Where do we start? Below is information on steps you should take as you embark on the road to recovery.
Contact Your Insurance Agent(s) and File a Claim
Contact FEMA also
Damage to Your Vehicle
Damage to Your Home and Property
Document the Damage
Minimize Further Damage
Contractors: Beware and Prepare
Remediate Water Damage
Your Insurance Claim
Working with Your Adjuster
Once the work starts
Contact the City of Houston notifying them you’ve flooded. This helps all of us get national funding. Please report ALL home flooding to the City’s 311 hotline.
If You Haven’t Already, File Your Insurance Claim(s)
- Notify your insurance company as soon as possible if you have a claim.
- If you have flood insurance, great.
- If you only have homeowners insurance, you may still have damage you can claim.
- Homeowners insurance sometimes can cover losses caused by wind, storms, or broken water pipes.
- If you have a flood policy with the National Flood Insurance Program, file a flood claim with your agent or insurer.
- Contact FEMA also. https://www.disasterassistance.gov
- You’ll need to file a separate claim for your car, if it suffered damage.
- This will also give you the ability to get a rental.
- The demand will be huge, so start looking for one early.
Damage to Your Home and Property
Assess the damage
- Take pictures and videos of all damaged property.
- All rooms, floors, ceilings, windows, and all of your possessions that were affected, including furniture.
- Be sure to take these pictures/videos before you make repairs.
- If you take these photos/videos with your phone, back up to the cloud or email them to yourself.
- Take inventory of your home.
- List as many damaged or lost items as possible that you can see or recall.
- Record the serial and/or model numbers of electronics, large and small appliances, audio and video equipment tools, etc. Don’t forget small appliances like blenders, coffee machines,
- Include any receipts you can find.
- Include items such as art, jewelry, collectibles
- If possible, don’t throw away damaged items until an insurance adjuster can review them.
- Organizing them in piles, if possible, can help the adjuster distinguish items, like furniture from sheetrock.
- Take steps to minimize further damage.
- Only make repairs necessary to protect your home and property from further damage,
- Cover broken windows and holes to keep rain out and prevent theft.
- Don’t make structural or permanent repairs until instructed by your insurance company.
- Write down everything you spend on repairs.
- Save all repair receipts.
- Keep receipts for lodging and meals, since some insurance policies will offer reimbursement.
- Contractors: Beware if contractors contact you directly. Be wary of signing right away with anyone who approaches you unsolicited. When it comes to contractors, referrals from friends and your local realtor, Angie’s List or BBB will be your friend.
- Get all estimates in writing.
- Preventing contractor fraud: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=upqmuWlT8o8&feature=youtu.be
- Fire and Water Damage Restoration: https://www.consumeraffairs.com/business/fire-and-water-restoration/
Remediate water damage
- Precautions: Read these precautions from the CDC BEFORE YOU ENTER ANY MOLDY SITE:
- People with breathing problems like asthma or who have weakened immune systems should stay away from moldy sites.
- Children should not take part in disaster cleanup work.
- Make sure the electricity is turned off. Turn gas off at the appliances only. Centerpoint advised not turning gas off at the meter.
- Visually check for loose power lines or gas leaks.
- If you smell gas when you return to your home, leave the house and call CenterPoint Energy from a neighbor’s house or a remote location as soon as possible.
- Protect your mouth and nose against breathing in mold: wear at least an N-95 respirator.
- Put on the personal protective equipment to protect your eyes, nose, mouth, and skin. Wear protective gloves.
- Working with a water remediation company is optimal.
- Hire a mold inspection or remediation professional affiliated with or certified by the National Environmental Health Association (NEHA), the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC), or American Council for Accredited Certification (ACAC).
- Sign a contract specifying the cost of specific remediation services both for your records and in case additional costs arise.
- If you are delayed in retaining a remediation company, take some of the steps below:
- Take pictures throughout your home before starting.
- Remove standing water and wet materials.
- Use a wet vacuum to remove water from floors, carpets, and hard surfaces.
- If water went above your baseboards, cut your dry wall to 4 ft.
