Flood insurance for homeowners is currently in a state of Flux in Southern Florida. Back in 2014 when flood zone maps were revised, it freed thousands of people up from having mandatory flood insurance. West Palm Beach is now facing rezoning which officials should be finalizing at the end of this year. Other areas will also be in consideration in the near future. Regardless of the zone, some homeowners are still required by their mortgage lenders to carry flood insurance. If you’re one of those homeowners, then flood insurance has either become an unnecessary expense or a valuable asset.
In either case, insurance companies can be hard to deal with when the time comes for providers to pay out after a flood has damaged a home. The process of acquiring insurance funds to rebuild your is long and drawn-out and often hard to navigate. The situation gets more complicated when a flood strikes thousands of homes, and you, the homeowner is standing in line somewhere behind 20,000 other homeowners. It could take months to finally get the check you’ve waited for, only to find out that it’s half of what it should have been. Where are those sedatives?
If you’re every going to make it through a flood insurance claim, then there are some things you need to know right now. The key is education. Insurance is a twisted industry filled with guidelines, regulations, red tape, paperwork, and, of course, surprises.
Below is a beginning guide to flood insurance. It’s more or less a start kit. You are encouraged, however, to learn all you can about flood insurance in Southern Florida. You never know when you may have to use it.
First and Foremost: Be Prepared
Most homeowners and their families experience loss and devastation after a flood has destroyed the inside of their home. If they’ve left town and returned only to find their house leveled, it will take at least 2-3 days for the shock to wear off. Fortunately, some families have only a few of inches of standing water in their homes. The water, however, has more than likely caused enough damage to phone the insurance company.
Once the shock wears off, they have to somehow gather themselves and formulate a game plan. The problem is it’s almost way past that point when it comes to claiming a loss with a home insurance company. Nothing seems to fall into place, and they become more confused about what to do or where to go. It suddenly to the homeowners that they should have formulated a game plan long before this disaster took place.
Essential Flood Insurance Questions to Ask
So the first step in dealing with insurance companies is to have all your affairs in order before a flood strikes you home. Ask these yourself these crucial questions:
- Is my policy updated? Where is it located?
- What exactly does my policy cover?
- How much does my policy cover and under what conditions?
- Do I have a local agent if one is nearby?
- What is the phone number of a trusted emergency water damage service company in the event of minor flooding?
- What is the phone number of a trusted general contractor(s) in the case of severe or total damage (we recommend more than one)?
- What do I need to know about the process of working with a contractor and my insurance company at the same time?
- Where can I stay short or long-term while a contractor is working on my home?
Having documented answers to all of these questions will put you ahead of the game when disaster strikes. It will at least to some extent give you clarity and peace of mind.
The Aftermath: Flood Inspections and Estimates
Although you will suffer some emotional turmoil when you see how much water has damaged your house, you need to pull yourself together enough to make one phone call: a water damage restoration service. Here’s why.
Once you’ve informed the insurance company that there is standing water in our house with a significant amount of damage, they’re going to send an adjuster out to your property. The first person, you want to see, however, is a water restoration contractor who can assess the damage and give you and the adjustor an accurate report of the total damage done.
If you deal directly with an adjustor, it’s your word against his/hers. But if you have a contractor on-site who can verify the damage for you, then it gives you leverage. You’re more likely to get a higher amount (or the appropriate amount) from the insurance company to repair the damages. You need to remember, however, that the water removal and damage repair contractor is a neutral 3rd person. They’re not taking sides. Their role is to confirm the damage caused by the flood.
Insurance Payout and Flood Restoration
At this point, the contractor will deal directly with you and the insurance company to begin the process of getting an insurance payout, cleaning up the mess, and repairing the house. But don’t count on a full check to end up in your lap. In most cases, the check will be delivered directly to the contractor in increments, and you’ll sign off that the checks were received and the company completed the work.
In the case of working with a flood cleanup and restoration company, they may conclude the work in a day or two, so a full payout is likely. Another situation that might occur is that the homeowner pays for the damage up front and then sends the bill to the insurance company for reimbursement. Since insurance companies can be unpredictable, you need to prepare yourself for any possible scenario.
Whatever happens, make sure you review any document from the contractor or the insurance company. You should be aware of and understand all the fine print and every step of the process so that you are not caught off guard.
Water Damage Restoration Contractors and Estimates
Before moving forward with a water damage restoration contractor there are a few things, you need to know. The first is, you should only hire local companies. If you’ve ever been through a hurricane, then you are aware that hundreds of contractors descend upon an area from all over the country seeking work. Although some of them are honest, certified, and credible, many out-of-town contractors will take advantage of your dire situation. The best policy is to hire a local emergency water damage service.
Beyond that, you’ll want to ask for certain credentials:
- Is the company licensed to operate in the State of Florida?
- Are the employees certified to do the work (if applicable)?
- Do they give free inspections or estimates?
- Are the estimates binding? In other words, are you tied down to that company if they offer an estimate (this happens a lot with insurance claims)?
- Can they provide references and a portfolio of previous work?
- Is there a contract and what is in it?
- Does the company have a warranty or guarantee of work performance?
The bottom line is you’ll be dealing with two entities to get your home fully restored. The first is the insurance company; the second is the contractor. It’s critical that you, the homeowner, stay on top of the entire restoration process. Insurance providers and contractors have one thing in common. They are a business, and they do their work to make a profit. Your role is to protect your home and your family.
If you are looking for a water damage and cleanup service in the Miami, West Palm Beach, Daytona Beach, or Delray Beach area, then contact Just Floods at (888) 315-3011.