It can take months before you will know the full cost of tornado damage to your property, especially if you own several residences. Whether your property is an apartment building, duplex, or an entire neighborhood, there are special insurance considerations that can severely limit the amount of your claim. Attorney Bill Voss explores the common pitfalls of tornado claims and the steps to take to ensure you get fair payment.
Steps to Take After a Tornado Damages Your Rental Property
The first thing to do after a tornado damages any property is to ensure that everyone has gotten out safely. Once all of your residents are accounted for, you will need to make a plan for temporary lodgings for those who are unable to return to their homes. Your renters will likely be filing their own claims, and you should allow them to take photographs and collect any belongings they can as long as the structure is safe.
Once your tenants have been relocated, you should:
- Examine the damage. You should make notes on the extent of damage, take pictures, and gather enough information to begin your claim.
- Contact your insurance company. Tornado claims may be delayed due to the high losses after major weather events, so it is best to file a claim as soon as possible.
- Make temporary repairs. Most insurers require claimants to prevent further damage while the claim is being settled. This can involve installing plastic sheeting over broken windows, adding supports to damaged walls, or other short-term repairs.
- Keep good records. All of the documentation relating to your claim should be in a single location, including police reports, pictures, inspection notices, municipal safety warnings, and all correspondence between you and the insurer.
Getting Full Payment for All of Your Tornado Losses
Losses from major weather events often go far beyond structural damage. You may be without rental income for several months at a time when you need it most, and suffer a loss to your reputation due to extended closures. You must examine the extent of your coverage and all applicable policy limits to get the maximum amount of coverage you have paid for.
When making a claim for damages, be sure to consider your:
- Deductibles. Many policies involve separate deductibles for each kind of covered loss. In some cases, wind damage carries its own deductible even if the wind occurred in conjunction with another covered peril.
- Outbuildings and detached structures. A strong policy will pay for repairs to sheds, garages, fences, storage units, and other non-residential structures on your property.
- Personal items used for maintenance. You may be able to claim damage to any personal items used to service your rental property, such as a lawnmower, golf cart, or power and hand tools.
- Ordinance and matching coverage. Any repairs you make must comply with current building codes, such as replacing insulation, wiring, or ventilation. If you suffered partial damage to an apartment, you would likely want to make repairs with similar materials to match the rest of the rooms. Without ordinance coverage or an additional provision for matching materials, you may have to pay these costs out-of-pocket.
- Landscaping. High winds can uproot trees, tear off branches, and rip signs out of the ground, while muddy ground and flooding can wash away plants and ground coverings. Some insurers will pay to make these areas safe again, while higher limits can restore them to their former glory.
- Business income losses. Your renters will have to live elsewhere until your property has been rebuilt, leaving you without a way to pay employees and contractors. Business interruption insurance can replace these losses for several months, covering the gap until you are at full capacity again.
- Other coverages. Floods and tornados often go hand-in-hand, but flood losses from adverse weather events may only be covered by a separate flood damage policy.
If you are struggling to collect fair payment for property damage after a storm, we can deal with your insurer on your behalf and get you the maximum amount that you are owed. Simply fill out the form on this page today to contact the Voss Law Firm or order a free copy of our book, Commercial Property Owners Must Read This BEFORE Filing an Insurance Claim.