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MY HOUSE WAS FLOODED; WHAT DO I DO NOW?
by Jack Fryday
Tuesday, September 05, 2017

MY HOUSE WAS FLOODED; WHAT DO I DO NOW? 

The following information is for anyone who has suffered damage or loss from hurricane Harvey.  I am Jack Fryday and am writing this based on my experience with hurricane recovery.  I have been in over 5 hurricanes and in the aftermath of over 15.  I have worked for a FEMA contractor on 7 hurricanes as an inspector of damaged homes.  I also have a great deal of experience working with adjusters, not only after hurricanes, but after fires and other types of damages.  The following is based on the above experience.

Obviously, the first thing you should do after the event is over is to contact your insurance company.  Hurricane Harvey was a rain event and the majority of the damage was by flood.  Unfortunately most people that experienced this event do not have flood insurance.

FOR THOSE THAT HAVE FLOOD INSURANCE.  The first thing to do is  file a claim with your insurance company.  After FEMA receives the claim from your insurance company they will assign it to one of their adjusters.  (I was a FEMA adjuster for six hurricanes, 4 in Florida and two in Texas in early 2000).  The adjuster will come to your house and document the damage.  Be sure to ask for identification.  He (or she)  will measure all the damaged rooms and take pictures of everything. But before this is done the adjuster will need to see your deed to the property and insurance papers. If you can’t produce these there is nothing FEMA will do.

After the adjuster has completed the survey, he/she will electronically send all the information to FEMA.  From that point on you will be waiting to hear from FEMA as to your next step.   After you are approved by FEMA you can move forward with getting a contractor and starting the repairs.  Later in this document I will discuss hiring a contractor.

The FEMA representative is not a claims adjuster.  This will be discussed later.

FOR THOSE THAT DO NOT HAVE FLOOD INSURANCE.  You should document all of the damage and take pictures of everything.  Even though you do not have flood insurance, you may have other options.  Go to disasterassistance.gov to see what FEMA assistance you may qualify for.  Also check your home owners insurance as there may be some items that may help you.

DEALING WITH THE CLAIMS ADJUSTER.  If you have flood insurance or some other type that will pay, you will have to deal with a Claims Adjuster.  The Claims Adjuster should write up a detailed, item by item list of everything that has to be done and assign a dollar value to every item.  For example they should determine the exact square footage of sheetrock that is to be removed from the house and assign a dollar value to that. This should be done for every item in the house.   I used the word “should” in the above sentences because some adjusters are new to the job (because of the volume of claims, which required extra, part time adjusters to be hired by the insurance companies) and may not have the necessary training.  Remember, the Claims Adjuster sent by the insurance company to adjust your claim works for the insurance company, not you.  Public Adjusters, on the other hand,  work for you. They charge a percentage of the amount they collect, on your behalf, from the insurance company.  The Public Adjusters are much more methodical in identifying losses.  For example, on one job I witnessed the Public Adjuster identifying every book in a rather large collection of books.   He wrote down the title, author, age and approximate cost of every book, where the insurance adjuster only counted the books and put a price based on the number of books.  Even though you have to pay the Public Adjuster, they will get more money for you than the insurance company hired adjuster.  

HIRING CONTRACTORS TO DO YOUR WORK.  For your protection this is the one item in which you need to be very careful.  When a disaster like Hurricane Harvey strikes, the area will be flooded with transit contractors that follow the storms.  You will be tempted to hire one of these because there is so much work that it will be difficult to find local contractors.  If you have to hire an out-of-town contractor, or even for a local contractor, you need to be aware of the following;

1.      The state of Texas only requires electricians, plumbers and heating and air conditioning contractors to have a license issued by the state.  Carpenters, painters, floor covering people and all other trades do not have a license.

2.     If you live in an incorporated city, then you need to call the building department and find out what the city’s requirements are for doing repair work.  Many cities will require a permit for general repair and remodeling, or for a job that exceeds a certain dollar value.  Some only require a permit for the licensed trades. 

3.     The Counties generally only require permits for the licensed trades. Again, consult with your County as to their regulation.

4.     The following items are very important:

a.     Never give money to anyone to buy supplies or an advancement for any reason.  If they need money to buy material, then you should buy the material for them.  If you give a guy $3,000 to buy material for your job, the chances are you will never see him again.

b.     Make sure the contractor has workman’s compensation insurance.  If he does not, you could be liable for job related injuries.

c.      Make sure the Contractor has liability insurance coverage for at least $1,000,000.  You don’t want to be liable for any problems that may come up on the job.

d.     Make sure the Contractor gets city or county permits if they are required.

e.      If the Contractor is not from your area then obtain as much information about him as possible.  Get his name and address from his driver’s license.  You want to be able to get in contact with him after the job is complete and something goes wrong.

f.       Make sure that you obtain a third party inspector to inspect all phases of the job. If you are within a city, then make sure the City Inspector looks at the job.  You may hire a licensed real estate inspector to look at the job.  If you cannot find a professional inspector, then get a friend to look at the job.  

g.     If the Contractor you hire is from out of town I recommend he not be paid in full at the end of the job.  I recommend holding our 10% of the job for 10 days to give you a chance to find any problem that that exists.  You can do this by postdating your check and writing on the bottom of the check that it is not to be cashed until the date on the check. 

5.     THE THING TO REMEMBER HERE IS THAT THERE ARE A LOT OF DISHONEST PEOPLE THAT WILL TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOU IF THEY CAN.  TAKE ALL THE PRECAUTIONS THAT YOU CAN.

Jack Fryday
Seabrook, TX.




Remembering Jim Guidry GRCC Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership


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