By Christopher MaagLast week, as Hurricane Irene bore down on the East Coast, our own Beverly Harzog gave some tips about how to prepare your credit card accounts for a major disaster.
Now that Irene has passed, causing less full-bore destruction than many people expected, millions of homeowners from the Carolinas to Maine face a less acute but equally vexing problem: Rampant flooding.
[Related Article: A Credit Card Checklist for Natural Disasters]
Vermont’s Governor Peter Shumlin called it the worst flooding the inland state has seen in 100 years. “We have extraordinary infrastructure damage,” including communities that were cut off, hundreds of roads closures and the loss of at least three historic covered bridges,” Shumlin told USA Today.
So instead of prepping your credit cards for disaster, you may want to prep your home’s insurance policy for all the flood-related repairs it may need. If your house flooded, here’s an insurance to-do list, courtesy of the Consumer Federation of America:
– Review your policy documents to find how and where to file a claim. Most insurance claims are filed using 800 numbers, but if your company’s phone lines are jammed, see if you can file online or directly with your agent.
– Insurance companies handle claims first-come, first-serve, the Consumer Federation says. So file your claim as soon as possible.
– Write your claim information down, and keep it someplace safe. This will be the easiest way for you and your insurers to track it.
– Inventory your possessions. Take pictures of them. If some possessions were carried away by the flood waters, maybe you have some Christmas photos of them?
– Before an adjuster comes to your house, see if you can get a trusted contractor to come and give you an estimate for repair costs. This will give you information you can use while talking to the adjuster.
– Especially after big events like Hurricane Irene, many insurers hire independent adjusters as contractors to handle the workload. If an adjuster comes to your house, ask whether she is an employee of your insurer or working as an independent. If she is independent, ask her for the name of the adjuster at your insurer to whom she reports. This will help you contact the right person if there are any problems with your claim in the future.
– Track every interaction you have with your insurer. Write down the date, time and a description of every exchange, whether on the phone or in person. “If you need to complain later, this information will be vital,” the Consumer Federation says. “If an adjuster says he or she will come and does not, write it down. If an adjuster is rude, write it down.”
– Keep all your receipts. That includes emergency repairs, hotel costs, etc. You may be able to receive reimbursement for these expenses as part of the “Additional Living Expenses” outlined in your insurance policy.