- Dry your home and everything in it as quickly as you can – within 24 to 48 hours if possible.
- Open all doors and windows when you are working. Interior, exterior and cabinets doors included.
- Pull up carpets. You’ll need a box cutter or straight razors to make it easier.
- When electricity is safe to use, use fans and dehumidifiers to remove moisture. Do not use fans if mold has already started to grow, because the fans may spread the mold.
Your insurance claim
- Keep a claim diary/log.
- This can be as simple as a notebook where you document all of your contact with the insurance company, including claim IDs, dates and times of phone calls, the names of representatives, and what you talked about.
- Follow up with the company in writing to confirm important details.
- Keep copies of letters or other documents you and your company sends each other.
- Consider making this a GoogleDoc, Evernote, or Note on your phone (assuming it’s backed up to the cloud) in case you might lose a physical notebook in the shuffle.
- For more on what’s involved in the flood claims process—including what’s covered and what’s not—check the Flood Insurance Claims Handbook (PDF) published by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), part of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
After filing your claim
- After you file the claim, you should hear from the insurance company shortly.
- The insurance company will tell you about its claims process and any responsibilities you have.
- And they should give you the name of the person who will be working on your claim.
- If you don’t hear from them within 1-2 days, follow-up.
Coverage You Should be Aware of
- Mold Coverage
- Most insurance policies will pay to remove mold only if it must be removed to repair or replace property that was damaged by a covered peril.
- You must report water damage that was hidden from view within 30 days of the date you first noticed it.
- Some companies provide a limited amount of mold remediation coverage and other companies will allow you to buy additional coverage for mold remediation by endorsement.
- If you’re not sure whether you have coverage for mold remediation, ask your agent or the company. Visit the OPIC website to find mold coverage information for most policies.
- Any professional who removes mold from homes must be licensed by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS). Property owners may clean up mold on their own property without a license.
- Mold assessors and remediators must meet certain qualifications, have required training, and pass a state exam before receiving their licenses. You can learn whether a company or person is licensed by calling DSHS at 512-834-6600.
- Additional Living Expenses (ALE)
- Your insurance company might pay your additional living expenses (ALE) if you have to move from your home while repairs are made.
- ALE includes temporary housing, food, and other essentials.
- Ask your agent or insurance company if your policy includes ALE.
- If it does, you might be able to get an advance payment to help you move.
- Most policies pay up to 10 to 20 percent of the amount of the dwelling coverage on your house for ALE.
- Your insurance company will only pay for additional living expenses up to your policy’s ALE dollar limits.
- Because repairs on your home can sometimes take months, monitor your expenses carefully to make sure you have enough ALE to cover the entire time you’ll be out of your home.
- If you reach your policy’s ALE dollar limits before your home is fully repaired, you’ll have to pay the rest of the expenses out of your own pocket.
- Replacement Cost and Actual Cash Value Coverage
- Replacement cost is what you would pay to rebuild or repair your home, based on current construction costs. Replacement cost is different from market value and does not include the value of your land. Ask your company if you’re not sure how much it would cost to rebuild your house.
- Actual cash value is what you would pay to rebuild or replace your property minus depreciation. Depreciation is a decrease in value due to wear and tear or age. If your home is destroyed and you only have actual cash value coverage, you might not be able to completely rebuild.
- For damaged items, the more common replacement cost coverage entitles you to new items to replace what you lost, while the actual cash value coverage allows you to get enough money back to replace what was destroyed, lost, or stolen, minus depreciation.
Insurance Adjuster Process
- As part of the process, the company will assign you an insurance adjuster who will examine the damage you’ve suffered.
- The insurance company will tell you in writing if your policy covers the damages and give you an initial damage estimate.
- The insurance company may also provide you with a list of contractors. But typically, you can choose your own contractors.
- Note, there is such a thing as an independent claims adjuster, sometimes known as a private adjuster, or even, paradoxically, a public adjuster.
- They represent you in the claims process and some people think they can garner you more money in your claim.
- Just know there are fees associated with working with them that will cut into your claim money.
- This is different from an independently contracted claims adjuster sent by your insurance company.
