The city of Houston has suffered in immeasurable ways both during Hurricane Harvey and now in its aftermath. The powerful storm has left thousands of homeowners, renters and business owners scrambling to pick up the pieces and figure out what is next in terms of rebuilding. With information pervasive, it is essential that all entities – whether filing as a homeowner or business – remain vigilant in ascertaining factual information as it pertains to the insurance claim process.
Homeowners and renters in neighborhoods across Houston are assessing their residences for damage and taking stock of what is salvageable and what cannot be recovered. Some homeowners in Houston communities are just now able to access their homes, and some are still unable to do so. In the midst of this arduous process, it is important for every homeowner and renter to be cognizant of whether or not they possess flood insurance. While this may seem intuitive to some, it is important to go through the process of verification and not assume.
If a homeowner or renter does possess flood insurance – either through an insurer or the National Flood Insurance Program, which is administered through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) – they should immediately notify their insurance agent in writing that they intend to file a claim.
In order to prepare to file the actual claim, the homeowner should document all damages and losses, including but not limited to any structural damage to the home, evidence of flooding in the home, and items that were destroyed. The assessment of damage should include clear photos, a written list of item value and date of purchase, and any receipts available. If possible, individuals should not discard debris until FEMA or their insurance company has had an opportunity to fully inspect the damage firsthand.
If, on the other hand, a homeowner or renter does not have flood insurance, they may file for a grant through FEMA. FEMA provides grants to qualified individuals to repair damage not covered by insurance, but these grants may not pay for all damages incurred. A homeowner without flood insurance also may qualify for a Small Business Association (SBA) disaster loan, which does not solely apply to businesses.
On the commercial side, all Houston business owners damaged by Hurricane Harvey should take the same initial steps as homeowners and ascertain whether or not they have flood insurance. Many business owners, of which 99 percent in Houston are classified as small businesses, may not have flood insurance unless their lease or mortgage requires them to possess it.
To that end, if a business owner does not have flood insurance, the business may qualify for a SBA disaster loan much in the same way as a homeowner may qualify.
Additionally, the Texas Workforce Commission is accepting applications for Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) as the result of a Presidential Disaster Declaration. The DUA provides relief to workers and self-employed individuals who lost their jobs or have been unable to work due to damage sustained from Hurricane Harvey.
Separately, if flooding to either a home or business occurred from the Barker or Addicks reservoirs' releases, the homeowner, renter or business owner may be entitled to compensation without having flood insurance or even if they have flood insurance. A claim for damages caused by the reservoirs' releases must be documented in the same way as a claim under an insurance policy.
For the most comprehensive resources pertaining to FEMA and how to apply for disaster assistance, individuals should visit https://www.fema.gov/disaster/4332.
Information is power, and with the right information, individuals affected by Hurricane Harvey can take the necessary steps to recuperate their losses. In the weeks, months, and years ahead, Houston’s undying resiliency will help the community recover, rebuild, and come back stronger than ever.