Hurricanes Harvey and Irma left an estimated $150 billion in damages behind in Houston, and throughout the state of Texas, Florida, Georgia and elsewhere. If you’re one of hundreds of thousands of property owners dealing with the aftermath, this guide has answers to some of the most pressing concerns.
Beware of Home Improvement Construction and Insurance Scams
A word of warning is in order at the start. When hurricanes produce widespread damage, scammers known as storm chasers flock to the devastated areas. Many of the scams are construction scams and insurance scams. Take these precautions against scams:
- Don’t give anyone cash upfront for them to buy materials to secure or repair your home
- Don’t buy insurance from anyone claiming to have a policy to sell you that will cover damage already done to your home
- Don’t allow anyone into your home unless they have proper identification (not just a FEMA shirt or shirt with an insurance company name on it) and a clear reason to be there – and even then, you’re not obligated to let anyone into your home
There are charity, food stamp and voucher scams, flood insurance scams, and many others. If you suspect fraud or attempted fraud, call the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) at 866.720.5721 or send an email to [email protected] All contacts are kept confidential.
Immediate Steps to Take After Hurricane Damage
Wind and water are devastating forces of nature when unleashed during storms like hurricane Harvey and hurricane Irma in the US mainland and hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
From a practical standpoint, here are steps to take in the immediate aftermath of hurricane:
- Take pictures of the exterior and interior damage done to your home including the roofing, siding, windows, outdoor structures like fences and decks, flooring, cabinets, walls and household goods
- Cover damaged areas of your roof with tarps that extend up and over the ridge of the roof, and secure them to stay in place
- Board up broken windows or cover them with thick, secure plastic
- If the weather is dry, open doors and windows to ventilate, air out and help dry the home
- Remove wet carpet, furniture, drywall and household goods from your home as quickly as possible to help prevent the growth of microbes such as mold and mildew
The Red Cross has a checklist of other precautions homeowners should take when returning to storm-damaged homes.
Insurance and Financial Steps in Hurricane Damage Recovery
Repairing your home after a hurricane takes time and lots of patience. These steps can expedite the process and save you from further problems.
- File insurance claims immediately for your home, business and vehicle, and make sure the damage is documented with pictures
- Continue to pay any mortgage or home loan you have
- Continue to make credit card payments, and ask your bank to waive late fees accrued in the aftermath of the storm (as many banks are doing)
These hurricanes occurred during a period when federal income taxes for those that filed an extension on 2016 taxes were due and when September quarterly payments were due.
The IRS has extended the deadline for these tax filings and payments until January 31, 2018 without penalty.
Extensions for business taxes such as federal excise tax and payroll taxes have been implemented too. To qualify, you must live in one of the declared disaster areas or have your taxes prepared by someone in a disaster area.
Full details on the IRS hurricane tax relief program can be found here. The IRS claims additional relief is being planned, but the program has not been announced. Check the IRS site for details as they are made available.
How to Choose a Contractor After a Hurricane
When your insurance company has approved your claim and it’s time to find a contractor, these tips will help:
Don’t work with contractors that come to your door, at least without doing your due diligence, which is outlined here.
The problem is that scam artists, inexperienced contractors and those with no building experience come in droves to storm-damaged areas looking to get a share of the enormous and lucrative reconstruction market. Instead:
- Get estimates from at least three contractors
- Ask questions about the experience of the people that will be working on your home, a necessity because many well-established contracting companies are expanding their crew to handle the influx of business, and not everyone they’re hiring is qualified.
- Be sure the contractor is licensed, insured and bonded. In Texas, roofing and siding contractors are not required to be licensed by the state. Roofers can get professional licensing through the Roofing Contractors Association of Texas, and its list of contractors can be searched here. Electricians in Texas must be licensed by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, and an electrician’s license can be verified here.
- In Florida, general contractors, roofing and siding contractors, plumbers and electricians must be licensed by the state’s Department of Business & Professional Regulation. Licenses can be verified with a search here.
A full list of detailed questions and answers you should expect is found in our article on the Most Important Questions to Ask a Roofing Contractor Before Signing a Contract. Much of the information applies to any contractor.
Any payments you make to a contractor should be by check or credit card, never by cash. A deposit might be required to cover materials cost.
Do not pay in full upfront, even if the contractor offers you a discount for doing so. Even if the request for payment isn’t a scam, you should still hold final payment until the work is done and you are satisfied that is completed properly.
Water Damage Restoration and Cost
Here’s an outline of steps to water damage restoration:
- The property is inspected to assess the damage
- Damage is classified
- Class 1 – Light damage with little absorption
- Class 2 – Damage primarily to floors with partial wall damage
- Class 3 – Complete saturation of the flooring, walls, cabinets, etc.
- The type of water causing the damage is assessed
- Category 1 – Clean water from rain and flooding
- Category 2 – Grey water that might contain mild pollutants
- Category 3 – Black water polluted with sewage and other serious contaminants
The worse the condition of the water, the more extensive and costlier the water damage restoration must be.
- Remaining water is removed with pumps
- Non-salvageable material is removed
- Salvageable home framing and other material is dried with vacuums, fans and dehumidifiers and chemically cleaned to kill mold, mildew and other bacteria
The average cost of water damage restoration is $12-$24 per square foot. Your cost will depend on the quality of the materials replaced.
You will work with your insurance company adjuster, if you’ve had a claim approved, to determine the value of the materials damaged.
Most insurance companies pay replacement value on what was damaged. You’ll have to pay for upgrades.
For example, if the insurance company offers you $5,500 for vinyl flooring and carpeting that was damaged but you want to replace it will hardwood flooring at $8,000, you’ll have to pay the additional $2,500.
Cost of Roofing and Siding Repair After a Hurricane
It’s easier to replace exterior materials than interior materials because there isn’t typically the same level of water saturation and damage.
Some of the roof decking and home sheathing might need to be repaired or replaced.
If there is minor damage to the roofing and siding, then replacement materials might be integrated into the existing roof or exterior walls.
However, when about 30% to 45% of the material is damaged, it becomes more cost-effective to remove it all and replace it.
This is because siding and roofing repair cost (https://www.roofingcalc.com/roof-repair-cost/) – fitting new material into an existing roof or home exterior – is much more labor intensive/time consuming. It’s faster to tear off the old and re-roof and re-side the home.
As with the interior, your insurance company will give you an allowance for roofing and siding repair after a hurricane. You can spend the money as you wish by repairing, replacing or upgrading your roof and siding materials.
- Average siding repair costs: $12-$16/sq. ft. when replacing just the damaged siding
- Average siding replacement costs: $5.50-$10.00/sq. ft. when replacing all the siding
- Average roofing repair costs: $9-$14/sq. ft. when replacing just the damaged roofing material
- Average roofing replacement costs: $2.75-$5.25/sq. ft. when replacing all the roofing material
If you believe that price gouging is occurring as you get home repair estimates after a hurricane, call the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) at 866.720.5721 to report it.
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