Tuesday, September 06, 2005

What you need to know

A friend forwards all this helpful info for those who've been displaced and/or had property damage from Katrina. It builds on an original list resulting from the 9/11 experience: --- From someone who went through Ivan: 1) Call your insurance company and get copies of each of your policies. It is EXTREMELY helpful to cite specific sections of the relevant policies. After calling the 'sales' part of the insurance company then immediately call the 'claims' part of the company to get that ball rolling. It will take a lot longer than you think it should but they just don't have enough adjusters to do the job. Be honest when you talk with the claims person. Be sure to say that 'this is all of the damage I know of now, there may be more I do not know about'. 2) If you think the insurance company is not giving you what you deserve do not accept the settlement. A year after Ivan there are STILL people fighting the insurance companies -- and they usually win in arbitration. Stand up for what you deserve. Those that just gave up are now kicking themselves. Note: Florida has a law that if your house is 'totaled' in a hurricane that both the windstorm and flood insurance is supposed to pay 100% each (200% total!). Know your rights under your state's particular laws. You don't have to accept what the company initially offers. 3) FEMA will reimburse you for some items like tarps, nails, tar paper, hammers, etc., used for temporary repairs if insurance doesn't. If I remember correctly they would reimburse $750 for a generator and $200 for a chain saw. And they reimburse for the gas / oil used in both. 4) Save ALL your receipts If you can't prove you spent it they won't reimburse you for it. And no one will pay if you don't ask. Check with a qualified accountant about the following. We've all paid enough taxes so there is no reason to pay more. Since the President signed the Disaster Declaration a bunch of things happen with tax returns that you can use to your advantage. *** Because this is a Federal Disaster Declaration you can either take these by adjusting (refiling) your 2004 return or on your 2005 return -- whichever is best for you. 5) If you can get a total of the following that is at least 10% of your gross income you can deduct all of them from your income as 'uninsured losses'. a) Insurance deductibles (FEMA does not cover these). b) Condo association 'special assessments'. c) The value of the trees that were blown down (I got $25k of trees down in Ivan, $23k in Dennis). Contact an Arborist to do the appraisal. For Ivan he just used pictures. d) Remember the items in any safe deposit boxes. This may be covered either by homeowner's insurance or 'uninsured losses'. I just started keeping a list of items in a notebook that I would add to when I thought of something. 6) Because of ID theft, you should think about doing the following: a. Replace Driver's Licenses, Passports, and copies of birth certificates. b. Get a copy of your credit reports (www.annualcreditreport.com). Contact each major reporting agency and put a note on your report that you are a victim of hurricane Katrina so there is a flag if something happens in the future. c. If you did not take all your credit cards with you then report them 'lost or stolen'. The credit card companies will reissue your card with a new number. 7) Contact all your credit card companies. Many have special waivers for people who are affected by hurricanes. Discover has sent me a nice note after Ivan and Dennis with various offers -- including increased credit limits -- which may be helpful because you are about to spend a whole lot of money that was probably not in your budget. --- You need to submit asap a change of address so the mail piling up... will get sent to you. You make a "permanent" change (they will ignore all others) and you change it as often as you move, but do it. A friend of mine who worked Disaster Relief in NYC after 911 sent this summary of information on how to proceed...I don't know about you but I hadn't a clue what the next step was personally... Disaster Relief Information: 1. Register for FEMA - you can do it online.> > www.fema.gov Click on "Register for Individual> > Assistance".> >> '>http://www.fema.gov> Click on "Register for Individual> > Assistance".> >> 2. Don't worry about your cox bills, your electric bills etc at the moment. There is nothing to "turn off" so they can't "turn you off". After power restored - which won't be for a long time - you can worry about that. By then American Red Cross, Salvation Army, etc should have programs set up for relief aid. Once there is case management available through one of these organizations (I would recommend Red Cross case managers) you should get a casemanager - as they will be able to help you navigate all the different relief programs and help you know what you qualify for. 3. Call your mortgage company. They have programs for disasters like this. Our mortgage company offers two things you need to qualify for: a. Suspending mortgage payments for 3 months and then paying all 3months at once. (In this case you may have funds from American Red Cross by then to pay that mortgage) b .Suspending payments for one to two or three months and working those payments back into the principal. You have to QUALIFY for those two. The last thing (this is just our mortgage company- but your probably offers something similar) is that they will only have you pay a smaller amount - I don't know what the money includes. 4. Call your credit card companies - they are freezing accounts right now to make it so you don't incur interest. But call to see if your individual credit card company is doing that. You should call them anyway and alert them to your situation, they will tell you what to do. 5. File all your insurance claims ASAP: flood, house, car, etc. I will put two articles below about how flood/home insurance works. Basically, the two insurers get together to figure out "why" the damage occurred - if it was due to FLOOD, FLOOD INSURANCE PAYS. If it was due to house DAMAGE from winds, broken window, etc HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE PAYS. This may be weird for all of us because we will have to figure out if there was damage BEFORE the flooding caused by hurricane force winds or whatever. The stuff that was stolen from your place would fall under HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE. 6. Once you know what your insurance company is going to pay get it ITEMIZED as follows: How much they will give you for: a. Structural Damage b. Personal Property Damage c. Loss of Use FAX THAT INFORMATION TO FEMA and then FEMA can determine what other aid (if any) you qualify for. FEMA is only there to give you enough $ to make your home safe and liveable. If you had CAR DAMAGE or LOST A CAR IN THE FLOOD contact your car insurance company and see if they will pay for it. If not, get a LETTER IN WRITING STATING THEIR DENIAL TO HELP YOU. THEN, contact FEMA for a SBA (a small business loan - I know it's weird that it's for a car but it is). If THEY deny you FEMA may give you a grant to replace your car. I WOULD ITEMIZE everything in your home, furniture, equipment, everything and place a value on it. Someone else may decide this value for you, but you may fare better if you have an accounting of ALL your personal property. ABOVE ALL this will take TIME. So figure out how to work ASAP. And be very very patient. The Ivan people - some of them anyway - didn't get $ till a year later. Case management can help with speeding up some stuff and get you the help you need in the meantime. ALSO - don't fall into the "other people are more needy than me therefore I will not seek assistance" trap. Although you may feel ok right now there is no telling how long it will take to get back to normal. Look for and accept any and all assistance you can get. If you are a SAG member check their online site - they are offering assistance. If you are an Actor's Equity Association member check out THEIR website, they are offering assistance. I hope this information is helpful.