Many homeowners are still picking up the pieces after Hurricane Ida, a catastrophically strong Category 4 hurricane that decimated Louisiana’s homes and infrastructure. Some parts of Louisiana only recently regained electricity, and some families are returning from evacuations to find their homes a total loss. Whether you’re dealing with something as major as a to-the-studs gutting or something as minor as a few fallen tree limbs, here are resources and tips for post-Hurricane Ida repairs — some of which double as preparation tips, so you can be ready for the next storm.
File FEMA claims early
Before you’ve even returned home, you can submit claims for FEMA reimbursements for generators and chain saws online, as well as register for disaster relief funds at disasterassistance.gov. Carefully review your insurance policies and make sure you understand what’s covered. Consider calling your insurance company for clarification about the claims process.
File an insurance claim
Don’t hesitate to file a claim with your insurance company — it won’t cause you to lose coverage or pay a higher premium. A word of warning: many Louisiana policies require homeowners to pay 2% to 5% of their property’s value out of pocket, due to the “named storm deductible” — which means your deductible might be higher than you expect. But even if your damage is minimal or below the point at which your deductible kicks in, go ahead and file that claim. You never know what other damage lies unseen, and most non-professionals won’t have the insight on what to look for. There are still two months left in hurricane season, which means that (unfortunately) your property could still see more damage. Additionally, if you feel your insurance company is treating you unfairly, don’t forget that you can file a complaint with the regulatory agency.
Assess the damage
When authorities deem it safe to return to your area, it’s important to get a sense of the scope of the damage. Hopefully, you documented your abode and belongings pre-storm with photos and videos, so you have a good before and after to show insurance companies. If not, you can ask for photos from family or rely on your memory, but now is the time to take photos of the damage.
You can also begin the cleanup process: tarp damaged roofs, board broken windows, cut down fallen limbs. Don’t touch downed power lines or worry about neutral grounds or damaged utility poles — they are the city’s responsibility. If your street’s catch basin is clogged with debris, call 311 to have the city muck it out.
One specific area to watch for is your roof. Even if you can’t detect any missing shingles, have no signs of water intrusion, or otherwise visible roof damage, it is a good idea to hire a licensed roofing contractor to assess your roof post-storm. There is a possibility of damage that could be missed by the untrained eye that could lead to future issues. Spotting even the slightest damage at an early time gives you a data point of the condition of your roof for future insurance claims.
Hire a contractor
Stories of crooked contractors who bankrupted homeowners post-Katrina abound. To protect yourself from fraud, follow a few guidelines. First, hire someone local, ideally a trusted referral. Always get at least three quotes. Make sure you see their contractor’s license, that their proof of liability and workers’ compensation insurance is up to date, and check the business name via the Louisiana Secretary of State website at www.sos.la.gov. Ask for a detailed estimate and itemized contract, and communicate by email as much as possible, so you have a written log. And never pay for work in advance.
Prepare for a long road ahead, and take care of yourself
Dealing with the aftermath of a catastrophic hurricane is emotionally taxing, and frustrations can mount when everything seems to take longer than it should and labor and materials to rebuild are in short supply. Don’t forget to take time to eat, sleep and exercise, reach out to loved ones or trained professionals, and give yourself the self-care that you need while you restore one of your most vital, cherished possessions — your home.
Please do not hesitate to reach out to our dedicated team of local real estate agents at Satsuma Realtors if you have any questions or concerns about your properties. We’ve always got your back.