How to get Insurance help for home damage in the wake of Hurricane Harvey
Getting Insurance help for home damage caused by Hurricane Harvey can be a bit tricky since you probably aren’t registered for flood insurance which usually isn’t covered by regular homeowner packages. According to a recent study, only 12 % of the entire country-wide population has flood insurance; so what happens to the majority who don’t? Well here are a few pointers on how to get assistance:
Get in touch with your insurance provider ASAP
Most insurance companies operate on a first come first serve basis so be sure to reach out to yours as soon as possible. Take note of your claim number as with it, you can quickly get up to date information on the progress as it is a priority identification feature by all insurers.
Also, record all conversations you have with any representative of your insurance company as the details could aid you to substantiate promises or assurances made in the event that you need to file a complaint.
Double check what’s covered and what’s not
Do not straight away assume that you are not covered; go through your insurance policy thoroughly as the devil is in the detail. A lot of people are usually covered for certain types of home damages without knowing about it.
In Texas, it is not uncommon for you to also be insured for wind damage by the Texas Windstorm Association on a separate coverage and also be in the books of the National Flood Insurance Program or even a separate private entity altogether.
What’s more, you may not have flood insurance, however, water damage due to the effects of wind damage are entirely two different things. The second scenario should be within the bounds of your regular homeowners’ policy.
Keep receipts and damaged items
You might need to patch up some areas of the house like a damaged roof or broken windows and whatnot, which is fine however keep the documentation of all repair work done and the damage parts themselves.
More often than not Homeowners policies pay you back the money you spend on emergency repairs but they might require some proof first and that’s where receipts and supporting damaged items come in. This part falls under the “additional living expenses” clause of the policy. However, it is not advisable to begin any repair work without the consent of your insurer.
Alternatively, keep photos and a detailed inventory showing the damages to the house should the need arise to prove your insurance claim.
Contact the Texas Department of Insurance Consumer Protection
The Texas department is your best bet at getting refunds or claim payments and has answers to essential questions regarding insurance. Moreover, they offer help on the grey areas around insurance policies and are not new to providing assistance in the event of a natural disaster. Call (800) 252-3439 to get help.
How to get legal advice for Harvey Victims
The good news is that a lot of lawyers have taken up the task of educating the masses on how to proceed on the legal front meaning there are a lot of avenues to follow to get assistance. Here are a few examples on how and where to get legal counsel should you require it:
The Houston Bar Association
The institution has offered its free Legal line to victims so that they can call in and ask about any legal matters that arose as a result of the storm. The channel is manned by volunteer lawyers for two hours every day as from 3 pm with the exception of weekends.
On Wednesday however, there is an extension in place for an extra four hours beyond the closing time of 5 pm. A similar program is also slated for the 20th of September and the entire schedule will run on through to the 29th of the same month. For assistance call 713-759-1333 or 866-959-1133; the latter is the toll-free number.
Legal Aid staffers can be found at Local shelters
Lone Star Legal Aid has also looked to provide a guiding legal hand and its representatives can be found in major shelters across Houston. Their table consists of the company’s staff together with volunteer lawyers who have been handing out informative brochures alongside much needed legal advice.
The American Bar Association
The ABA has also stepped in to offer help on various legal matters and has partnered with many other associations like the HBA mentioned above, Lone Star and many other bars across the country to form a network of lawyers accessible to those who might not be able to afford to get legal aid.
Visit the official ABA website to see frequently asked and answered questions. You could even relay your issue through the website’s email if your problem falls outside the FAQ scope. A detailed response on the way forward will be communicated via email in no more than 48 hours.
State Bar of Texas
The State bar targets the low-income earners and its primary objective is to connect victims to lawyers near their current locality. The lawyers offer guidance on a variety of subjects like landlord/ tenant matters and many other insurance questions.
(800) 504-7030 is the number to call; it’s a toll-free hotline.
How to find a good restoration company for your home after Harvey
There isn’t a shortage of restoration companies willing to get down to work at a moment’s notice, problem is, everyone’s looking to capitalize and some are quite frankly not any good. In the spirit of separating the wheat from the chaff, here’s what to look for in a good restoration company:
License and certification is a must have
With just the right set of tools and equipment, anyone can offer restoration services and manage to penetrate and make a name in the market. However, professional and competent restoration companies will have the necessary licenses and certificates from the IICRC.
Ask for the certification of the company’s employees; if they have nothing to hide, they will be more than willing to share the relevant documents with you. Certification is an essential measuring aid by which to learn about the competence of the personnel and the experience they have in the field.
References can be a big help
The best way to get the real picture of a restoration company is through reviews by people who have actually implored the company’s services in the past. Ensure that the referrals are credible; reviews on the company’s website are nothing to go by as more often than not companies use fake accounts to boost their own reputation.
Therefore seek the opinion of a third party source. If possible, call the reviewers to get a first-hand account of their experience. A more assured way to get a trusted review is by looking up the company at your local Better Business Bureau. If there aren’t major complaints against it, then it’s okay to proceed to the consultation phase.
General rule of thumb formula
Water restoration companies rely on a wide array of techniques to get the job done however there are a few mainstay procedures that are a given in any good flood damage recovery process. The first of course is damage assessment via physical inspection followed by water removal then anti-microbial treatment.
The core restoration method should encompass drying through air movement and dehumidifying coupled with an extensive system to monitor the process. You can enquire about the services offered from the companies themselves before settling on a particular choice. The more the number of restoration services offered, the better.
How to apply for a disaster loan
Disaster loans at the moment are being provided mainly by FEMA and SBA. Knowing how to apply for a disaster loan is crucial as it can prove the difference between success and failure; therefore, here’s a guideline on how to do so correctly:
For SBA loans, visit the Disaster Loan Assistance website to begin the online application process. You can also apply physically by visiting SBA or FEMA centers across the major shelters in and around Houston. Call 1-800-659-2955 to get the location of one nearest to you. To be eligible for FEMA you would need to register with the organization which can be done over the phone (call 1-800-6621-3362) or online via disastserassitance.gov website.
Increase your chances of qualification by being truthful in your application and clearly stating whether you are covered for flooding or not, a statement that should be substantiated with an accompanying insurance letter. Moreover, provide proof of ownership of the primary residence; secondary houses like vacation homes are not eligible.
It is also worth noting that SBA takes into account your ability to repay the loan and your credit history when deciding the fate of your application.
Resources for business owners who were affected by the storm
Hurricane Harvey’s flood waters are just beginning to recede, and with it, businesses are washing away quite literally amidst the bitter reality of rebuilding. To help you pick up the pieces, here are a few examples of the resources available to business owners affected by the storm:
As a business owner, you are entitled to loans of up to 2 million dollars from SBA in property damages and also a similar amount in the form of Economic Injury Disaster Loans. By law, your business’s total disaster loan awards cannot exceed the sum of $ 2,000,000 across its various affiliates.
However, there is an exception to this case. If SBA deems your business to be playing a significant role in the employment sector, the limit may be waivered all together and you might get all the funding you need.
The SBA also refinances existing mortgages covering the property, tools and equipment of the business. However, there are specific criteria you need to satisfy in order to qualify. These include no current running loans from other institutions and the damage expenses must surpass 40 % of the property’s market value.
FEMA also has a Disaster Recovery Center in place that has a lot of information on where to get aid for your business. The center will first determine whether your business qualifies and if so which kinds of loans are available for it. They will then connect you directly to the relevant relief assistance agencies. Call (800) 621-3362 to find out more.