get a mediator to break the impasse, but that process can lengthen and complicate the rebuilding process.
Advice? Start by trusting the company, but do so warily and professionally. Keep notes of conversations and copies of correspondence and receipts. If you run into trouble with the claims department, see if there is a complaint resolution department.
Details on Tax Help
The IRS has announced that it's providing help to victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Here are some specifics:
Other Helpful Resources
Assistance for your business is available through a link, Other Recovery Help, accessed from DisasterAssistance.gov. Here you will find a heading that says Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance, and if you click on it, it will allow you to search programs by state, local and even tribal entities, as well as profits and nonprofits that offer assistance.
There is a link to a National Resource Network that is composed of a diverse group of private and public sector organizations to help distressed cities and counties find and apply solutions to aid economic recovery and growth:
FEMA offers a Community Recovery Management Toolkit that can be used to find local officials and community leaders who will help manage long-term and post-disaster recovery. The toolkit offers guidance, case studies, tools and training. The information is in four sections:
The online help offers are many and heartening. They remind us that when overwhelming disaster strikes, we're all in it together, working alongside each other and crossing all regional boundaries. When the worst hits us, ironically, it brings out the best in us.
For some families, the year begins when school starts and you focus on getting the kids settled in new routines. Soon after, you're ready to start planning for the holidays ... yikes!
With our busy lives, we're always juggling, prioritizing and it's easy to put off important jobs until next week, next month or sometimes next year!
While there are many fall maintenance chores, this newsletter breaks tasks down into manageable projects. I'd rather see you tackle one home maintenance project each season, than delay routine maintenance - because that list can be overwhelming.
Why? At British Heritage Handyman Services we see many large repairs that are the result of deferred maintenance. Where a quick coat of paint annually will protect the trim around your exterior doors, ignoring this task for 5 to 10 years, typically involves replacing the door, visible trim and hidden structural damage. When you defer 1-2 hours/door, every other year (6-8 hours over 10 years) the fix now requires a new door and 16 to 24 hours work by a professional.
Your car's odometer tells you it's time for an oil change. Our newsletters are your "home maintenance odometer". And when you need that extra pair of hands, you know who to call. British Heritage Handyman Services
Fall Maintenance: Inspect and Repair Potential Water Leaks
You will save time and money if you periodically inspect your home for potential water damage. Of course you also need to make needed repairs quickly. Here are several different approaches to monitoring the water tightness of your home:
Use a pair of binoculars to visually inspect your home every year - fall, spring or both. More frequent reviews will help you recognize changes that indicate potential problems. You're looking for missing/deteriorating roof shingles and gaps/cracks around the chimney or roof vents. On each side of your home, check wood trim right below the roof line for discoloration (water stains or mold), wood siding and trim (windows, corner boards, etc) for cracked/peeling paint or gaps form aging caulk, and focus on window sills which are a common problem.
Pick one aspect of your home to inspect more thoroughly. Learn which side of your house gets more exposure to the elements (sun, wind, rain and moisture) and has more repair needs, and check this side twice as often as the other 3 sides. If you're on a 6 year paint schedule, consider painting this one side every 3 years.
Check your roof - shingles, chimney and vent pipes, ventilation (inflow & outflow) plus gutters and wood trim immediately below the roof on all sides.
Check windows and doors focusing on the bottom where water tends to collect, i.e., window sills and door thresholds and gaps/cracks in caulk used to seal seams around the windows.
Check siding and associated trim like corner boards.
Check foundation to make sure water is directed away from your home's foundation. This is critical with new homes (or remodeling) where dirt is filled back after excavation, and settles over a few years. Shrubs should also be trimmed.
Learn to test for squishy or punky wood. Press gently with your finger and you'll quickly learn to recognize the difference between solid wood and wood that is soft with hidden damage. You can then use a thin, pointed object (needle, paper clip...) to see how deep the damage goes but do it carefully to prevent the wood from disintegrating in front of your eyes!
Hopefully this list has given you ideas for how to break down the work into bite size chunks you can complete every 3 to 4 years. Your goal should be to find and correct problems quickly, which will save you money!
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