As your State Attorney, and a citizen of this great community, I know only too well the impact a major hurricane can have on all of us. Past experience has taught us that we need to prepare not only for the storm itself but also its aftermath. I sincerely hope that the contents of this program will provide you with the guidance needed to ensure you will not become a victim “AFTER THE STORM”.
Katherine Fernandez Rundle
Miami-Dade State Attorne
In case you are affected by a hurricane: I want you to know that you are not alone. My office and I are concerned about the well being of our community and we are here to protect your rights.
- Insurance Issues To Keep In Mind Before The Storm
- Dealing With Your Insurance Agent After A Hurricane
- Contractor Fraud
- Advice For Homeowners In Case Of Property Damage
- Report Any Price Gouging To Our Hotline Number: 305-547-3300
Insurance Issues To Keep In Mind Before The Storm
- Find your homeowners or business premises insurance policy and in the event you must evacuate, take the policy with you along with the name, address and phone numbers of your local agent and insurance company.
- Given the ever-increasing property values in South Florida, your existing policy may not be sufficient to “replace” your home in the event of a catastrophe.
- Be prepared; consider calling your insurance agent now to make sure you fully understand your coverage and the procedures they want you to follow in the event of a catastrophe.
- If you haven’t recently reviewed your policy’s coverage limits then do so now.
- Before the storm arrives, you should take photos or videotape of the inside and outside of your home.
- Take pictures of your personal belongings as well. That way, you will have an inventory of your household and personal goods to help document losses you may sustain.
Dealing With Your Insurance Agent After A Hurricane
Don’t rush to give the insurance company a “release.” Make sure you have discovered all damage.
- Don’t rush into accepting an on-the-spot payment unless you are absolutely certain this is an “advance” and not a final settlement.
- Save all receipts for temporary living expenses and repair or restoration work. You will likely be reimbursed for these expenses.
- Insurance checks are normally made out to the homeowner and mortgage holder. To actually receive funds, you endorse the check and forward it to the mortgage company, which then adds its endorsement. You may be required to submit a contractor’s estimate of cost for repairs before the mortgage lender will release any funds.
- The mortgage company or bank may retain the insurance proceeds for disbursement during the repair process. The lender will normally release a portion of the funds to get repairs started and will remit the remainder according to a pre-arranged draw schedule or upon completion of the repairs and inspection.
After Andrew, law enforcement agencies received hundreds of complaints from disaster victims who were duped by unscrupulous home repairmen making promises they didn’t keep. More than 135,000 private homes in Miami-Dade County were damaged.
Advice For Homeowners In Case Of Property Damage
If your home is damaged in a hurricane, first and foremost, don’t rush into a repair contract.
- Do not allow unscrupulous people to take advantage of you because you are anxious to have your home repaired.
- It is still a business contract you will be entering into, and more than likely thousands of dollars will be involved.
- Be leery of people who knock on your door and offer to fix your roof or windows.
- Even though your initial reaction is to get repairs started, it is important to obtain more than one estimate and to investigate the qualifications and credentials of anyone offering to work on your home.
- Specifically, you should contact the Miami-Dade County Code Compliance Department and the State of Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation to determine if the contractor is licensed, insured or has complaints or violations on record.
Before signing any contract, closely examine the payment terms and other provisions of the deal.
- Be cautious if you are asked to provide too much money in advance of doing any work or there are many requests for money during early phases of construction.
- Take time to structure the contract so it is to your advantage. For example, if you agree to an up front payment to get the repairs started, consider breaking payments down into thirds. One-third up front, one third after an agreed upon amount of work has been completed and one-third when the job is done.
- Also, build in some acceptable time frames as to when the work should be completed.
Always Hire Licensed Contractors and Beware of Unlicensed Contractors:
Be Cautious If:
- You are asked to obtain the permit. A contractor in good standing will always obtain the permit.
- You are informed that the job does not require a permit.
- The contractor is not willing to put all terms in writing and offers only a verbal contract.
- You are asked to make payments in cash or checks payable to individuals instead of a company name.
- You notice the absence of a license number on contract or newspaper advertisements, business cards, or yellow pages.
Keep In Mind:
- The payments should reflect approximately the work that has been done.
- File notice of commencement to avoid paying twice for the same services.
- Arrange payment schedule in conjunction with inspections.
For Information Contact the Contractor Investigation Section at 305-375-2901, extension #8724.
Report Any Price Gouging To Our Hotline Number: 305-547-3300. Price gouging is a criminal offense. After Hurricane Andrew a new law was passed that specifically prohibits price gouging after a declared state of emergency.
- The types of activities addressed in the price gouging statute include commodities such as goods, services, materials, merchandise, supplies and equipment and resources such as food, water, ice, chemicals, petroleum and lumber needed because of the emergency.
State Attorney’s Office Hotline 305-547-3300.
- Introduction by Katherine Fernandez Rundle
- How Do I Find a Legitimate Contractor?
- Is My Contractor Licensed?
- Are Individuals or Companies Licensed?
- What Should an Estimate Include?
- How Should I Pay?
- Paying By Check?
- How To Get Release of Liens?
- What About Permitting?
- How Do I Get A Notice of Commencement?
- Protect Yourself from Criminal Activity
- What About Insurance?
- How Do I Avoid Price Gouging?
- How Do I Avoid Scams?
- How Do I Avoid Insurance Fraud?
- What About Door to Door Contractors?