Rebuilding Your Home After a Hurricane: What Should You Prioritize?
Losing your home because of a hurricane is undeniably devastating. Once the storm passes, it can be overwhelming trying to figure out where to begin when it comes to rebuilding your home. Whether your home sustained serious damages or it has been destroyed beyond repair, the following steps can help you to pick the pieces after a hurricane wreaks havoc on your property. These tips are designed to help you rebuild a home where your family can once again feel safe, secure, and comfortable.
Take Care of Yourself and Your Family
Though it can be very scary to have your home so seriously damaged, try to focus on your family’s well-being above all else. It’s important to have a strong support system through something this difficult, so stay together even if you must find temporary housing for the time being.
Be sure to talk through your experiences and look for ways to relieve stress. Taking good care of yourself will help you to care better for your family and tackle the challenges ahead. Get plenty of rest, eat well, and establish a reasonable schedule for the cleanup and rebuilding that lies ahead.
If you are experiencing excessive stress or despair, be sure to seek professional help. After a major hurricane, crisis counselors and outreach programs are typically available to assist people who are struggling to cope with their situation. Contact services like the American Red Cross to find local resources.
Photograph and Document
One of the best ways to get more assistance from your insurance and other resources is to document all the damages in detail. Take photographs of any parts of the home or surrounding property that were damaged by the storm. If possible, compare these to photos from before the storm to show the damage more clearly. You should also take photos of any possessions the hurricane damaged.
Make Emergency Repairs
Once you’ve had a chance to survey the damage, make a list of emergency repairs that need to be prioritized. These repairs should address any damage that has caused a safety issue or could potentially lead to further damage to the home if left untouched.
Examples of emergency repairs may include covering broken windows with plastic, covering the roof with tarps, stopping a gas or water leak, and boarding up a broken door. Don’t repair anything else just yet; your claims adjuster will need to view the property and assess the damages in person to help you get the best offer when you settle your claim.
Create a Home Inventory List
If you’ve saved any receipts or other documentation about your home and possessions, make copies for your insurance company. Try to make the information you’ve collected as organized and easy to analyze as possible to speed up the review process for your claims.
Ideally, you should collect this information before a storm hits. One of the best ways to be prepared for hurricane damage is to create a complete home inventory list while your home is still in good condition. Take photos and jot down detailed descriptions for the contents of your home. You should include receipts with these notes when possible. Having this information will make it much easier for you to submit a claim to your insurance company.
File a Claim
Contact your insurance as soon as you can after the hurricane. Even if you can’t gain access to your home yet, you can get the ball rolling on your claim. Insurance companies will be very busy after the storm, and some operate on a first-come, first-served basis during these situations.
Provide as much information as possible up front, including the extent of the damages and whether you have a home inventory list prepared for them. You may need to meet multiple adjusters to get coverage from each insurance policy if you have more than one; homeowners insurance, flood insurance, and windstorm insurance are all recommended for those who live in high-risk hurricane zones.
Secure Safe Lodging
If you can’t stay in your home while its undergoing repairs, you’ll need to find another place to stay. Inquire with friends or family who may be able to house you temporarily. If that’s not an option, there may be local resources that can help you locate a place to stay for the time being.
Those who need to stay in temporary lodging for weeks or months while their home is being rebuilt may be able to get some monetary assistance from their insurance company. If the home damage is part of a covered claim, you may also be able to receive some help paying for your family’s housing during this time. Be sure to ask your insurance agent about any time or financial limits for this type of assistance.
When Insurance Doesn’t Cover You
Some homeowners mistakenly believe their homeowner’s insurance will cover them in the event of a hurricane. Unfortunately, this type of insurance won’t cover flood damage, and it usually requires special endorsements for windstorm damage, leaving you high and dry in a time when your house is anything but.
However, there are some alternatives if your home’s damages are not covered by insurance. First, contact your mortgage lender (and any other financial institutions where you have outstanding loans) to request a temporary pause on your bills. Some lenders will allow you to delay payments for a few months, leaving you with some extra cash to repair the worst of the damages as quickly as possible.
Next, start looking for any federal, state, or local resources that may be able to help. Register with FEMA and request disaster assistance. You may qualify for a grant to help cover your home repair costs and other disaster-related expenses, such as medical care, child care, funeral expenses, moving and storage costs, vehicle replacement, and essential household items. You can also submit an application to the Small Business Administration (SBA) to request a loan for rebuilding your home.
Don’t let a hurricane derail your plans for the future. Take control of the situation and start the rebuilding process with the help you need by following the steps outlined here.