In the aftermath of a major storm, you can expect to find any combination of building and disaster debris littering your property. Some of it may be from damage to your own property; some may have blown in from neighboring or even distant properties.
Our Broward County Property Damage attorneys warn that debris removal requires property owners to take an organized approach, while understanding that out-of-pocket expenses may (or may not) be covered by property insurance. It is best to do your research and create a basic plan before disaster strikes.
First, Capture Evidence
Even if you have to pay for removal, the debris on your property creates important evidence to support a property damage claim. Before any cleanup begins, take lots of pictures. Make sure you can illustrate precisely how the property appeared after the storm, and be sure to capture closer shots showing damage to your own property, including everything from the roof, windows and walls, fences, pools and outdoor kitchens to personal items that were damaged.
Plan Debris Removal Based on Category
Broward County residents can locate detailed debris and trash removal tips available on the county’s website. While their policies most likely resemble those of other Florida counties, residents should always check for local information before planning how to remove storm-related debris from their properties, looking into issues such as the following:
• What items will be taken by the municipality? Most likely, local haulers will take vegetative debris, along with building debris (within reason). You may need to arrange for removal of other items on your own.
• How must debris be prepared? The chances are that the municipality will require certain preparation by homeowners, such as bundling tree limbs, separating debris by category and storing it until it can be picked up so that it does not obstruct operations of normal or emergency activities, including mail delivery and fire-fighting. You also do not want to create a hazard for curious children.
• What about hazardous waste? Keep in mind that damage to older buildings can potentially release materials containing asbestos or other toxic materials. If no information is available online, be sure to contact your local municipality to learn how to safely dispose of these dangerous materials.
Property Owners Should Know Up Front What Their Insurance Policies Cover
Even with municipal assistance, debris removal can be costly. Your property insurance policy may cover some or all of your personal cash outlays, but it all depends on the wording of your specific policy.
You need to read — and understand — your coverage in this area. Do not expect to find it clearly written on your policy’s declarations page. If you are uncertain about your coverage, you need to clarify it with a representative from the insurance company before you sustain losses from a hurricane or other major storm.
If you confirmed that you have this type of coverage, only to find a debris-removal claim reduced or denied, you need to talk with a skilled property insurance claims lawyer who understands complex policy language and knows how to protect your rights. Call us at (954) 767-6333 or use our convenient online contact form to obtain the support you need.