Q: What should a homeowner do following a damaging storm?
A: Powerful storms are a part of living in the Pacific 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 home and make sure it is structurally sound. If you are returning to the home for the first time following a storm, do not enter until you are certain it is safe. Examine your property carefully, and prepare a list of damage to submit to your insurance adjuster.
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Call your insurance company after the storm and ask for 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 of your receipts — your insurance company is likely to reimburse you for them. Permanent repairs should wait until the insurance company’s adjuster has inspected the property.
Beware of contractors going door-to-door with “storm specials” who may not be reliable, and keep in mind that the lowest bidder may not do the best job.
Be 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 conflicts, if there were any, in previous jobs. Make a down payment of no more than 10 to 20 percent for repairs — it’s a good way to 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. Give yourself enough time to add to the list as the days go by, since you may not notice everything that has been damaged in the first few hours after a disaster.
If your home is uninhabitable or destroyed, contact your utility companies to stop billing. Some insurance companies will declare a moratorium on homeowner 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.
HomeWork is the weekly column by the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties’ Remodelers Council about home care, repair and improvements. If you have questions about home improvement, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.