As a smart homeowner, you have probably prepared for the worst case scenario of damage and destruction of your home and belongings. Much is written about how to prepare for disasters and keep yourself and your family safe, and you have home insurance to help you recover from the loss of everything you own, too. However, in all the planning and preparation, have you considered how you will actually handle the recovery process? In addition to having insurance and preparing for an evacuation, you should contemplate your next steps after a disaster strikes. Being emotionally prepared will go a long way to keeping you on track when it comes time to literally dig through the rubble.
After a hurricane, wildfire, or other disaster has passed through your neighborhood, you need to start the recovery process immediately no matter where you live- Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, etc. Insurance companies require that you notify them of potential claims as soon as possible. In many instances, home insurance companies will set up special teams to handle claims in areas hit by natural disasters. To properly notify your insurer, be sure to have the contact information available. Along with your offsite storage of home inventories and important documents, make sure you have your insurance company’s phone number to report new claims.
When you first establish contact with the insurance company, determine what needs to be accomplished immediately and what funds are available from your insurance company. In addition to repairing your damages, your home insurance policy includes coverage for things such as debris removal and clearing of trees that come with their own set of policy limits. At the same time, you should realize that you have an obligation under your home insurance policy to take the necessary steps to protect your property from further damage. A good idea is to establish a relationship with a disaster recovery specialist prior to the need.
Certainly, you cannot predict when an unexpected disaster will strike, but if you reside in an area prone to wildfires or hurricanes, there is a reasonable likelihood of property damage in your future. In previous cases of widespread damage, some homeowners have found themselves fighting for the limited resources of recovery and restoration companies, and this is before they even get to the stage of needing to hire contractors, which also comes with its own challenges after any disaster. If you can arrange for an understanding with a recovery and restoration specialist in advance, you can also avoid being scammed by unscrupulous individuals and companies seeking to make a profit from disaster victims. The Federal Trade Commission provides information dedicated to disaster recovery and how to avoid home repair scams and other issues.
When communicating with your insurance company, be sure that there is a mutual understanding of the terms of any funds being disbursed. You need to know the purpose of the funds the insurance company provides, and which policy limits those funds are being drawn from. For example, the insurance company may provide you with an advance that you logically would use for temporary living expenses, but if that’s not explicitly understood, the insurance company may consider it to be an advance on repairing your home without providing you for living expenses.
The aftermath of a disaster can be a frustrating and emotionally difficult time for homeowners. Prepare as much as you can in advance of the event. Once the disaster has passed, take inventory of your current situation and implement your recovery plan. Do not let your emotions guide you or cause you to make rash decisions.