I’m sure all of your experienced some type of distress or property damage from the recent winter storm. I actually had a roof leak develop in my dining room and multiple outside faucets sporting “ice beards” of frozen water. I couldn’t find my homeowner’s insurance policy, so I just called the insurance company and started my claim. Of course, they said it would be weeks before the adjuster or restoration company could get out to my area – so I was basically on my own. Thank God, the roof leak dried up as it was caused by snow accumulating in the roof due to my ridge vents (melted snow). My bearded faucets faded away, and I discovered that they had relief valves built in for just such a freeze. Needless to say, I cancelled my claim (so no increase in policy premiums) and will repair the ceiling stain on my own.
My claims were nothing compared to what we here at the office have heard. My restoration company said that one school district had 42 schools underwater due to busted pipes. Folks with pools had broken transfer valves and pipes, not to mention breaks in the pool pumps themselves. None of this was anticipated when we signed up for our homeowner’s insurance.
Essentially, you are left to your own devices in these situations to handle the problems until your overwhelmed insurance company and repair contractors can get you placed in line. Some things you now need to consider while you can breathe from this past winter storm. First, get your homeowner’s insurance policy and READ IT, specifically the EXCLUSIONS and COVERED ITEMS. Knowing what is covered and what is not will allow you the ability to speak with your insurance agent to see if additional coverages are available or even needed. Second, review your DEDUCTIBLE. I really had no idea that mine was so high. I took it for granted. Third, PLAN for such an event such as what we regularly see here in Texas – tornados, high winds, floods and hail. Force yourself to have an idea of what RISKS you and your family are willing and able to bear for these types of events, and that includes the DEDUCTIBLE. You may want to increase your premium for a lower deductible.
No matter if you are still in the midst of recovering from this recent storm or weathered it just fine, you must get your policy (if you don’t have it, request it from your agent or carrier) and review it. Let’s say you can’t live in your house as you had to shut the water off due to broken pipes, you may be eligible for “Additional Living Expense (ALE).” Such refers to coverage under a homeowner’s, condominium owner’s, or renter’s insurance policy that covers the additional costs of living incurred by a policyholder should they be temporarily displaced from their place of residence. Check with your agent/broker to see if you have this coverage. You will necessarily have to incur the costs of a hotel, food, etc. first and then submit a claim for reimbursement from your carrier. Check your policy.
Now let’s consider some really tough stuff – your claim may be so catastrophic that you need FEMA involvement. This is where it really gets tricky. If you are insured, you should first file your claim with your insurance carrier. If you are not, make your claim as soon as a disaster is declared, you experience damages, and FEMA comes on board. By law, FEMA cannot duplicate benefits for losses covered by insurance. If insurance does not cover all your damage, you may be eligible for federal assistance. Keep in mind that FEMA is not a substitute for personal insurance coverage, and they may not cover all damages. Also, you want to check with the Small Business Administration (SBA). They have low-interest loans for such events which may even include rebuilding of the home.
FEMA can cover, for qualified individuals, the following (Source: FEMA Website):
FEMA may assist with the repair of damage related to burst pipes as well as disaster-damaged heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems, refrigerators and stoves.
Disaster-related damage to electrical, plumbing or gas in the home.
Leaks in a roof that damage ceilings and threaten electrical components.
Disaster-damaged subfloor in essential occupied parts of the home, and
Disaster-related broken windows.
Lodging Expense Reimbursement: DR-4586-TX only. Survivors who incurred uninsured lodging expenses due to utility outages only and did not have disaster-related damage to their home may now be eligible for reimbursement. The standard period is from Feb. 11- Feb. 28, 2021.
Rental Assistance: Funds to rent alternative housing for applicants whose homes were made uninhabitable by the disaster.
Personal Property Assistance: Funds for applicants to repair or replace essential uninsured disaster-damaged personal property, including property damaged by burst pipes.
Miscellaneous Items: Funds for certain items purchased due to the disaster. Reimbursement for generators is limited to a generator purchased during the event by the applicant to power medically required equipment after a utility outage.
Transportation Assistance: Funds for primary vehicles damaged by the disaster, including damage from fallen trees, power lines or vehicle accidents caused by unsafe driving conditions.
Medical and Dental Assistance: Funds for uninsured medical and dental needs or losses caused by the disaster, such as medically required items damaged by burst pipes or medical treatment needed due to exposure to below freezing temperatures.
Child Care Assistance: FEMA’s Other Needs Assistance program can reimburse costs for childcare as a result of a household’s increased financial burden to care for children aged 13 and younger and/or children up to age 21 with a disability who need assistance with activities with daily living as defined by federal law.
Keep in mind that there is no double recovery! That means if your insurance pays on the claim while FEMA does as well, you do not get to keep the left-over money! FEMA will begin collection-type efforts to get the residual monies returned to them. Now, if your insurance coverage takes too long, you can apply for FEMA/SBA assistance as discussed and possibly assign the insurance proceeds rights back to those agencies once the insurance company pays out. Keep in mind also that FEMA DOES NOT cover your insurance deductible – however, they may help if your damages are less than your deductible.
We hope y’all are recovering well. If you need any help with your insurance claims, feel free to give us a call here at the office.