Florida’s Chief Financial Officer and State Fire Marshal, Jeff Atwater, announced to Historic City News that over the next few days the Florida Department of Financial Services will begin sharing information of importance to the public as we brace for and recover from the effects of Hurricane Matthew.
As we look forward to a return to normal conditions, there is some advice and reminders that may help you to deal with the challenges presented if you do experience storm damage.
Immediately report damage to your agent or insurance company. If you can’t contact your agent or insurance company, call the Department of Financial Services for assistance at 1-800-22-STORM or (850) 413-3089.
- Maintain a household inventory and other documentation. This will assist the adjuster in assessing the value of the destroyed property.
- Make emergency repairs and document them.
- Take necessary steps to keep your family safe, but be sure to keep all receipts and take photographs of damage before and after any repairs.
- Take precautions if the damage requires you to leave your home. Secure your property and turn off your gas and electricity. Contact your insurance agent and provide a phone number where you can be reached.
- Beware of fly-by-night repair businesses. Hire licensed, reputable, preferably local service people, and avoid any contractor or appraiser who says they can adjust your insurance claim.
- You can verify a contractor’s license and check to see if there are any complaints against them by calling the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation at (850) 487-1395. Also ask for references from previous work, and be sure to report unlicensed contractors.
- Know what kind of licensed adjuster you will deal with (i.e. company adjuster, independent adjuster or public adjuster). Ask for identification, and if a question arises, call the Department of Insurance hotline for assistance.
- Beware of fraud. Insurance fraud costs each Florida family an additional $1,500 a year* in increased premiums. If you suspect insurance fraud, call the Fraud Hotline toll-free at 1-800-378-0445.
- Financial fraud costs Floridians more than $40 billion annually. If you suspect financial fraud, call the Consumer Helpline toll-free at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236). *Source: The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud
- All legitimate contractors must carry insurance. Ask for proof of liability and workers’ compensation coverage, then verify it by calling the Division of Workers’ Compensation at 1-800-742-2214.
Don’t rush into signing a home repair contract. Get written estimates from at least three construction firms, and beware of contractors who ask you to pay for the entire job up front. Do not allow the contractor to adjust your claim with your insurance company. If you make a down payment, it should not be more than one-third of the total price. Pay ONLY by check or credit card, and never pay the final amount until the work is completed.
If you encounter any instances of price gouging call the Florida Department of Agriculture’s Division of Consumer Services at 1-800-357-4273.