Working with your adjuster
- It’s advisable to be home when the adjuster comes so you can discuss the damage and answer any questions.
- Ask the insurance company for the adjuster’s name before he or she arrives.
- Verify the adjuster’s identity. Ask to see the person’s identification.
- When the insurance company’s adjuster inspects the damage, accompany them to make sure they don’t miss anything.
- Make copies of all documents.
- Copy everything you give the adjuster, such as a list of property lost or damaged.
- You might want to have your contractor or builder with you to discuss estimates or technical specifications with the adjuster or your insurance company.
- Once the adjuster finishes the report, review it for mistakes before signing.
- If the adjuster advises you to start repairs, get that permission in writing.
- Get the adjuster’s e-mail address and communicate using email so that you have backup of all your communications.
- Note when an adjuster visits as well as any missed appointments, unreturned phone calls, or rude behavior. You might need the notes if you have to sue.
Once the work starts
- Your insurance company has five business days to send you a check after it says it will pay your claim (this deadline could be extended after a disaster).
- If you don’t get your check within five business days, call your agent or company. If you think that the company is delaying payment on purpose, call TDI for help.
- The insurance company will pay to repair your home with materials of like kind and quality to the original.
- For example, if the carpet was damaged, the insurance company will pay to replace the damaged carpet with carpet of a similar grade and quality.
- If you choose to upgrade the carpet or change the type of flooring, you will have to pay the extra costs yourself.
- If you hire a mold remediator, all repairs and remediation must be inspected. The remediator must also give you a Certificate of Mold Remediation (MDR-1) no later than 10 days after the work is done. The certificate is proof that the mold has been removed and the cause of the mold is fixed.
- If you don’t have a certificate for the repairs or remediation, an insurance company can deny you coverage in the future based on past mold damage or claims.
- If you sell your property, the law requires that you provide the buyer with a copy of all certificates you have for that property.
Aside from placing a claim with your insurance company
- Contact FEMA.
- Whether you have flood insurance or not, you can contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for assistance. We have more detail on that here, but you can also visit disasterassistance.gov for more info or simply call 800-621-3362.
- One of the first questions they will ask is if you have filed an insurance claim if you’re a policyholder, so you’ll want to have that info handy and verifiable.
- You’ll want to document all of the details from your online application or phone call in your claim diary as well.
- “FEMA’s guidelines for delivering an estimate of damage to the flood policyholder is no longer than 45 days,” notes Maureen Westling, vice president of claims at Aon National Flood Services, a flood-insurance-policies provider based in Kalispell, Mont.
- Once work begins on your home, you’re entitled to add to your claim if you or your contractor discovers more damage or loss.
- Apply for assistance through the Texas Realtors Relief Fund.
- Texas REALTORS® Relief Fund: Anyone can apply to receive up to $1,000 in relief assistance through this program. Houston Association of Realtors has contributed to this fund, and it is still accepting donations.
If you need a computer for help with filing any of your claims, feel free to use our office at 833 Studewood during our normal business hours of M-F 8-5:30 and S-S 10-5 or you can stop by the Harvey Relief Hub at Summer Street Studios at 2500 Summer St. from 8-6 through Sunday, September 17. And don’t hesitate to ask us if you have any questions or need any further assistance!This entry was posted in Rediscover, Resources
- actual cash value coverage
- Additional Living Expenses
- American Council for Accredited Certification
- American Industrial Hygiene Association
- Centerpoint Energy
- certification of mold remediation
- contractor fraud
- disaster assistance
- emergency relief
- fema assistance
- flood damage
- flood insurance
- Flood Insurance Claims Handbook
- Harvey Relief Hub
- home mold
- homeowners insurance
- houston strong
- hurricane harvey
- hurricane relief
- Institute of Inspection Cleaning and Restoration
- insurance adjuster
- mold coverage
- National Environmental Health Association
- National Flood Insurance Program
- Office of Public Insurance Counsel
- replacement cost coverage
- Texas Department of State Health Services
- Texas Realtors Relief Fund
- water damage restoration