Picking up the pieces after a natural disaster can be difficult–especially if your property’s had heavy damage. Even if your home has been properly insured, there are still steps that need to be taken to ensure a timely response from your insurance company. Here’s some advice from the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance:
- The first thing you should do is notify your insurance company of the loss. Although you can do this by telephone, it might be a good idea to follow up in writing and create a paper trail. Remember to notify your insurer, not the broker who sold you the policy.
- Take photos of your property–both your house and its contents–to use for your insurance claim.
- If you’ve had to vacate your property due to the damage, make sure your insurance company knows how to get in touch with you.
- Protect your property. Board up broken windows to protect your home from further damage, burglary or vandalism. Keep your receipts for this! The out-of-pocket expense you incur for this should be covered by your policy, and would be reimbursed.
- Try to separate your undamaged items from your damaged items. That way, it’s easier for the insurance adjuster to make an inventory and expedite your claim.
- If you feel you need to negotiate a settlement with your insurance company, you may want to hire an attorney or a licensed public adjuster. Public adjusters, who are licensed by the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance, will help you take inventory of the damage, secure your property and negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf. They are paid out of the money received in your insurance settlement, and they represent you, not the insurance company.
For more information, visit the New Jersey Department of Banking and Insurance.
Parts of the state may be declared federal disaster areas. In areas where that occurs, property owners may be eligible for a low-interest disaster loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration. These loans are available to homeowners, businesses and nonprofit organizations to replace real estate, personal property or business assets destroyed in a declared disaster. You can even apply for a loan online.
Renters and homeowners are eligible to borrow up to $40,000 to replace personal property destroyed in a disaster and up to $200,000 to repair or replace their residence. The loans can’t be used to upgrade your home (unless an upgrade is required by building code)–just to restore it to its original condition. Second homes and vacation properties don’t qualify – although rental properties may fall under the SBA’s business loan program.
Businesses–regardless of size–can apply for disaster loans of up to $2 million to repair or replace lost business assets. Even if your business wasn’t physically damaged in the disaster, you may be eligible for a loan to offset the economic injury suffered in the aftermath.
For more information, call the SBA’s customer service center at 1-800-659-2955 (TTY: 1-800-877-8339) or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.