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How to navigate storm damage

Scott Lanning is one of hundreds of people with a flooded basement after Monday and Tuesday’s epic rains. He and his neighbors say the problem was compounded when city storm runoff backed up into their homes. Now he’s left with a cleanup and rebuild that will cost thousands of dollars.
Scott Lanning is one of hundreds of people with a flooded basement after Monday and Tuesday’s epic rains. He and his neighbors say the problem was compounded when city storm runoff backed up into their homes. Now he’s left with a cleanup and rebuild that will cost thousands of dollars. rsugg@kcstar.com

This has certainly been an interesting summer for weather! The entire Kansas City metro has experienced unusual amounts of rainfall and hail, resulting in damage to many homes. If you feel like some of our credit union members, the claim process can be confusing and overwhelming. This week, I’m sharing a few ideas for financially navigating the storm damage process.

Document Flood Damage

A basement or lower level can flood for a variety of reasons. One of them being a sump pump that simply can’t keep up with heavy rainfall. Stumbling upon a flood is hugely disappointing! But I’m here to tell you, you don’t want to leave this problem sitting for long.

Even if you don’t have valuables stored in the flooded area, you should address the problem immediately to avoid a host of other problems, such as mold accrual and electricity hazards. Your best bet is to call a restoration company to work on getting water out of basement while you’re waiting for an adjuster to arrive, which could be 24 hours or more. Taking photos as you go will save you trouble in the long run.

If the sump pump is indeed the culprit, speak with your agent about a solution that can accommodate larger volumes of rainfall.

Stretch your Estimate Farther

Most insurance companies will send an adjuster to assess your damage and offer an estimate for coverage against losses. Be sure to check first with your agent, but many insurance companies don’t dictate how you fix the damage. As long as you have adequate documentation of the damage before and after repair, you may redeem the estimate cost you were offered. Therefore, it may be financially prudent to repair the damages yourself instead of hiring a vendor. With this approach, the repairs are paid for in full and you’re still in the green.

When your Estimate Comes Up Short

Lately, I’ve heard homeowners express concern over insurance estimates for partial damage coverage. For example, if only one side of a home’s roof, paint, garage, etc. is damaged, the insurance adjuster only covers part of the overall project.

This can put the homeowner in a pickle. Do you pay for part of the project out-of-pocket, or arrange for a partial repair knowing a full replacement is necessary down the line?

This decision totally depends on the situation, but I try to follow a simple rule of thumb. Roofs should ideally be replaced every 20 years, and repainting is recommended approximately every 10-15 years. If you are less than two years away from needing to make this investment anyways, it may be wise to go ahead and fund the entire project so you can at least have part of the cost covered.

Storm damage and insurance claims can be tricky business. If nothing else, be sure to keep good documentation of damage and speak closely and frequently with your insurance agent. They should be able to help you determine the most financially prudent option for you following a damaging storm.

Kat's Money Corner is posted on Dollars & Sense every Tuesday. Kat Hnatyshyn, when not blogging or caring for her little ones, is a manager with CommunityAmerica Credit Union. For more financial chatter, visit http://communityamerica.com.

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