Following the strongest Delaware tornado in more than 60 years that devastated a 14-mile stretch of Sussex County between Bridgeville and Ellendale, many homeowners are dealing with property damage.
Here are some things to keep in mind when working with insurance companies and contractors.
More:Follow the 14.3 mile path of the Sussex tornado on our map. Homes and lives destroyed in 20 minutes.
Work with your insurance company
If you suffer property loss or damage, your insurance company must inspect the property before an agreement is reached on the cost of permanent repairs. Some insurers have a specific window in which they can be reached after a claim, so be sure to contact them as soon as possible.
Tips for a faster claims process:
- DO NOT make any permanent repairs to your property until you have spoken to an insurance advisor. Only make temporary fixes, like covering broken windows or walls, if you can.
- Take lots of photos and videos of the damage showing as much detail as possible.
- Keep all receipts, including for temporary repairs made.
- Keep damaged items, if possible, so an insurer can inspect them.
- Make sure your insurance policy accurately describes your home. Check the square footage, number of rooms, and any improvements that have been made to the property.
Usually, a home inventory list is requested by insurance companies to cover damages. Along with detailed photos and videos of the damaged items, include the brand name, model, serial number, date of purchase, and approximate value of the items if possible.
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Insurers generally give priority to the most damaged customers. Be sure to provide an accurate description of the property damage and explain any special needs your family has. Also ask when you can expect to meet with an adjuster and see if you can ask for contact information for the adjuster and supervisor.
When speaking with insurance companies, keep track of everyone you speak to, including their name, title, contact information, date and time you spoke with them, and issues discussed. This should make the claim filing process easier.
How does the process work?
Once the losses have been reported, an adjuster will assess the damage to the property. This documentation will be sent to the insurer to determine settlement of claims, or how much you will be paid to repair the damage. More than one check may be provided depending on the extent of damage to the property.
You can also sign up for SMS alerts to stay informed about the status of your claim.
If there is a mortgage on your home, payment for structural damage may be payable to you and your mortgage lender. The mortgage lender can place this money in an escrow account and pay for repairs as the work is completed.
More:Tornado guide: watch for tornadoes against warning, emergency supplies and alerts, and more
One option for filing claims is to sign a benefits assessment, which allows a third-party contractor like a plumber or roofer to work directly with the insurance company without the involvement of the insured. There are certain risks when signing an AOB because you are essentially cut off from the negotiations, so it is imperative to ensure that the repair company is reputable.
If you have questions or concerns about the actions of your insurance companies, you may contact the Consumer Services Division of the Delaware Department of Insurance at 302-674-6227 or by email at [email protected] .gov.
How to protect yourself from fraud
After destructive storms, fraudulent insurance behavior becomes more prevalent.
Scammers will knock on doors falsely claiming they are with an insurance company and try to get owners to sign repair contracts. This often leads to residents paying too much and getting below average repairs, if any at all.
More:Scammed by a contractor? You’re not alone. Why home renovation fraud is so hard to prove
To avoid scams, it is better to do business with local or trusted companies whose references can be corroborated by friends or neighbors. Your insurer may also have recommendations for contractors. Getting multiple bids on projects is also helpful.
Delaware residents who experience fraud related to storm damage can contact the Fraud Protection Bureau at 800-632-5154 or 302-674-7350, or by email at [email protected].
What insurance covers and does not cover?
Short answer: It depends.
Home insurance covers damage from most hazards like tornadoes, hurricanes, severe storms, fires, wind and heavy rain. It will also pay to repair structures on properties up to their insured amount as well as isolated structures like a garage or shed, usually around 10% of the main structure’s insured amount.
Typically, 50% to 70% of your home’s structure is insured. Landscaping items like trees and shrubs are typically reimbursed at around $500 per item.
What is not covered by home insurance is damage due to flooding and landslides (earthquakes, mudslides, landslides, sinkholes, etc.). Protection against these hazards usually requires a separate policy with a private insurer or the national flood insurance program. Separate coverage must be purchased to cover your belongings.
If your personal property losses aren’t covered by your insurance, they can still only be deducted if the disaster is federally declared by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (think named storms like Hurricane Ida). For these deductions, you must subtract $100 from each loss before adding them together and the total must be greater than 10% of your adjusted gross income.
Community resilience:As Sussex County recovers from tornado damage, here’s how to help those in need
Contact Molly McVety at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @mollymcvety.