What essential moves should property owners be ready for after Hurricane Irma hits Florida?
Return Only When It Is Safe
Be prepared to stay out of the area as long as needed. These situations are often worse in the weeks after a major storm, than during it. Wait until power and clean water are restored, and there is food and gas available, and downed powerlines and other hazards are cleared. It can be hard to wait, but it is much better than the alternative. In the past it has sometimes taken over a month for utilities to come back online in some areas.
Have Your Property Secured
If it isn’t safe for you to go back right away, have a neighbor or local contractor or professional property management company get out, secure your property and record any damage. Make sure it is sealed from ongoing leaks and criminals. Get as many photos as possible.
File Insurance Claims
Begin filing insurance claims as quickly as possible. Systems can back up very quickly after a storm like this. Then it can take months, or even years to get a payout. Be fast, and have an attorney on call in case you need to fight your property insurance company for more.
Order Repairs Fast
In the wake of previous Florida hurricanes contractors booked up fast, and their prices escalated dramatically. If the price of a new roof doubles and wait times extend to years for repairs, what was just a small leak could destroy a home before it gets fixed. Lock in great contractors and prices as early as possible.
Challenge Your Property Taxes
Major storms like Irma can wreak havoc with property values too. Even if your home isn’t hit directly, damaged neighboring homes, neighbors selling out cheap, and a lack of demand for property in hurricane prone zones can force home values down sharply. Don’t expect local government to be in too much of a hurry to lower your property tax bill of their own accord. You may need the help of a professional property tax adjuster to challenge your assessment and bill, so that you aren’t overpaying.
The increasing frequency and strength of these big storms makes it more essential than ever for property owners to be prepared, and have a plan for what comes next. Make sure you know what to do, and act quickly.