We understand. For many southern Floridians wrestling with the aftermath of Hurricane Ian and trying to get their insurance claims adjusted and their properties restored, your first instinct after Ian was likely to start cleaning everything up, making repairs, and putting your house and life back together. It's natural. Your home is your greatest investment, and you want to restore it as quickly as possible. But, you also want to make sure you take the right steps to ensure you protect your right to recover that costly insurance you purchased to enable you to do just that—protect and restore your home. The steps you take after a storm like Hurricane Ian to protect your property are crucial to how your hurricane insurance claim will be adjusted. For those dealing with Hurricane Ian damage, here is what you need to know about mitigating your damages and making temporary repairs.
Immediately Take Reasonable Steps to Protect the Property
Take steps that will prevent further damage to the extent possible. For example, if you are home during the storm and water begins to intrude, try to capture as much as you can in buckets or pails, or by shoving towels around your doors and windows. If doors or windows were blown open, make sure they are closed and secured as best as possible to prevent further water intrusion. You may want to bring in fans or dehumidifiers to help remove moisture from inside your home. If carpet is soaked as a result of the storm, removing it may help with the dry-out process.
However, do not throw away any damaged contents (even contents you know are damaged beyond restoration or repair, i.e., wet, stained carpet) until your insurance company has had an opportunity to inspect and document the damaged property. Documenting (through photos or video) the entirety of the damage to your home and contents is also vital to your insurance claim because it will allow you to prove your damages later on. You are required under the policy to take simple measures such as these to document your damage and protect your property from further damage.
Make Temporary, But Not Permanent, Repairs
After you have documented all the damage to your home in the form of photos and videos, filed your claim (meaning, notified your insurance company of the loss), and allowed them an opportunity to inspect, you will want to make temporary repairs as soon as possible to help prevent further damage to your home. These will likely be a bit more substantial than your mitigation efforts, discussed above, but will not involve permanent repairs, such as putting a new roof on your house, replacing your windows or window panes, replacing doors, putting new flooring down, replacing damaged asphalt, etc. It is imperative that you not engage in any permanent repairs until you have spoken to your insurance company—likely the desk adjuster assigned to your claim—and received written authorization that any permanent repair you propose will be covered by your insurance company. Engaging in permanent repairs too soon, or without authorization, may result in your insurance company denying coverage for that repair.
Examples of Temporary Repairs
Temporary repairs help to restore the integrity of your home, i.e., make it as watertight as possible, without altering the structure or structural components of your home. While temporary repairs are typically covered under, and required by, the policy, you should keep your insurance company informed of every temporary repair you plan to take and the estimated cost of each repair you plan to undertake. Here are some examples of temporary repairs homeowners commonly make after a storm:
- Placing tarps over damaged portions of your roof or windows to prevent further water intrusion;
- Placing plywood over damaged windows or doors to help enclose your home and keep water out;
- Having fallen trees cut and removed and other debris hauled away from your property;
- Drying out the interior of your property or hiring a water remediation company to assist;
- Removing wet contents from the home and allowing them to dry out (remember to not throw anything away until your insurance company has had an opportunity to inspect and document it); and
- Getting your electricity and HVAC restored (to assist in drying out and protecting the property).
If any repairs are made, be sure to save all receipts, estimates, invoices, check copies, etc. and submit them to the insurance provider for reimbursement. If you have any questions about repairs you are permitted to make after a storm, never hesitate to contact us. We are experienced insurance attorneys who have been helping homeowners with their hurricane claims for decades. We never charge any fee or cost or require any obligation on your part to review your claim and answer your questions. It's best you take steps in your own best interest to ensure you protect your right to recover on your claim. Got a question? Give us a call.