Hurricanes. I’ve lived with them since my parents first moved to South Florida in 1963. But in all those years, I’ve never lived in a house or apartment or or anywhere that was damaged enough in a hurricane that I had to file an insurance claim. Irma was a different beast.
At one point during her trek through the Caribbean, her winds reached 185 MPH and were sustained for 36 hours at that speed. If she hadn’t lingered along the northern coast of Cuba as long as she had, she would have ripped up Florida’s east coast and torn it to shreds. By the time we experienced Irma on September 10-11, it was a Cat 3, I think, and had endless rain. Because of the angle at which it came at us, we were able to stand on our back porch for a time and witness its fury.
We lost power briefly – less than 24 hours. That was a huge improvement from Wilma in 2005, which knocked out our power for 10 days, and left some places around here without power for up to 3 weeks. But Governor Scott was and is hoping to win a senate seat in November 2018 and pulled out the stops to prepare for recovery in Irma’s wake. He did great on that; on just about everything else, Scott has failed and actually belongs in prison for Medicare fraud from his earlier years. But that story is for another post.
In October, we had a huge thunderstorm and noticed leaks all over our house. We filed a claim with our insurance company – the first ever for a hurricane, the 2nd in 18 years. Our first claim was for a stolen bike. They sent out their guy. He did his inspection. We received a check a few weeks later for several thousand, which didn’t even cover the cost of the new AC unit we had to buy because Irma destroyed the one we had.
A friend who works for an attorney (he lost his hom in Key West) told me about public insurance adjusters – independent contractors who work for you, for no $ up front. They take 10% of the new money. We started calling around and finally found James, my new hero. His inspection of our house took several hours and his estimate was well beyond that of the guy from the insurance company. He worked tirelessly, pursuing every legal angle he could. And finally, about 7 months after filing the claim, after missing several deadlines, the insurance company paid.
That’s Rob on our roof, surveying the work that’s been done so far.
There’s a bureaucratic system to all this and you either learn it quickly or you get screwed. First rule: start at the top with your roof. You, the home owner, take bids for the various types of repairs. We quickly discovered that roofers in this area are so inundated with work that most don’t even return your calls. Our neighbor Annette, told us about Picture Perfect, a roofing outfit that had done three roofs in our neighborhood. Brad, the owner, became my new hero alongside James, the public adjuster.
The bank that holds your mortgage doles out the money like an allowance, once you’ve uploaded all the forms they required. This process is tedious but apparently necessary because in the past people have walked away with their insurance settlements and fled to Tahiti and the bank had to foreclose on the homes. But, hey, whatever. By now, on August 15, we have a new roof! And the interior repairs begin today.
We’ve met some great and really competent people and I’ve learned more about roofs than I probably need to know. We used to have tile, now we’re going to shingles, less expensive and easier to maintain. A lot of homes are opting for metal roofs, like you see in the keys. But they’re more expensive and noisy when it rains! The bottom line is simple: without a good roof, your home is compromised even before the disaster, whatever it is, arrives.
The ten percent earned by the public insurance adjuster, the guy who set the whole thing in motion, who stimulated the economy through roofers and dry board and paint people, plumbers, and all the rest of it, is the last check issued. This strikes me as grossly unfair, and is something our governor, Rick Scott who wants so badly to be a senator, instituted into law.
I can’t pretend to understand how someone like Scott thinks. But I know what it looks like: penalize anyone who helps the individual. I think these public insurance adjusters need to unionize and demand initial payment up front. After all, without them, without our guy James, Rob would be standing on our old, compromised roof.
Thank you, James. Thank you, Brad. Thank you to all you guys from here on in. And thanks, universe, for no hurricanes yet this season!