Powerful storms are a part of living in the Northwest, so it's important to know what to do if a storm has damaged your home.
First, stay calm. Do not touch anything until you are sure there are no fallen power lines or other hazards on your property. Evaluate the structure. Make sure your home is structurally sound. If you are arriving back home following a storm, do not enter the house until you are certain it is safe. Examine your property carefully and prepare a list of damage to show to your insurance adjuster.
Call your insurance company after the storm and get their advice on what to do next. If your home is uninhabitable, find out what living expenses the insurance company will pay for.
If necessary, make arrangements to have temporary repairs made to prevent further damage, and be sure to keep all your receipts because your insurance company is likely to reimburse you for them. But permanent repairs should wait until the insurance company's adjuster has inspected the property. Remember, the contractor going door-to-door with "storm specials" may not be reliable and the lowest bidder may not do the best job. Make sure the contractor you select is registered with the state. It's a good idea to get references and ask how the contractor has resolved problems, if there were any, in previous jobs. Pay no more than 10 to 20 percent down for repairs - it's a good way to help control the quality and timeliness of your project.
Take an inventory of your possessions and the property. If you have a list or videotape that was prepared before the storm, compare that to your new list. Record any damage and document it with photographs or videotape. If you have canceled checks or receipts that prove the value of damaged items, collect them to give to your insurance company when you file your claim and be sure to give yourself enough time to add to the list as the days go by since it can be difficult to notice everything that has been damaged in the first few hours after any kind of disaster.
If your home is uninhabitable or destroyed, contact your utility companies to stop billing. Some insurance companies will declare a moratorium on homeowners' premiums in areas that have sustained widespread storm damage so that policyholders can spend their money on repairs instead.
Finally, experts caution that you should never try to pass off previous damage as something that just occurred. Adjusters can tell the difference. If you're not sure, point it out and make it clear that you had not noticed the damage before the incident. These tips can help keep you and your family safe and aid you in creating the best possible outcome.
The Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties provided information contained in this article. For more information or to find a qualified professional, visit the Master Builders website.