With Sandy the "Frankenstorm" clearing out from the East coast where she did most of her damage, homeowners will be slowly allowed back to their homes to survey the damage. But where do you even start? We've got a step-by-step approach—plus, what you can do now to protect yourself later even if you haven't been affected by the storm.
Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute, gave the Today Show some of his best tips for homeowners facing damage and losses from a major storm:
- First, sit down and read through your insurance policy to find out what kind of claims you have that may be covered. Hartwig says that 90 percent of property damage inflicted by natural disasters is caused by flooding—yet many homeowners' policies don't cover flood damage. Wind damage will also be responsible for many claims from this storm.
If you're not dealing with storm damage, it's a good idea to schedule an appointment to sit down with your insurance agent once a year to go over your coverage.
- Next, take pictures of all the damage as soon as possible, before you start removing tree limbs, clearing out water or debris, etc. Make a detailed list of damaged property along with the value of the damaged property, if possible. Having this sort of list in order will expedite your claims process. It may seem daunting, but it's a good idea to do this as quickly as possible and file a claim as soon as you can; claims service will often be first come, first served, and many insurance companies can give money on the spot to homeowners whose homes are unlivable for temporary housing.
If you're not dealing with storm damage, it's a great idea to take photos of your home and posessions in their normal condition, then store those photos in a safety deposit box or somewhere away from your home. In case of a disaster, you'll be able to refer to those photos to easily catalogue what you may have lost.
- Be sure to shop around before hiring contractors, because many unscrupulous individuals flock to disaster areas to commit fraud on unsuspecting victims. Check references and the Better Business Bureau before paying any money to a contractor, and try asking friends and family members for referrals, so you know you can get someone you trust.
If you're not dealing with storm damage, be sure to keep business cards and referrals somewhere safe in case you ever need them. If your friend has their bathroom redone and loves the work, ask for the name of her contractor. Someday, you might be glad you did.
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