Homeowners feel forgotten after Hurricane Michael

Florida residents affected by Hurricane Michael continue to feel forgotten one year later according to interviews with northern homeowners hit hard by the storm. Thousands of people continue to lack permanent shelter, relying on hotel rooms, trailers and even tents, while many more have fled the area due to the devastation. Others are locked in battles with insurance companies over their much-needed payouts to cover the costs of the intensive repairs required for their homes. The damage is not restricted to private homes; schools and other public buildings have been replaced by portable rooms and trailers in many impacted communities.

When Hurricane Michael hit land, homes and businesses near the beach were flattened and seriously devastated. The area of the Panhandle hit hardest by the storm is lightly populated with Panama City being the largest city to suffer major storm damages. In addition to the hurricane damage to homes, businesses and public buildings, the hurricane was devastating to the agricultural economy. Timber, peanuts and cotton are major drivers of economic activity in northern Florida, and crops were torn up and destroyed by the storm's advance. Those residents who remain in place often struggle to afford housing as the scarcity of available homes means that prices have skyrocketed.

What to ask yourself before buying homeowner's insurance

Anyone who owns a house in Florida needs to have homeowner's insurance. However, there are numerous insurance companies, and you need to do your due diligence to ensure you receive a policy that works.

Following a hurricane, insurance companies can be slow to respond. To stand the best chance of receiving a payout if you ever need one, you need to do research and look into every insurance company available to you. Here are a few questions you need to ask yourself ahead of time. 

The 3 most common homeowner’s insurance claims

Homeowners insurance is typically an integral part of owning a house. It is a requirement under most circumstances when obtaining a mortgage.

In Florida, insurance is even more critical given the rash of storms that unleash their fury on residents. The safety net insurance may provide applies to many different scenarios that may occur. Take a moment to read up on the three most common types of claims homeowners file.

Three reasons insurance claims are denied after a fire

House fires in Florida can cause complete destruction of homes and can leave families struggling. These fires start for many reasons, including accidents, fireplaces, and faulty electrical issues. Insurance companies will receive a report from the local fire department and perform their own investigation before paying out any claims. Here are some common reasons why insurance companies deny claims related to fires.

If the fire was caused because of some type of illegal activity, like manufacturing drugs, the claim may be denied. An individual who owns a property and has tenants would want to include the prohibition of these and other illegal activities in their lease agreement. They may also want to inspect the property on a regular basis in order to look for hints that the tenants are engaging in these types of activities.

Grant to help hard-hit town with hurricane recovery

One Florida town will receive relief funding to cover first responder costs almost a year after Hurricane Michael hit landfall nearby. Mexico Beach will receive a $1.1 million grant, announced by Gov. Ron DeSantis. The funds will go to support law enforcement operations and the Mexico Beach Fire Department. The grant comes as as part of $25 million in state funds that will be used to support areas affected by Hurricane Michael. In the small town of Mexico Beach, the annual budget is $1.5 million dollars. Costs related to debris alone were $60 million in the community.

The governor said that the funds can enable the fire department to continue to operate after its resources were expended in post-hurricane recovery. Municipalities across the state are struggling to deal with hurricane damage and fund recovery efforts. Many areas continue to suffer from damaged buildings and homes, and people have left the area due to a lack of proper housing and escalating costs. Many local homeowners are also struggling with their own insurance companies denying or delaying payouts on hurricane damage claims.

Many Florida homeowners have open Hurricane Michael claims

Some Florida homeowners are continuing to struggle almost a year after Hurricane Michael. Thousands of homeowners have submitted insurance claims that remain open and have not yet been resolved. There are 18,211 open claims filed after the Category 5 storm hit the Florida Panhandle in October 2018. These mark around 12% of the total claims filed by businesses and homeowners for their insured losses after they suffered serious hurricane damages in the storm. The state's insurance commissioner said that most homeowners are satisfied with their dealings with their insurers, but some are concerned about paying the bills that have accompanied their hurricane recovery.

The state commissioner estimated that half of the claims were reopened hurricane damage claims. In these cases, people received a payout from their insurance companies. However, the actual costs of the repairs they needed exceeded the original amount, so they reopened their claims with their insurers. He also said that the state's Office of Insurance Regulation has received few complaints from business owners and homeowners about the insurance issues.

Best practices for submitting a fire damage claim

Florida residents who experience fire damage to their property may be entitled to compensation from an insurance company. However, insurance providers may try to minimize their liability or how much they actually pay out to their customers. Therefore, it is important to file a claim as quickly as possible and provide as much detail as possible when doing so. It is also important to get the insurance company to process and resolve the claim quickly.

A claim will ideally contain the date of the fire, what was damaged and if anyone was hurt. It should also include a police report or other documents that could verify an individual's version of events. Homeowners are expected to take reasonable steps to prevent further damage to their homes or items inside of the home. Those steps could include patching up a hole or moving undamaged property to a safer spot in the house.

A homeowner's guide to flood insurance

Many Florida residents live in areas that may be particularly prone to flooding. Some areas of the state are known as Special Flood Hazard Areas (SFHA), while other areas may still be prone to flooding even if they are not classified as such. As many homeowner's insurance policies do not cover flood damage, it may be important for people to obtain flood protection of their own. Of course, even having coverage in place does not always ensure that a homeowner will have an easy time in case of a flood. Many homeowners struggle to obtain the compensation they deserve after their residences were damaged in a flood.

People in an SFHA with a federally regulated mortgage are required by law to have flood insurance, and some lenders may also require flood insurance as a condition for a loan. On a federal level, the National Flood Insurance Program aims to deliver flood insurance to property owners, especially in areas prone to serious flooding problems. This program is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Flood insurance does not necessarily cover all damage due to flooding. Policy holders should check their documents to see if personal property is covered in their policy or only the building itself.

Filing hurricane insurance claims

Homeowners in Florida and around coastal areas are typically aware of the risks posed by hurricanes and tropical storms. While many of these individuals have taken steps to protect their homes against possible damage caused by severe weather, home damage is going to be a reality for those living in the path of a hurricane. In some cases, this damage can be severe and render a property uninhabitable.

Many of these homeowners rely on flood insurance to cover the cost of making repairs, rebuilding a home and seeking alternative lodging while reconstruction takes place. Unfortunately, not everyone has this type of coverage. In some cases, it is because they are unaware that their homeowners' insurance does not cover flood damage. In other cases, they are reluctant to invest in a private or federal flood insurance policy.

Florida homeowners await possible hurricane damage

Many homeowners in Florida are concerned about the potential effects of Hurricane Dorian. Major storms have done significant damage to homes up and down the Florida coast in recent years. Driving rain, floods, wind and more have damaged windows, roofs and the entire structure of some homes. When homeowners face damages related to a storm, they rely on their homeowners' insurance company to cover the costs of rebuilding and repairing the damage. At the same time, many people continue to face delayed or denied claims from earlier storms even as they raise concerns about the potential effects of Dorian and other 2019 storms.

Across the state, emergency responders, state officials and local homeowners are taking steps to protect themselves in case of serious damage. While Dorian may pose a risk to Florida, it could take a route that leads it elsewhere up the coast. Still, hurricane season remains a major threat, and there are other serious storms on the horizon. If the storm reaches Category 4 status, it could be accompanied by winds of up to 140 mph, capable of serious destructive force. Prior to the storm's arrival, Florida's governor declared a state of emergency in all 67 Florida counties.

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