Post-Harvey and Houston Flooding Frequently Asked Questions

The aftermath of Hurricane Harvey has left many homes in the Houston area with flood, wind and rain damage. At Williams Kherkher, we are deeply sympathetic for the difficult time many people in our community are going through. We’re available as a resource to provide information on what to do following this disaster. There are many common questions we’ve received on the next steps that should be taken as clean-up and repair initiatives are made to homes and businesses in the area.

We understand this is a stressful time and it can be daunting to consider the clean-up process of your flood-damaged home. Many of your neighbors and people in the community are dealing with the same issues as you are, as the flooding was widespread throughout the city. Although most of the flood waters have now subsided, we recommend you exercise extreme caution when entering your neighborhood and home. Please be mindful that sanitation may be an issue as sewage leaks have been assessed in numerous parts of the Houston area. Additionally, flood debris may still be lining the streets and sidewalks of your neighborhood as city-mandated clean-up efforts have not been completed. Debris from homes such as furniture, sheetrock and glass may be stacked in piles that are not stable, so we advise you to be careful when looking for your belongings.

What should I do first?

In the weeks that have passed since the flood many people have been placed on waitlists for inspections by insurance adjustors. We recommend that you contact an adjuster right away and ensure a spot on the list so that your property loss and damage can be assessed as quickly as possible. In the meantime, file your flood insurance claim with your private insurance company. We also urge you to register with FEMA and consider applying for additional assistance. Additional assistance is being provided for veterans, those unemployed as a result of the disaster and for those who are in need of replacing lost or damaged documents such as birth certificates, driver’s licenses, and tax returns.

My home is no longer filled with flood water. Can I start cleaning my home and throwing away damaged items?

We recommend that you wait to discard any of the items in your home until an insurance adjuster has taken a thorough assessment. If you are not able to wait until an adjuster can visit your home, you should request written permission from your flood insurance company to proceed with throwing out damaged property. Once you’ve obtained written permission you must take photos of the damage to your home. We recommend you begin at a corner of your home and take floor-to-ceiling pictures so that if someone were to view this pictures who has never seen your home, they’d be able to get a panoramic perspective of the layout of your house. Avoid the common tendency to only take photos of valuable items. Photos of soaked floorboards, destroyed carpets, and broken windows must also be included. Once you’ve taken sufficient photos you may begin the process of removing drywall and wet items from your home as you begin the drying- out process.

Will my flood insurance cover both flood damage and roof leaks?

No, if you’re experiencing leaking from your roof or a window then your home has most likely sustained windstorm damage. Private flood insurers do not include windstorm damage in their policies. When filing your Hurricane Harvey homeowner’s claim please refer to our article pertaining to new laws that affect damage claims, Am I able to file an insurance claim even though it is after 9/1?

How is FEMA registration different than a filing flood insurance claim?

A flood insurance claim is to be made with the flood insurance company that issued your National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) coverage policy. In order to file a flood insurance claim, you would need to have flood insurance in place prior to the flooding. Victims of Hurricane Harvey can also register with FEMA for assistance as a result of the flooding in the Houston area. Read this article by FEMA, to see how federal agencies have made historic disaster responses.

Do I have to pay FEMA back for assistance?

According to FEMA, there are a variety of grants available for disaster assistance including medical expenses and payment for temporary housing relocation. These grants do not have to be repaid. However, the Small Business Administration (SBA) offers loans to homeowners and renters that must be paid back.

My neighborhood was under mandatory evacuation. Will FEMA reimburse me for evacuating?

No. Mandatory evacuation expenses are not reimbursed by FEMA. Although, if your home was damaged so severely that you are not able to revisit for an extended period of time, FEMA may reimburse you for your hotel expenses. In order to qualify for reimbursement of expenses, you must be registered with FEMA.

A restoration company or contractor is asking me to assign my FEMA/ insurance proceeds to their company. Should I sign their contract?

No. A professional restoration company or contractor should not ask you to assign your FEMA or insurance benefits over to them after a natural disaster.

Register with FEMA

Regardless of whether or not you have flood insurance, you can still register with FEMA at https://www.disasterassistance.gov/, by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (1-800-621-3362) or you can also send an email from the Disaster Assistance web form.

Moving Forward

Coping with the effects of a natural disaster can have an effect on all ages. The American Academy of Pediatrics has provided information on how to talk to children about natural disasters. The National Association for the Education of Young Children has also provided an article on Tips to Help Children Cope with Disasters. The mental health and psychological effects of Hurricane Harvey can also impact adults. The American Psychological Association has great articles on how to recover after a disaster and tips for managing traumatic stress following a hurricane.

The attorneys at Williams Kherkher have seen the havoc Hurricane Harvey has caused for homeowners in the last several weeks. We are prepared to answer your questions and extended a helping hand during this difficult time in the Houston community. Contact the nationally recognized attorneys at Williams Kherker today for more information. Call us at (713) 352-0031, fill out our email form, or click the grey banner to the left of your screen to chat live with one of our representatives.

 

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