I promised an update on the Storm Damage Insurance process when I first wrote about the significant hail damage we got in June (totaling over $20,000). This is my first time filing a claim, and when I asked friends and co-workers what to expect only a few of them have actually filed a claim before. Hopefully, someone can benefit from my experience (not that I am wishing a crushing storm on anyone). Do you know what to do if you have storm damage?
What to do if you have storm damage
The first and most important piece, make sure everyone is safe! Once everyone is accounted for (pets included please) – go out and assess the damage.
Mr. AE’s Tips for the Storm Damage hunt
- Camera – Take pictures of anything you see and start a list
- Angles and Sunlight are your friends – Damage doesn’t need to be catastrophic. Minor damage can lead to full replacement. Some of the dents we found could only be seen from certain angles or when the sun hit them right. We even missed a few areas that I found a few weeks later.
- Check for leaks – Windows, basement, or roof. Basically, any seal in your house could break due to wind pressure
- Try not to cry over your plants 🙁 – I am still bummed about my trees and garden. If the trees die next year I will be depressed (and an angry bear when I need to dig them out and replace them).
- Start thinking about what you can fix yourself – I will share my DIY list later!
Storm Damage Insurance Process
Since this was my first time filing an insurance claim, I didn’t really know what to expect. I documented all the dates/steps as this process unfolded.
1. File claim with your insurance company
I was able to do this from my phone a few hours after the storm came through. Gotta love technology! Took about 10 minutes.
Our insurance company prioritizes by the level of damage, then processes claims first in – first out. Our home was still habitable, but there are holes in our siding that water can get behind. I bumped it up from minor to moderate to try and work the system.
If you are worried about further damage (leaks being the main one) some policies contain Temporary Fix Reimbursement. I could have gone this route but would have used 300 rolls of duct tape to patch all the holes.
2. Wait for Adjuster
Everything is stalled out at this point until the adjuster can come out and look at your property. Our claim was filed on 6/11, the adjuster was assigned on 6/14 (3 days in). He informed me that he had come all the way from Texas for 4-6 weeks just for this storm.
Want to note that our insurance provider had over 5K claims by 6/14 just in our area
3. Adjuster Walk-through
On 6/21 (10 days in) our adjuster came over to do an inspection of our property. This is the most important part of the process and you want to make sure a thorough job is done.
Personally, I recommend having a contractor you trust present to walk side by side with the adjuster and assist in pointing out damage. Ours is a family friend and was up on the roof, helping the adjuster find damage and making sure we didn’t end up with a partial roof replacement. He also has a lot more experience in storm damage than I do and found some dents in places I had completely missed that could have gone unnoticed.
The list/pictures from earlier come in handy here.
After the adjuster recorded all the damage and took measurements (the entire process took about 2.5 hours) he left and said he would have an estimate out to me by the weekend.
The following Monday (he lied, but I get it), I actually received the estimate for the work to be completed (to the tune of $20,000) and was notified a check was in the mail. Along with the check, a detailed estimate (done side by side of the house) was included. Take that estimate and walk through your own property and make sure they didn’t skip over known damage.
Since we had damage to our house and patio furniture, our insurance company cut two checks. One for Personal Property, one for damage to the home.
Mail must have been slow, it took a full week for the check to get in.
Three important things to know with the payment:
1. Mortgage Company – If you don’t own your home outright, your mortgage company will be a payee on the check from your insurance company. Since they have a vested financial interest, the insurance company uses the check to notify them of damage to the property.
2. Deductible – I assume most people are familiar with deductibles, but this is the out of pocket cost you must incur before its worth filing a claim. Ours is $1,000, but my neighbors is $3,000 (Ouch, he has to pay 3K to replace roof/siding that is under 1.5 years old). My new recommended minimum for Emergency Funds is whatever your insurance deductible is (health and property).
3. Depreciation – The initial check received from the insurance company will be the cost to fix everything minus depreciation. They depreciated different materials at different intervals (shingles depreciate faster than vinyl siding) and then withhold that amount until you provide them with confirmation the work is completed.
At that time the rest of the full replacement value (minus deductible) will be sent to you. The older your house (roof, siding, etc,) the more they will withhold for depreciation. From what I understand, they give you the cash value only in case people decide to skip fixing the damage, or skip out on their mortgage with the check. It also pushes people to actually get the work done.
It is also possible to have your mortgage company require an inspection or proof of work completion (remember, they have a vested interest, they don’t want your property to look like a mini pellet gun war took place in your backyard).
6. Select replacement materials
It can get really tricky here. Depending on how old the materials on your house are (specifically siding/soffit/trim) and where the damage happened, you could have a lot of decisions to make. Replace everything? New Colors? Does my roof match my mailbox?
Some states/insurance companies have a “guaranteed match” law or policy when it comes to partial damage to siding (one side needs to be replaced, the other 3 are fine). A few companies in MN have found a loophole and require an extra rider to get the guaranteed match so it may be worth checking your policy now.
15-year-old siding is likely discontinued and/or has faded significantly. You might get stuck paying out of pocket for a few sides or having a two-toned house!
7. Schedule and perform work
If you elected to use a contractor, there will not be much for you to do here. I guess you could fight with them on timelines, but I haven’t had much success in that department over the years.
If you don’t have a contractor, you will need to call someone in to do each piece individually (most crews do either siding or roofs, generally not both).
Once the work is completed, your insurance is billed for the depreciation expenses that were withheld originally.
Storm Damage: Time to Replacement
Setting some expectations (it’s the Project Manager in me, I can’t help it):
- Claim Filed: Day 1
- Adjuster Assigned: Day 4
- Adjuster Walks Property: Day 10
- Estimate Received: Day 15
- First Payment Received: Day 22
- Material Selection: Day 30
- Perform Work
- Roof Replacement scheduled for Day 41
- Siding…….No Clue, 4-6 weeks to get our style color in stock and probably a few weeks to get on the schedule
My guess is this ordeal will be wrapped up sometime around the 3-month mark at best. These times could vary depending on storm size, location, insurance company, and contractor. My neighbor didn’t file his claim for 4 days and he is a full 2 weeks behind me now.
There are 10-12 hours of my own time into this process as well, and if I didn’t have a contractor on speed dial it would be 15-20.
Some DIY Saves the Day
Who wants to pay the out of pocket deductible????
No thank you. Hard Pass.
I found enough things to do myself that we were able to save the deductible and afford to add gutters to our house!
- Straightening air conditioner fins – $350 – tedious, but worth it
- Paint Door Frame – $200 – Stay within the lines…….Learned that a long time ago
- Pressure wash wooden steps – $100 (borrow power washer. Point. Spray.)
- Replace Screens – Net $300 – They gave me $400 to get screens repaired! It cost $100 at Menards, I guess to have someone come out, take them off, fix and replace would take awhile (labor is expensive), but still……)
- Replace Garage Service Door $500 – There is one dent in my metal service door. After a little research, Bondo and paint can patch this right up.
Got a deal on adding gutters after my buddy scored a few jobs from referrals I gave him. That is how pros handle Storm Damage! It’s all about Finding cheaper solutions to expensive problems. A little bit of hustle doesn’t hurt either 🙂
Have you ever had to file a claim for storm damage? Was your experience similar to mine?