When a significant storm strikes, homeowners can be traumatized a second time by the often slow, cumbersome process of filing insurance claims and making repairs.
Two years after Hurricane Harvey, many Brazoria County residents are still displaced and waiting on rebuilding assistance.
Residents can rest a little easier the more they prepare in advance, public relations manager for the Insurance Council of Texas Mark Hanna said.
With the peak Gulf of Mexico hurricane season just arriving and a hurricane moving toward the Caribbean, officials from the Texas Department of Insurance, Insurance Council of Texas, State Farm and the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety made their rounds to 14 coastal counties to emphasize the importance of homeowners being well-informed.
This is the 14th year Hanna has led a media tour in which insurance officials urged residents to do everything they can to educate themselves prior to a storm making landfall along the coastline.
“Our whole point is looking back at Harvey and seeing what we could have done to better prepare for it,” Hanna said. “50 Texas counties sought assistance. When you get 60 inches of rain, all of the water has to go somewhere and we found out the hard way you don’t have to live in floodplain to get your home flooded. But flood insurance is affordable.”
For $480 per year, a home can be insured for rebuilding costs of up to $250,000 and personal items up to $100,000, Hanna said. But there are multiple options and every insurance representative in Texas should be educated about what those options are, he said.
“One of the best things you can do is to take stock of what is in your home,” said State Farm public affairs specialist Felicia Van Frank. “Take all important papers for expensive things. There’s a misconception that flood insurance is only available in floodplains, but you can customize your policy to fit your needs.”
Another misconception is flood insurance and windstorm insurance cover similar things, when they are separate entities.
“The Texas Windstorm Insurance Agency is just windstorm insurance, but doesn’t protect flooding,” Hanna said. “It protects your home from wind-driven rain. But people living along the Texas coast need three insurance policies — flood insurance, a TWIA policy and a basic homeowner policy.”
Additionally, people need to make sure they stay vigilant despite a slow hurricane season, Hanna said.
“When June 1 comes and it’s hurricane season, people get complacent,” Hanna said. “We saw a spike after Harvey in people buying insurance. There were 300,000 homes flooded and the majority did not have insurance, but since then we’ve seen a decline in flood insurance.”
There are mistakes people make when they’re rebuilding their homes as well, Manuel Villarreal of the Texas Department of Insurance said. Homes protected by TWIA after 1988 have to have to be up to current building code standards, he said.
TWIA officials should be able to answer questions and recommend remodeling and repairs that fit that code, Villarreal said.
While insurance and repair processes can seem overwhelming, Hanna said homeowners and renters should make local reputable insurance agents their “best friends.”
“Insurance agents should know everything about what people will need and be able to assist with different policies,” Hanna said.
The best thing to do, he said, is learn as much as possible and be educated before a storm comes knocking.