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Hurricane Irma Hit – Now What?

We were just hit by the biggest storm in Florida’s history.  Although there is damage, you are grateful everyone is safe and comforted by knowing that you have insurance. But, did you know that you are responsible to prevent additional damage and if you don’t mitigate then it could get very expensive?

Failure to mitigate post-storm damages can have detrimental consequences for community associations and homeowners. During the storm, a homeowner’s roof sustained what appeared to be minor damage. Because the damage did not cause immediate or noticeable leakage and caused only a few roof tiles to break loose, the homeowner delayed reporting any claim to their insurer. Weeks go by, a heavy storm occurs, and the homeowner now notices a leak in the roof. This leak caused flood damage that may not be covered by insurance. This problem could have been avoided had the homeowner enlisted their insurance professional and began mitigating damages as quickly as possible after the original loss occurred. In many cases, damages that result from failure to report a loss at the time of occurrence or failure to prevent future damages may not be covered, leaving the policyholder responsible for damages.

Here are some important steps to take for moving forward when a storm damages your property:

  • 1. Inspect for Damages
    • 1. Take pictures to document the loss. This is important because the burden is on you as the insured to prove a loss occurred. If your insurance company has any questions, they will send out an adjuster (see below).
    • 2. Your association’s insurance (or your personal carrier) will likely cover most damage losses.
    • 3. You and your association have a duty to protect your property from future damages. This means that you should secure your building from further water intrusion and to dry out units.  If rain comes in anytime after the storm, your insurance will likely not cover that water damage because the idea is you should have protected your property.
  • 2. Make Emergency Repairs
    • 1. Follow up on the above if you have damages that pose additional risk (your windows are busted out/all of the shingles blew off your roof, your exterior drains are covered with debris, etc., because you need to make immediate repairs to prevent further loss.
    • 2. Your insurance will reimburse the costs for putting a tarp on your roof, plywood to board up your windows, etc.
  • 3. Get Estimates for Fixing the Property
    • 1. Insurance carriers are now swamped with many more claims than usual. If you have an insurance adjuster come out to your property, here’s an idea of the timeline involved:
      • File the claim + 1 Day
      • Insurance carrier responds and assigns adjuster + 2 Days
      • Insurance adjuster hires an independent contractor to create a report/estimate + 2 Days
      • Independent contractor takes pictures of damages/creates report for adjuster + 14 Days normally, + 21 Days if they are backlogged
      • Adjuster reviews independent contractor’s report + 7 Days normally, + 14 Days if they are backlogged
      • Check issued + 7 to 14 Days
      • TOTAL TIME: Best Case: 33 Days from claim to payment (1 Month)/if backlogged: 44 Days (1 1/2 Months)
    • 2. Do not rely solely on the insurance company’s adjuster to evaluate your claim. The insurance company’s adjuster is not there to protect you. Property owners and associations should consult their legal counsel who will assist in hiring an independent adjuster or contractor to fully evaluate any potential claims.  
    • 3. Avoid assigning your insurance benefits to contractors without consulting an attorney.  Once the benefits are assigned, your insurance carrier has no further obligation to you.  Your claims now belong to the contractor.

A final word of caution – you should expect that quality contractors will be in high demand.  However, you should still perform your due diligence.  Avoid hiring unlicensed, uninsured, or out-of-state contractors.  Now, more than ever, it is vitally important that you obtain bids, vet contractors, and review contracts with your attorney.  

Posted in Arias Bosinger
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Carlos R. Arias and Sonia A. Bosinger Recognized as Florida Legal Elite

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