Every year when storm and hurricane season hits, people ask how to make a real estate damage claim in Florida. Landlords, tenants, families and couples all ask the same question. Unfortunately, the process is more complicated than first assumed, but it can help you fund crucial repairs and rebuilds.
1. Be Prepared for Your Real Estate Damage Claim
First up, you need to be prepared. Insurance companies are for-profit and have a long history of handling real estate damage claims in Florida. Sadly, they are known for denying and undervaluing claims, paying out as little as possible to their own clients.
By being prepared, you can minimize the chances of your insurer saying your claims are exaggerated, lies or incorrect. Prepare by:
- Having your insurance policy ready and on hand
- Gather and protect all copies of your receipts
- Record evidence of ownership of belongings
- Make a list of all the damage you’re aware of and related expenses
- Take photos and videos of the property damage before doing any repairs and cleaning.
2. How to File a Real Estate Damage Claim in Florida
When filing a real estate damage claim in Florida, you should contact your insurance company as soon as possible. Most insurers have information on how to do this on their website or through a phone call.
If you wait too long, your insurance adjuster may argue that the damage occurred since the incident.
For example, if flooding has happened following a hurricane, you should tell them immediately. But if you wait, the insurer could claim that the flooding was caused by water damage inside OR that you failed to mitigate the damage.
It’s also strongly advised that you take photos and videos of the storm damage at the first possible opportunity. Add this evidence to your claim with the time and date of the photos attached.
You should also keep a copy of your completed claim and all attachments. Retain evidence of postage or delivery. Insurance adjusters don’t keep track of how and when you sent your claim and might even suggest you didn’t do it soon enough.
By preparing in advance, you can prevent your claim from being put to the bottom of the pile.
3. What Damages Can Be Covered By a Florida Real Estate Damage Claim?
In Florida, Florida law governs residential property insurance. As Florida is particularly vulnerable to hurricanes and storms, insurance coverage for high winds is included in homeowners’ policies. However, flooding is usually a separate add-on.
Real estate damage claims in Florida may allow you to recover expenses of:
- Structural damage
- Window damage
- Mold damage
- Electrical damage
- Plumbing damage
- Flooding damage
- Water damage
- Tree damage
- Exterior damage
- Appliance damage
- Theft damage
- Sinkhole damage
- And much more
4. Remember Your Mitigation Duties
As a property owner in Florida, you have a duty to minimize the damage to the property. This is called a ‘mitigation duty’, and it applies to both before and after damage occurs.
In simple terms, you must do your best to prevent damage in the first place and then work to prevent any damage from getting worse.
- For example, before a hurricane or storm, a property owner has a ‘mitigation duty’ to board up windows and lock doors to shield the building from wind damage.
- They should also turn off electricity during floods, before water comes into contact with electrical outlets.
- If there is a risk to human health, the hazard must be taken care of a soon as possible.
- Any damage that could get worse or cause further damage should not be left unattended – for example, a broken window should be covered or boarded up as soon as possible to prevent wind or rain damage.
- However, take pictures and videos before you start the repairs or cleaning. This won’t take long but means you retain evidence of the damage.
5. When to Start Repairs?
Many property owners want to start repairs immediately. However, your insurance adjuster will usually visit the property to inspect it first, to estimate the cost of the repairs.
In some scenarios, they can delay their inspection, leading to further property damage.
For example, if the insurance adjuster is going to inspect mold damage but they take weeks to arrive, then they may have actually contributed to the increased mold.
In these scenarios, you may have the possibility of making a claim against the insurer for contributing to your damages and this may be a separate claim.
6. What if There Is Third-Party Liability?
When making a real estate damage claim in Florida, you may also be wondering who is responsible for the damage.
For example, should the neighbor have shut off the electricity? Or did a neighbor’s tree fall on your roof?
These are just a couple of examples of scenarios where a third party may be liable for the damage.
7. Potential Real Estate Damage Claim Litigation
In some real estate damage claims scenarios, Florida homeowners may be forced to turn to litigation and legal action.
For example, if your claim is undervalued or delayed with no just reason, or you’re the victim of manipulation, then your insurer has acted in ‘bad faith’.
These situations require legal representation. With the help of an attorney, you can protect your rights and potentially get a better offer for your claim through negotiations. However, the attorney may also need to use litigation.
8. What Should I Do Next?
If you’re having any trouble with your claim or need assistance, then you should speak to a Real Estate attorney as soon as possible.
They can explain your rights to you and advise you on what to do next. This is also highly imperative if you’re in the middle of a purchase or sale, or need help with real estate ownership decisions.
Recap: How to Make a Real Estate Damage Claim
- Contact your insurance carrier as soon as possible.
- Record all evidence of the damage, with photos and videos.
- Retain receipts of damaged property and belongings.
- Retain any receipts and bills of cleaning and repairs.
- Don’t make repairs until your adjuster has visited, unless absolutely necessary.
- Remember to follow your mitigation duties – such as covering broken windows or turning off the electricity.
- Contact an attorney if you believe your insurer is acting in ‘bad faith’.
- Contact a Florida real estate attorney for advice and guidance.
Contact a Florida Real Estate Attorney
If you need a lawyer when making a Real Estate damage claim in Florida, then contact our real estate attorneys today.
Feel free to contact our Florida real estate attorneys today for a free consultation.
Our attorneys, Ross and Purdun at Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A. have extensive experience and can help you resolve any real estate legal matter. Contact us today for a free consultation.