AFTER THE STORM
If forced to evacuate your home, let your agent or insurance company know your temporary forwarding address and phone number.
Immediately report property damage to your insurance agent and company. Your company will issue a special reference number for your claim — make sure you write it down. You will need to keep this number handy in all your dealings with the company. Your agent or company should arrange for a licensed insurance adjuster to visit your property and assess the damage.
Make emergency repairs to protect from further damage, document the damage and repairs in writing, and with receipts and photos. Keep receipts for those repairs so that your insurance company can reimburse you.
Beware of signing contracts with public adjusters. Public adjusters do not work for insurance companies or independent adjusting firms. Public adjusters contract with the policyholders to settle claims and are paid a percentage of any claim settlement. If considering the assistance of a public insurance adjuster, verify that the adjuster is licensed by calling the department’s toll-free consumer helpline at 1-800-22-STORM, or 1-800-227-8676. CONTINUEDUse a credit card, if available, to finance emergency repairs and document all transactions. Your policy allows you to make emergency repairs to prevent further damage to your home or its contents. Materials such as plywood, tarp and duct tape used to keep rain from entering your home are reimbursable as well as labor costs to complete repairs.
Keep all receipts and take photographs of the damage, before and after repair, to submit with your claim.
Beware of fly-by-night repair businesses. Hire licensed service and repair people. Beware of anyone offering to help after a storm who wants cash only. Call the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation at (850) 487-1395, or go to www.state.fl.us/dbpr to make sure contractors are licensed or to file a complaint.
If you suspect insurance fraud, call the DFS Fraud Hotline toll-free at 1-800-378-0445.
AS HURRICANE SEASON CONTINUES:
Early preparation before a storm is essential. Many insurance companies, including Citizens Property Insurance Corporation, may stop writing new homeowners policies when a storm is projected to make landfall in any part of Florida.
Chief Financial Officer Gallagher recommends that property owners take the following actions in the event of severe weather approaching:
Take steps to protect yourself and your family, evacuating if ordered to do so. Don’t take unnecessary risks. Human lives are more important than property.
Safeguard important documents such as your insurance policy information, company contact numbers, and mortgage documents.
Have plenty of cash on hand since access to ATMs, debit cards and credit cards will be limited in the event of power outages.
Buy the materials you need to secure your property and minimize your losses.
Protect windows. If you need to protect your windows, get plywood panels 5/8” thick. If plywood is scarce, a second option is oriented strand board. If you have to prioritize which windows to protect, cover larger ones first, like bay or picture windows. Sliding glass doors are often made of tempered glass, so worry about these last.
Limit flying debris. Clean your yard and remove anything that will become airborne missiles, including dead tree limbs.
Reinforce your garage door. Your garage door is your home’s largest single opening, next to your roof, making it vulnerable to high wind.
Batten down the hatches. If the hurricane will be more of a rain event for you, be sure to close and lock all windows, doors, skylights and vents in your home to prevent water intrusion.
Move vehicles into a garage or carport when possible. Grills and/or patio furniture should be moved inside.
Buy tarps. If a storm is projected to move slowly across Florida, long periods of rain could be an issue. If the storm damages your roof, you’ll want to cover the area with water-resistant material, like a tarp or plastic sheeting when it is safe to do so.
For more hurricane information, visit the Department of Financial Services’ web site at www.MyFloridaCFO.com.
Walton County was created in 1824, shortly after Florida became a territory of the United States. The courthouse is in the county seat of DeFuniak Springs.