The Importance of Documenting Flood Damage
As the effects of Hurricane Harvey begin to dissipate, a number of you have asked another important, practical question:
Can I and should I start making temporary repairs and/or removing damaged items from my home?
To the extent the damage to your home is covered by your insurance policy, the insurance company will want to have some evidence showing the damage to your home. However, it is also expected that, as long as it is safe for you to do so, you will take reasonable steps to mitigate further damage to your home. Accordingly, here are some guidelines to keep in mind:
Preventing further damage:
if you can safely make or hire someone to make temporary repairs to prevent further damage to your home, we recommend that you:
- inform your insurance company that you plan to do so (in writing, including email, if possible);
- DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT!
- Take several pictures/videos of the damaged areas which show the need for the temporary repairs.
- Take pictures of any damaged appliances or electronics, including their bar code labels and identifying information.
- Also keep all receipts, invoices, and other evidence showing the costs of these repairs so that your insurer can take those into account when handling your claim; and
- if possible, retain any materials that are removed from your home (e.g. carpet) for later inspection by the insurance company.
Examples of these kinds of repairs could include putting tarps on your roof, boarding up windows, hiring a water extraction company, or removing flooring or sheetrock to reduce the chances of mold.
Making your house safe to inhabit:
Same general rule as above. Keep in mind, however, that if your house is uninhabitable, you may have coverage for additional living expenses too (e.g. hotel, restaurant, etc.). Also, if possible such repairs should be limited to making the affected room(s) safe, not to completely repair them.
If other, more permanent, repairs can wait (i.e. there is no safety or further damage issue), we recommend you allow the insurance company to inspect your home before undertaking such repairs.
As a reminder, Chris Thompson, Al Kainz, and Michael Roberts are here as a resource to each of you should you have further questions.