When coping with a major storm or other disaster resulting in significant property damage, it is important to make sure you are relying on accurate information. Unfortunately, there is a significant amount of misinformation out there, and scam artists often rely on homeowners’ lack of knowledge in order to perpetrate fraudulent schemes.
If you are looking for accurate information about disaster recovery, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) “Rumor Control” website is a good resource for general guidance and specific information about current scams. While this website specifically focuses on Hurricane Irma recovery, the rumors listed are relevant to other storm and disaster recovery efforts as well. Here are some examples:
Rumor: You Must Pay a Fee for Enhanced Flood Claims Processing
The enhanced claims process allows qualifying homeowners to obtain advance payment of up to $20,000 to begin repairing their homes after devastating storms. There is no fee to apply for enhanced claims processing. This is true whether you have flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) or a private insurer. You also should not be charged for the services of your insurance adjuster – though you may want to consider hiring a public adjuster to help ensure that you receive adequate compensation for the damage to your home.
Rumor: Raised Homes Do Not Qualify for FEMA Assistance
Raised homes in many South Florida communities qualify for NFIP coverage; and, regardless of whether you have flood insurance through the NFIP, you can apply for FEMA assistance cost-free by visiting disasterassistance.gov. Homeowners should not assume that they are ineligible for assistance; and, if you are denied coverage or assistance on the grounds that you have a raised home, you should seek assistance from an experienced attorney.
Rumor: Housing Assistance is Available from Third-Party Providers
FEMA is warning homeowners about a possible fraud scam involving housing assistance and payment for hotel rooms which is operating under the name Corporate Lodging Assistance and using the contact information: [email protected] and 866-545-XXXX. Florida homeowners may be entitled to coverage for these expenses at no additional charge through their insurance companies or through FEMA directly.
Rumor: Homeowners Should Not Begin Recover Efforts on Their Own
While safety should absolutely be everyone’s first priority after a major storm, if possible, homeowners should also take appropriate steps to mitigate the damage to their homes. According to FEMA, “Cleaning up and making temporary repairs to your storm-damaged property will not disqualify you from federal disaster assistance.” Likewise, private homeowner’s and flood insurance policies may require homeowners to take reasonable steps to prevent mold growth and other problems that could lead to further damage.
Taking plenty of photos or video is always a good idea; and, once the damage has been documented, homeowners can generally make temporary repairs while they wait for their contractors to begin work. If you have questions about what you should (and should not) be doing in the aftermath of a storm, you can contact our Fort Lauderdale law offices for a confidential consultation.
Contact the Property Damage Attorneys at Saavedra | Goodwin
If your home sustained damage in a storm and you are struggling to obtain insurance coverage or other assistance to which you are legally entitled, the property damage attorneys at Saavedra | Goodwin can help. To schedule a confidential consultation at your convenience, please call (954) 767-6333 or contact us online today.