What kind of insurance do you need?

After the Storm

We get more than our share of severe thunderstorms with high winds and damaging hail here in Central Texas. Often the Spring and Fall storms are isolated events and will impact only a couple neighborhoods. Less often, a line of storms can cause widespread damage. This article includes some general tips on what to do if you house is damaged.

Large Thunderstorm

April 19, 2015 large thunderstorm near Bastrop as seen from Southwest Austin

Hunker down

The first order of business is to stay safe and inside. Wait until the storm has finished before venturing outside to check your house.

Check for Damage

The next step is to check for obvious damage. Do a walk-around survey of your house looking for damage and potential risks of additional damage. Look up at your roof. Are there any missing shingles or broken shingles on the yard? Any broken tree limbs scraping the roof? Also check for damage to the veneer of your house. Any loose or broken wood, trim or windows? As best you can from the ground, you want to determine if your roof & exterior is still intact and waterproof.

Are there any hazards adjacent to your house or in your yard that are safety risks? Alert the power company with any concerns about the overhead utility lines. Check for any large trees with risk of toppling or large broken limbs falling due to storm damage.

Important: The idea is not to be a claims adjuster or roofer but only to look for anything obvious. Keep yourself safely on the ground — leave the ladder work and detail assessment to the pros.

Avoid Additional Damage

If your house is severely damaged, you may need immediate work done to avoid additional damage. If your roof or exterior has been damaged and is not waterproof, you will need to get it tarpped or boarded up. If you have trees that have fallen on top of the house, you will need them removed to avoid further damage. Here in Central Texas, we can get another storm tomorrow and your house needs to be ready. Take pictures of the damage. If you have to act immediately, be sure to keep any receipts for work done to include these costs with the claims settlement. Most insurance companies have a 24-hour claims reporting service and can also provide direction or referral if you need immediate temporary repairs.

Call for Claims Service

Most insurance companies have a 24-hour number to call to initiate a home insurance claim. You can also call your insurance agent’s office. If there has been a large storm that has impacted a wide area, the larger insurance companies will have a special “Catastrophic Team” in town normally in a couple days to help speed claims service. You want to get your place in line with the insurance company early, so call at least by the day after the storm.

Selecting a Roof Contractor

You want to select a roof or house repair contractor that will be around if you need any warranty adjustment. Don’t select the roofer that is walking around your neighborhood knocking on doors. Always look for a local and established roofer or contractor. The best roofer is one you know from past work. Second best is the roofer that your insurance agent or neighbors know. The Better Business Bureau can be an important resource to be sure you have made a sound choice.

Roofer vs. Adjuster

One of my core ideas is to have the roofer you have chosen and the insurance claims adjuster “on the same page.” Once you have made your claim report to your insurance company, it is time to get a roofer to inspect your house and provide an initial estimate. Adjusting and estimating storm damage is a process requiring considerable judgment. Getting a reputable roofer to provide a quick estimate and having it in hand when you meet with the claims adjuster helps. If the roofer’s estimate and the claim settlement reach the same conclusion, you know you are on track. If not, you know you will need explanation from the insurance adjuster and re-inspection from your roofing contractor. If the roofing contractor and insurance adjuster can’t reconcile their estimates, the final recourse is to request for them to meet at your house and resolve any differences. You want your chosen contractor and insurance claims adjuster in agreement prior to any repairs.

Summary

You can’t stop the storm from happening and your house can be damaged. This is one of the big reasons to have home insurance in the first place. Stay safe during the storm. Next, visually look for any damage that might need immediate temporary repairs to avoid added damage. Third, call your insurance company and get the claims process started. Fourth, get a local reputable roofer to provide an initial estimate of the damage. Fifth, work with your roofer and claim adjuster to reach the same damage assessment prior to the commencing repairs.